LISP 4th Quarter 2020 Official Selection, Flash Fiction, 'Weary Eyes' by Alan Kennedy
'Weary Eyes' by Alan Kennedy
Shin deep in icy brine, five paces from the shore, Ailsa harvests the razor shells herded into the gaunt shadow of the Devil’s Knuckles by the looming daylight.
Her back aching from scooping the tightly sealed clams one by one into her grandmother’s calf skin sack, she straightens up for a snatched moment, straps the bag snugly round her waist. Every muscle below Ailsa's knees is deadened by the outrushing current, her fingers the same blue as her eyes.
Three Finger Nook, the finest spot this side of the Southern Minch for trapping her only living daughter’s favourite dinner, quavers with trilling sea birds diving for breakfast. The frost ruby sun inching over Eashaness Crag catches Ailsa serenading the unsullied morning.
A rusted mine from an unfinished war, cloaked by a raft of kelp, brushes against her bare thigh. Absorbed in pinpointing the molluscs’ keyhole-shaped dimples in the emerging sand, she grunts, breaks off mid-verse, glances down, hears a click.
“Eashaness, shall I never set my weary eyes on you again now I'm gone -", runs the last lullaby the forty-year-old mother will ever sing.
Silenced forever by centuries-old violence, Ailsa Melvin Fairbank’s melody rings on in the screeches of the estuary fowl. Blood blends into the shale, forming whirls with her greying red locks. Woven through seaweed, flaming curls ebb with the swirling surf, tinging the retreating froth crimson. Wheezing cormorants, mewing herring gulls, cackling gannets form a mourning party.
Kittiwakes, keening like starving babies, join the lament before scavenging the dazed rainbow trout floating mid-water.
Since Ailsa’s tragedy four years ago, Tash, the orphaned harbour seal Ailsa suckled as a pup, has soothed her grief, been her confessor.
It searches the dissipating red haze, calling for her. Circling birds cry out their farewell.
‘Gone, gone, gone.’