Scattered on the Wind
by Denis Doran
Listen to those voices scattered on the wind; a man calls, a boy answers, somewhere in the distance a dog barks. Seagulls wheel and dive silently around Browns Point. To the north sand dunes. On this side, sheltered by the rock, sits the village. Nothing more than a huddle of houses, a couple of boats pulled up on the foreshore, a few lobster pots, and a net, drying in the wind.
Dropping a pebble into a rock pool. Waiting for the surface to calm, I watch a crab scuttle across the sandy bed. It disappears into the seaweed colonising the borders of this small shifting world at the edge of the ocean. Another stone disturbs the pools calm surface, voices drift across the beach. One young, one old, closer now.
‘You’re Mam’ll be fine-’
The boy, loosening his grip on his father’s hand, slips away. Plodges in the shallows, head down. I hear his dad say, ‘You ok?’
‘Sometimes we’ve just got to wait, you know-’
‘Oh, but I Don’t under-’
The boy stamps his foot, sending up a shower of water, and then he’s off and running across the beach turning cartwheels. Halts, throws his head back, flings his arms out and launches himself, mouth wide open, back over the sand. Hopping, skipping, jumping into the air he comes to a skidding halt. Turns, mouth still wide open, and pelts full tilt into his father.
‘Help help I’ve swallowed the wind. Listen, you can hear it, it’s rumbling in my tummy. I’ll be blown away. Hold on, help, hold on I’m going aaagh.’
‘Don’t worry, I’ve got tight hold of you. The wind’ll not have you today.’
They both collapse, giggling, onto the sand. Lie staring at the sky. The father says, ‘She’ll be fine you know.’
‘Tell me a story, come on-’
‘What? Which one?’
‘The one about the fox and gull.’
‘How many times-’
‘Don’t care. I like that one.’
They sit where they collapsed, above the strand line.
‘A long time ago now mother gull laid-’
‘On top of Browns Point?’
‘Yes on top of Browns Point, now let me-’
‘If I had a pound for every time-’
Again the story begins, is interrupted, and then flows on merging with the wind and the waves.
What did he used to say? No more than a stone’s throw away. Watch the pebble hit the water, ripples radiating wider and wider, until they’re no more than an echo on an otherwise calm surface, still ripples radiate; still echo.
I stand above the strand line watching the incoming tide push debris up the beach. To the south, out of sight around the headland, pier lights will soon glow in the gathering gloom.
Picking up four flat stones, I throw two in quick succession. ‘This one’s for you. This one’s for me.’ Aiming low to catch the water a glancing blow, I count the number of times each stone skips across the surface before it disappears. The other two I let slip, wet and sandy, between my fingers.