The Easter Squid

Tootgarook beach, impossibly picturesque at mid-morning. The sun sits low in the north east sky, casting a cone of light across the water from horizon to shore. Shards of light blink as waves ripple the water’s surface, catching the sun’s reflection.

A yacht’s triangle sail crosses the path of light as it drifts silently across the panorama. Other craft dot the water, but with the tide in ebb, they are far off in the distance.

A vast container ship interrupts the horizon. Its bulk looms over the bay. It seems too heavy to be supported by the fathoms, but is nevertheless perched on top of the water. No movement is perceptible, yet it is making progress, edging across the horizon like a slow sideshow target.

A pier reaches out over the water towards it. Small shapes delineate a couple walking its wooden planks, passing still figures that are most likely fishermen dangling expectant lines into the deep.

With the tide out, there is a large expanse of flat, damp sand between the dry sand and the water’s edge. Rubbery sea-weed unfurls across it like discarded fan belts, adding a tangy scent to the air. Beyond, the receding water has left exposed an archipelago of sand banks that form channels and small straits within the bay.

The glinting sunlight and shallow depth make the water look warm and inviting, but a woman wading through it pulls her sarong tighter across her shoulders as it washes around her bare ankles.

She walks out to the closest sandbank where two young boys play. The smallest boy looks about four years old. He is crouched down and holds a stick with which he draws a long, meandering line in the sand. The taller boy, about seven, watches.

Suddenly the mother points to a spot on the sand bank and the two boys turn to look. The sand is moving; there is a ripple just beneath its surface. Little flecks are suddenly airborne. Something struggles to the surface and emerges. At first the boys dance backwards, excited, their thin limbs flailing. The taller one squeals. Then the children stand over it and crouch down to inspect the otherworldly creature. The mother warns them to stand back and not touch or frighten it.

The creature has a bloated, elongated head that looks almost translucent. Numerous legs trail behind it like limp tendrils as it wobbles along. It is a squid.

The boys, sensing that it is heading for the sea, begin to dig a channel to bring the water to the squid. There is approximately two metres before they strike water but they are on their knees scooping up sand in their fingers and clearing a path to the sea.

As their digging reaches the edge of the sandbank, water begins to trickle in and then surges towards the squid, who stops, either stunned or relieved when finally awash with the cold tide. Despite their efforts the squid is at a standstill. Possibly confused, it sinks back into the newly moistened sand, re-entering its private realm.

It is Easter Sunday and the morning sun is surprisingly warm. The peaceful beach setting is only slightly disturbed by the low hum of holiday traffic that is beginning to build on the highway behind.

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