Leah and Jerry stroll through the softly sifting sand, on the lookout for anything out of place. The sacks they carry are nearly full of brightly colored bits of broken toys, sandy plastic bags, and a handful of red SOLO cups. Three more bags lay stacked against each other, full of beer cans to recycle. There were always more of those after a holiday weekend.

“People are trash,” Leah says darkly, grabbing three more cups out of an extinguished fire pit with her gloved hand.

Jerry snickers. “Well, let’s just throw ourselves in then, shall we?” He begins to put one foot in his sack, turns sideways to Leah, and wiggles his eyebrows at her. She rolls her eyes.

“I’m serious,” she continues. “Look at this place.” She sweeps one hand in a slow circle around them, gesturing to the refuse strewn from the water’s edge to the dunes behind. She shakes her head somberly. “Memorial weekenders are the worst.”

“I thought you said Spring Breakers are the worst,” Jerry teases as he prods at a half-buried plastic bag with his tool of choice, a toy grabber in the shape of a shark that he has reinforced with a thick rubber band.

She ignores him. Instead, she turns to the sea and watches the sun peek through wispy curls of purple across the horizon and sparkle across the water. She and Jerry meet here at dawn every Sunday (plus Tuesdays during summer breaks), going on two years now. His lightheartedness rarely serves to offset her pessimism, but she enjoys his company. Most everyone at school thinks of him as a basketball player, the Cool Guy, but he has the heart of an activist. It was Jerry who had organized today’s school sponsored cleanup. Leah is relieved that they met at their usual time, before the crowd.

Their only companions now are a small flock of sanderlings chasing the ebb and flow of the shore. Leah smiles; the sweet creatures are always a favorite for her. As a child, the way their twiggy little legs flit furiously back and forth delighted her. She once asked why they ran into the water if they’re afraid of it. “They’re hungry,” her mother had answered, and showed her how they scavenged for clams. Leah had beamed at their bravery.

The remembrance of her mother tightens in her chest. She closes her eyes and clenches her fist, breathing, waiting. When she opens them, a glint of green catches her eye near the waves.

“Glass?” she thinks, incredulous. “She stomps toward it. “Of all the lazy, stupid, careless... Who brings glass to a beach?” She steps near and sees it is, thank goodness, unbroken. It is still corked, with a black wax seal, though it contains no liquid. Inside is a single roll of paper. Through the glass, she can see one word printed on it: LEAH.

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