TIDE

The sea withdraws and a continent appears; impacted escarpments in jigsaw shapes, extensive as a desert seen from a satellite. Across the shelves and plateaux, balls of white seaweed - papery as wasps' nests - are rushed by the wind. Water held back in green-tinged hollows, swirls - warm - with silky wisps of sand. Fragments of seashell titillate the toes, the soles feel caressed. But this can be treacherous - a woman one evening sank to her ankles. She was saved by an angler digging for bait; he called out the coastguard's chopper on his mobile. A girl rode a pony into the foam to strengthen its fetlocks but the animal fell; she was trapped by its panic. A maroon went up and the voluntary lifeboatmen downed tools and dashed to launch the Peter Cornish
.

    There's been 'camping wild' here for thirty years; out-of-tax gas-guzzlers, decommissioned mail vans, cheap mobile homes. It's the unregulated nature of the place that attracts them: a blind eye has so far been turned by the authorities. But then certain people began to abuse it; started staying for the winter, said they've sold up everything, had nowhere else to go. One workless son had jumped from a window just ahead of the bailiffs, (after taking off his watch to go towards the loan sharks). Some accommodation will have to be come to....



Between sea and land, a fourteen year old floats in a shallow of amniotic clarity; turning one hand over and under (Coralicious
varnish chipped off or chewed from all but one fingernail), unknowingly reprising her mother's teenage summers; propped on her elbows in the grass of a garden, eating apple after apple from an overhanging tree, reading page upon page of a nineteenth century novel .... a decade after being sent for deportation a felon returns on a smog-filled night, looming out of the mudflats of the Medway Estuary, waylaying and alarming the blacksmith's boy, a good lad but ill-informed as to his genetics....

    The mother just happens to turn up; brown fringe curled by the salt-spray, deep crimson lips rounding the open neck of a whisky bottle. A pure coincidence. The stuff of fiction. Free of the tics that on other occasions defined her appearances; just a single glance from under lowered lids, with a confidential smile. She rents a one-room caravan. A fisherman she takes there after a drink, draws a cupid's arrow with lipstick on her chest. Heartened but embarrassed, she creams it off; contact she definitely wants but not commitment. He talks about the night sky, the constellations, a list learned in childhood when Pluto was a dog (all chat-up lines use similar material)...



The girl rushes out towards the rising tide - never mind the angry raised spot on her shoulder, revealed by the narrow straps of her swimsuit, or the metal brace meant to normalise her bite; she's following the lad who turns handstands in water. Terrific, the thunderous slurp of the current as it sucks at the shingle! Innocent but unintentionally squalid this attempted seduction (to what? she wouldn't, in fact, begin to know). Forcing her lips with a hot thick tongue, both fully dressed on his parents' double bed, he pumps his hard member between her thighs. Later asks the perfectly reasonable question;

    'What was it all that about then, on the beach - all that playing around - if you didn't want to do it?'

    Maybe it was simply the pubertal reverie: on her blue surfboard, she floats face down.

   A gull, still speckled - this year's adolescent - perches on a tin roof and screams like a lout.


        Mary Michaels 2009