A Tale of Winter and Samsara on Sullivan’s Island
The sound of Eli softly weeping outside the entrance to her burrow did not help.
She fidgeted like a recovering alcoholic, trying to drown out the Bipolar Jellyfish’s melancholic whimpering. She scratched sand away from the ceiling and with foamy spit and pressure from her hind legs re-applied it to the walls and floor. But Laurie’s vain efforts only chastened her anger at the world in general. She doubled her output. Unfortunately, the ferocity she directed into maintaining her underground dwelling transformed it into a vast cavern, and as the wet sand hardened it exhibited near perfect acoustics for capturing and amplifying Eli’s mournful demise. Laurie snapped.
‘Will you shut up?’
‘You shut up.’
‘I’m not saying anything.’
‘You just did.’
‘Crying is only going to dehydrate you quicker you know.’
‘What do you care?’
Laurie popped up at the tunnel’s portal.
‘I’m sorry – it just makes me so mad. Arrghhh!’
Laurie’s death stare oscillated from the Bipolar Jellyfish to the ocean as she kicked up sand in her bravura of contempt.
‘What makes you so mad?’ Eli asked.
‘How it’s all so out of control – the moon, the tide, these fucking bipedals and their fucking dogs.’
‘You’re just angry because you want to be outside the whole-’ a watery whistle trailed into silence. ‘You don’t see yourself as part of it all.’
‘And you do?’
Eli indicated to a nearby shell. Upturned and also freshly beached, the whorl on its nacreous belly glistened under the luminescent light.
‘That shell is life.’
‘That shell is dead – trust me, I’m the expert here.’
‘What made that may have been dead for millennia, but the Universe’s fingerprint remains.’
Laurie stared at the golden spiral. Exhausted, she felt her mind unfurl, cast adrift in a pearlescent sea while the squeaks and pips of the beachfront faded into static noise. Laurie might have been convinced of something, if not for her universal fear of knowledge. In her experience, any fleeting satisfaction derived from a fresh discovery was quickly hijacked by frustration and despair. This is why no one (with the exception of online dating profiles) really wants to be challenged – because answers beget more questions which beget more frustration and effort.
Laurie shook off the spell with vigour to retort Eli’s renewed optimism and wabi-sabi pontificating.
‘Well if you believe everything’s connecting then I guess you got to accept you got screwed.’
‘Fuck you. You’re just waiting around to eat me.’
‘Eat you?! Ewugh gross!!”
‘Watcha mean – gross? You’re gross you know – with all your hairy barbs and thorns-
and those pliers for teeth.’
Eli burst again into tears – the salty, uncontrollable kind that made Laurie skip and dance awkwardly between the personable gluey blob and the entrance to her den.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ Laurie demanded.
Stupidity scolded her krill pink when she reflected on what she just said. Grappling to usurp the former mood she panicked. ‘You’ve probably just got dead tentacles from sitting for so long.’
‘I’m a Godfish, not some ocean monster.’
‘That’s right! You’re immortal remember – nothing to fear.’
Crabs can’t cry but the mawkish jellyfish made the back of Laurie’s eyes sting so badly. And in the still pale luminescence Laurie couldn’t blame it (as she often did) on the sand or sunlight. Left with nowhere to go, the pain coursed down through her, to her gills where it stayed – a dull ache kneading a home of queasy, powerful regret.
‘I forgot,’ Eli quivered, ‘I am immortal aren’t I,’ he added with more conviction.
This is why crabs don’t do emotional scenarios – it makes them so defensive and squiggly and surly. They normally avoid them like the birds which is why Laurie had already made another deft exit.
‘Hey, you’re back down a hole.’
‘What? No, I’m not! I right here.’
‘No you’re not – I don’t care. I’m leaving soon. I’ve been here too long and my legs have gone to sleep.’
‘But, it’s impossible.’
‘You know that’s the trick?’
‘Trick to what?’
‘Staying still, or always moving.’
Laurie could feel anger and anxiety brewing again. She repeated Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feeling in her head to drown out Eli’s crazed mutterings. Laurie imagined her shell calcified pristine white to match Justin’s flowing scarf – as they skipped in magic unity over the sand etching perfect Pythagorean spins of cosmic synergy:
‘I can’t stop the feeling,
So just dance, dance, dance.
I can’t stop the feeling,
So just dance, dance, dance, come on!’
In the light breeze Eli waivered. The Bipolar Jellyfish’s jolly demeanour careened into chronic wailing then pitchforked back to convivial whistling.
The Atlantic occasionally snarled, but Sullivan’s outerbanks quashed much of its bluster. Laurie could still make out Eli’s stream of semi-conscious commentary, but it too eventually abated like the incoming tide.
The impetuous swell and king tide guaranteed a midnight bounty, but Laurie’s eyes and gills couldn’t bear to go landside again. This wasn’t helped by Eli’s strange sudden outbursts which beset the idle silence – and made more menacing by the impression Eli was conversing with something more unstable than itself.
there are heaps of different kind of fish-
but I ain’t one. Hahaha’
When Laurie corked the entrance to her temporary home in the milky light of dawn, she sighed.
Sighs are like fingerprints and laughter. They’re all from the same blueprint, but pay close attention and they expose our fierce uniqueness – each cathartic exhale offering its own distinct mix of relief, exhaustion and sorrow. Sot it was hard to know precisely what the Anarchist Beach Crab felt when she saw no sign of Eli in the morning.
Like people, just because a different animal groups exist in cooperation of the universe, doesn’t mean they all want to interact. And if the finely silted sand on Sullies had a voice, it would have said never had such an encounter occurred between a mad crab, a maudlin jellyfish, and a bereft non-migratory bird.
The Northerly was back, which Laurie found convenient. Howling down from Nova Scotia, it was the off-season caretaker and had re-established itself early, wiping the beach clean like an Etch A Sketch.
Laurie greeted the barrage of sand pellets belting her eyeballs with sullen gladness – because Eli was gone, and so too any evidence or sign of where he went. Without an ending, the story goes on for everyone else to interpret and narrate – and it’s the stories we individually craft which give us meaning and keep us moving forward – even if it’s sideways (because you can still make progress by going sideways).
Remy scooted up the shoreline to intercept Laurie. Inevitability and sleep coated his voice.
Remy liked to image Eli pulling itself up the beach and over the dunes. Its limp mucous body worming along over the rough bitumen of Second Street to meet its reunion at Mamacitas just in time for last orders – to sink an extravagance of salty margaritas and regain an electrolytic equilibrium before sailing off to the calm waters of the Caribbean, protected by a sugary halo of xmas bliss.
Meanwhile, Laurie couldn’t help but envisage a much more realistic and macabre departure, which usually involved Eli’s flaccid dead sac of watery cells sucked back into the tidal wash – where Eli quickly disintegrated into flaky breakfast fodder for all the aquatic younglings and seaweed mites.
‘I’m here,’ yawned a motherly voice which resonated inside the craniums of the crab and sanderling.
Laurie pivoted, spotting a mammoth jellyfish caught in the whitewash before a small wave picked it up and dumped it on the shore. It spread out slowly over the hard sand like glue. A flowering eye with inlaid mottled coloured rings of kelp brown and red decorated the translucent sea monster.
‘Let me guess-’ Remy asked like his bill was smiling, ‘Mamacitas?’ ‘
The prehistoric jellyfish’s violet pupil fractured with scintillating surprise.
‘How did you know?’
‘Lucky guess,’ Laurie said then chuckled realising that luck never had anything to do with a “lucky guess”.
The thought petrified the Anarchist Crab (because despite the abysmal winter weather) she felt herself sinking back in love with the world. A daunting certainty awoke an old craving within her – like staring down a freshly baked pizza knowing you should limit yourself; even though you are sure as the sun sets then rises you will annihilate it, consequences and all.