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"Poseidon has a Party and Wakes Hungover" by Joyce Bingham

The dried crunch of seaweed brought a crowd of swarming flies, the buzzing intermingled with gull calls. The tang of salt and iodine laced the stench of decay. I wandered past drifts of storm-thrown seaweed and wrecked branches. They drew me, those broken pieces, recognising kindred, the chaos of my life fusing here, to this moment.

When I reached the firm water-laden sand, bathed clean, I could breathe again, perhaps I too could be renewed. 

Sand hard-rippled under me, I crushed the occasional razor clam navel hole and worm cast. I sang to the rhythm of the sounds as the waves made sand clouds in the water which were thrown up and sucked back into the surf. My shoulders relaxed inside my Hi-Vis jacket, the day not so wearisome, memories softened, melding between my toes. 

The abandoned concrete gun emplacement smelled of urine. My steps faltered, I forced them onward, I had work to do, redemption to gain, community service to pay back. High storm-tide had left a human mess of assorted plastics tangled in fishing nets and rotting seaweed. The gentle colours of the dunes, the delicate pink flowers, peered up between the lurid cans and luminous plastic packets. My litter grabbers worked away, my bag heavier with each snatched piece of human life, my thoughts lighter. I looked back at the community crew, most of them had gone in the other direction away from the gun emplacement. I preferred it this way, on my own, away from the jibes about getting caught

shoplifting pic-a-mix.

In the distance ahead I thought I saw a large seal lazing on the sand. As I approached, shining silver scales were scattered around the sand. A gold crown lay encrusted with periwinkles, its peaks sand-capped, it had made wide circles as it had rolled. A trident covered in limpet shells was embedded in a dune. It was no seal but a giant of a man, his green thongweed beard drying out. His bladderwrack clothes were in shreds and a large gold belt dragged at his waist.  

His mouth was open and rough snores emerged from between his huge lips. The smell of alcohol hung heavy around him. I backed away, my bin bag of waste rustled and smacked against my calf.

His chest heaved and he spat out a gallon of seawater, missing me by a few seashells.

He was still retching when I reached the gun emplacement. Ignoring the stink and unspeakable litter, I stepped inside, the skin of my soles cringing within my boots. 

He picked up a large clay pot and drank deeply, rum spilled from his sand covered beard. Belching he hoisted himself up, and stood wobbling, looking out to sea. He roared at the waves, shook his fist at the foam, called for more rum. Around us clouds gathered, purple and blue lights flashed within. He thrashed into the water and was carried away by a cresting wave.

I collected the golden shells fallen from his belt, tucked them away in my shoplifting pockets. I stood in the hollow his body had made, but no clouds called, the sea caressed the sand ignoring me. 

Carrying the bag of waste like it was a bubble of opportunity, I laughed at the waves, only the gulls heard me, and I walked on picking up litter, salvation weighing down my jacket.

Joyce Bingham is a Scottish writer whose work has appeared in publications such as Flash Frog, Molotov Cocktail, Ellipsis Zine, Raw Lit, and Sci-fi Shorts. She lives in Manchester, UK and when she’s not writing, she puts her green fingers to use as a plant whisperer and Venus fly trap wrangler.


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