Newcastle Herald short story: The Pipi Master by Brydie Piaf

WORTH 1000 WORDS: Each day we will publish a finalist in the Herald short story competition. The winner will be announced on January 28, 2017. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

WORTH 1000 WORDS: Each day we will publish a finalist in the Herald short story competition. The winner will be announced on January 28, 2017. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

GRAN said she’d be back in half an hour. Stopping half way down the sandy walk way she turned back, “You sure you’ll be OK up there by yourself?”

It was the third time she’d asked, so instead of giving her a bunch of reassuring words like he’d done the other times he waved her away with a smile, walking further up the headland.

She knew where he’d be, up the top, looking out over the beach. He would be able to see her, and she him. Except he didn’t need to keep tabs on her like she did. He was free to do as he pleased, as long as he stayed within sight.

At 11 years old he thought he could have been given a little more elbow room, but she was his Gran, and he didn’t want her to feel bad. Besides he wasn’t going anywhere. Just going to hang out, maybe Kody would swing by in a little bit on his bike and then they’d all go home together.

Kody was 15 and obviously didn’t feel quite so bad about hurting Gran’s feelings by not hanging out with her all afternoon. Kody was surfing with his mates down at Smashing Rock. Gone for hours now, but even Kody knew he had to be back to meet them before the sun went down.

That was the rule.

He lay down across the posts. Not the most comfortable place to be, but he could feel the late afternoon sun on his back, and still watch the water to his front. Half closing his eyes, listening to the waves crash.

The tide was coming in now. Squinting and craning his neck ’round a bit further he tried to see whether the shack he’d been trying to put together a few days ago with Kody was still there. They’d spent ages finding old logs and sticks that had been washed up along the beach to build a little shelter for Gran to sit in. She didn’t seem that keen on sitting though - said she was happy enough standing on the edge letting the waves lick at her feet while she threw a line in.

Fishing mad she was. Any opportunity to get the fishing line out and she would. Sometimes she’d catch some whoppers, other times he thought she just wanted to get her feet wet and have some thinking time.

Gran had told him once when they’d stood together waiting with her reel, that fishing on the beach was a good time for conversations that were too hard around the dinner table … and was also a good time for thinking, she’d said almost to herself. He hadn’t anything big to tell her, but he nodded, and she seemed to think that was OK.

Fishing on the beach was a good time for conversations that were too hard around the dinner table ...

That’s what she was doing now. Well, not really fishing, but seeing if there were any pipis in the sand for tomorrow. She’d wait for the wave to pull back, leaving the tell-tale bubbles in the sand of the pipis below. Her hand would dive to grab them, then she’d throw them into her red plastic bucket.

“Not too many,” she would say when he would go down with her. “Never too many, we don’t want to be greedy do we … Just enough for tomorrow’s catch eh love.”

He used to enjoy doing that with her. She called him the Master of Pipis. It was something his mum and dad never seemed to get time to do lately. Always at work, they’d barely even been down to the beach this summer. If it wasn’t for Gran, these school holidays would have been dead boring.

He shifted his body weight a little, and nearly fell off the post. Sitting up instead, he dangled his feet over the top. Hearing voices, he looked back towards the carpark.

A couple of surfers were at the top of the walkway and pointing out towards the break, obviously discussing the best way to catch a few before the sun went down completely. He watched them as they started to trot down the sandy path. Surfers never seemed to walk down to the water, they always needed to get a little bit of a run up. Why was that? He’d have to ask Kody. He’d know. It was like they were so excited after seeing the water they just couldn’t wait any longer.

Whatever.

He loved the water, loved the beach but surfing wasn’t his thing. He’d tried it a bit the summer before, but the last time he’d been a bit slow in getting over a set and had got dragged across the rocks over on the north end.

Kody had yelled at him for not ducking under earlier, and for dinging his precious board, but had stopped when he saw the blood gushing from the side of his head. Four stiches at the John Hunter Hospital that had been.

His mate Jimmy had been well impressed. Gran wasn’t though and blamed herself for not keeping him safer. She’d kept a closer eye on him since then, even though that was a whole summer ago.

He could see her off in the distance, her ridiculously big floppy hat making her easy to pick out from the rest of the late afternoon beach goers. They’d all given her that hat at Christmas as a bit of a joke. She’d worn it every day since.

Everyone was packing up now; the beach starting to empty, and his tummy was getting hungry. Maybe he’d convince Gran to stop off for some hot chips before they got home. He knew Kody would be up for some, and Gran was always pretty keen. She liked the weird-shaped crunchy ones at the bottom.

He jumped off the post and started his way back down the path. Maybe he’d see if Gran needed a hand finding a few more pipis, he was, after all, the master.

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