Tuesday, January 6, 2009


The sea is smiling today, soft and beguiling. Damn her. Damn her. Owen scowls at her from the prow of the Gwiddon, hands gripping the rusty rail, feet apart, knees locked as of habit although the swell is as gentle as a lullaby. He prefers the whore, the witch, the harpy. He knows his place then. He knows every inch of her, every gentle curve, every bone and sinew of her but can never sense that moment when she’ll snap, snarl, catch you in her jaws and spit you out on the shore for the women to gather up like flotsam. But then, no man can.

He shuts off the engine. Gwiddon rests on the water, a baby at the breast, sated and sleepy. The only sound is his breathing, rapid and hoarse. He looks back into the smudge on the horizon that is Greyling Bay. The air is still; the sky a pane of frosted glass; the smoke from the chimneys as straight and true as a plumb line. A few desultory gulls drift across the quay waiting for the boats to return bursting with their slippery, silver cargo. They don’t know about quotas, about net gauges. They’ll have to make do with rubbish bins and scattered chips.

He slipped out that morning to scuttle his beloved Gwiddon and sink with her into the seductive mattress of water. Why fight? Why rise before a winter’s dawn and set out against the tide, sleet blinding him, the wild wind tearing his hands, scraping the skin from his cheek; the triumphant struggle to haul in the swollen nets only to weep tears of rage back on shore where, calculations made and heads shaken, most is poured back into the water, dead and rotting?

On such days he feels the madness rise in him. He lurches blindly into The Ship and then, too ashamed to face the look in Ann’s eyes, sleeps off the madness on Gwinnod’s deck.

Greyling Bay once was home to a hundred fishing boats. Now the three that are left are the tattered remnants of sanity in a world where a London newspaper pays him to talk about the ‘good old days’. The girl smiles as he swallows glass after glass of whisky which he isn’t used to and only drinks because she’s paying. He isn’t a man of words like this chattering exotic bird with her jangling bangles who sits across the table from him, affecting wonder and astonishment at his nonsense. He’s stiff and awkward at first—he hates to see a woman at the bar—but soon enough he stops caring and demands more and the more he drinks, the more lies and fairytales pour from his loosened mouth because that’s what she wants hear. When his own idiocy stares back at him a week later he wants to vomit but Ann, who knows it is nonsense, kisses him and says never mind, bach, the money will pay for shoes for the girls.

Judas, the sea whispers in his ears. Judas Iscariot.

Sally Zigmond


Fiona said...

Love this and would want to read more. The only tiny bit that grated was too many threes: 'snap, snarl, catch you in her jaws' would be fab if it weren't for the last line of 'every curve,every bone, every sinew of her.

You do write very well but I guess you know that:)

Anna Russell said...

I'm not usually a fan of overly descriptive writing, but you seem to have mastered it. The writing here is gorgeous. Rich, but not too rich.
Anna xxx

Sally Zigmond said...

Thank you both. There's only one thing better than writing and that's knowing someone has taken the trouble to read it.

Anonymous said...

I was so impressed with your piece I Googled you, Sally. You're everywhere. I'm looking forward to reading more of your work.


Peter Drobinski said...

I've read and re-read this piece, Sally, and each time it pays dividends. Really enjoyable, and so full of flavours!

Jane Smith said...

As I know Sally won't come here and toot her own horn I'm going to do it for her.

If you liked Sally's work and would like to read more of it, you have a few options.

1) Come back here in a couple of days, as I have two more pieces from her lined up and ready to go.

2) Have a look on Amazon for her novella, Chasing Angels. I loved it. It's spare and haunting and I've read it so many times my copy has fallen to pieces.

3) She's got a novel coming out in the spring. Hope Against Hope. Myrmidon Books. It's bound to be good.

Sally, you now owe me a fiver. At least.