THE SHELL

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THE SHELL

Postby amity » Wed Sep 20, 2006 2:01 am

The boy flung himself face down in the hollow between the dunes and rested his sweating face on his crossed arms. His panting breath disturbed small avalanches of dry sand that ran down the face of the dune and powdered his sleeve. He lay still until his chest stopped heaving, then, turning onto his back he watched the clouds chase each other across the sky like playful sheep. Seagulls rode the wind, and their raucous cries punctuated the noise from the beach. This noise rose and fell like the sound of the waves, a noise compounded of screaming children, the occasional speedboat and the loud calls of frantic parents seperated from their offspring. It started mid-morning and lasted until the very last holidaymaker had gone home, and always, just underneath it all was the endless hiss, as the sea climbed the shallow beach and retreated, dragging shingle down the slope into the weed fringed rock pools.
He had run from the house when the noises from the front bedroom, and the look of worry on his father's face had become too much to bear. He had thought he would be able to stay, but the smell of antiseptic mixed with his father's cigarettes had made him feel sick, and mumbling some excuse about needing fresh air he had bolted, out of the gate, out of the street, out of the town, to the place he always came to when he needed to be alone. He felt ashamed of his weakness, but there was no-one here to see his embarrassment, and sheltered from the breeze, tired after his run, he drifted on the edge between sleep and waking.
The sounds from the beach were quieter now and he raised his head to look over the edge of the dune. People were packing their things and gathering their children together in preparation for the scramble over the loose sand to the car park behind the dunes, lugging buckets and spades, beachballs, windbreaks and bags full of empty sandwich boxes and flasks half full of luke warm tea. They would be going back to houses where no-one moaned in the front bedroom, or sat at the kitchen table with their head in their hands, and for a moment, he envied them.
He watched as the beach slowly emptied and only the seagulls, squabbling over discarded crusts, remained, then brushing sand off his sweater, he climbed over the rim of the dune and trudged down onto the deserted beach. The wind blew sweet papers into the tangle of marram grass that clustered at the foot of the dunes, and the beach was littered with the debris of the day. Sandcastles in varying degrees of dereliction stood drunkenly here and there, waiting for the tide to come and iron the beach smooth again, ready for the next day's influx of visitors.
The boy walked as far as the water's edge, where the tide gathered its strength for the final run up the beach to the edge of the dunes. He ambled slowly along the waterline, watching as the small waves turned over pebbles, making their colours glow in the early evening light. He saw pieces of wave polished glass, worn as smooth as one of his mother's beads by the constant fret of the sea, and there, at the edge of a rockpool, caught in the fronds of seaweed, the most perfect shell he had ever seen. He picked it up and turned it over on his palm to see if it was damaged, but it was unmarked. The mother-of-pearl inside gleamed with the colours of the rainbow, and the outer was speckled with shades of pink and amber on cream. It looked out of place on this ordinary little beach, tropical in its colouring, foreign in its intricate shape, and like no other shell the boy had ever picked up in his fourteen years.
He fished in his pocket for a rather grubby hankerchief, and wrapped the shell carefully inside, placing it back in his pocket with care. He climbed back to the edge of the dunes and sat on the highest ridge to watch the sun setting. He watched unblinking as the whole beach took on a ruddy hue and the sun sank lower until it seemed to touch the surface of the sea. A glittering red path ran from it towards the beach, and the boy's eyes stung with the dancing shards of light on the crest of each wave. He watched silently as the sea crept furhter up the beach, crumbling the sandcastles and sweeping away the footprints marring the sand.
He sat until the sun sank below the horizon and the air turned chill and grey, then rising to his feet he turned reluctantly for the long walk home. His father would be worried about him, and that thought made him break into a jog as the street lights started to flicker to life, away from the beach and back to the uneasy house and the waiting. He ran across the deserted car park and cut through the alleyway that led to the narrow High Street.
He ran past the shops, some shuttered for the night, some, like the chip shop, just opening, with the fragrant smell of cooking fish sharpened with vinegar drifting through the open door. The smell made him hungry and he increased his pace before remembering that his mum would not be cooking tea tonight. He slowed to a walk alongside the park railings, peering into the dusk beneath the trees in the hopes of seeing a mate, anyone who would help delay the moment when he would finally have to go home, but the place was deserted.
It was almost totally dark as he turned onto the small estate where he had lived all of his life. He ran past the Infant School, where he had painted pictures in thick swirls of poster paint and carried them proudly home to his mum, to be pinned up in the kitchen and displayed to relatives. Past the playground ,with the small swing that he had fallen from the day before his sixth birthday.Past the reminders of his life he ran, with his shadow waxing and waning in front and behind him as he passed the streetlamps, and as he neared the end of his road, he slowed to a walk, past the Miller's front garden, with the gnomes that had terrified him as a small child, past his next door neighbour's brightly lit windows, to the end of his own path. He stood for a moment, listening, but all he could hear was the beating of his own heart, loud in the silence. He walked up the path, through the side passage to the back door, and opening it quietly, slipped into the warm kitchen.
The house was still, the T.V. in the front room silent for once. He walked to the foot of the stairs to look for his father, but as he lifted his foot to the first step, he heard the back door open and his father stood in the hallway. The light from the kitchen threw his face into shadow, and the boy could not read his expression. "You'd better go up", he said, and the boy climbed the stairs slowly and stood outside his mother's room. A faint light showed round the edge of the door and he pushed it open slowly, and looked in. His mother seemed tiny in the big bed, and older than he had ever seen her look. The covers were pulled up to her chin and her faint breathing barely moved them, so still she lay. He had walked round the side of the bed before he noticed the object beside it, and in the dim light he bent to see what it contained.
A tiny starfish hand opened and closed in the air above the tightly swaddled pink shawl, and the boy placed his finger carefully in the tiny palm. The fingers closed round it strongly, and the boy smiled. Taking the handkerchief from his pocket he unwrapped the perfect shell, and folded it into the baby's hand. Eyes as blue as the sea in summer looked up at him, and he bent to kiss the soft, milky smelling cheek. "Hello, little sister", the boy said, as his father watched from the door, and his mother, her breathing as faint as the echo of the sea inside a shell, slept peacefully in the big bed.
I have written poetry since childhood(most of which went in the bin), but recently started reading at open mike nights at my local. I have just published a (very short) book of 11 poems and have written childrens stories for my grandson, Tyler.
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Postby John A Silkstone » Sun Sep 24, 2006 6:54 pm

Hello Amity,

A nice short story only married by a few spelling mistakes which careful editing will rectify. Also the lay out could have done with the paragraphs being indented or written the same way as you wrote ‘Wings’

I note that you tell you stories and that there is no dialogue in them. Is there a reason why?

Keep up the good work and let’s read some more of your work.

Silky
Though retired, I'm still working as an editor for a poetry/short story magazine.
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Postby amity » Sun Sep 24, 2006 8:21 pm

Thankyou for your comments on 'The Shell'. Sadly, only when I read it through again did I notice the spelling mistakes and the typing error, plus the lack of paragraphs, (which were there when I typed it out!). Neither 'Wings' or 'The Shell' gave much scope for dialogue, but both stories were a departure from my more customary poetry or writing stories in verse for my grandson. I like the idea of trying to create an image with words, and havn't quite worked out where dialogue fits into this yet, but as these 2 stories are my only efforts, maybe I will improve with time. Thanks again, all the best, Val (Amity)
I have written poetry since childhood(most of which went in the bin), but recently started reading at open mike nights at my local. I have just published a (very short) book of 11 poems and have written childrens stories for my grandson, Tyler.
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Postby GrimDad » Fri Nov 03, 2006 11:14 am

:cool:

Hi Val, This story I do really like, the child perspective, the seaside setting and the birth. Keep the good work up.

:cool:
GrimDad hey
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Re: THE SHELL

Postby Rybo75 » Sat Jun 04, 2011 12:26 pm

ok, you had me hook line and sink her. I thought at first of ilness and death, then of abuse by the fathers hands, so the conclusion was not only surprise but also relief. Particularly loved the way "and the beach was littered with the debris of the day. Sandcastles in varying degrees of dereliction stood drunkenly here and there, waiting for the tide to come and iron the beach smooth again" sounded in my mind. Painting a picture, that describes perfectly, the image of abandoned beach.

Well done. I enjoyed it very much.
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Re: THE SHELL

Postby amity » Sun Jun 05, 2011 9:30 pm

Thanks, Rybo...I'm glad you liked it...I really ought to get my head down and write some more. I seem to go through spells when writing poetry is all I do ( so this story was a departure from the norm) and spells when I don't write at all....and this has been a long one, I don't think I've written for two years, but I love your poetry and maybe reading good stuff will set me off again. Thanks again, all the best, Val (Amity)
I have written poetry since childhood(most of which went in the bin), but recently started reading at open mike nights at my local. I have just published a (very short) book of 11 poems and have written childrens stories for my grandson, Tyler.
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