The Stand Castle

Oct 15, 2005Write!

This month’s celebration of new Christian fiction is all about fiction. (Surprise!) So, I’m posting a short story I wrote five years ago. I pray it encourages you when your sand castles tumble over in life’s surf, or are kicked in by bullies.

The Stand Castle

By Mary E. DeMuth
(copyrighted material)


Kallie had always been small; it was the first memory she had. “Kallie will never be of a normal size,” Doctor Calloway whispered to Mommy. He acted as if she hadn’t heard, but her keen three-year-old ears betrayed her curiosity. Something’s wrong with me. I am not normal. The thought had a way of worming its way into her life at inopportune times—when friends picked her last for basketball, when she stood on her tippy-toes on the bottom row of her class picture, when she tried in vain to reach the counter at Walker’s store. Always, like a dripping faucet, the voices in her head would remind her. You are not normal, never will be.

But today was different. The family was safely sheltered at the ocean, waves pounding and breaking with an intensity that ushered Kallie into other rooms of her mind. At the ocean, with its wild sameness, Kallie found peace from the dripping voices.

She looked down the shoreline to see a dizzying variety of sand castles—some tall, some small, some stately, some homely.“Let’s build one too,” she told Toby and Sarah. Like freshly recruited troops, they began pushing sand into castle piles. Kallie pioneered the toting job; when things looked dry, she filled her bucket with seaweed-laden water and poured it over the emerging structure.

“To make it strong and tall,” she said under her breath. The comment was really for her, half hoping that seaweed water would do miracles for her tiny stature.

As the minutes neared an hour, Sarah and Toby lost interest, leaving Kallie frustrated and alone. Mommy and Daddy encouraged her from afar as her AWOL siblings departed barefooted to find treasure in the tide pools.

Determination etched her sun-squinting eyes. Kallie grabbed another bucket of water and doused the castle, hoping to save it from crumbling. She smoothed each surface, adding weathered glass windows and driftwood flags. The king and his royal subjects were represented by misshapen rocks.

Kallie lost herself in the mystery and revelry of her castle as the waves leapt behind her, from time to time licking her feet. She played a part in something bigger than herself, feeling power as Queen Kallie commanded her rock subjects.“Whatcha doing?”

The sneering voice made Kallie jump. She wheeled around to see a tall boy about Toby’s age looking down at her. Frantic, she tried to catch her parents’ gaze, but their toweled spot was vacant.

“I . . . I. . . was just building this castle here. See the flags? I tried to make it tall . . . ”

“Don’tcha know sand castles are for babies, Shrimp? The ocean’s gonna roll all over that thing. It will disappear forever.” He blurted his words as loud as the ocean’s waves, words that drowned Kallie’s already sinking heart.

She no longer felt like a queen, just a misshapen rock. “I know that.” She looked at her sandy toes. “But, I just wanted to—” Kallie gasped as the unnamed boy aimed his booted right foot at her palace.“Please, don’t.” She tried to speak over the noisy surf, but waves swallowed her voice.

“Who’s gonna make me?” He kicked the sandy citadel. He stomped on her royal courtyard, leaving rocks, glass, and driftwood in war-torn heaps.

In that moment, Kallie’s voices dripped, you are not normal, never will be. You’ll never amount to anything. Your life is kicked over sand, worthless. Before she could respond to the castle assailant, he was gone. His long legs had carried him far from her and she was left alone—afraid and small. Her parents returned from their foray with a strawberry ice cream cone just for her, but Kallie refused to eat. Later, Toby and Sarah asked her what happened, but Kallie kept quiet, her sadness locked inside her small body. She only heard the same dripping voices. You are not normal, never will be, Shrimp.

That night, in the quiet of her soft bed, she battled sleep. Melancholy was her blanket, piercing loneliness her pillow. She awakened, startled to see a Visitor. At first her frightened imagination made her shrink back; she thought the sand bully had entered her room. She pulled the covers all the way up to her eyelashes and shivered.

The Visitor said nothing. He had no cruel boots on, just weathered and scarred feet. He said nothing at first, but she perceived His thoughts. He was beckoning her. She followed Him through her doorway and eventually out of the house. In an instant they were together on the beach, hand in hand. Where her castle once lay in ruins, she saw a towering white structure whose translucence shined like pearly sunshine. Instead of sand as its foundation, it rested squarely on a gigantic rock.

The Visitor whispered in Kallie’s ear. “Everything you do is seen, Kallie. Whatever sand castles you make in your world become towers in Mine.”

Kallie had conflicting desires—one, to run to the tall, stately castle and play in its solid walls, the other to hold the Visitor’s scarred hand.

She chose the Visitor.

His voice thundered and soothed, like the ocean surf. “You have chosen the good part, Kallie. I will never fail you. When other’s kick in your work, when they are bent on destroying you, just remember My hands. I am the Carpenter, Kallie. My hands, scarred as they might be, make real structures here. Your world is merely a shadow, a temporary sand castle.”

They stood there a long, long time. Kallie no longer felt small holding the Visitor’s hand. He took her chin in His other hand and directed her gaze toward His face. “One more thing. You are not normal, never will be.”

His redemptive voice, the voice like many waters, changed the dripping voices forever. You are not normal, never will be became Kallie’s reminder that the Visitor made people different on purpose—for variety and beauty, just like the sand castles she noticed today—some tall, some small, some stately, some homely. All were important, especially to the Builder.

“Will that castle always stand?” she asked, pointing to the castle anchored to the rock.

“As long as I stand, it will stand, Kallie.” And with that she opened her eyes in the shadowed world of her room. Drifting back to sleep, she smiled.

And He stood.