The Ink Well

By Donna Amburgey

There is a triangle of white stucco motel there. A vertical neon sign buzzes on the rooftop, flickering Bayside Motel. The rooms are not modern; the ceiling fan churns the early morning damp air. The Pacific lights up with the first rays of sun. A palm tree stirs in the courtyard.

I am awake, drinking weak coffee. Suddenly a door slams and the sound breaks the softness of the dawn like glass shattering. Quick, hard footfalls followed, the sound of heels on hard flooring. I hear high-pitched squeals now, and fast chattering as a bevy of girls passes beneath my second-story window.

Pulling up the window blind, I glimpse rainbow colors in the fabric of the girls’ dresses, sheer chiffon trains lifting slightly in the morning breeze. The sun is not yet visible over Santa Monica, but I can still hear the lilting laughter of what looks like bridesmaids coming from the stairwell. As I walk toward the stairs, a woman thrusts her disheveled head out of another doorway and barks at me, “People are trying to sleep!”

I give her the universal “not my fault” gesture and shrug. The high-pitched laughter was fading; I had to hurry to catch it.

From the high point of a dune, I saw what appeared to be a wedding party. There were white folding chairs, and bouquets of white lilies and roses, and there was the bride with her long skirt held up in one hand, raising it above the still wet sand from high tide. Bridesmaids in their daybreak colors arranged themselves near a music stand.

No one appreciates a drop-in wedding guest. I turned quickly back toward the motel, my curiosity satisfied.  As I reached the grass path, I noticed a wooden marker jutting up from a flower garden. Under a glass plate was a black and white photograph of bathers dressed in antiquated bathing suits and broad-brimmed straw hats. A newspaper article appeared below the photo.

The yellowing article explained that this stretch of beach had been the designated The Ink Well, a strip of sand where blacks were permitted to gather. The photograph captured dark-skinned families opening picnic baskets, children tossing large balls to each other. To the left and the right side of the cluster of people were wide stretches of empty sand.

The Ink Well was long gone of course. Laws now guaranteed the right of all persons to enjoy the crashing waves and rush of white foam across the hot sand. At this moment folks were witnessing the pledges of a young couple to love one another, forever, until their very deaths. I wondered if they knew they were pledging forever love in the deep of the Ink Well.

Seven years later, I am wondering if they are still married.


Donna Amburgey enjoys writing novels, short stories, poetry and nonfiction articles for legal publications. She is currently working on the third novel in The Red Rock Road Trip series, published by Juke Box Books LLC, St. Charles IL.

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