Monday, 10 February 2014

Cockles by A.M. Hall

Words with JAM BIGGER Short Story Competition 2013
2nd PRIZE WINNER (250 word category)

Xin Yu stands on soft sand, net in hand. Jua Ren had told them to stay until dark, demanded high yields, assured them of the tides.

Some Englishmen shout over, tapping wrists. They are ignored; more nets are filled. Xin Yu straightens up; he looks over wet ground at the sun as it slips below the horizon. Wet ground… water... the tide, the infamous Morecambe Bay tide, coming to meet them. He looks at his watch: the tide is earlier than Jua Ren had insisted, yet here it comes: quicker than horses, some say. Urgent calls, staccato shouts, orders are spat out.

The men begin running towards the distant lights of foreign homes. The sand sucks at their feet and sticks to their soles: controls them, slows them. The bitter water pocks their skin. Cramp sets in. Still they run. The sea is at Xin Yu’s knees now; the other men’s voices are quieter, directionless. The waves gulp at their shouts, snatch them from the salty air and drown them.

Xin Yu calls his wife; it is morning in Fujian when she answers. His words are runaway horses, endless hooves thumping out declarations and instructions. She listens, unable to break the stampede. When the hoof beats finally abate, she finds herself wailing to no one, to her husband’s sinking phone. The sea floods him with cold, with blackness. He feels hollow and then he feels full. Above him shines a doleful moon: drifting, lilting, and the colour of a cockle.

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