Celia plonks the second bottle of wine down hard into the sand beside Marjorie. The sand is soft and deep and so the bottle rests there, protruding between them. Bundled in their raincoats, they feel impervious to the wintry elements – at least their upper halves. They hold down their hoods when the wind blows to protect their made-up faces.
‘Drink up, girl,’ Celia shouts, ‘I can’t drink it all myself, like. The tide’ll be in in a few minutes, get it down you quick.’
Marjorie looks up at her:
‘Says herself, and me after drinking most of the last bottle myself.’
Celia cackles and takes a large swig from the neck.
They had come to drink and watch the boats. The boats were there every Friday afternoon from three to six. Marjorie loves how they bob. As if they had no other purpose but to rise and fall with the waves.
A violent gust of wind brings seawater and Marjorie turns to avoid it getting it in her eyes. Opening them again, she discerns a shape in the distance. She peers at it through a haze of misty inebriation. Celia is oblivious as she sings along to loud music emanating from a portable speaker. She grabs Celia’s hand, who stops singing and looks at Marjorie curiously:
‘Down below there, is that a man?’
Celia squints through the misty rain.
‘Jaysus, I think you’re right. What kind of eejit spends their Friday afternoon sitting on a stormy beach?’
‘Not even a bottle to whet the thirst,’ Marjorie marvels.
‘Must have escaped from the loony-bin,’ concludes Celia, before screeching out the chorus to a Britney Spears song from the nineties.
Marjorie looks back to the boats. Three are visible through the rain. She likes the yellow one the most. She looks back across at the man’s distant outline. He does not seem to have moved, just sits, facing the sea. Maybe he’s watching the boats too, she thinks.
The rising tide approaches and Celia is gathering her affairs.
‘Quick, Marj,’ she urges, ‘I’m not letting myself get drowned by that water. I’m not that pissed.’
Marjorie takes another swig from the bottle and packs up her rucksack. She glances back at the man, still immobile. The tide touches his shoes and still he remains resolute.
Celia rushes up the stones that lead back to civilisation. The weather has gotten wilder with the incoming tide and so she has no choice but to precipitate up the rocks behind her.
She looks back for the man. She feels relief when at first she cannot see him. He too must have left. Then she spots him. Her heart pounds as she watches the tide flow over him, swallowing him.
One big wave and he is gone. The boats are no longer visible either. They will be fine, she thinks, bobbing away out of sight.
But the man will not bob. He will sink, as if made of stone.
Shane O’Neill is a writer from Ireland. His short fiction has been broadcast on RTÉ Radio One, and published in Literally Stories and WriteNowLit. His dramatic writing has been staged at Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin.