Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Life is a Beach

An original short story by Peter Willox
The first I knew of my mother’s demise was the alarm in my eye. I was at work at the fusion plant so I flipped down the clear screen on my helmet and read the auto message from Mum’s implant. She had died at a clinic in Birmingham, coordinates attached. I buzzed the clinic. Something had “malfunctioned” on her ‘stay young’ driver. There was nothing they could do. Could I pick up her ashes and deal with them according to her will (attached)?

It was to be Brighton, the fondly and often remembered place of her childhood with its amusements, candyfloss, ice-cream sellers, roundabouts and swings. She would smile most as she told me how the sea felt on her feet, the sound on the stones. She would also tell me of the day when Brighton died, the day of the Tsunami. The tides had been getting higher year on year as the caps melted but for her as a young girl this had just added to the excitement of the beach, but then came the ‘slide.

She had been visiting an uncle in the country. Her parents and brother had died that day and so did something else. It was as if people stopped enjoying the sea. Suddenly the friendly sea became the enemy that had taken away a childhood dreamland and a nation’s spirit. Now there were no beach holidays and eventually no beaches, the flood waters finishing the job. She stayed with her uncle’s family and she never went back, until now.

Now I stand barefoot on the cold, slippery seaweed that has taken hold of the tarmac road which had once led downhill into Brighton’s colourful and cosmopolitan centre. The grey waves wash over my bare feet, catching me in their brief ice embrace, and for a moment I am with my mother as she lets the sea caress the space between her toes. But the waves let go and withdraw taking with them my memories of her stories and the ashes of her presence. Cold drizzle and warm salt tears a tide on my cheeks. The cry of gulls carries with it the faint sound of children laughing. But they are long gone, as are the beaches of old.

I say my last goodbyes to my mother and turn back up the road. I feel I am also saying good bye to a way of life I never really knew but perhaps hoped for. I stop and shiver as if to shake off a feeling that is clinging to me. All is not bad, I tell myself. My life is good really, and we are coping with the difficulties that modern life brings to us fairly well and yet. Suddenly a phrase comes into my mind; a joke my Mother used to use. Laughing I shout at the top of my voice “Life is a beach and then you dry!” and doing so I take the first step onto the sand of my new life.

© Peter Willox 2010
All rights reserved

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