If Ellie had her druthers, she’d take the bucket to the beach herself. But, even so, she knew Eli would carry it carefully, collect the shells the way they always had, when they were much younger. She stood on the porch, feet planted firmly only because she could no longer bend at her knees, and watched him haul the bucket, the very same one their mother had used, down the path to the narrow strip of sand. He passed under an archway of birch and oak and disappeared from view. Ellie gripped her cane and waited. She imagined she could hear him splashing through the surf as he completed the mission, but she knew that it was only the memory of him, fifty years younger, galloping through the waves toward her. He still howled with laughter, still tossed back his head to admire the night sky, but like his sister Eli moved more slowly.

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