A man passing by decides to pause his evening jog, concerned for the lonely girl's safety.
"Where are your parents?" enquires the man, "It is getting late.."
The little girl looks up at him with such big, curious, green eyes that he can't help but smile.
"My papa said that he would be back in a... That he would come soon," the girl replies, with a noticeable French accent. She then returns her attention to shoveling sand into lumps with her hands.
The girl can't be any older than 7, the man deduces, her shoulder length brown hair held loosely by a pink bow.
An ordinary man would walk away and mind his own business, but the man in this story is no ordinary man. This is a man who will ask strangers to fly kites with him if he is feels it is right to do so. He is a methodically whimsical man and so decides to remain. He sits down on a bench a few feet away facing the sandbox, and says, "I think I should watch you until your parents return," attempting to sound as little like a pedophile as possible.
The girl nods her head and returns to her sandcastle. It is surprisingly intricate, with many spires of varying heights and widths. It is surprising the little girl can do so much with just her hands. Still it does take her a long time to accomplish anything, her childly hands struggling to achieve sufficient dexterity. But as underdeveloped as her motor skills are, she has the patience of a mountain. And with her father nowhere in sight, the man is forced to wait for the slow and steady progress. A mixture of scientific rigor and an odd shyness prevent the man from helping her.
As time progresses, so does the setting of the sun. The child is between the man and it now, silhouetting her and her fortress. Conversation between them is sparse. The brief dialogues consist of simple questions and answers between them, the man speaking the way most people speak to children, and the girl responses were equally as minimalist. But she conveyed relatively complex ideas using her limited vocabulary, revealing unsuspected intelligence.
"Where did you get those flags?"
"I took them from the Lego, and put them hard into the castle, so they will stay. They are not real, they do not move back and forth like flags."
She makes a waving motion to indicate what kind of movement she means.
Time plods on, and though the girls diligence does not fade, she begins to yawn and stretch. The noise starts the man from his distractions and he looks over at the dark castle and its sleepy creator. It is officially nighttime, and the girls father still hasn't arrived. The man decides to take matters into his own hands.
"Little girl, it is very late now. Come with me, we are going to go find your father."
The girl looks up from her latest parapet and shows me her sadly gleaming eyes. Her extreme concentration on the castle might have been to distract her from her apparent lack of parents.
She clearly does not want to leave behind her work.
"I'm sorry, but it is very late now, and it isn't safe to be out like this. The castle will be there tomorrow, don't worry." The girl does not seem reassured, but is too tired to argue further. She follows the man out of the sandbox, between the dark oaks, and down the street. The trees and bushes are lined with the critters of early summer, squirrels, robins and gnats all melded into an all encompassing dark hue. They eventually find the girl's father, standing dazed in front of a convenience store. It is not obvious what caused him to be so long apart from his daughter. He shouts something in a foreign language in the man's direction. The man hadn't dared attempt to speak French since high school, but thankfully the girl responds and assuages her father's anger. He turns to the man and says, "thank you for taking care of my daughter. Good night." And with that, the couple is off towards their car. The last the man hears is the father saying something about a lost beret.
The following evening, the man returns to the playground, hoping to again see the little French girl, or at least see her castle. But the Man finds the sandcastle in ruin, towers crumbling and flags strewn about. Time had swept down on the castle like a tidal wave, washing away the poor girl's hard work.
Later that night, as the man lays in his bed, connections begin to form in his head. Leaps of consciousness are made and epiphanies are experienced. The man realizes in his sleep the surreal beauty of what he had witnessed. And, being no ordinary man, he has the ability to share this realization with hundreds of people around the world. The following morning, the man begins his task.