The first summer vacation we had with our two small boys was a week at the Ocean Surf in Montauk NY – the perfect family place with a large swimming pool overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. A few rickety wooden steps led to the beach and the pool was right outside the rooms so the kids were always within sight.

Everyone was very friendly except for one Scandinavian-looking family. Their little boy played with the other kids but he would frequently glance over at his parents – loners who drank vodka by day and argued by night.

The week was fabulous and we returned the following summer. The Ocean Surf had not changed and many of the same people were there, even the Scandinavian family but this time the father was absent and the mother looked haggard.

One day the mother emerged from her room carrying a colorful inflatable raft. She told her son she was going for a float in the ocean and to stay with the other kids by the pool. We said we’d keep an eye on the boy and she murmured her thanks.

As the children played the boy would occasionally look toward the ocean where his mother floated, plainly visible in her raft. Some time later the boy jumped up yelling “Hvor er mamma?! Where’s my mom?!” She had disappeared. The boy became frantic and ran toward the beach. Families followed, scouring the ocean with binoculars. Life guards, police and the Coast Guard searched until dark when the quest was postponed until morning. Jeff and Nina Morgan, the hotel owners, consoled the boy and watched him overnight.

At dawn the search began again and the vibrant raft was found washed ashore.  Boaters were questioned and a helicopter surveyed the ocean with no luck. The mission was halted. When the police talked to the boy he tearfully explained that his dad was gone and his mom was very sad. We all had the same thought: suicide.

The boy told the police his name and address; a phone call resolved unanswered questions. The father abused his wife and son. Several  months ago the father beat the boy terribly. To save her son the mother bashed the father over the head with a fireplace poker, killing him. A quick verdict of innocent was delivered and all charges were dropped. The boy said his mother longed for the healing waters of Montauk. Family court discovered the boy had no living relatives and granted custody to the Morgans.

That was a dreadful experience for everyone yet most of us returned the next summer, I think in part to check on the boy. We were delighted to see he was physically thriving under the loving care of the Morgans but the psychological scars were still there. He played with the other kids but would often wander down to the water’s edge and stare off into the distance.

Over the next couple of years we returned to the Ocean Surf. We learned the boy’s name was Tobias but the Morgans called him Toby. He adjusted well to his new life although he still walked to the ocean every day to watch the sunrise.

Eventually our one small room at the Ocean Surf became too cramped for the four of us and we began staying at a larger place. Our sons are married now with kids of their own. The Morgans finally retired, Toby got married and he and his wife manage the hotel. Yet he still heeds the call to sit on the beach every morning and watch the sunrise over the ocean.

NAR © 2020

Reposted for Fandango’s #FOWC


Hope, my dearest –

Why do you continue to invade my dreams in the stillness of the morning’s early hours? I awaken and for a moment I believe the dream to be true. The feel of your smooth yielding body next to mine, the tenderness of your kiss. I reach for you but you are not there and a tear slowly emerges from the corner of my eye. 

Somehow I manage to get through the disorder that is my life but without you I am not truly alive; I merely exist. You asked so little of me and brought unimaginable joy to my lonely world. How I loved treating you like royalty; you were my princess dressed in satin and lace, your shining blue eyes sparkling with excitement whenever I brought home a gift for you. You delighted in each present, whether a bottle of perfume or a book of poems which I would read to you every night. 

Yet, in all honesty, those steamy sensual sex games we played are what I miss the most. You were insatiable, your beautiful mouth smiling with desire, your lithe body as malleable and compliant as the branches of a willow tree. Those intimate times we shared together in our apartment are etched in my mind forever. 

Leaving you in the morning to go to work was torture. Knowing you’d be there waiting for me when I returned was the only thing that got me through the day. I’d race home to see you, to embrace you. But that all ended one year ago when I found you lifeless on our bed. You were so beautiful that morning as you slept I didn’t have the heart to wake you. I placed a single rose on your breast for you to discover when you awoke and quietly closed the door behind me. Oh, the dreadful nightmares constantly invade my sleep! How could I have left you alone like that? I’m sorry, my darling Hope. 

Today I walked to the park. When I realized it was our anniversary all the air left my body and I felt empty inside. The children in the park  were playing with kites and balloons, laughing with glee as the wind lifted their playthings higher and higher. Suddenly one of the little girls cried out in dismay as the string escaped her hand and her balloon slowly floated out of sight. The poor child was inconsolable. I thought of you and called your name. The little girl’s mother bought her a new balloon and gently tied the string around her daughter’s wrist; she ran off laughing, carefree once again. 

That’s when I realized I had two choices: continue living the life of a lonely, broken man or find someone to share my life. That, my darling Hope, is when I chose the latter. I truly believe you would want me to find happiness again, to fill this void in my wretched life. 

I slowly walked home, retrieved my mail and sat on the couch, dejected. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the tip of a familiar publication. Could it be? On our anniversary? Yes, it was–  Johnson Premium Dolls with a large banner advertising 40% off discontinued sex dolls. With trembling fingers I flipped through the pages until I found you, my dearest Hope. I was overcome with joy and placed my order immediately. 

Tomorrow I will insert this letter into a balloon, inflate it and release it to reach you in heaven. And never again will I buy you even one thorny rose.

My love forever,


NAR © 2020


“Hope is the perfect name for our baby” declared my very pregnant and utterly adorable wife Whitney as she waddled from the kitchen into the den.  In one hand she held a salami, cream cheese and anchovy sandwich and in the other a glass of grape soda. Her cravings had been rather weird and my stomach churned a few times at her creative culinary concoctions. I jumped up from the sofa taking Whitney’s snacks and placed them on the side table as she gingerly eased herself into the recliner. 

Hope” I said thoughtfully, swirling the name around in my brain as one would a sip of fine wine. Whitney happily chomped on her sandwich watching me as I sat silently thinking. Pausing in mid chomp she pursed her lips and furrowed her brow saying “What’s wrong, Andrew? Don’t you like the name?” 

“Oh no! I think it’s a lovely name” I replied quickly. “It just might be – now don’t get upset – somewhat cutesy considering our twins are named Faith and Charity.” 

Dismissing my observation, Whitney asked me to hand her the book of baby names from the coffee table. Listen to this: ‘’Hope signifies the Christian expectation of salvation and eternal life. The three theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity are the strongholds among Christians” she quoted. “Still think it’s cutesy?”

“0k, poor choice of words” I admitted “but let’s not be hasty. I’ve always liked the name Anastasia.” 

Whitney stared at me over the rim of her glass. “Ah, a name that defines royalty. Wasn’t she and the entire Romanov family slaughtered by the Bolsheviks?” 

“I see your point”  I acquiesced. “Well, you’re not the only one who’s been researching baby names. How about Ash, Ewan or Linden?”  Whitney bristled at the idea of using a masculine-sounding tree name. “Hold on, Andrew. I know we agreed not to find out the sex of the baby but this pregnancy is exactly like my first one with the girls so no boy names!”  

Suddenly Whitney let out a loud groan of pain followed by another even louder. She doubled over, strewing her sandwich and soda everywhere. When she stood up her water broke immediately. The twins woke up crying and came running into the den sobbing  “Mommy! What’s wrong?” Complete mayhem and disorder had broken out in our apartment. Breathlessly Whitney said “I’ll put the girls back to bed and get my hospital bag. You arrange for a ride and ask my mother to come over. And page the doctor!” 

I called for an Uber and texted Whitney’s mom to stay with the girls. Then I paged our obstetrician giving him an update on Whitney’s condition. Within twenty minutes we were on our way to the hospital. Labor was coming on fast and the Uber driver had the pedal to the metal. With every contraction Whitney groaned louder and the driver’s eyes grew wider. 

The doctor arrived at the hospital minutes after we did and a quick examination was all it took for him to know we had no time to waste. “Whitney”, the doctor said calmly, “your baby’s head is crowning. Just a few good pushes is all we need. Ok, push now.” 

I held Whitney’s hand tightly as the doctor encouraged her to push. “Now with the next contraction give it all you got.” The next sound we heard was our baby’s cries followed by gasps from the nurses. 

“What’s wrong?” we asked anxiously. 

Nothing’s wrong” chuckled the doctor. “But maybe you’ll want to rethink the name ‘Hope’ when you see the Johnson on this kid!” 

NAR © 2020