Swan Girl

2016

Berwick-upon-Tweed

Her hair was a disaster, matted, dull and tangled. But her fingernails were immaculate – long and smooth.

Her top was like a shroud, draping shapelessly over her shoulders. But her skirt was as glorious and brilliant as a wedding gown.

On her left foot a worn running shoe with scarcely any of the sole remaining, on the right a stiletto with a small silver insignia at the back of the heel.

One of her ears was laughably huge. It could be mistaken for an elephant’s ear. The other was an exquisite pearl, delicate and pink.

She sat astride the white swan, legs trailing in the water.

Under the arch of the bridge, up the river she and the swan came.

As news spread, people gathered on the city walls to watch.

What was she bringing? Some shivered and whimpered, others, like the baby in his stroller, waved and gurgled with laughter.

The poet R, standing high on the old city ramparts raised his arms, gave a shrill cry and collapsed to the cobblestones.

The girl on the swan didn’t notice – or gave no sign of noticing.

The mayor rammed his tricorn hat firmly on his head and hastened down to the quai to meet her, his chain of office glinting in the sun, fur-trimmed red cloak trailing through the puddles left by yesterday’s rain.

The girl on the swan didn’t notice – or gave no sign of noticing.

A woman ran out onto a jetty to offer the girl a sandwich and a glass of orange juice.

The girl on the swan didn’t notice – or gave no sign of noticing.

The young man seated on the river bank looked up, disturbed by the sudden breeze that riffled through his newspaper and brushed his cheek.

Swans, wings outstretched, were flying from all directions to the river. More swarmed up the river behind the girl and swan. A magnificent parade.

Wait, the young man called, ripping a sheet from his newspaper. He folded the sheet in half, opened it, turned it, folded it again. This corner to here, that one to there…

mural Montréal

He placed the paper boat on the water, pushed it off and jumped in. Wait, he called again, paddling furiously with his hands. Wait for me. The stones on the riverbed gleamed through the clear water.

Coming down the river towards the girl and swan, neck arched, eyes gleaming, a big black swan.

The young man was waist-deep in water, but still paddling.

He sank to his shoulders, to his chin. Wait for me, he called.

The girl on the swan looked back.

Had she noticed?

swans at Berwick-upon-Tweed

*****

Weekly Photo Challenge: H2O

The photos of swans and bridge were taken in Berwick-upon-Tweed, England, where there’s a large colony of mute swans.

The mural: Au Fil de l’Eau by Philip Adams 2013, Montréal. (One of the sentences on the boat reads “Montréal est une île entourée d’eau” – Montreal is an island surrounded by water [the St. Lawrence River])

My new year’s resolution for 2016 was to post a Blurt every week – a quick, spontaneous story written in spare moments such as waiting in a queue or for the bus or for the washing machine to finish its cycle… Today’s Blurt is #41. Eleven to go!

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