Monthly Archives: October 2014

Isle of Soay

 

by Jay Hodgkins

 

Over there you see the Isle of Soay. The permanent population of Soay is currently three, of which I am one. It used to be four, but my wife had difficulties with the isolation. She left. It’s a difficult life, and it’s not for some people. I, myself, have lived there for more than 40 years and, looking back, if I had the chance to do it again, I think I would have done it the same. There’s a quietness to the life that suits me.

‘Soay’ means ‘Sheep Island’ in Old Norse, but I don’t tend sheep. I’ve always found my calling out here, on the sea. For 25 years, I made my living trawling these waters for prawn. This is my first season ferrying people to the islands. I’m delighted to have you on board and will do my best to ensure you have a lovely journey. This is my dog, Pup. He’s a sheep dog by birth, but he’s taken quite well to life at sea. When he watches over the rails, you’re most like to see porpoise jumping or seal basking on nearby rock. With any luck, we’ll see them, but I always say the wildlife finds us, we don’t find it.

You may be curious to know: the other two permanent residents of Soay are not my family. I have two children, but they are grown and moved away. My neighbors are graphic designers. Odd men, really, but perhaps odd is normal on Soay. I live on one half of the island and they live on the other. We’re quite friendly, but we do allow each other our space.

I suppose the strangest thing about them is their telephone booth. When they moved to Soay, they brought with them on their boat one of the old red telephone booths. Part and parcel as they may be to the London cityscape or even Edinburgh, it’s quite strange to see one standing alone in the middle of a field with pink puffs of blooming thistle grown half way up the sides.

I originally supposed they meant it as art. An icon of man and modernity juxtaposed against nature at her most bare and brutal. I’m not very good with art, and I don’t think I was correct because it hadn’t been a year before they turned the booth on its side, door facing up to the sky. I often walk to the crest of Beinn Bhreac – it’s not much of a hill, but it’s what we have on Soay – in the late hours of our longest summer days to watch the stubborn sunsets drag along sideways over the Outer Hebrides. It was during these walks that I noticed one of the graphic designers, Tom is his name, coming out each evening to sleep in the booth. Always Tom, never his mate, who’s a lovely Irish fellow who goes by the name of David. It looked to be as if Tom was stepping into a sarcophagus, and in a way I suppose that’s exactly what the booth had become. In any matter, the booth is still serving its original purpose, keeping him connected to the things he’s left in another place.

I suspect the permanent population of the Isle of Soay may be reduced to two soon. The solitude can be too much. It’s a difficult life, and it’s not for some people.

 

– ‘Isle of Soay’ is Jay Hodgkins’ first published short story. His work is also scheduled to appear in the Eunoia Review in December. You can read more at www.jayhodgkins.com or follow him on Twitter @JayPHodgkins. He has worked as a speechwriter and as a journalist covering cops and courts, sports, government, energy and the environment, and finance. He holds an M.Sc. in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh and a B.Sc. in Commerce from the University of Virginia.

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Iconography

   

by Sophie Overett

 

Their grandmother had had cards of patron saints she’d played like tarots. Long-faced men with bodies tall in prayer, eyes like insects. The perfect circle of a halo around their covered heads.

She hadn’t played them at Beth’s funeral, like maybe Lily had thought she would, but rather left them buried in the bowels of her handbag beside her rosaries and pocket Bible.

When Lily asks her, like she would as a girl, to tell her fortune with Saint Barbara and Saint Eugène de Mazenod, their grandmother shakes her head, her large, gold earrings clanking loud and metallic through the church.

No mother should have to bury their daughter,’ is all she says, and Lily glances forwards at where Marla, her grandmother’s daughter, Beth’s mother, her mother, is as tall as the men on those cards, her eyes like wells of careful paint, her halo nowhere to be found.

 

Sophie Overett is an Australian cultural producer and writer of fiction and non-fiction. Her work has been published in print and online at Voiceworks, Regime,Seizure, the Sleepers Almanac No. 9 and more. In 2014, she was the recipient of the Young Writer in Residence fellowship at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre. She blogs at www.sophieoverett.com.

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Lure

     

by Eric Williams                                                                

I’d spent all my beer money, a week’s worth in one night (it had been a long day), so I figured I’d go have a smoke down by the water. A night breeze was blowing off shore, making the palmettos hiss. I stood on the docks smoking, trying to woo a fat-headed tom with a ragged ear out from under an oyster boat that had been drug up onto the planks for repairs. He stayed hunkered down there, though, unmoved and watching.

I kept away from the dock lights and in the dark I could just make out the stars. The moon’s pale thin rind wasn’t out yet, and Apalachicola doesn’t put off much light in the off-season, so I thought I might see something of the night sky. I was looking for the faint smoke of the Milky Way when I heard the creak and clatter of footsteps coming down the dock. I felt for the switchblade in my back pocket, glad it was there and glad too that I’d left my purse back at the apartment.

I lit another cigarette and turned to look at the noise. A will-o’-the-wisp bobbed back and forth above the dock, floating closer as it passed the boats. Eventually the glow, pale blue, went under a light and I saw two small figures: a kid, swinging a flashlight back a forth, holding the hand of another larger kid, this one with a cane pole slung over her shoulder. They had the unaffected walk of children on a mission. The smaller one with the flashlight even skipped a few times.

I watched them walk, saw that they must have been related. The tall girl with the cane poll had the same red hair as the little boy with the light. They got closer and I saw they had the same freckles, too. I’m not very good with kids, but I’d say the girl couldn’t have been over twelve, and the boy, small and slight in comparison to her, was younger still.

‘Doin’ some night fishing?’ I asked as they closed the distance. The boy smiled shyly and squeezed the girl’s hand. She looked me over coolly but didn’t answer. ‘What’re you using for bait?’ The little boy waved his flashlight high in the air and giggled.

‘You’re in our spot,’ said the girl. She was gangly and gap-toothed, her tone matter-of-fact. I smiled and stepped aside.

‘Be my guest.’ I moved downwind so I wouldn’t be puffing right into their faces. ‘Over here okay?’

The girl nodded but didn’t look in my direction. The little boy, excited, switched the light on and off, flashing their shadows against the pier.

‘You’ll break it,’ she said, snatching it from him. She pulled a bundle of gallon Ziploc bags from her back pocket.

‘What’re those for?’ I asked. The boy looked up and gave me a gap-toothed smile.

‘Goin’ fishin’,’ he squeaked.

The girl switched on the flashlight, stuck it in the bag, put the bag to her mouth, and inhaled deeply. The plastic shrunk around the flashlight as she sucked the air out. She sealed the first bag in a second bag and then jammed those into a third. Then she slid a pin carefully through the sealing strip of the last bag. The cane pole’s monofilament line was bare, without a hook; it waved lazily as she reached for it. She threaded the line carefully through the pinhole before tying it off with a deft knot.

The arc of the pole was heavy over the pier as she examined her work. Satisfied, she swung it out over the water and lowered the light just below the surface. The flashlight’s beam scattering through plastic and water made a hazy, lambent green glow that hung just below the waves.

The girl sat down with her legs dangling over the pier. The boy stretched out on his stomach. Both stared intently at their glowing lure. I got a little closer too, craning my neck.

‘What do you catch with that?’ I asked. The girl gave me a disapproving look.

‘You talk a lot,’ she said. The boy giggled.

Kids are assholes. I sucked on my cigarette, tasting salt through the smoke.

‘Your parents know you’re out here?’

‘Ain’t got parents,’ said the girl.

Now I was the asshole.

‘Here they come!’ whispered the boy, pointing. I guess I must have gasped because the girl shushed me again.

They were like ghosts, writhing mercury-silver bodies shot through with blue and red streaks. The first one I saw was as long as my arm, sinuous with feathery edges waving as it slid into the light. It circled the glow, delicate feelers flexing in the water. It hung there for moment before slipping back into the dark.

It was followed by a fat bell-shaped blob, its sides alive with rows of pulsing filaments. Then there were smaller darting things, worms and jellies and coils of living crystal. Scarlet shrimp hovered around the light, then flashed away as a hairy bath mat flapped into view. The mat seemed to want to engulf the light, but it scrambled aside when something huge passed by, a vast shape just outside the glow that trailed meters of pearly droplets on shimmering threads behind it.

‘What are they?’ I asked the girl.

‘Larvae,’ said the boy, carefully wrapping his mouth around the two syllables.

‘Like, fish babies?’ I asked.

‘Maybe,’ said the girl, slowly dragging the light through the water. The things swam after it, fluttering and wriggling and flapping as they followed. There was a thump behind us, and then the quiet padding of the tomcat as he crept to edge of the pier and looked down at the water.

The four of us watched the things swim round and round the light at the end of a cane pole. I checked my watch, and hoped the dawn would never come.

            

Eric Williams lives in Austin, Texas, on the lithified remains of a Cretaceous seaway. He’s had his needlessly combative opinions about classic literature published by The Airship, a story published at The Squawk Back, and has a story in an upcoming issue of Wyvern Lit. Say hello to him on Twitter @Geoliminal.

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