Helping to Save the World
Madeline Kline

“Race you!” I cry to my sister the instant we set foot on the sand. The sparkling ocean
waves call to us. Jenny and I grew up by the ocean, and still it astounds us with its beauty. As
we’ve done many times before, we leap over the sand, dodging people spread out over the beach.
As usual, I take the lead. I rush forward, and the wave crashes in front of me, causing water to
rush towards my ankles. I continue running, and as the next wave forms, I close my eyes and
jump through the wall of water and past the breaking point. As I come to the surface, I tread
water while brushing the wet hair out of my face, and rub the salt water out of my eyes before
opening them. I turn around, waiting to see Jenny’s head pop up behind me.
It never does. At first, I’m panicked. It’s always frightening when I lose track of my
younger sister, especially near the water. But there’s no reason to panic. Jenny knows how to
swim. She knows how to identify riptides, when and where she can and can’t swim in the ocean.
Here and now, she can swim. So why isn’t she in the water with me? Where is she?
“Mira!” I hear Jenny’s voice call out, and I scan the shoreline. “Mira!” Her voice draws
me to a figure in a hot pink bathing suit, crouching on the sand. I use the next wave to push me
back towards the shore, back towards where Jenny is crouched next to something I can’t yet
make out. My feet hit the sand and I’m running towards her, the hot pink acting like a beacon,
making her stand out among the people on the beach.
As I come to stand next to her, I’m able to make out the shape of the animal next to her.
Barely, though. It’s a dolphin, covered with plastic. I can see more red than grey on the dolphin,
meaning it’s been out here long enough to get multiple sunburns. I kneel down next to it beside
Jenny, and gingerly reach out towards it, then pull my hand back. Touching it might make it
worse.
I should get help. But I have no idea where to go. I scan the beach.

“Jenny,” I say, pointing, “see that lifeguard?” Jenny follows my finger and nods. “Ask
him for help.”
She gets up and runs towards the lifeguard’s chair, and I stay kneeling next to the
dolphin.
“You’re a very brave dolphin. We’re getting you help now, okay?” The dolphin doesn’t
respond. Jenny comes running back with the lifeguard, and he kneels down next to the dolphin
as well. Carefully, he begins to unwrap the plastic ensnaring the dolphin.
As he does, I watch the dolphin, murmuring soothing phrases. It’s no help, though. As
Jenny, the lifeguard, and I kneel there, the light leaves the dolphin’s eyes.
“Sorry, girls,” he says. He doesn’t need to say anything else. But he does. “The
dolphin’s dead.” He stands up and walks back to his chair, and Jenny starts to cry. I put my arm
around her, and we both kneel there, staring at the poor creature. I wish I had my phone. I wish
I could take a picture, as evidence, evidence of this horrible fate that has become an innocent sea
creature. If I did that, then maybe there wouldn’t be quite so much plastic in the ocean.
“C’mon,” I say to Jenny, still crying. “Let’s go home.” I get up.
“No,” Jenny says. “We came here to swim, let’s swim.”

When we get home, I immediately head upstairs to the shower. I wash the sand and the
salt water from my body, but even with the water flowing over me, the image of the dolphin
won’t budge from my mind. I can’t help but hate the person who let their trash get to the ocean.
Surely it wasn’t intended, I know that. Surely, whoever it was, they didn’t think that their trash
would kill anything. Although, surely, someone could have picked it up. There was no need to
leave it lying there, wherever it was, where it could get to the ocean.

I think about all of the people on the beach, enjoying their vacation. They’re probably
still there. Probably, they’ll still be there until evening, when they’ll pack up and leave, careful
not to leave anything behind. Probably, they still will, without noticing it. A container of fries,
maybe. Or an empty bag of chips. Or a broken toy lying abandoned, half covered by sand that
will blow away with the wind.
Each item will probably make its way to the ocean. There, it will stay, firmly not
decomposing, bait for some unsuspecting animal. Like the dolphin from today. Unless…
Unless they don’t get to the ocean. Unless someone picks them up first. As I step out of
the shower, I wrap a robe around myself, and return to my room, where I pick up my phone. I
write a message to all of my friends, telling them to meet me at the beach tonight with the proper
materials. I shiver. I should really get dressed, first.
That night, we ran out of bread, chicken, carrots, apples, and it seems all of the foods we
eat on a daily basis. Mom shoves a list into my hand and sends me to the supermarket to buy
groceries. I run to the store, and quickly throw everything I need into the shopping cart. When I
go to buy the items, I hear the familiar question, “Paper or plastic?” Usually, I answer plastic.
“Paper, please.” I say instead. Paper decomposes faster than plastic does.
I run home with the groceries, and give them to Jenny to put away. Then, I grab gloves
and a trash bag and rush back out the door. I should be able to get to the beach, only being
maybe five minutes late.
When I get there, my heart sinks. A huge crowd of people is gathered on the beach. I
thought it would be deserted. Then, I look closer. Every person is holding their own trash bag,
just as I am. I recognize about half of the faces in the crowd. The other half I don’t. But they’re
all here for the same reason. The same reason I’m here.

As I continue walking towards the group, someone notices me.
“Hey! Mira’s here!” Maya grabs my arm and pulls me to the center of the group, where
all of the friends I invited to the beach clean-up are waiting. “I hope you don’t mind, but I
invited a few friends. And they invited a few friends. So now we have a much bigger group.” I
laugh. Maya’s very popular, so it would make sense that she would draw a crowd to her
wherever she went. This is good, though.
Maya stands on a sand dune, and claps twice to get everyone’s attention. She waves me
up to stand next to her. Since we have the crowd’s attention, I start speaking.
“Okay guys, here’s what we’re going to do. Make sure that you’re in a group of at least
two. We want to stick together. In your groups, you’ll walk up and down the beach looking for
anything you can pick up. Don’t touch anything with your bare hands, instead use your gloves
or anything else you brought. We’ll meet back here in an hour, to see what everyone got.”
After I’m done speaking, everyone groups together. I form a trio with Maya and Doris.
We walk across the beach, picking up all of the plastic that the moon shines light on. We’re
talking. We’re laughing. And most importantly, we’re helping to save the world.