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October 2011

October 2011 -- Scandinavian Mythology

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  • Mother Never Spoke About the Sea
    by Sorrel Wood

    Mother never spoke about the sea. But, like the other secrets we do not dare to whisper, it clung to the air in our cottage like the bittersweet scent of an absent loved one.

    "Daddy, Mummy's pretty, isn't she?" I once said, running her oceanic pearls through my chubby fingers. "She's like the sea."

    His terse, dismissive eyes reflected in the coral hand glass on mother's dresser. "Don't say that," he snapped, "that's a silly thing to say."

    In our little village, the rhythmic lapping of the ocean formed a constant harmony to the bustling melody of gossip and trade. When father traipsed in, his face red from the salty wind, and plonked the day's weight of sweaty haul onto the driftwood table, it was as if he had trawled the ocean through the door. He would sit and slice their bellies bitterly with a blunt, glinting blade so their guts spilled out and squelched across the floor. Mother always turned her pale face away from the scene.

    Daddy knew the sea. His boots stomped over the soft, wet sand and his pointed boat grazed over the salivating surf. He could calculate the horizon and navigate the choppy tides. I would beg him to let me run to the shore and sink my toes into the cool spray, but he never let me near it.

    "S'dangerous," he grunted, holding me back in a firm embrace.

    Daddy knew the sea. But Mummy was the sea. Her dark, wavy hair floated down her back like seaweed and her hips swayed when she walked like gentle waves.

    Once I caught her looking out of our small window and her eye glittered with a drop of salty ocean.

    "What's it like, Mummy?" I asked, weaving the iridescent blue fabric of her skirt through my fingers. She was sitting in the dark kitchen mending one of Daddy's nets, and the thick twine made criss-cross shadows across her body.

    Mother looked out to the dancing currents. "I know a place where coral grows. Where ghostly seashells sing and icy water flows. The mermaids frolic with their cold, wet skin. A regal, dreamy place with secret caverns in." Her song was thin and hollow. I crawled onto her knee and tugged at her pearls, but her gaze was fixed like the figurehead of a ship.

    I was not surprised when she returned to the ocean. Sometimes, when I looked out at the crashing rocks, I thought I could hear her haunting voice. I heard her song whispered in seashells.

    "My Mummy's gone to be with the mermaids," I explained to the women in the village.

    "She's gone to hell, your mother, that's where she's gone," clucked the village hens. Fish blood always stuck out of their fingernails.

    "Daddy, I want to go to the ocean," I said insistently. He held me even tighter with his muscly fisherman's arm.

    Sorrel Wood recently graduated from Durham University with a first in English Literature and works as an English Teacher in Cambridge.
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