S is for Sally.
By Joseph Davies
S is for Sally. And the sunset her eyes are cast upon. Surely there must be a sunrise Someplace Else, she sighs, but softer than most sighs. She surprises herself with this sudden monologue. It isn’t good to speak to oneself aloud, she thinks, still mouthing the words silently.
The wind picks up along the surf, making the leafy shade shudder. Her freckled cheeks become the canvas to crisscrossing light patterns, as she sits on her haunches starting into the dying sun. She stirs from her meditation and she scolds herself softly for being distracted again.
It’s been happening more and more these days, she notes. Little thoughts that sidestep into her mind like tiny translucent crabs scurry along the sand. The kind you don’t notice unless they dart between your feet and make you go “Oh! Look!”. Thoughts of the Someplace Else that she has never seen, which she falls into like a daydream, or a fever.
She returned to sorting her shells. They come in a myriad of sorts. Large flat white ones good for making earrings, (if you know the right spot to drill a little hole). Symmetrical ones catching all the colours of the rainbow when held at a certain angle. Upside-down Ice-cream Cone ones with little creatures living inside of them. Little lives buried in the sand, hiding from the entire universe. Conversing with the stars at night in little crusty critter talk, and happy with the little cocoon of nothingness they had around them.
Some shells look silly and diseased like a leper’s ear, and these she tosses back into the sea. No one likes silly-looking sea shells. Especially not diseased ones.
Then there was one shell that she didn’t remember picking up. It was a candidate for the Silly and Diseased pile, but she had never seen a shell in that colour. As black as your heart when you have sinned too much. But yet it still caught the rainbow when held up at the right angle, and it was as smooth as a mirror. In it she saw her own face, and the shifting canopy above her, and even the sky beyond. Then, suddenly, the whole universe in an iridescent little thing.
So what am I looking at? she thought. The sky above or at this shell? In a little limp voice, Someplace Else called out to her from the universe in the shell. At that moment she smiled, but smaller than most smiles.
A distant rumble interrupted her. Soon the tourists will come pouring out from their big white buses taking pictures of the sun dip between the sister rocks which made this beach the stuff of postcards. She will be there in between the camera clicks. Wearing the same sullen smile, selling things that nature gave for free. Something from nothing. She scooped the remainder of the shells and put it into the basket.
The sun was already halfway down the rocks when the first bus arrived. Then, a flurry of hurried steps, a stampede of sneakers and slippers stumbling through the fine sand and then a pantomime of well rehearsed poses. Did you get me? Delete that, I look weird. Honey, turn off the flash. HONEY.
It was a while before anyone noticed her, as she danced in and out of their viewfinders. Later on on their hotel rooms they would see her in the background of their pictures, a child ghost; a scruffy seashell-selling spectre.
Her first customer was a big bald guy with hands the colour of ham. His beady eyes shifted between her wares without ever looking at her. She saw that she had put the black shell into the basket instead of keeping it to herself. She was about to rescue it but was too late. He had spotted it and and held it up to the dying light.
How much? 300? No, that’s too much. C'mon, you. 50 for this. O.K.? 60? Damn you, alright then, here’s 100 then you little ...
The sun dipped and rested on the horizon, stretched and oblong, like a large fiery egg balanced on an eternal table. Shadows stretched eastwards so much they looked as though they might snap. The throng of tourists began losing interest and began climbing up into their bloated buses back to their AC hotel rooms and room service, one thing checked off the itinerary.
The trouble with being happy with so little is how the little things get taken away the easiest.
S is for Sally, who sells sea shells by the sea shore. Who now walks along the beach back home in the bruised veil of night, crushing the little lives under an inch of sand with her bare feet.