Harbour of the Youth eftir Lynsey May

Smásögur frá Bókmenntaborgum UNESCO

LynseyMayÍ tilefni Lestrarhátíðar í Bókmenntaborg 2014 – Tími fyrir sögu birtum við sögur frá Bókmenntaborgum UNESCO.

Sagan frá Bókmenntaborginni Edinborg er eftir Lynsey May. Hún er birt með leyfi Lynsey May og kunnum við henni bestu þakkir fyrir.

Lynsey May

Lynsey May býr, elskar og skrifar í Edinborg í Skotlandi. Sögur hennar hafa birst í tímaritum og safnritum, svo sem The Stinging Fly, Gutter og New Writing Scotland. Hún hefur einnig lesið upp á bókmenntahátíðum í Bretlandi, til að mynda á Edinburgh International Book Festival. Lynsey May hlaut New Writers Award í Edinborg árið 2013. Sagan hér fyrir neðan, Harbour of the Youth, er frá þessu ári (2014).

Sjá meira um Lynsey May á vefsíðu hennar og á Twitter@LynseyMay.

Harbour of the Youth

There was a time when the harbour was the centre of our world. Not a soul in the village wouldn’t dip their head on passing. Back when the masts saluted the sky and breath was baited as we waited for the men to return with their catch. These days, that old harbour of ours belongs to the youth. They hoot and holler, caw and cry showing the shallows who’s boss and driving away timid tourists.

They think themselves rare, plashing away in their slutty two pieces and sagging shorts, but none of these bairns knows the sea. I watch them walk into the water, squealing and shouting, the girls clinging to the bare backs of their chosen boys. Not like in the old days, when the women, waist deep in the frigid waves, would carry their men to the boats. And the men would look onwards, trousers hitched high because in wet clothes, they’d freeze before catching their fill.

The children don’t know. They treat the sandy shelf at the harbour’s edge like it was invented for them. Fooling around under the water, misplacing their virginity in the cold draughts of the current. I watch them while they get on with their funny business, settled on my stool with a cup of tea on the stones beneath me.

In many of their faces, I can see the blood and bones of the grandmothers and grandfathers who once ran with me, but I don’t always see straight. That’s no my granny, you don’t know my granny, she lives in Glasgow, you mad old bat. Aye, a face isn’t always what it seems.

But the blond one, now her I do know. She’s the youngest of the McLarens. Old Matthew McLaren, he was the doctor back in the day and his sons went into the business after him. Not that they work locally now. The middle son, this one’s father, he’s well out of it. The house here is only for show really, for summer.

Brains it is, I think, that he works on. Not that it’s done his daughter any favours. Thick as mince that one. Or you’d think it from the way she carries on.

Always flapping her mouth and laughing like a seal, wearing skimpy wee costumes that show off a behind that’s going to run to fat before she knows it, especially if she keep scarfing those pokes of chips and pickled eggs. To eat like that, you need to work. You need to walk until your thighs chafe, carry until your shoulders ache, gut fish until your fingers are so numb you can’t tell when the knife slips and don’t know whether that’s your blood splashing onto the small, grey scales or no.

Girls like her don’t know they’re born, but they all get their lessons in the end. Hers came on a good hot afternoon when I was having a wee dose, letting the sun’s rays remind me of cosier times past. Times when waking to find you had no responsibility was a blessing and no a recurring curse.

There I was, slobber gathering on my chin, hands loose in my lap, when an almighty scream flung me from my slumbers and back into this chip-wrapper strewn present.

I shook my head and glared at the young ones down at the shore, the breath too short in my chest for yelling, but it wasn’t their usual selfish exuberance I was hearing. I angled my bifocals to better see past the light bouncing from the sea as another scream joined the one before, and another and another, until they were layered seven deep over the water.

As my glasses wove through the needles of sun I caught sight of the McLaren lass, running through the water, falling to her knees in the surf then standing to run again. She was followed by her young man in the red trunks, who was waving his arms and yelling. There’s someone… it’s a…there’s a…

Blondey had reached the shore and was back on her knees, burrowing into the sand with her girlfriends fluttering around her.

The boys all stood, hesitating and moving towards the water slowly, hoping someone would think to hold them back, none wanting to be the one to discover what lay beneath the surface.

The girl puked her chips into a cradle of sand and the boy in the red shorts was white against the sky. It wasn’t their first time, I know a virgin when I see one, but it seemed to me an unwanted third had joined their underwater embrace – and there’s always a first time for that.

The men were out the pub and on their way and Jim from the corner shop had his head out the door and a phone to his ear, but for the moment, the children were alone on the beach, peeled back to their young, fresh selves. One of the lasses stepped out, away from the noise the McLaren lass was making and stared right at me, as though she thought it was my fault life is the way it is.

The body was pulled out the water within half an hour and most of the bairns were on the tarmac, towels and parents’ arms around their shoulders. The poor body was alone, still wearing a tie and half a dress shirt, the edges nibbled off by the fishes, along with most of his distinguishing features.

Not a local boy though, we know that much. They’ll find his family through his teeth. Or is it DNA they use now? A far cry from the days of my nana, who’d sit on this very front step knitting jumpers for all of her brothers, so they’d know who was washed up by the whirls of her patterns.

But that lad they found there, fingers floating towards the quick warm flesh of life one last time, he was no fisherman. Too skinny, too well dressed. No, he wandered where he wasn’t supposed to be and it’s the tide’s whims that finally brought him here. He’d forgotten the ways of the sea and now he’s nothing but a reminder to those lawless little teenagers that caper down by the water. Aye, the harbour is the youth’s now, but the sea is unchanging and it’s no belonging to anyone.

© Lynsey May, 2014