Steve Burrows

“He spent the morning at the beach. He had no idea which one, just some open stretch of coastline reaching out to the sea. An unbroken mantle of soft grey clouds was sitting low over the water. Only on the horizon was there a glimmer of light, a faint blue band of promise. The beach was deserted, not another soul on the vast, wide expanse of sand that stretched out in front of him. Having come from the city, it never ceased to amaze Jejeune that you could be that alone in the world. He walked along the beach, feeling the satisfying softness as the sand gave way beneath his slow deliberate strides. He ventured as close to the tide line as he dared, the white noise of the waves breaking on the shingles. A set of paw prints ran along the sand, with an unbroken line in between. A small dog, dragging a stick in its mouth. Always the detective, even if, these days, he wasn’t a very good one.
Jejeune’s path became blocked by a narrow tidal creek carrying its silty cargo out to the sea. On each side of it were shallow lagoons and rock pools. When the tide washed in they would teem with new life, but at the moment they looked barren and empty. Jejeune looked inland, back to where the dark smudge of Corsican pines marked the edge of the coast road. He traced the creek’s sinuous course back to where it emerged from a tidal salt flat, and watched the water for a long time as it eddied and churned, meeting the incoming tide in an erotic swirl of water, the fresh intermingling with the salty in a turbulent, roiling dance, until it was no longer possible to tell one from the other.
He looked out at the sea, at the motion, the color, the light. A Black-headed Gull swooped in and settled on a piece of driftwood a few feet away. Picture complete, thought Jejeune. For him, a landscape by itself, no matter how beautiful, seemed an empty thing. It needed a flicker of life, a tiny quiver of existence, to validate it, to confirm that other living things found a home here, too.
Side by side, they looked out over the sea, the man and the bird, two beating hearts in this otherwise empty landscape, with no connection beyond their desire to be here, at this time. Was it the birds that attracted him to places like this, he wondered, or the solitude, the absence of demands, of expectations? But if Jejeune was unsure of his own motives, he knew this bird would have a purpose in being here. Nature always had her reasons.
He chanced a sidelong glance at the bird, now settled to his presence. It had already completed its summer molt, crisp clean feathers having replaced the ones abraded by the harsh demands of eking out a living on this wild, windswept coastline. The gull stayed for a long moment, allowing Jejeune to rest his eyes softly, unthreateningly, upon it. And then, as if deciding it had allowed him enough time to appreciate its beauty, the bird spread its wings and effortlessly lifted off, wheeling on the invisible air currents, drifting away over the sea toward the horizon.

p. 282-3”


Steve Burrows, A Siege of Bitterns
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A Siege of Bitterns (Birder Murder Mystery #1) A Siege of Bitterns by Steve Burrows
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