Grater Love Hath No Man

I have to dash – gotta go into town and buy a grater.  Nobody likes graters, especially not our last one which was a bit pathetic and had already started to collapse by the time it got stuck behind the washing-machine…  So off I go to Fenwick’s to buy a decent hard-wearing one, which I should have done in the first place.

Meanwhile, here’s today’s short story, a tale based on something that once happened to me on holiday in Devon:

 ‘Stupid’

They had been lucky with the weather – there was no doubt about it. A break in the clouds that had clung grimly to the nation’s skies all summer, had coincided exactly with their week’s holiday in Devon. It almost felt like divine intervention – except that it seemed somehow presumptuous to think that God would concern himself with such trivialities.

But now it was Friday and the waves larger and angrier than they had been all week, because they were leaving. And yet she liked it this way too; Leuka preferred her gods a little tempestuous. She sat on the beach and watched the sea. As the tide came in, the wind changed direction, so that it was now blowing straight at her. She shivered and drew her jacket more tightly round her shoulders: she didn’t want to move just yet.

There was no-one else on the beach. Along the coast, red-stone cliffs jutted into the sea like the paws of a giant red sphinx. If the land is a sphinx, she thought, the sea must be a desert. And so it is: romantic, beguiling, mysterious; giver of a thousand stories – and still the waves chase each other in, each one running close behind the last, like speeding lines of sea-horses; the surface shifting continually, like desert sands. She could fancy herself one of the Bedouin, wandering out there on the water. The waves break and claw their way up the beach like foamy hands, reaching for the pebble that sits just beyond them. Next time, next time… keep reaching, keep flinging yourself onto the sand, keep crawling forward and clawing at the stone that is just out of reach.

But the sea also casts things up: and now it churns and flings at her feet a pebble from yesterday; something which, until now, she had forgotten. An unpleasant incident: she labels it thus. A small incident, but hard and unyielding in the heart. She raises an arm and flings it back in to the water, knowing as she does so, that the sea will bring it again before long to her feet.

The cold is starting to enter her body. A little way out, two waves collide with a slap of spray as one returns from a meeting with the jetty. She should go; she should leave the beach and unravel her thoughts over a warm pot of tea. But still the thoughts continue, running in one after another, pinning her to the shingle.

These thoughts! Over and over they come, flinging their pebbles on the beach, clashing with each other and throwing up a smack of spray; thoughts she could never pin down. ‘What are you thinking?’ Leon would often ask her – but she could never tell him. I knew before you asked, she wanted to say. Your asking drove it away.

And yet once again the unpleasantness of yesterday returns; that one word from a stranger which hurt her beyond reason.

Stupid.

Down here the people have brown, smiling faces: they call you ‘m’dear’ and serve your tea slowly and graciously. The tea comes in brown china pots with little jugs of milk. The smiling faces and the slow, gracious ways are like a warm sun on the face – a warmth in which that one word felt like an icy draught.

Stupid.

She hadn’t meant to do it; she hadn’t known she was doing it. Even when the shout came from the beach, she hadn’t connected it with herself. If she thought anything at all it was that a parent was shouting at a child: the tide had risen to a point where the beach shelved dramatically. One stride could take you from paddling to swimming, and a small child could easily go under. So she did not connect the shout with herself.

Then suddenly on the perimeter of her vision a red-faced man is climbing the steps from the beach – and now she starts to feel that something is happening. Something is coming towards her: some kind of tempest is approaching and a wave is about to crash on her shore. The man strides towards her at a furious pace. He is red all over; at least the parts of him which she can see, and his face is like a poker; red-hot and dangerous.

‘What the hell did you do that for?’ he shouts. ‘Why don’t you look where you’re going?’

She is baffled and scared. She doesn’t know what she’s done: she was walking along the promenade; she didn’t do anything. She stares at him in silence, but silence only angers him more. ‘You kicked a ruddy great pebble right down on my head!’ he bellows. ‘Look!’

In trepidation she looks, expecting to find a wound pouring with blood – but as he takes his hat off she can’t see anything except a red, shining, bald head.

‘Oh – I – did I?’ she stammers. How has this thing happened? Nonplussed, she falls silent again, not knowing what else to say.

‘That’s just stupid!’ he yells, and turns on his heel and walks back down the steps to his spot on the narrow ribbon of pebbles which is all that’s left of the beach.

That was yesterday. Today, the waves are almost at the limit of their invasion. It’s time to leave – she can really feel the wind now. Time to seek the comfort of a cafe, time to smooth the incident away with a gracious pot of tea, served in a brown china pot with a little milk-jug and a china cup and saucer. There will be time to drink it slowly and thankfully; time to feel its warmth sink into her, time to heal her wounds before they have to pack up and go home.

c. Sarada Gray, 2013

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2 Comments

Filed under money, short stories

2 responses to “Grater Love Hath No Man

  1. I liked the story very much: tiny things can sometimes get multiplied and develop a life of their own. I’m pretty sure that most people will have had a similar experience, although I’m not trying to remember one of mine; it will get washed up in due course.

    • lizardyoga

      Thanks- good to know you liked it. Yes, sometimes you can think it’s just you that these things happen to; that a tiny, unconscious event can spin out of control: it’s the sort of thing that happened to me a lot as a child, too

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