We are delighted to publish the winning story in the Wild Atlantic Writing Awards (WAWA) Creative Nonfiction category written by Annmarie Lally and entitled ‘Salt and Endings.’
Born and reared in Belmullet, a small town of around 1,000 people on the northwest coast of Mayo in Ireland, Annmarie (24) moved to Dublin to study English and Drama before returning home, a place she describes as “surrounded by wild beauty, where it's impossible not to be driven to creativity.”
Describing her reaction after learning of her success, Annemarie said, "I was already so grateful for having been inspired by the competition's theme to write again so I am elated to be named as a winner. I am even more motivated to practice and improve as a writer now and I'm looking forward to reading the other entries over the coming weeks."
She added, “I have been writing for as long as I can remember and although I have entered a few competitions in the last few years, this is the first I have won.”
Having been a customer support agent, Annmarie’s future goals are to travel abroad this year and work as an English teacher.
Sean Hillen, author, journalist and one of the competition judges who will host a special workshop on the opening weekend of our upcoming Virtual Writing Retreat said, “Annmarie took a small, seemingly insignificant incident – fishing for mackerel – and turned her story into a universal theme about life and death. Such evocative phraseology as, ‘A mouth moves every now and again but the air drowns its cry before it can be heard’ and ‘the Atlantic pulses like the blood of a sleeping god’ indicate further successes lie ahead for this young writer.”
Salt and Endings
by Annmarie Lally
It is the week before my grandmother's passing. These days we carry with us the knowledge that hers are numbered and this brings into relief the uncomfortable truth we would rather not dwell on: the end will only ever draw nearer to all we know. This is a heavy burden to bear but there is nowhere to set it down and so the air is thick with salt and endings.
It is cut with a ticking noise from the bow of the currach as my brother reels in another mackerel. Though the mood in the boat is sombre, to the gulls it remains intangible. They are settled nearby, greedy, hopeful and unperturbed by the strong swell. John unhooks the convulsing fish and throws it into the box at my feet. It continues its desperate dance and slaps against the wet bodies beneath its own.
I had made an optimistic miscalculation involving the height of my wellie boots and the water’s depth when wading my way out to the boat from the shore and for this I am the object of no one’s pity but my own. My socks are soaked through and my feet are steadily growing numb. My sea legs have yet to make their appearance and when my father asks me if I am alright I can only manage a lie in the form of a small nod. The pollock and mackerel they have caught so far have been fat and abundant and I know that if we were to make a premature return to solid ground on my nauseous behalf the act of forgiveness would take its sweet time. I feel like a nuisance. I stare out at the horizon until I am staring into it. Until I cannot tell sky from sea and sea from soul.
I am thinking now of summer evenings tinted pink through nostalgia's lens. I am remembering the unparalleled excitement upon hearing the tractor making its way home from the beach, currach in tow, and standing on tiptoes to peer into the fish box, filled with glistening jewels gifted from the sea. I am remembering their gaze wide with wonder, their mouths agape, as though trying to drink in as much of this fresh, new world as possible.
I pull my gaze from that unknowable horizon now and look down into the plastic box beside me. The fish have ceased their writhing for the most part. Their eyes are glassy and their once iridescent gleam is tainted a murky red. A mouth moves every now and again but the air drowns its cry before it can be heard. I look away.
It is there we sit in a small boat carrying life and death. Beneath us, dark and indifferent, the Atlantic pulses like the blood of a sleeping god.