The Sky Between Us – first published in Atlas & Alice, 2021
She is shouting to her child at the entrance to the supermarket and she is still shouting as I trail around the aisles searching for whatever it is I am supposed to buy and she is shouting as I come out through the automatic doors even though the sun is bouncing off the metal trolleys and the sky is cloudless and as beautiful as anything we might see this year. But who am I to judge? Did I not shout at my own child and did not my mother shout at me and her mother before?
I remember the afternoon when my world was cracking and I dragged you along the street and I kept yelling at you for no good reason not even caring who looked at me. That was also a day of startling sun and fearsome heat but I cannot remember the colour of the sky. What I do remember is how I was saved – how we were saved – by the path up through the small oak wood. It was so forgiving and sheltering in there.
You have survived the anger of mothers just as I have. The anger of mothers at the smallness of their lives when lockdown was every day because of the impossibility of going there or here or anywhere. The only choice a walk along the street, the need for a pushchair if the child tired, perhaps a stroll to the park with its pond and dull ducks.
That day in the oak wood I remember the softness of the ground under my feet after the hard asphalt. As I calmed. As we calmed. As we caught the sky between us.
Six O’ Clock Ferry – first published in Flash Flood, June 2019
Georgios owns a black dog. Every day at seven, morning and afternoon, his dog races along the shingle and barks at the stones.
Georgios helps dock the ferries. The first ferry brings a weeping woman, the milk lorry, a large man with a cross tattooed on his bare skull and Stavros, the tired taxi-driver. Stavros is always on the first ferry. Except Sundays.
The second ferry ejects angry men hooting car horns, a lorry with a shredded tyre, a sleeping baby.
At eleven Georgios drinks a strong coffee. A seagull circles the sky. The sea sparkles like a thousand tiny fish. He wonders if one day he might leave this island.
The third ferry spews out a couple in the middle of a furious row. The woman has yellow hair and wears a dress the colour of the sea. The man has a red face, a thin nose. Georgios cannot understand the words the couple throw into the air but he understands fireworks.
The middle of the day brings a lull. A fisherman casts his net into the calm waters. Georgios eats his lunch. Life at port brings few surprises. Just blue days, stormy days, rainy days, and soft days.
The five o’clock ferry disgorges a handful of tourists and the island’s bank manager. The six o’clock ferry is almost empty.
At seven the dog races down the shingle and barks at the stones. Georgios sighs and walks to his caravan. This is where he lives. Day in and day out. Whatever the weather.
There is a woman frying onions in his caravan. She has on a blue headscarf, a long print skirt. ‘I came on the six o’clock ferry,’ she says. Her voice is sweet like a siren’s.
Georgios opens his mouth. He is a fish floundering on the quayside.
‘Fetch me the meat from the fridge, will you?’
And this he does.
The woman stays. Each day Georgios stands on the quayside waving his baton. Each day the sun rises and falls and the dog races along the shingle. Sometimes the island gives a small shudder, like the ferry as it docks, but otherwise life goes on, quiet and steady.