Life’s different here on the island. Even though the mainland’s just a mile across the Reach, you’d think you were someplace…else.
When I first saw the thing on the beach I got that feeling you get when peeking into an empty room; there’s nothing there, but the more you look, the more you wonder: Is it really the breeze wafting the peeling wallpaper? Did the old floorboards shift as if someone stepped on them? Wasn’t that wardrobe door open before?
The thing on the beach was like that.
I wandered the littoral for years after mum drowned. Old Bet’s words stuck in my mind: ‘The grain has to ferment,’ she’d said, referencing the legend of the Lady with the Lamp. ‘You can’t rush her light; it comes when it comes…’
The wake rather than mum’s funeral still ruled my thoughts. We’d all talked about the thing on the beach and how odd that it washed up after she’d drowned.
I’d said it was mum’s wig, and Jigger had laughed so hard he had to grab his crotch to stop from pissing himself.
‘It’s a deep sea fish; I seenum,’ he said. ‘These fish from the abyss, they’re cheap, and older than your grandma, not just your ma!’
That was a joke too far for some; ‘She’s my great grandma,’ my granddaughter, Lou said. Jigger turned the colour of raw winter knuckles.
Looking at the spent, rotten leaves outside, Lou asked, ‘How do they know?’
‘Who? Know what?’
‘The leaves. How do they know when to start living again? They’re dead, then they come back.’
I didn’t quite have the answer for that.
But now, alone on the beach looking at that dancing lamp over the waves, I think I do.