Life & Arts Fiction

Saudade

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Winton, a small town in Queensland (image by John Robert McPherson via Wikimedia Commons)

This short story is an *IA Writing Competition (fiction category) entry.

The warm day was but a chimera of Spring, however, the discovery of a new word was the real motivation for Bazza’s walk on the beach.

A passage he had read, moved him, and had ended with the word "saudade". He had researched the highly emotive Portuguese term and was further intrigued by the fact it defied a single word translation to English. He twirled the word around in his mouth numerous times, enjoyed elongating the syllables and sought to experience "saudade", by way of a walk on the beach.

From the base of the headland, Bazza squinted across the gently wrinkling sea, admiring its silent power, as it pushed off the next queued wave. He followed it as it devoured a lonely rocky outcrop, before coughing it up in a swirl of white foam. Closer now, the wave flexed and then smashed, kamikaze like, into the headland, throwing shards of ocean high into the air.

The cliff was resolute, but it was more a pyrrhic victory for this moment, as the much scarred headland attested. It could only brace for the next pound and pause, pound and pause, night and day and slowly surrender to the power of the sea.

Bazza’s eyes traced the rest of the same wave as it now massaged and shaped the inevitability of the contest between headland and sea… the beach before him.

The conflict between sea and shore sparked memories of life’s travails and Bazza shook his head:

"Saudade? Bloody hope not.”

He half-laughed to himself.

The two sets of footprints in the wet sand before him switched his thoughts and he began to follow the steps. Perhaps it was the loneliness of the beach, the timeless nature of the surrounds or his love of a mystery that had him thinking of the dinosaur trackway, southwest of Winton in central western Queensland. Scientists had used the clues from thousands of footprints to piece together the theory of a dinosaur stampede on a single day 95 million years ago. “Clever buggers,” he mused.

One set of footprints before him were about the same size as his own and the strides equivalent. He surmised they belonged to a man. For the most part, the footprints followed an energy conserving and economic straight line. He smiled at that thought.

The other footprints were tiny. They zig zagged and danced around the male prints and at times darted between them, but always in a defined orbit. There was absolutely no economy or thought to the path chosen, just trust in the proximity to the larger prints. His smiled widened.

Bazza followed the steps along the beach until the tiny prints disappeared and the larger prints became slightly deeper in the wet sand.

He paused for a long moment… footprints in the sands of time.

He finally wiped away tears and through glistening eyes, he smiled again, as the incoming tide gently washed and filed away his memories:

"Saudade, ah yes, saudade."

John Longhurst is a former industrial advocate and political adviser. He currently works as an English and History teacher on the South Coast of NSW.

* Full IA Writing Competition details HERE.

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This short story is an *IA Writing Competition (creative work category) entry.  
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