Saturday 26 June 2021

'From the Sound' by Audrey Niven

Seaweed lulls the posts of the pier, wafting this way and that with the tides.  It strokes one side then the other as days turn to night, turns to day, paying no mind to the limpets’ cling.  Boots tread above it, up and down the pier, bringing lobster creels and post-bags, boxes of toilet paper and tins from the mainland.  Boats churn their engines spitting oil, stirring up silt and tiny fishes, chasing the peace away.  

When the wind gets up and the full moon casts its power over the Sound, there are storms.  Rain lashes the waves as they crest and crash, crest and crash, hurling themselves upwards, fragmenting in spray and falling back down to the deepening fury.  

On a night such as that, boots ran through the streets, the copper bell, green with age, clanging its reveille.

Come save us! Come now!

Lifeboatmen and women braved its summons as they always do.  They ran to their mission full knowing it would one day be their turn, or their son’s, or a stranger from a far shore in need.  

When they brought back the bodies and laid them on the beach, the oldest lifeboatman wandered away – turning his back, the others thought. But he walked to the post on the pier where the old bell hung and rang it.  He rang it and rang it until the whole village came, at sun-up, on the rising tide.  

And they stood together before the newsmen came, before the headlines were written, before the outrage rose like a wave, achieving nothing, and keened for the dead as if they were their own.

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