The Shoals

Het and George saw it on-line. ‘Absolute waterfront’ got them excited. Photos of endless white sand and sunset pink water hooked them. Het’s arthritis ached in the city’s cold. The tropics beckoned.

Everything that couldn’t be sold or given away they packed inside the old caravan. They hauled it up two thousand kilometres of slick highway, misse the turn to Sandy Point and had to double back. The car bumped and shuddered the last two k’s of unmade road to their new home, far out on an exposed sandy spit. By the time George manoeuvred the van to the flattest piece of clear land its shockers were gone. They flopped it down in a windswept swale.

George pitched the tent nearby and set up camp while Het cooked chops on a portable gas burner. Neither wished the other to sense their disappointment. That was the kind of marriage that had survived the battering of their long years together. ‘A bit of work to do,’ said George.

Het looked at the sun, setting out over the mudflats, the smell of drying seaweed on the breeze. ‘But it is pretty,’ she said.

A bank of cloud rolled in and swallowed the last of that first day.

When it rose again the same tropical sun lit the acres of low-slung windswept dunes around them gold. As it drew upward the gold turned to a veil of harsh brightness that sucked the colour from the already salted greens of the shrubs that clung to the shifting sands. They sat on folding beach chairs looking at the distant line of the ocean. ‘Makes you think how big the world is, eh?’ Het sipped fresh brewed tea.

George stretched his toes in the sand. ‘Goes on forever.’

‘Yeah,’ said Het.

Then, at the same time, they both said, ‘beautiful,’ and laughed because to see each other so happy was as good as it could get. In this way they put aside things that had been in their hearts, the silent regrets and fears of their first impressions. The water crept in slowly as they sat. By dusk it had transformed into a pink wash stretching to the horizon.

‘Red sky at night,’ said Het.

As darkness fell their new hope distilled before them in that scarlet line bleeding along the horizon at the edge of their view. Way beyond it, above the islands of the outer reef, a tropical low pressure cell began to form and grow.


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