By the Seashore
by Alli Kirkham
She wandered in the morning fog, stooping now and then to turn some sand over with her hands. Once in a while she would pick up a stone or a shell and place it in the pocket of her apron, and with the same frequency she would examine the contents of that pocket and discard a different bauble. When the sun started to burn its way through the shroud of mist she turned her footsteps back to her little cottage and started cooking breakfast.
It was quiet and cold here most of the time. There was sunshine for part of the morning for several days of the year but it was usually covered over by clouds by noon. She went out every day in the fog and traded treasures for treasures, always hoping to discover or rediscover the right piece of the puzzle.
She spent the day inside; she baked bread and tidied the house and swept out the ever-encroaching sand. She went into a great whitewashed room with a blue-painted floor and arranged shells and stones in circles and spirals and sometimes into towering structures augmented with glass and steel. She lived alone.
The weekend came, as it always did, and she gathered her creations into a great basket that she carried over her arm with some effort. In her other hand she carried a great plum pie.
The fair was happening, as it always did, in the brief hours of sunshine. She spread a blanket on the sand and laid out her wares, putting the pie in front.
A girl holding a bowl of curds and whey trudged by. A towering boot full of childish noise could be seen not too far down the beach. A young boy with an impish smile darted up to the edge of her blanket and breached the gleaming crust with his thumb, pulling it out with a plum on the end and scampered away, shouting "what a good boy am I!" as he went.
She spread her skirts out and sat herself down and for that brief sunny period, as she had for the longest reach of her memory, she sold seashells by the seashore to all who asked after them.