"But why do pets die?" Aidan pleads, big clear tears like raindrops splashing down his face.

"I wish they didn't. I wish the things we love could live forever. But creatures die. That's how life goes. Animals are born, they grow, they live, and they die."

"I wish they didn't, too."

Phew. This still seems to be about the turtle.

Another silence. Another biting my tongue. Suddenly Aidan shrieks. "Did you see that?" he cries.

"See what?"

"That!" he yells, popping up to chase a poor little crab that runs for its life and into a hole.

I wonder whether this will upset him. But it doesn't. He turns to me with a grin. "Should we make a hole?" he asks.


And so we do: a hole so wide and deep that by the time we both step into it, we are soaked with sweat. Sand is sticking to us everywhere. I lie back, propped on my elbows, and Aidan does the same.

"Good hole," I say.

Aidan looks at me the way they do at this magnificently unstoppered age, emotion oozing from every orifice. He can't identify the emotion, of course, let alone articulate it, but it's one that I recognize as gratitude. Gratitude for helping him through this wretched event, an event that felt like it might overwhelm him but that turned out to be okay after all. Then he looks out at the sea.

"Do you think if we were dolphins we could swim to the other side?" he asks.

"I think if we were dolphins we could swim anywhere we wanted."

"Even to India?"

"Even to India."

"Even to America?"

"Even to America."

"Even to Antarctica?"

"I bet we could."

He laughs, as he generally does upon exposure to the word Antarctica, flopping his sandy head onto my lap. I run my hand through his hair. And I realize that whatever gratitude he may be feeling toward me is nothing compared to the gratitude I feel for him. Gratitude for giving me this moment on this day on this beach, when his curls were still blond and we talked about death, but mainly what we did was milk life. Because when I'm going the way of Zebra, I'm pretty sure it won't be anything I've written I take with me; it will be moments like this.

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