I’m coming across so many scribblings since I started clearing things out. I found a notebook from my first year in London. One of the entries is a letter to my niece, who was a month old at the time. She’s almost five now. I was supposed to add more every year. The original idea was to give her the letter for her 18th birthday. This could still work!
Another entry was the start of a short story I was beginning to write, back when I still did things like that… I’m sure there are a few more lying around. Considering how far I got with this one, my hopes for them are not high.
I think not even being able to finish a short story should tell you all you need to know about me, actually.
Here we go…
Dancing over the waves I see them, borne on the wash of a passing boat. Weak autumn sunshine filters through milky feathers, splintering in the cool grey water below. I’ve often wondered what keeps their heads bowed with such condescending grace. The heavy beat of wings disturbs the surface, shattering the glassy sheen of water stretching from shore to shore. Here and there a salmon leaps, a lone fisherman casts his line and a silent couple sits at the water’s edge. It is all quiet here, but far from peaceful.
She sits, knees pulled up to her chest, legs wrapped in her arms, blankly staring out across the river. His hand rests millimetres from her leg, longing to – but not daring to – touch. His face carries guilt, oppression, Her face is a canvas from which little can be drawn.
The fisherman casts his line, the bait plopping softly on the water. He feels a tug and lets out the line, teasing his catch before reeling it in. Feeling blindly for his net, his hand brushes against nettles. He barely notices but the sting has left its angry marks. The salmon leaps from the net and gasps silently, writhing helplessly on the grass. Slowly, slowly, sobbing, dying. The fisherman makes his assessment, finds the catch too young and too small, not worth it. He slips the fish through his fingers, back into the shallows by the falls.
On the bank, the two sit. He leans forward and brushes a stray lock of hair from her face. She blinks and looks at him but does not see him.
I think we can safely assume that I was very melodramatic when I was in my early twenties. It’s definitely not an autobiographical one. The setting, at least, I recognise as home, down by the River Shannon at the World’s End. Maybe I’d been back for a visit and witnessed a similar scene. More likely is that I had just had salmon for dinner.
One thing I am sure of: I still hate swans.