by Tom Mahony

Water, clean from the mountains, drains into the Pacific. The father watches the boy build a castle in the river-mouth sand. The boy is focused on his creation. The father offers stern guidance on structural integrity.

"It's listing to the side," he warns.

The boy says he doesn't care if it's "lisping." It's his castle and he'll build it his way.

When he tips the next bucket of sand, the castle collapses. The boy glances up, wide-eyed, crushed. The father considers soothing or scolding or reiterating the engineering properties of sand. But he just studies the boy in silence.

Waves pound against the rocks. The river meanders into the sea, September low.

The boy frowns, grabs the bucket, and starts building again with the same stubborn technique, ignoring all previous advice.

The father nods and smiles. Excellent, he thinks.

BIO: Tom Mahony is a biological consultant in California with an M.S. degree from Humboldt State University. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared or is forthcoming in Flashquake, The Rose & Thorn, Pindeldyboz, In Posse Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Verbsap, 34th Parallel, The Scruffy Dog Review, Void Magazine, SFWP, Kurungabaa, Cantaraville, The Flask Review, Foliate Oak, Decomp, The Oddville Press, Bewildering Stories, Long Story Short, Flash Forward, Six Sentences, Laughter Loaf, and Surfer Magazine. He is looking for a publisher for several novels. Visit him at