• Vol. 02
  • Chapter 11

Drowning on dry land

Shoes and socks off, strip down quick, flesh smarting against a cool summer breeze. Shingle stabs our tender soles. A million billion tiny stones. A galaxy, a universe: infinity between the shore and the esplanade.

Fred’s got his bucket. We race to the water, breathless, laughing. Anticipating the shock, clenching my fists, I hear the rush of wave on pebble on wave on pebble on wave on pebble and take the first steps in. And then I’m ankle-deep and standing still against the tide.

I wash my lungs in brackish air. Fred’s behind me, squealing with each new surge of icy water. He's chattering on about how he’ll have his own pleasure boat one day, and charge folk five bob for rides. I don’t say a word. I just stand firm and let my blood cool.

Fred’s too young to remember that Mam used to come in too. We’ve not been back since last June, since the day we brought her to see the sea for the last time. By then, the cough was constant torture, relentless. A storm she couldn’t weather. Like drowning on dry land.

I turn towards the sea wall. Dad’s there, trousers rolled up, blanket out. I see him eyeing the picnic I packed. Sandwiches made and wrapped in brown paper. Three hard-boiled eggs. A tea loaf, baked this morning, like she would’ve.

Not yet, Dad. Not yet.