a hundred yards out on the breakwater there are several men fishing with one approaching. he shouts above the swell from about twenty yards, then ten then five: anything out there. dogfish, says the old guy with two long rods, white beard, wellies, dungarees, looking the very essence of a sea comfortable hominid. at least there’s summin out there. he sets up his tackle next the old guy, no concept of personal space. it’s funny, stroke, annoying. it happens on empty beaches, empty cafeterias, empty parks, people feeling the need of proximity when away from contemptuous comfort. the tide is in. and surfers bob in the cold waters. uncomfortable looking, even the proficient ones. up on a wave with the gangling brevity of a newborn calf above the muck of a barn floor.
it is not the zenith of human endeavour that we are led to believe. there’s an habitual drunk, lurking on the breakwater, close by the fishermen. he glances at me and i clock him straight away with his shabby hair, trousers rolled up a bit and navy trench coat. i‘ve seen him about town contemplating life, used to be a renowned artist or pro footballer, i can never remember which. someone further on is beating the head of a small fish against the concrete. then guts spill out from an incision. the artist footballer says out loud although only just audible above the waves crashing the breakwater: death, you can feel it. death. everyone turns. i was thinking the same thing but had no intention of vocalising it. and then it's all i can see. a rat might be bleeding to death from warfarin, a pig with a bolt
through its skull, a wood louse popped beneath a flip flop. a thirty something short slight guy is heading past us with bottles of booze clinking in a plastic bag and a rod in his other hand. it’s half past one in the afternoon. he’s closer to death than i. more guts and a head spill onto the breakwater. but we are all going to die, i find myself saying with the weariness of a drinker forcing down the last drink before the experience starts to become fun. the short angler walks on regardless, drops his stuff and opens a bottle of wine before setting up. the young space invader is a long way from a natural demise and is bemused, wondering what the fucking hell everyone is going on about. the footballer artist has turned and has begun shuffling back along the breakwater to the shore. he’s grinning, mouthing something i think is: rock salmon, rock salmon. a surfer plunges headlong into the waves. someone catches a bite and more guts slop onto the concrete. dogfish, is all the old white bearded fisherman is saying. over and over again, a quiet twisted incantation, almost in a whisper, staring out to sea, close to tears. dogfish.
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