Lauryn Soti of Samoa College, submitted this entry to take out the Year 13 English prize in the Samoa Observer’s 2017 National Short Story Competition. Read other prize winning stories in the coming Monday editions of the Samoa Observer.
The tropical heart was unendurable. Beyond the seldom cloudy, blue horizon, the sun stood undeterred at the sky’s apex. For three Alaskan tourists, this was a whole new experience from the arctic climes they have adapted to since they were children.
In love with the tropical islands despite the intense temperatures, all three of them decided to ease their bane by visiting one of the island’s well-known beaches. The road to the coastline was like a preview into a whole new realm. From beyond the wide open windows of the bus they were in, was a world of jade. The many different plants provided a backdrop that even the remote Alaskan terrain couldn’t provide.
From large mango trees embedded with ripe, red fruit to the lemon saplings orchestrating the songs of birds enjoying their citrus produce. Bushes, shrubs and many more plants created an abundance of flora only the Pacific region could offer. The greatness of everything along with the haze of the sunlight streaming in created something unique and ethereal.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
The eldest of the three, Jane mentioned as she beheld the splendor of the Samoan islands.
“Beautiful can’t even describe all of it,” Rose, her African-American friend, said as she looked at the flickers of green whirling past. “I’d say this is Paradise.”
“Samoa was definitely the perfect place to escape to, don’t you think? The culture is beautiful, the people are amazing and the scenery is just breathtaking,” said Rose’s older sister Lola behind her Canon camera, capturing every little detail of the Samoan islands.
Jane and Rose looked at each other and grinned, their minds a pictorial painting of all the memories they might make during their summer vacation and in unison they replied, “Agreed!”
Long after the charade of laughter from the hysterical photos they took as well as the stories they shared, the bus took a turn along a sand-buried road. The three girls had already positioned themselves right beside the windows as they passed a jungle of plants towards the coastline they could just feel being metres away.
In a few moments, the salty breeze welcomed them to the view of the distant ocean. Too excited, a habit they could not contain, they quickly organized all their belongings and as soon as the bus stopped, they had already begun filing out of the vehicle.
“Fa’afetai tele lava,” called Lola to the bus driver, who had no time to react to the animated tourists chasing towards the small, beach huts lined along the shore. However before Lola arrived to where the other two were, she took a quick glance at the seashore and stopped, bewildered by what lay before her.
The entire shoreline of the beach just a few feet before her, was completely sullied by fragments of rubbish. It lay repulsively on the white sand, impure against the natural backdrop. Even the waves had swallowed remains, splashing depressingly against the sand, trying to remove the waste from them.
In complete shock, Lola lifted her eyes from the mess and looked towards her sister and friend who looked identically disturbed as they surveyed the scene.
“Oh my,” Jane whispered as she turned towards her best friend and her sister who had already made her way to them. She looked at them and then the playful banter of children caught her attention. At the edge of the coast, she could make out the silhouettes of teenagers having a great time unaware of the litter surrounding them from all corners. Instantly her heart dropped.
“How are they unaware of the mess?” Rose gestured to the scene.
“They’ve probably just decided to ignore it,” said Lola. “Chosen to have a good time for the day. Besides,” she added “this mess was probably a result of weeks of outings here. They’re not to be blamed.”
“I’m completely aware of that, but it’s not a very pleasant sight, is it?” Rose walked over to the soiled sand and bent down, scooping a handful of the grains and watching it run through her fingers leaving debris on her palm. Lola joined her afterwards.
Behind them, Jane just continued to stare at the sight, her heart still in pain. In Alaska, the banks of their lakes and rivers were always kept untainted in order to preserve natural preferences. She had not realised the importance and the urge to uyphold the edicts there until now. The view of the rejected environment struck a chord in her that brightened her vision of things.
“We have to run after that bus,” Lola muttered as she stood up and dusted the sand from her hands. “We cannot possibly enjoy ourselves in the presence f all this garbage. If we start running we’ll eventually catch up.”
“You’re right, this is just atrocious,” agreed Rose who looked utterly disappointed at the outcome of what was supposed to be an enjoyable day. “Exactly,” Jane stated as she finally resurfaced from her thoughts. “It’s atrociopus and unbearable to just look at it, which is exactly why we should do something about it.”
Rose quirked up an eyebrow, confused with what her best friend was suggesting.
“How can we do something about it? It’s out of our control, just take a look at it.” She gestured towards the scene.
“Yeah Jane,” Lola whispered from beside Rose. “If you’re suggesting that we clean this entire beach, I think it’s a crazy idea. It’s hot and I don’t feel like sweating it out by picking out trash from some beach.”
Biting her bottom lip, Jane huffed out a distorted breath.
“You two need to understand and look at the bigger picture here.”
“What bigger picture?” her best friend probed, seemingly annoyed.
“If we don’t clean it up ourselves, who’s going to do it? The beach could stay spoiled for months before someone can actually take action and then, it’ll be thrice the destruction.”
“You don’t know that,” Lola stated. “People will eventually clean it up soon. The owners could possibly do so at the end of the day; once we leave of course.”
Jane sighed, her hand running frustratingly down her face. “Take a look at the rubbish. Are you telling me this was the outcome of just one day of bizarre fun? It’s only,” she looked down at her watch, “it’s only eleven in the morning and apart from those kids over there, we’re the only ones here.”
Rosa and Lola looked diffidently at each other. “But Jane …” Rosa began. But her voice trailed off as her best friend let out an aggravated grunt, emptied her duffel bag and dragged it with her to the beach. The sisters watched as their friend walked right into the ocean and began filling the bag with the washed up rubbish.
Her clothes were now clinging on to her skin but her face was a mask of determination. This sparked a tinge of regret in Rose as she watched Jane try and save something, help something from being completely ruined by mankind.
However the siblings remained quiet as they debated about helping their attentive friend, desperately focused on helping the environment or cursing her for the awful day.
“She’s right,” Rose affirmed, her light voice slicing through the silence.
“Nobody’s going to clean this up anytime soon. I’ve never seen anything like this, not even in Alaska. Even though it’s quite outrageous, the idea of us cleaning some place in the blazing heat, this island is part of the whole world and what happens here affects every other country.”
Lola stared at her younger sister and gave her a wry smile, “True.”
“Yeah I wouldn’t want to harm any of the adorable sea creatures too, anyway.”
Both laughing, they carefully ran towards the ocean, their empty bags in their grasp.
Throughout the day, the three Alaskan tourists trudged to and fro from the shore to the ocean emptying and filling their bags. It didn’t take long for the kids who had been enjoying themselves on the far end of the coast to participate. Each and every one of them scurried back and forth to help fill the girls’ bags to the brim with waste. Along with the kids, the owners who had neglected their own property for months, decided to take part in the clean up.
The day had lost its brightness and the sun wan now quickly departing behind the range of coconut palms in the wet direction when the beach was finally returned to its natural state. Mounds of trash now occupied one of the huts, but besides that, the breeze had a fresher tinge laced in it and the roar of the ocean was now heard screaming with elation.
“We did it,” Lola sighed as she slouched beside Jane and Rose both enjoying the sight of the pure ocean blackening with the disappearance of daylight.
“Indeed we did,” Rose laughed.
“Actually,” Jane chuckled beside them, “I haven’t quite finished yet.” With that, she stood up, grabbed her sketch pad she had brought with her and scribbled vigorously across each paper before tearing them all out. Running to an owner’s house, she hurried back with a stapler in one hand and the papers a crumpled mess in the other.
She stopped before them. The teenagers who were still sorting through the mess looked from behind the mountain of rubbish as Jane stapled a sheet of paper on one of the beach huts that read:
“Keep the environment clean, stop littering”
“Now I feel like we’ve finally done it.” With that, the two sisters stood up and embraced their friend. The native teenagers smiled amongst themselves, appreciating the work they’d done with the tourists and the lessons they’d learned about preserving the natural environment.
The owners, delighted with the outcome of their new friends’ determination, sanctioned all of them shelter for the night as a gift of thankfulness for their purpose in helping the community and saving the sullied coast.
The world is already being affected so much, the least thing some of us can do, is stand together and make a change.