When storms filled the bay, and the winds worried at the fabric of the old boat house, so much so, that it seemed it might rip and fly away, that very instant, and the sea driven hard on shore, seethed and picked, spume tipped, at the flaking supports of the pig iron pier; he would take to the open beach, by way of a broken staircase at the rear of the boat house, and expose himself to the full fury of the storm.
Stick in hand, mouthing a litany for drowned souls, (who never failed to respond ? )
he would tramp the slopes of shifting shingle, in a lopsided gait.
The rush of wind, upon which he leaned, the crunch of stone, the crash of surf and the screech of sea birds wheeling overhead , would cause him, on occasion, to scream wildly over and over again; until there was no breath left in his body. Such was the power of these screams, that the gulls would sometimes, cease calling themselves; hang fixed for a moment, as though stunned, and then,when it seemed they would fall out of the sky, swoop away on a new and evermore raucous course, out over the sea.
Despite the long oil skin coat, he was soon soaked through to the skin, his glasses blurred by spume and his arms and hips bruised from scrambling amongst the broken groynes. Fingers protested, stiffened by the chill and the knuckles of his stick hand stood out, whitish blue against the purple flesh.
The hinges of his legs squealed in grit clogged protest. No amount of lubrication could protect them, in the troubled air of the storm. When they locked, he was forced to stamp and bang at the offending limbs with his stick, beating time with the noise of the storm.
On the cliff tops behind the boat house stood the ruins of an old tin mine, abandoned like the ill fated Lifeboat Station to the care of the elements.
The dune grass, growing close in against the base of the encircling cliffs, whipped back and forth in the scouring wind eddies, rattling split ends like demented Morse keys. On the cliff tops, the wind plucked at the steel cables of an old lifting engine, producing a willowy sound that stretched and amplified on the turning air, so that even above the cacophony of the storm, he could hear and marvel at its haunting intensity.
He found a measure of distraction in the vibrancy of the Bay. In some small way, It helped ameliorate the terrible sense of infirmity imposed by his metal legs. Knowing he would never dance again, past a jig-a-limp stumble, and he had tried until his stumps bled time and time again, he decided he would find another way.
He was tired of crying, tired of feeling hopeless. Imbued with the energy of the Bay, his spirits were rekindled. Self pity gave way to anticipation. He looked beyond the immediate hurt, and found a future. tomorrow became the stuff of hope.
Sometimes, without warning, he would spin around like a Dervish, his oilskin floating out around him, ever faster,until he lost his balance and toppled over with a crash. He would then lay very still staring at the sky, and only when his chest stopped heaving, struggle ungainly to his feet.
If he could not dance himself, he would find others to dance for him.
He suffered from recurring nightmares. Such was the intensity of some apparitions, that even upon waking, they refused to go away. Though curbed by the light of day, they hung about in the shadows whispering and poking at him when ever he came near.
*Excerpt from The Shingle Dance – 1998.
Copyright Ian Miller 1998.
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