Salvage by Joanne Hayden
Ma Feels like we’re mitching, doesn’t it? The beach in the middle of the week. You all right? Leave your crutch on the rug and I’ll take your runners off for you, let the sand between your toes.
Ali I can take them off myself, Ma. Stop fussing.
Ma There. Better? You’re doing great, love. You’ve been taking my tonic?
Ali Even more vile than usual. Yes, I’m taking it.
Ma You’ll be jiving in no time. Back to taxi mum – ferrying the twins all over.
Ali Teenage Terrors.
Ma Girls that age have to fight their mothers. They’ll hit twenty and get sense. You’ll end up the best of friends. Just look at us. Why’re you laughing? Isn’t this lovely? Gulls in full voice.
Ali Full racket.
Ma See the wagtails chasing the flies? And the dunes are doing better since we cleared the buckthorn.
Ali Who’s we? The knit-your-own-brown-rice brigade?
Ma My fellow volunteers and I, Ali. Allotment pals. The buckthorn was taking over, pushing out the native flowers and grasses. We cleared it last spring.
Ali Sorry. I know I’m grumpy.
Ma Your leg set you back.
Ali Stupid fall. Stupid timing. Just as I was getting used to him being gone.
Ma Takes a while. Separation’s hard.
Ali You bounced back.
Ma I put on a good show.
Ali We came here a lot the summer Dad left.
Ma We did. It helped us both. The swims. The picnics.
Ali Everyone else with their ham and cheese rolls. Us with our hummus and mung bean bread. No, you’re right, it did help. We’d sit here like just this. On clear days, I’d stare at the horizon, the sea a bit darker than the sky, both pure blue and nothing else there except the line between them you could barely see. I’d sit, watching, in a trance of blue and imagine sailing around the world. Can’t do it now. The view’s destroyed by those ugly yokes.
Ma The turbines.
Ali Blades cutting up the landscape. Why did they have to put them there?
Ma I like watching them. They remind me of how we’re turning all the time, circling the sun. You, me, the twins, everyone else, nearly eight billion of us, dying, birthing, being born, falling in love, getting hurt.
Ali Reminds me of how people wreck everything.
Ma And build out of the wreckage. After wars and plagues and hurricanes. Break-ups. Blazing rows with your mother cause she wouldn’t buy you a pair of skyscraper shoes for your sixteenth birthday.
Ali The gladiator pumps.
Ma It’s your neck you would’ve broken in those.
Ali I ran away.
Ma You came back. We have to have hope, Ali.
Ali They should’ve put them somewhere else.
Ma There’s loads of wind here. It’s clean. We don’t have to dig down for it. We don’t need to destroy anything.
Ali Except natural beauty.
Ma Sometimes it’s about changing the way we look at things. Little things. Big things. The sun and sea and wind are abundant. All that energy. Just waiting to be harnessed.
Ali Wish I could harness some of yours.
Ma There’s a spare togs for you in the bag.
Ali Have you lost it, Ma? I’ve a broken leg.
Ma You can link me, bring your crutch. A gentle dunking is all. Be a turning point for you.
Ali If I fall or drown--
Ma No one’s falling or drowning on my watch.
Ali Am I actually saying yes?
Ma We’ll have a picnic after. Goji berry bars.
Ali Can’t wait.
Joanne Hayden is a writer and arts journalist. Her fiction has been shortlisted for the Francis MacManus award, broadcast on RTÉ radio and published in literary journals including Crannóg and Banshee. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. She lives in Dublin.
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