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by Kristy Kerruish

The fishing boats went out, wrestling through the tidal currents. The river bit on the sea, scarring the heaving waves with the mud it had dredged from the highlands. That day she thought she had seen a body taken down by the rapid melt waters, rolling in the belly of the river. She had rung her hands and run to the jetty calling to the fishermen. A body being taken out to sea was an ill omen, a sign. The sea swell was ill-set in the deeper waters, it was short and the waves were white-headed. The fish would not stay near the shore today and the boats would have to sail far out to where the porpoises shot the crested waves with darts of milky light.

He wouldn’t listen. If he delayed then there would be no fish for the April supper, the babes would lie crying in their cradles and the women stand idle by the harbour wall.

She had watched the fishing fleet dipping past the river’s mouth. Each followed by a cloud of seagulls, like gnats around the cart ponies on hot summer days, a raucous cackle of foam-white birds whose harsh voices faded as the fleet drew away from the shore.

She had no choice but to wait, taking the wooded path up the cliffs in the lee of the wind where the damp earth smelt of wild garlic. She turned through the tussocks of bitter vetch so she could see the coast spread before her like some great hand had dredged the land from the sea with one scoop.

The women were still busy preparing for the fish to come in, to mend the nets and set them to dry in the fast wind. She did not go down, she knew somewhere deep inside her that the sea was angry, that he had not flung a coin to the waves as he sailed out. His smile would be lost in the undertow, his voice, so dear to her, saved for the belly-crawling sea beasts until they drew him up in the nets in a week or two. She did not want pity or tears. She wanted him.

The fishing fleet did not return. There were no fish for the April supper, the babes lay crying in their cradles and the women stood idle by the harbour wall. The rapid melt waters rolled her in the belly of the river that scarred the sea.

Kristy Kerruish was born in Edinburgh with Scottish and Manx roots. She is an independent historian and publishes non-fiction and fiction. She has short fiction and poetry accepted for publication in BunburySpelkOctavius, Gold Dust, Dawntreader and Dream Catcher, among others.