Short Fiction ~ Karenne Griffin
Third Prize, Strands International Flash Fiction Competition - 10
He walked along the beach, kicking at pebbles, his heart in the soles of his well-worn trainers.
Why? he kept asking. The question churning slowly, as did the sea to his left. Grey water that slopped listlessly, tumbling the pebbles with a soft rattle. He cast his eyes across the calm, metallic sheet, unable to determine the horizon. Grey, grey everywhere. Except for the pebbles. They ranged between black, white and many shades of brown. Rounded gently by the sea. He bent to pick up a piece of something green: glass that had also been worn smooth by the sea. This fragment was a delicate eau de nil. Not that he’d ever seen the Nile, but he’d crossed a river that colour in Afghanistan, tumbling from the mountains in its haste to reach the sea. It had taken Jawad years to save enough for the hellish voyage across Europe that had culminated in a couple of hours in a small boat to England. He had made his home in this damp, grey land, thankful at first to be alive. But now he wasn’t so sure. For when his wife and son had followed two years later, they hadn’t been so fortunate. Sometimes he walked to the large cemetery at the top of the hill and wandered along the avenue of cypresses until he came to their graves, marked only with wooden stakes. Somehow he must find the energy to save enough to replace these flimsy reminders of Samia and Ahmed with stones in a colour other than grey. White granite would be wonderful, but it was very expensive.
He preferred visiting this beach rather than going to the graveyard. This was the place their bodies had landed, limp and lifeless after the storm had swamped their boat. Jawad had waited on the shore, his misgivings growing as many hours passed. The ruthless man who had taken his thousands of pounds in exchange for delivering Samia and Ahmed had fortunately also drowned. Otherwise he would have felt obliged to kill him.
Jawad’s foot kicked angrily at the pebbles, turning up another piece of glass. This one white like the ice that formed in winter, in this land as well as his own. Though Afghanistan wasn’t really his land anymore. He doubted he would ever return. He picked up the glass and held it to the light, then placed it in the pocket of his jacket with the first one. They would join others in a drawer at his bedsit. His collection embodied the many tears Jawad had cried since Samia and Ahmed had been snatched from him at the eleventh hour. It seemed apt that nobody knew where sea glass originated. He wondered whether it would be possible to make headstones from flat rock, and fix these tears of glass to their surfaces, in memory of his lost loved ones.
Karenne Griffin is the author of five novels and two travel books. Born in Australia, she has spent most of her life in the UK, and the past 20 years in Wales. When not writing she enjoys country walks. She has eclectic tastes that exceed her budget, and her alter ego is a flamingo.