Flash Fiction - Shells by Liam Bell
Most recent installment in The List's series of ultra-sort stories
The house is built half-in, half-out of the water. At high tide the water laps at the supporting wall beneath their bedroom window. When the wind rises, the breaking waves send spittle and spray up to the rattling glass. Then the tide ebbs out and the salt water dries into the brickwork, crumbling the mortar until it falls to the stones of the beach.
She used to repair the pointing in the summer, with the knife that she kept separate from the set they’d been given as a wedding gift. Bent and battered, with a curl of mortar along the edge, like butter ready for the loaf. It still sits where she left it on the side-shelf in the kitchen, beneath a layer of dust as thick as lamb’s wool.
Every year, on their anniversary, he takes shells from the tideline and works them into the gaps in the wall. They send a fine powder trailing as they are forced into place, bristling from the concrete like barnacles on a hull. He fills all the spaces between the bricks, lifting handfuls of sand to press into the cracks and crannies between the shells. Then he climbs the stairs to lie on their bed and listen to the wind seeking out the weaknesses and the seawater seeping in at the foundations. As the house groans and gripes, bracing itself against the incoming tide, he closes his eyes and trusts that it will not cave and collapse into the water, but that it will lift from the shore and drift away, towards that line where sea and sky never quite meet.
Liam Bell's debut novel So It Is is published by Myriad Editions.