I hadn’t checked the Washington Fish and Wildlife website for nearly a month. I opened it on Friday to learn of a recreational razor clam dig on Saturday and Sunday. Razor clam digs are rare. Digs are dependent on tides and subject to conservation efforts and toxin safety measures. I try not to miss a dig if I can help it.
I enjoy being mildly irritating to my surly teenager, Garret. So I busted through his door first.
“Clam tide! Family time!”
He pulled his nose from a book. “And what’s your point?”
“Beach weekend! Pack your stuff.”
“I won’t be going.”
“Yeah, you will.”
“No, I won’t.”
“Date with Anna.”
I had only met Anna in a one-sided interview lasting all of 60 seconds. I talked. She shrugged. That was it. “Bring her with.” I bluffed and he called me on it.
“Yeah, sure. Why not?”
Why not? Because no mother in her right mind would allow her 17-year-old daughter to take off to the beach with horn-dog boyfriend and never-met-before boyfriend’s family. I knew the answer would be, “no.” I was wrong. Perhaps I’m too strict with my own children, or not. We hit the road Friday night for a rented condo in Ocean Shores.
Anna is one of those ginger-girls. She’s a tall red-head, broody, with just enough black eyeliner and piercings to hint a dark side without camouflaging porcelain skin and striking natural beauty. She’s a force to reckon with. A mother of sons would be wise to remain vigilant in the company of such power.
I held Anna in the rear-view mirror, glancing from time to time on the two-hour drive to Ocean Shores. I kept her in sight to gage the amount of affection passing between her and my son and to learn more about her through her expressions. She held her face in a gentle frown most of the ride, taking smile breaks at the banter between Garret in the back seat and Jaden riding shotgun. Brothers are humorous creatures, especially when competing for the attention of a pretty girl. She rolled her eyes, batted her lashes, shrugged her shoulders, nodded her head, chewed her bottom lip, and smiled but never laughed. Curious. After two-hours in the car, I learned nothing about her.
The condo was smaller than hoped for and offered no beach view. It was the only rental available in Ocean Shores, a last-minute cancellation to accommodate my last-minute plans. Hotels in the area were filled with weekend beach warriors blood-thirsty for the taste of clams. I felt lucky to score what I did, even though the place lacked the desirable hot tub, sauna and pool. I typically try to make mini-vacations out of my killing adventures as a way to compensate for the patience and support the boys show me. I worried the kids would be bored. I worried about entertaining a teenage girl. She looked a little high maintenance, and I hoped she would not turn out to be a royal pain-in-the-ass.
I suggested a round or two of cards but was shut down. As it turned out, no entertaining on my part was wanted. Garret and Anna buried noses behind books. He read about dragons and she read about vampires. You got to adore nerd love. Jade plucked his guitar until his nerves settled and then broke into a complex steam of consciousness delivered through his fingertips. That kid is a one-man show. I don’t remember being so self-contained or so boring as a teenager. I would have begged for the truck keys to hit the town and find a little trouble.
Girls take a lot longer than boys to get ready in the morning. I figured as much, so we woke a couple of hours before low-tide. Anna’s gentle frown was firmly set now. Her jawline hardened and her eyebrows knitted. I kept a distance. Obviously, mornings weren’t her thing.
The sun was coming up as we hit the beach. I welcomed the calm break in weather, but the rainy evening adversely affected the razor clam show. Show is the formation a razor clam makes in the sand and required to dig razors. Unlike bay clams, random digging for razors is fruitless. A razor clam, 6 to 36 inches below the surface, may leave a clue for the digger in the shape of a donut, a dime-sized dimple, or a keyhole. Razors live solo. One show means one clam. Bay clams often live in clusters. Digging for one bay clam may yield a clutch of a dozen or more. But razors are my lobster of the clam world and worth the added effort, fuel costs, and overnight accommodation expenses.
After an hour and a half, none of us had dug our individual limits of fifteen clams. The kids were cold. Garret was starting to bitch, and Jade turned his clam gun into a perch, opting to sit and shiver over digging and staying warm.
I dug seven clams, none of great size and one crushed all to hell. Garret had one clam cut in half by his clam gun. Anna had two, one medium-sized and one no bigger than a paperclip. She wanted to put the baby clam back in the hole, but regulations require each digger keep the first fifteen clams, no matter how small and no matter how mutilated. I’m not sure why, but replanted clams fail to thrive. Jaden dug one clam but held seven in his bucket. Evidently, a gentleman digger took pity on the sloth-worthy teen and dumped his catch in Jaden’s bucket. Charity clams are good eating, almost as good as charity squid.
Digging clams, whether on the bay or ocean beach, is a messy sport. We were coated with sand and a funky smelling, olive scum. The truck took a beating and so did the condo.
After hot showers, breakfast, a load of laundry, and naps, noses found books and fingers found strings. Intervention was in order. It was time to teach the kids what beach-town fun was all about. I grew up hanging at the beach and knew just the place to get their attention, the go-cart race track. Go-cart racing is timeless. I loved them as a teen of the eighties, racing with friends in Long Beach and Ocean Shores. I knew modern teens, even these nerds, could not resist the thrill of sliding around corners, flying balls-out through the straits, absorbing vibrations of asphalt, and huffing oil-rich exhaust of a two-stroke engine.
The boys seemed to think playing Mario Cart adequately prepared one for go-cart racing. Silly fools. Pre-race shit-talking was thick. I warned them of my experience. They laughed it off.
“Whatever, Mom,” said Garret. “Fifty years of driving like an old granny gives you a real advantage. Prepare to get smoked.” Jaden laughed and Anna smiled.
I wonder how much they yucked-it-up staring at the back of my head lap after lap. Memory is a muscle, and I flexed around the turns, remembering the exact pressure of break and gas pedal combined to create drift and cut off other drivers attempting to pass. I was uncatchable. After the victory lap, a million excuses ensued. I enjoyed the creativity behind each one. I treated the losers to a bumper car bout and watched from the sidelines as pure joy washed across their faces.
Anna even laughed as they smashed into each other. I admired her persistent and aggressive attempts to slam Garret's car. Her determination was a sure sign of affection. She reminded me of an ornery little girl I once knew.