At the Southern end of the Bay

At the Southern end of the Bay, a large rust pocked pipe, emerged from the cliff face and described an uncertain line down the inclined beach towards the sea, sagging where subsidence had shifted and weakened the concrete piles that once supported it.

The heavy grill which once screened its open mouth, had long since been torn away by the effects of storms, so that it stuck out to the side in a toffee twist of steel rods.

Each time he visited the outflow pipe, he expected the grill to be gone, along with the tangled perfusion of kelp and flotsam it snared with each new tide; but the last holding bolts held tenaciously on.

At low tide, the mouth of the outlet pipe was easily accessible, and when the wind was especially strong and blowing from the north, raking the beach with grit and sand, he would sometimes seek respite and shelter there.

He would amuse himself, amongst other things, by explore its circumference with arms and legs outstretched in the manner of Leonardo’s Man. The idea of life imitating Art, always amused him, but the sound of his farts, resonating down the dark pipe behind him was far more engaging. He determined it must be a side effect of the pain killers. (any physical exertion he always farted.)

However, he never stayed long in the mouth of the pipe. The cloying odours emanating from its interior, carried the taint of something foul and noxious and the putrid stream which trickled out of it, coated the stones with a fetid green slime.

He seldom left the pipe without the onset of a sick headache.

At first he thought it was a combination of exertion and the cold wind worrying at his temples, but later on, he changed his mind, and consigned this unpleasant feeling, to the influence of the pipe.

Despite This damning conclusion, he kept going back.

He went back to see the fish heads; dead decapitated and livid white remnants, scores of them, strewn in and around the mouth of the outlet. Dead milky eyed things, pustule white, part flesh, part gas. which popped and dripped from the inquiring tip of his stick. Tuesday was the day for viewing, then they where gone in the tidal wash. On occasion he would flick them up onto the twisted grill, where they hung trophy like amongst the tangles of kelp.

The gulls stayed well clear of the pipe and the fish heads.

The pipe hummed; and when the mood took him, he would shout loudly into its dark interior, pummeling the blackness with a reverberating litany of curses and foul expletives. And when his voice wavered with the strain of it all, and his chest heaved for want of air, he would stop and listen intently, as the sounds died away, somewhere deep, inside the pipe.

But this was not always the case. Sometimes, strangely, his calls would die abruptly, as though stifled and swallowed up by something close to hand. When this happened, he would step back from the mouth of the pipe and bombard the interior darkness, with handfuls of shingle, grabbed up from the beach; countering the unnerving truncation of his call, with the violent and noisy concussions of flying stones. Then he would quickly leave, looking behind him, until he was safe distance from the Pipe.

 


*Excerpt from The Shingle Dance – 1998.

Copyright Ian Miller 1998.


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