The beach stones are thousand-year smooth, grey light grey when the clouds clear the moon, black as the night when the misting returns. The sky-black sea crashes foam white at its border. If there are voices, they are distant, both in place and time.
Today has been a day of swings from yins to roundabout yangs. Some favourite things – sunshine, watermelon, friendship – and others not so tip top: wind skipping up sand, warm water and jellyfish in the shallows. But when the rain came and there was one umbrella for all of us, how many could take shelter? All of us, of course, because that is always the answer. All of us, together. All of us.
Bullets spit up sand
Hands over ears we cower
No red poppies bloom
She watched the stranger approach. He strode across the beach, his shadow long in the evening sun. On the horizon, waves grew.
Every morning of every summer they meet. Same beach, same time. “So, we’re all here, are we? Nobody’s died in the night?” And with that Luigi and the others smile and stand thigh-deep in the water and frown at clumsy splashing swimmers. Sometimes the women begin to sing.
unstepped snow on beach
summer shade trees bone fingers
we walk down alone
First the electric scent of the burning sand as the greasy black clouds roil up from the sea horizon.
Then the hiss of the rain hitting the beach and the steam and the smell of the earth beneath the sand.
She screws up the letters he had written her, page by single page. Burning them would still feel too final, the ash too easy to smooth between fingertips. She imagines the powder-grey prints she would leave on the banister.
So crushing the letters is the best course of action. The only way. One by one she drops the pieces of paper and the wind sends them skirling across the winter beach.
She feels bad, of course she does. If the world were normal, she would never drop what in a normal world is litter. But the world is not normal, not now.
One page is caught in the dip before the rocks; others are held in the frothing shallow water. A single tear would be appropriate – the thought surprises her and she almost smiles. Then the smile fades from her eyes and she feels the chill on her neck.
She drops the last page and watches it skitter. The last one. Gone. She turns and walks away, into the wind.
Some years later, she returns with a dog and children. Of course there is no sign of his letters. No sign. Of course.
I took the unexploded ordnance home with me from the pebbly beach. She was beautiful. She was my shell, my belle.
Mother Jarvie pushed her bicycle along the street that was now part strand; she could not have pedalled through the sheets of sand the night’s storms had lifted across the road, shingle spattering and cracking the windows of the fisherfolk’s cottages. The road was ridged with grey-gold sand, as if the beach were edging away from the roiling sea.
She pushed on, her thoughts lost in the sea, in the past, in the howling of the long ago storm when her Peter had been dragged to the seabed, dragged down and bounced against the sand and slicing sharp rock and spat out peaceful, drained, to the waiting beach one Sunday morning. When they slowly lifted the weed from across his thin white face, she fainted dead.
She pushed on. The sea would not stop her, the sand it had thrown would not stop her. Her arms burned, her back ached, pain filled her head from jaw to crown but on she pushed. People watched in silence from behind loose windows, sheltered from the constant wind. The sky was black.
She pushed on, in her basket the scraps of bread she would throw to the sea so it would never again take a young one. She pushed on.
First published https://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/flash-friday-vol-3-7/#comment-25519
23 January 2015