On the Water

WARNING Prose Fiction: contains no pictures (except the ones in your head)

A short piece of writing I did a few weeks back for my local writers’ group. If you’re in the Stroud/Cirencester area, come and join us!

The men’s tents face the land, the mountains and the deer. The women’s face the sea. That’s how it is. I grew up mending the nets of my sisters, and came of age on my first visit beyond the shallows, to meet the Goddess “Strong Flow”, who guides us to the fish moving below.

She was ginormous, like a great rock, smoothed and weathered by age, each leg disappearing into the deep. Her head turned slowly, acknowledging without looking, because that’s how goddesses and people treat one another.

Her little sister, “Storm Tooth”, wasn’t so polite. Hiding behind the rocks, she peeped out, wild eyes and hair, staring at me and pointing into the inky water, making signs of death. She was made of flat rolls of clay, slimed with seaweed and cormorant shit.

“Does that mean my boat will go down?”, I asked, but I was shushed. Mara, a bit wild like me, and a few years older, patted my arm. “Storm Tooth is a jerk,” she said. “She does that to everyone first time. Pay no notice.” And so I didn’t.

I went out on my first boat, alone. I saw things out there. I didn’t sink, and the one who came back looked and talked like me. On the water, we become water, as my people say. The women anyway, the men have their own sayings.

Mara’s underwater now, in Storm Tooth’s cradle. She’s blessed with not seeing the loggers, the big boats and the roads. Ah but the sugar tastes better than life itself. Some still fish in the bay, although the catch is smaller now, and misshapen. Strong Flow doesn’t visit often. Mostly the men drink fire, their huts facing the land, and we women spin the sugar, our huts facing the sea.

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