Reads: 323

First light reveals a landscape that could be a million miles away. Every twig, stone and hummock is laden with frost. Like gold leafing it makes the barren hills glisten but doesn't hide their true form. The windshield is coated too, save for a small circle that she wipes away with a tingling hand. Shivering in her thin sweater, she turns the ignition and the old truck comes to life after a barrage of chokes and wheezes.

Marvin barks from outside the cab.

With a start, she swings the door open, nearly hitting him in the process, and jumps down onto the gravel. Marvin's lying there with his tongue out. His snout has flecks of red dried around the lips.

“Boy! You scared me!”

Marvin licks her hand.

“What'd ya get, huh? Squirrel?”

He woofs.

“Better have been worth it, get in, boy.”

He jumps dutifully into the cab and curls up on the passenger side while she squats in the bushes. Their moisture drips and clings to her sweater. She feels really good. Great, even. Why'd I freak out so much? He's a dog. It's in his blood. Get your head on straight, Jess. Christ.

She fiddles with the radio again while the truck warms up but she can't seem to find anything but fizzle. Probably just the radio. Or maybe there aren't any stations here. She hasn't driven the road in a while and can't really remember. She shifts into drive and they start off again.

South and east. Facing the rising sun. She puts the visor down but it doesn't quite do the trick. Dust flies as the road dries and at around eight the windshield starts getting splattered with blackflies. The road goes on out of sight into the horizon and the low, rolling hills  bound away. Waves. It's almost as though she can see too far. As though the curve of the earth is a little less round here, or the air is somehow warped to extend her vision. The big land. Here and there in the distance worms of cloud rise behind vehicles that are out of sight, barrelling toward her from somewhere very far away.

The sun blares down overhead, intent on baking her alive. Before long she rolls the windows down for some relief. It's worth it, despite the wind roaring past as they drive. Marvin doesn't seem to mind he noise, though. His head is forever out the window, tongue flapping like a pale ribbon and eyes closed. He snaps his jaw occasionally when a fly splatters on his face, but is otherwise completely at ease. Not peaceful. Joyful, which is better, she thinks.

The day is half gone when she reaches the coast. Red Bay greets her with the scent of kelp and a cold wind that makes her zip up her sweater. She stops the truck by a small museum at the water's edge and jumps out, stretching. Marvin runs to the grass and promptly shits while she strolls into a nearby store and buys some muffins, a couple of sandwiches. At a nearby store she buys a pack of dog food to replace the Ziploc she brought with her, which is now empty. It's huge and out of place in the cab, and smells a bit odd, but Marvin behaves and waits to be fed. She scoops out two handfuls and dumps it onto the grass, where he hungrily crunches away until it's gone. There's a small puddle nearby which he drinks from, then lies by her side and chews at the grass. Jess eats one of the muffins and listens to tourists guessing the names of sea birds in the harbour.

“Look, Darren – a gannet!” The nearby couple points and furiously photographs with their smart phones, squinting to see the screens in the bright sun.

Nope, it's a shag, she thinks.

After their quick breakfast they jump back into the ford and head south. The ocean jumps in and out of view to their left, where actual gannets can be seen diving headfirst after herring, mackerel or other delicacies. She recalls something Al told her once, about how people used to hunt them back home. Lay dead fish on a piece of plywood and let it float. The birds see the fish in the water and dive. They torpedo downward, beaks open. Hungry, anxious. They break their necks and die instantly. Usually. Sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes they're simply paralyzed and lie motionless on the plywood while their heads dangle over the edge. Drowning in blood and sea water and confused. Blind to the danger that lies in fearlessly chasing after a thing.


Submitted: February 22, 2016

© Copyright 2021 keithdaniels. All rights reserved.

Chapters

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