Regular ARTbop contributor Lee Switzer shares another of his short stories and original photographic images ….
Walking down to the beach, Jackson passed Speckled Sedge and Cooks Scurvy Grass holding the dunes together.
The tidal currents granting more beach with each wave, was cold. The sun itself lit the horizon at 6:32am. A container ship was barely visible through the sea mist. Sea lettuce, part of the mixed salad Ulva, scattered on the beach. Sand poured through fish heads as the tide streamed in and out
A colony of seagulls walked the waterline, one or two taking bites of the decapitated Red Salmon. Variable Oystercatchers stuck their long orange beaks into the sand, often wandering into the water, finding morsels. A parent and its’ two young chicks searched the menu.
That tide, shells and sand reminded him of his daughter’s birth 22 years ago. The couple sent out birth announcements including lines from Blake’s Innocence poem:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
But now, sombre thoughts reined in another part of the poem:
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to Endless Night
Their angelic newborn, swaddling the parents in moist smiles and cuddles, unknown to them,
was already on the long path of a desolate beach. Her life now ebbing as the disease
strengthened its’ unbreakable hold on mind and body.
Jackson looked towards the ship again, this time he spotted a small yellow flag bobbing in the waves near the shore.
In the distance, on the beach, he saw a man and a woman standing away from their contiki winch. A third person was heading into the water. He picked up the line at the water sand demarcation. The man and a woman walked back to their fishing gear.
Jackson strolled up to the couple.
‘Good Morning. How far out does the contiki go?’ He asked.
‘Bout one and a half kilometres. You from Canada, or America?’ the man asked.
“No. Born in Timaru. My parents shifted to Canada when I was 2. Stayed there until my mum died, I was 19. Dad and I came back here. Nelson first. Never quite got the kiwi accent right.’
“Are you a born Kiwi?’ asked Jackson.
‘Yeah. New Plymouth. Mum said living there gave her the best memories and worst memories.’
Sitting near the winch, the man asked ‘Did you see the classic cars on the weekend?’ while adjusting the electric motor drag that was pulling in the line. ‘I customised three of those cars a 1956 Chev, a ‘61 Dodge with a blown Hemi engine, and a ‘48 Cadillac. Not the motors, all the body work. About $103,000 by time I finished.’
‘They are beautiful cars.’ Jackson said.
‘You’re looking at my hand ‘cause my fingers are missing.’
“No. I’m just watching how all this set up works pulling in the line and the hooks.’ Jackson said.
‘I lost those two fingers when a rusty bloody bonnet fell on me. I was trying to get the radiator out. My offsider Brookfield was supposed to help me. But he took off to Dargaville with his Misses. They took their damn Dalmatians for a show and wag their tails.
I used to hunt pigs in the Wairarapa. Had 5 dogs. Can’t hold a knife now, don’t like to shoot the porkers. Got rid of the dogs. Except for one.’
‘You kept 2 dogs, Glen.’ said the woman removing the traces and hooks on the mainline as each one reached the winch.
That’s right, David. She helps me.’ pointing to the woman on the other side of reel.
‘He’s not David.’ She told Glen. Nodding to Jackson: ‘Hi, I’m the wife, Amber, married 41 years. Thirty five were good.’
Suddenly Glen made a loud grunting noise, got up from his seat and quickly limped towards the water.
Amber began yelling ‘Glen come back, come back! Michael! Michael!’ yelling to the man at the waters’ edge holding up the line as it was reeled in. ‘Michael!’ She stopped the motor.
Michael turned, saw Glen go into the water. ‘Dad! Dad!’
Dropping the line, Michael sprinted into the tide and grabbed at his father. Glen started fighting; swinging, lost his balance, falling into the waves.
Jackson sped down to the splashing generations. The shimmering water was about 500 mm deep. Glen and Jacob were soaked. The father was subdued and the three slowly made their way back to Amber. They carefully put Glen down on a towel on the ground, where he appeared to doze. Michael ran up to their truck and brought down some old blankets to dry the ageing man and to keep him warm.
‘Thanks. He has good days and bad days. We don’t ever know what it’s going to be like.’ Amber said. ‘This’ll be the last time fishing. David. He called you David. David was our other son. He died in Afghanistan.
Mother and son decided it was time to leave. Michael brought in the contiki.
Amber put the fish bucket on top of the winch buggy next to the contiki. She carried a chilly bin up to their red Toyota in the grassy parking lot. Jackson and Michael followed her, carefully taking Glen across the beach and up the sandy path to the ute. Amber stayed with her husband. The men ambled back to get the buggy
They pulled the loaded trolley through deep drying sand. Reaching the Toyota, the toilers used a ramp to load the equipment onto the tray. Tied down all the bits and pieces.
The trio said thanks goodbye, seeya, cheers.
Jackson went back to the beach. Slowly walking, thinking: water, aquaporins, near desolate Glen; Amber and Michael caught between the double-dealing devious Devil and Mr Jones. Blake reappeared.
The bleat, the bark, bellow, and roar,
Are waves that beat on heaven’s shore.
An Air New Zealand plane practically landed on him. Jackson remembered he was in the flight path to the airport just a kilometre away. As Earth turned, the sun was immovable but bursting out with enormous energy.
Jackson was weary. He sat down at the sand dune base. Pulling a stainless steel bottle from his daypack, he drank the still cold water. Leaning against the bank, the seat was like a giant beach pew. Dante on one side, Carroll the other. In the altering sky it was writ:
The sun was shining on the sea
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright—
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.
Lee Switzer: Lee is a regular contributor to ARTbop – photo essays, articles and poetry. Lee is multi-talented producing sought-after images of local artists and exhibitions. He has been an archival photographer around Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty for some years – the details of this body of work are below. You can find examples of Lee’s contributions in our ARTbop archives.
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IF YOU’RE OUT AND ABOUT IN THE BAY OF PLENTY TAKE A LOOK AT…..
If you’re down Whakatane way – make sure you visit the wonderful Whakatane Exhibition Centre and Gallery
Don’t forget the fabulous Sulphur Lake Sculpture Trail in the lakeland heart of the Bay of Plenty – ROTORUA
Do not leave me hanging by a thread is a You Tube spoken word project to encourage support for the work of Medecins Sans Frontieres – Doctors Without Borders.
“Medecins Sans frontieres – Doctors Without Borders is an international non-governmental humanitarian medical organisaiton. It delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from health care. It was founded in Paris in 1971 by a group of doctors and journalists who believed that all people have the right to medical care regardless of gender race religion or political affiliation. There are regionally based organisations. Australia has an organisation www.msf.org.au “
TAURANGA LIBRARIES COLOURING CLUBS
Remember the fun of colouring in as a child? Tauranga City Libraries’ has two Adult Colouring Clubs!
tauranga Library: Held on the last Wednesday of each month from 10:30-11:30am. Register your interest by phoning 577-7177 or by emailing Diane.firstname.lastname@example.org
Papamoa Library: Held on the second Thursday of each month from 10:30-11:30am. Register your interest by phoning 577-7177 or by emailing Kirsten.Allan@tauranga.govt.nz
BYO colouring book and equipment or give it a go using our basic materials supplied.
Adult colouring helps reduce stress, anxiety and we have a lot of creative fun!
ZOETICA – life – passion – bravery 30 August to 02 September 2017 Tarnished Frocks & Divas in association with Carrus W: tarnishedfrocksanddivas.co.nz F: Tarnished Frocks and Divas
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