Mother Jarvie pushed her bicycle

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
23 January 2015

The Janitor

Bruno pulled the rake through the clodded sand. It stank of iron and ammonia but at least now the flies had stopped their gorging; now they no longer funnelled fatly up around Bruno’s face when he disturbed them. He sweated and choked in the smoky still air. He swallowed, hawked and spat, then swallowed again when he saw what his rake had dragged up. The lion’s tooth caught the light from the guttering torches around the arena.

He picked up the tooth and turned it over in his hand. It was jagged at the base so it was broken, it had not just dropped from the jaw of one of the older lions, the ones who were too tired to attack until starved and tormented with long stabbing spears. One of the traitors must have fluked a lucky blow before he met his divine punishment or perhaps the lions had butted heads in the ripping and rending of flesh, the cracking of bone.

Bruno slipped the tooth into his pouch. He would hand it in to his gangmaster when the sand in the arena was ready for the next day’s bloodletting. It might be worth an extra piece of bread. He spat and began to rake again.

First published 16 January 2015

If I lie back on the hot sand and

If I lie back on the hot sand and look at the blank blue sky, there is too much behind the blueness, behind my eyes, for me to make sense of or to write.

I need to walk back across the sand to the shade of the pine trees and pick up a needle or a cone to look at and understand. And then the pattern comes.

I am my past. And an infinity of futures branching away into the possible. My past brought me here, to this shining silver point on which I balance, from which I will stumble on through one, through many, perhaps through all of my futures.

But perhaps I’ll stay lying on the hot sand, under the hot sun, my eyes closed, unable to understand. Perhaps.