Wednesday, April 27

Fonder of Beaches, Pt II

The council’s recent project to rejuvenate the coastline had been completed four months behind schedule, missing the summer crowds and settling long over the winter. During those cold months, white lights wobbling in the darkness; boats just off the coast shooting great plumes of sand, which they had scraped from the seabed, at the beach. What had been sawtooth disintegrations of sand into the murk, became a long line a small lagoons looking – from the gull’s eye – like the jagged edges of vertebrae, running up the side of my hometown. So now the beaches are larger.
We had eaten a big breakfast – without the baby at the table, squealing and throwing food about – and I had made a pot of coffee. The coffee was strong; tremors ran down my arm from the caffeine but I could not stop drinking it. It was very good coffee—‘This isgood coffee!’ We lounged around and I watched the football. We were restless, so all of us went for a walk. My brothers and I became playful and began kicking pinecones at one another. With football inspiring me, I would lean back at the kick and lift the cone high into the air so that it would strike my brother’s nearer the head. Each of us were ducking and laughing. My brother’s partner, my mother and my niece carried along with the pram, mostly ignoring our foolishness.
At the beach the baby was released and, armed with a bucket, plodded about unsteadily on the sand. There were dogs in the distance, a fine haze of upset sand in the wind, a strip of sparkle from rollercoaster rides on the mile-away pier. My brothers and I went down to the water’s edge. My mum stayed with the baby up behind the line of seaweed and mermaids’ purses. The purses popped beneath my trainers. They are old trainers; three-years-old. They are falling apart. Sand enters and makes itself at home. The sand does not leave my trainers. Them lines of seaweed, of lines of stones, those lines of pebbles; my brothers and I crossed them to the water’s edge. We skimmed stones. Our competition kicked in and each was trying to achieve the most skips, the longest bounce, the highest jump. I placed myself first in all categories, modestly, but staring at the sea proudly with every effort. One had to time it right. There was not much of a swell; the waves came in very slowly and broke at the last second, falling only a foot or two. Wait until the wave was about to break, when the water was tall and flat; throw your stone! After a while my brothers grew bored and started to throw stones at each other. I watched them. They were laughing and throwing stones at the other’s head. One of them shouted—‘Oi, fucker, that was a big one!’ The accused laughed and threw another big one. There were a lot of stones and pebbles in the sand. Some of them looked interesting, some of them perfect for skimming. I walked back to my niece who headed toward the sea and would not turn around until she was dragged. My mother stood in front of her, but still the persistent wretch tried to barge through, going—‘Uhhh, uhhh!’ when she couldn’t pass. A large hole in the sand; who had dug it? It could swallow a child easily. I leapt across it. I was not a child. My niece, as part of some game she was playing, fell over and cracked her head on the grizzled pavement. She went into the silent cry for a few seconds, inhaling, preparing, her face tormented and red, before letting out a howl. Gulls took to the air. She screamed and screamed. A thin line of blood trickled down her soft head. ‘We should go back.’ ‘We’re not going back, are we?’ I said. Half of the group took her home, the other half carried on walking, assuming a speed previously impossible with the baby in tow.
That was it, the walk.
When I returned to my parents’ house, I emptied my trainers of sand. Upside-down, the sand fell in tiny glitter and tinier crackles onto the decking. All the sand was gone.
In their guest bed that night, I could feel sand. When I came back to my flat, I heard more sand fall out of the trainers. It was all over the floor next to my wardrobe. It scratched itself when I walked over it. A remarkable ability of the sand was to be invisible, to disappear, but I can hear it when I walk past the wardrobe. It sounds like ‘gristle’. I lie in bed and swoop my nude legs about, feeling the sand. It is there. I feel it. Those grains came a long way, albeit uninvited. In the morning, when I arise and stand up straight, I brush the sand from my body. There is no heart in me to dust off my mattress once and for all.

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