Salty feathers littered the beach where they’d fallen from the gull’s wings during molt when the birds were grounded and had to scavenge without the benefit of a bird’s eye view, there were always crabs and clams and trash left behind by the people who crowded the beach on the weekends and there was plenty of food to scavenge in their discarded wrappers. Sometimes during the week when things were quiet a person or two would come to walk the beach and one of them might collect some of the salty feathers, smooth them between her knotty fingers brushing the sand and salt from them, feel the shaft where it comes to a point and hold it up in the air, pretending to write with it. Sometimes she said “this will do” and carefully placed it in the cloth bag hanging from her shoulder, other times she shook her head, let the feather fall to the wet sand, continued her walk down the beach stooping every now and then to pick up a rock worn smooth by the sea or a shell fragment jagged and colorful but most things she left on the beach and walked until the rain began in earnest. Then she ducked behind a driftwood stack piled high, waited out the rain, using charcoal from an abandoned bonfire to write words on the pale smooth sea-worn wood. Not “Edith was here” as someone younger might have but “marvel” and “mourn” ideas she tossed about the way the wind tossed the rain about her head and shoulders until it let up and she brushed the sand from her knees, slung her bag over her shoulder, began the long walk home against the last of the wind. Wet gritty sand slipped into her shoes pooling around her heels, clinging to her late husband’s thick rag socks, making a general nuisance of itself. The rain had washed the salt from the air but the wind had churned the waters, thick sea foam covered the dark sand in a veil of frothy white mimicking the foamy white clouds scuttling out to sea. Soon there would be sun, just in time for it to set, casting the dirty white salty feathers pink in the last of its light.
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