A FISHY TALE

Here’s my first entry in a writing competition. The criteria - write 500 words in 55 hours using the six descriptive phrases supplied (two combined adjectives or hyphenated) and the first sentence had to include one of the descriptions. See if you can identify the six. I chose a-once-in-a-lifetime event I experienced some years ago at Gerroa.

A FISHY TALE

The scratched and weather-worn timber of our old seaside home is long overdue for a protective coat of paint. A house by the sea needs constant maintenance.

“There’s a lot of activity in the water!”

“Yeah I’ve been watching it all afternoon. It's driving me nuts. I can’t wait to get down there”. My wife’s offering of sweet and pungent iced grapefruit juice quenches my thirst.

The relentless rays of the afternoon sun fry my aching arms and neck as I return to the monotonous rhythm of overhead brush strokes. The shrill, piercing call of hundreds of gulls and seabirds circling the disturbed waters is a consuming frustration. What lies beneath the warm waters of Seven Mile Beach?Through gritted teeth and sweat-soaked shirt, quietly cursing my decision to work instead of play, I press on with my self-imposed suffering. To abandon my unpleasant assignment isn’t an option. I come from a school that prizes ‘delayed gratification’. To plunge into the cool, clear water and discover its wonders will be my reward. I cling to my mantra and complete the mission.

*

The sea embraces my exhausted paint-spotted body. It holds me gently, caressing weary limbs and tired muscles. The fierce sun, earlier an enemy, becomes a friend, lighting up the hidden world with its brilliance. The sea explodes with life in a chaos of colour. Varieties of fish, all shapes and sizes dart among the grey rocks and kelp. An inquisitive moray eel pokes its head from a secure hiding place. A family of squid pass by with graceful ease. An octopus glides cautiously away, eyeing me suspiciously. A powerful kick enables me to grab the creature. It's cold and greasy. It breaks free in a black cloud and hides under an ink-stained rock. In the many years of skindiving at Gerroa, I’ve never witnessed such a magnificent display of sea life.

An enormous river of shiny, silver whitebait flow past. Thousands, possibly millions of these tiny creatures, the delicacy of fish-lovers worldwide and larger marine predators, drift by to complete a living underwater tapestry. The spectacular river of silver swells and becomes fuller as we swim together in relaxed harmony.

The head of the glistening spectacle turns and slowly moves back towards me.What’s going on? Weird!The gleaming specs of silver freeze and hang in the clear water, gradually compacting into a giant silver ball around me. Claustrophobic! Mind-blowing! Creepy! Something isn’t right! My heart races.

Suddenly, from every direction, mackerel and other large, hungry predators, savage their way into the silvery mass, consuming their helpless prey. Gulls, terns and seabirds dive-bomb from above, seeking their share of the spoil. The frantic mayhem of frightened whitebait escaping the violent jaws of their hunters, stings my flesh.

It’s over in minutes. I glance back at the site of the ambush as I leave the water. My heart skips a beat … what if … what if … larger, fiercer predators had been chasing the mackerel!

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© 2017 by David Kerr