2013 STORGY SHORT STORY COMPETITION SHORTLIST
HOW ROUGH THE WAVES MAY BE
Sarah buttoned her coat on the way down to the beach and got Marin to do the same. She held her cigarette between her lips when she pulled her coat close around her, then took the knapsack from Marin so that he could zip up his. He didn’t ask for it back and Sarah carried it the rest of the way. He kept his hands in his pockets and his eyes on his feet. Sarah wrapped her arm around Marin’s and looked ahead to the sea. It was a short walk from the car. A thin layer of sand coated the hobbled stones of the path making it slippery to walk on, but together they walked without slipping. As they stepped onto the beach, Sarah threw the butt of her cigarette in the floor of the foot shower and it hissed in the cold and went out.
They removed their shoes and socks and walked barefoot. The sea was at low tide and the beach was wide so the sand was dry. The rock pools were out and further along the beach moored boats were grounded. To the right the cliffs rose above the sea and on top of them sat the abbey, while to the left the dunes separated the country from the ocean. The beach was quiet. It was a nice day for one picnic more.
‘Where shall we sit?’ Sarah asked.
‘Out of the wind,’ Marin said.
‘Let’s sit next to that boat.’
Sarah took out her purse to get to the blanket she had in her knapsack and she laid it out on the sand. They sat next to a disused fishing boat. The windows were smashed and the hull was green with algae and rumpled with mussels. Sarah had sandwiches wrapped in foil and packets of crisps in her bag, and Marin had a bottle of pop in his coat. They ate the ham sandwiches first and saved the cheese and pickle ones for later. Marin washed down his first mouthful with some pop and placed the bottle between himself and Sarah.
‘How is it?’ Sarah asked.
‘Good, thanks,’ said Marin, swallowing another bite.
‘It’s that breaded ham you like,’ she said.
‘I thought we used it all for our Ian’s birthday.’
‘No,’ said Sarah. ‘We had some left over.’
‘I thought we used it. They’re nice cobs,’ said Marin.
‘Yeah, subs. They’re nice subs,’ said Sarah.
Marin lifted his shoulders and raised an eyebrow. His head gave a small shake.
‘They just call them subs in America.’
‘They do, do they?’
Marin nodded once and swallowed.
‘This is a cob.’
‘They’ll look at us funny if we go round calling it that,’ Sarah said.
‘Subs?’ he asked.
‘We need to act the part.’
‘They’re nice subs,’ he said after a time.
Sarah smiled at him.
Marin took another ham sandwich from the knapsack and removed it from the foil. Sarah watched him fold the foil back up again neatly and place it back inside the knapsack. He took a bite of the sandwich, and chewed.
‘You know you’ll like it more when we’re there,’ she said.
‘Never said I wouldn’t,’ Marin said. He turned over the sandwich, picked at the crust and took another bite.
The waves rolled over the rocks and the kelp slapped against the rocks when the water slipped back out to sea. Sarah watched the water drain back into the sea and stared at the limp weeds. Those weeds would never lose their hold upon the rocks no matter how rough the waves may be. She picked up the bottle of pop, unscrewed the cap and looked over to the disused fishing boat. The wind had dried the hull out so the dank smell of the sea was hardly noticeable. The chain that tied the boat to the beach was rusted and in parts the hull seemed about to give.
‘I wonder who owned that boat,’ Sarah said. She took a sip of pop.
‘Does it have a name?’ Marin asked, glancing to the boat.
‘I’ll have a look.’
Sarah stood up and went over to the boat. She walked around the boat, carrying the bottle of pop and kicking the sand at her feet to rain back down upon the boat. On the far side of the boat the hull was not layered with mussels. Towards the stern the paint had worn and the metal had rusted and the name looked as though it had been chiselled off. She came back over to the blanket.
‘What is it?’ Marin asked.
‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘It’s got no name.’ She sat back down again upon the blanket. She leant back on her arms with her legs outstretched in front of her and wiggled her toes.
‘We should name it,’ Sarah said.
‘The boat,’ she said. ‘We should name it.’
‘We’re not doing anything else.’
‘Okay,’ Marin said. ‘What are you thinking of?’
‘What type of boat is it?’ Sarah asked.
He checked. ‘A fishing boat,’ he said.
Sarah paused. She drank some more of the pop. ‘It needs to be an adventurous name.’
‘I don’t know any,’ Marin said.
‘How about the Seafarer?’
‘No, I don’t like it,’ he said.
‘You think so?’
‘What do you want to call it then?’
‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘The Endeavour?’
She went into the knapsack for another sandwich.
‘I like mine more,’ she said.
‘I bet you do.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘Nothing,’ Marin sighed. ‘Can I have the pop?’
‘No what do you mean, “I bet you do?”’ she asked.
‘It means you can name the boat whatever you like, love. Can I have the pop, please?’
‘Fine.’ She dropped the foil from her sandwich and folded her arms and crossed her legs, the bottle of pop cradled within. The foil was scrunched up into a ball. It rolled to the edge of the blanket and stopped at the touch of the sand. She clenched the sandwich in her hand and mustard dabbed at her skin.
‘We’ll call it the Endeavour.’
‘No, honestly, you can call it the Seafarer. It sounds more adventurous anyway.’
‘No, you don’t like that name. It’s clichéd.’
‘So is the Endeavour.’
‘It’s less clichéd than the Seafarer.’
‘No, it’s more.’
‘I don’t care anything for it anyway,’ Sarah said. She stared out to sea.
Marin paused. ‘Can I maybe have the pop then?’
‘Sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
‘The pop you’re still holding. You’ve been holding it for five minutes now.’
‘They call it soda in America.’
‘We’re not in America.’
‘We will be.’
‘Well we’re not there yet.’
Sarah stopped. She picked up the cap and screwed it back onto the bottle of pop and gave it to Marin. He unscrewed it and took a sip. He put the cap back on and placed it between himself and Sarah.
‘Can I have another sandwich?’ Marin asked.
‘What do you want?’ Sarah asked without looking at Marin.
‘Do we have any ham sandwiches left?’
‘I’ll have what’s left then.’
‘Cheese and pickle.’
‘That sounds fine.’
Sarah took a cheese and pickle sandwich from the knapsack. The kelp struck the rocks. She took it from the foil herself and gave it to Marin. He looked at the sandwich and turned it in his hand.
‘This has mustard on it,’ Marin said.
Sarah blinked at him.
‘I don’t like mustard in my cobs.’
‘I forgot,’ said Sarah. She looked back out to sea. A small sailing boat came around the cliffs and moved across the cove. Sarah followed it. It had a sail of warm orange with a black base.
‘That’s okay,’ said Marin. He took a bite of the sandwich.
‘Do you want to stay here?’
Marin swallowed his mouthful.
‘They don’t call them subs in America,’ he said. ‘They’re sandwiches. A sub is like a baguette. Cobs are just bread rolls over there and they call them sandwiches. I don’t know anything about the pop.’
‘Well if you know so much about it why don’t you want to go?’
‘Who said I didn’t want to go?’
‘I want to go wherever you want to go.’
‘Do you want to stay here?’ Sarah asked.
Marin paused. ‘No,’ he said.
When they finished their lunch, Sarah drove them home. They trailed sand into the car.
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