Anser Journal

Receding Tide

By Tania Martin

I imagine myself on my mother’s morning walk, by her side, as she navigates bits of driftwood and stone on the silky black New Zealand sand. I match her quick pace, listening for the telltale click of her ankle, muffled by the raucous surf. We are headed north towards the green headlands of Peter Simpson’s farm, sometimes dotted with groups of sheep and fringed with the remnants of the native bush. The occasional jellyfish glistens in a bowl of seawater left behind by the tide. We pass the cluster of festive Pohutukawa trees where Eddie, a grey-mouthed black lab, bit me years ago. As we near the old camping ground with its tall pine trees, we will look out for the Oyster Catcher nests. We admire these monogamous birds, with their bright orange bills and legs, circling protectively around their nesting sites. If the tributary from the Aki Aki is not too high, we cross to the rock pools where exposed mussels bask on large rocks in the morning sun. We stop and gaze out towards the distant bay of Whitianga. There is a large sailboat heading out towards Center Island and we spot a flock of gulls circling in the sky above some hidden school of fish.

“Snapper?” I ask.

“Most likely Kahawai,” she replies.

Walking back along the beach we notice a baby blue penguin has washed up in a tangle of seaweed. My mother scoops away enough sand to bury the lost fairy penguin, leaving it to the realm of the crabs rather than the scavenging seagulls. We continue on in silence, occasionally looking up at the quiet windows and empty decks of holiday homes, until we reach her house. As she climbs the steps to her deck, I open my eyes to reveal the surroundings of Aptos beach in California, where I sit staring out at the receding tide, and the Pacific Ocean that lies between myself and my mother’s morning walk.

Originally published in Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, 2012.

Tania Martin is co-founder of the Flash Fiction Forum, a literary reading series focusing on short works since 2013. She also helps out as an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine, and she enjoys teaching art to middle school students. She’s been a contest judge for Red Wheelbarrow literary magazine, and was a co-editor for Activate! A chapbook to incite, published 2018. Tania is currently working on her first novel.