Friday, 19 April 2013

The catch of the hapless stranger: The Skeleton Wife part three

He was not the only ghost in that bay, not if stories are true; and I think you will  find that they often are.  Deep in the sea the skeleton girl danced in the waves spring tide and neap tide, rattling her ribs to frighten the fish out of the bay.  Year after year  fishermen tried their luck.  All the boys of the village knew that a sheltered inlet like that should yield a catch worth bringing home.  Time and time again the boats went out and cast their nets; day by day lines were baited and set.  Yet never did these hapless fishers bring back so much as a sprat or whiting .
Although they caught nary a shrimp or mackerel, they did catch sounds that made them shiver.  Some men reported fingers tapping at their keel, knocking as if to come in through a door.  Others told tales of pulling and tangling of line a net, that mysteriously let free so fiercely they nearly fell back overboard.  Others reported hearing screams, not from the birds that followed the trawlers but from a human voice woven into the kittewake's cry.   Every man agreed, whilst nursing their glasses at the innkeepers bar, that the bay was cursed.  All fisherman fear and respect the sea.  This, they muttered together, was the sea telling them to keep away from bad water.  Over time less and less men tried their luck in that nook of the cove, choosing instead to fish further out.  Preferring to risk the waves of the open ocean and the chance of a good catch; trusting to wind and wave to take them safely back into shore.
Before long no one gave a thought to fishing that stretch of the water.  Common knowledge about the village was that a spirit of the sea wanted it for their own.  All the villagers respected the prior claim, some of the older women even remembered snippets of the story of the doomed lovers and the lost girl.  Superstitions aside, nothing ever was gained from fishing there so now few would even cast their minds to the place, let alone a net.  Until the bold young foreigner moved here.
Turner: Fishermen at sea 1796
He was a handsome lad, by all account.  He turned the head and broke the heart of many a local girl, despite not sparing a look for any of them.  He came to the village from somewhere else, somewhere strange and distant.  Though he was a fisherman born, not one of the villagers knew him or recognised his boat as from another fleet.  The men of the village little trusted to share the sea with the next town along the coast so they were not so welcoming of the new man in their midst.  Jealous that he was only there to net their shoals and cast a line for one of the village women.
So it was, each day he cast off his boat, set his sail and headed out of the village quay and into the salt spray.  Each day the fisherman took their fleet one way and the young man took his the other.  Day by day he fished further and further around the cove, catching small fry and occasionally herrings.  Late one evening, he drifted into a little moonlit bay.  The moonlight was strong enough for him to cast his net one more time, the fishing of the day having been so poor.  As he cast his net the wind started to whip up little wavelets around him.  Above him the gulls, gannets and more shrieked and shouted.  In between he began to hear another voice carried in the wind, a despairing wail that was not quite bird but not quite human.  Being a practical man he shook his shoulders as if to shake off the ill wind around him.
After a few minutes more he felt the boat twitch along the tiller.  Underneath his feet there was the rhythmic knocking of something tapping against the keel with each wavelet.  Fearing that the net was caught on something and about to drag his craft over he started to haul in the net.  Imagine his surprise when he found the weight of the net was that of a full one.  He hauled and pulled and heaved, each time hearing the tap-tap-tapping, like the sound of wood on drum.  Finally with one almighty pull his net slid out of the water and flopped onto the bottom of his boat.  The young man peered eagerly forwards to see what marvel he had caught, only to fall backwards with a scream ripping from his throat.  For there, in the knots of the net , grasped the bony fingers of a skeleton hand.


  1. I popped over to catch up with you & found this beautiful story and have enjoyed reading it.

    My children 17 and 20 read avidly now after battling with Dyslexia throughout school. They discuss their books together & make reccomendations. It's lovely.

    1. Thank you so much Penny, I am writing this version for me (just because I am really enjoying it) Then I am going to simplify it slightly and tell it to the kids at school.
      So glad your kids got past dyslexia and found stories, I have a son who is not keen on literacy but still loves to read.
      Even as a teacher I am not sure School helps children whose difficulties knock their confidence...I am hoping oral story telling will boost this just a little.

  2. Jess & Joe received the wrong kind of help & very little of it at primary school with two very negative teachers ( one was the over stressed Senco & the other's husband was head of a special needs school so I was flabberghasted & upset ) Specialist tutoring then one or two marvelous teachers really helped. Michael Murpurgo books were Jess's favourites.

    Suddenly at around fifteen both were readers & lapping it up - The Twilight Saga first ! They still choose stories about shift changers & other worldly beings ! Jess's Kindle is packed full & Joe's shelves bursting with books.

    Sometimes I wonder if they read too much - are they distracting themselves in a make believe world ? I was quite relieved when Joe had a party with other teenagers !

    I used to buy story tapes ( CD's ! ) for them - books which were far too difficult for them to read themselves.

    Your school children are going to love this story - imagining those bones at the bottom of the ocean !

    Have you read The Snow Child ? If not would you like my copy ?

  3. Have been suffering: not from Writers Block but from Writers drivelling. Not sure which is worse.