Posted by: jolantru | September 30, 2009

Wave Fourteen: Sea (Part II)

I dove into the deep, kicking with my feet. Strange and comfortingly that I could still remember how to swim – no, I am a daughter of the sea. Swimming is already in my bones. I breathed out and streams of tiny bubbles, tiny pearls, curled and flared out around me. I could see shoals of flits – the leafy sea-dragon hybrids, clawed with six limbs – glistening with their patterns of green-gold, their elaborate fins and frills merging with the sea fronds. Some people kept them as pets, if I recall correctly.

The clusters of oysters were still there, lovingly and meticulously cultivated, watched and tended by generations of women. I had not brought the right equipment – I had kept my knife in a box back at my City house – and I could only touch them, feeling their jagged edges with my fingertips.

My personal pilgrimage done, I kicked myself back to the surface, bubbles fizzing about me, popping on my skin, on my face.

I saw two women, both old. My heart constricted. Mother and Grandmother. As I swam to the shore, I could see that they had both aged, just as the late Second Father had. Grandmother was bent over, her hands gnarled. Arthritis. Mother had more white hair than black, her face lined but still beautiful. They were wearing the traditional floral scarves around their necks, the collared brocade coats and dark pants. We only wear the traditional finery when we greet guests.

I realized, with some shock, that I had become their guest.

“Ma,” I felt conscious of my wet body, my hair still dripping with the sea water. “Ah-Ma.”

“We are glad you came back,” Mother said, taking me into her embrace, wet or not. “Now, let us go in. There is a lot to talk about.”

~*~

They made me kelp tea and the bracing slightly bitter taste reminded me that I had finally come home. They made me simple fare – oyster fritters and clear seafood broth – and bade me eat. I ate quietly, savoring the taste, committing it to memory. I asked Mother for the recipes and she told me so – verbally, for we have an oral tradition when it comes to daily living.

I related my experiences at the City, how I enrolled myself at the School and how I met Auri and Josh. I did not tell them that Auri was the sea-witch and I tried to keep it so. Mother and Grandmother listened intently, nodding in agreement.

“Auri is the sea-witch, isn’t she?” Grandmother spoke up suddenly and I almost dropped the oyster fritter. I could only nod and Grandmother began to chuckle merrily.

“I told you so,” she turned to Mother who mock-glared, her lips trembling with suppressed laughter. “I told the men folk and they won’t listen. They kept saying that she was some terrible sea-hag who rose from the sea, covered with kelp and bringing destruction upon anyone who dared look at her. Whatever he did, the idiot deserved it.”

I lifted my eyebrows. They had known all along.

“And to think that the men folk, bless their hearts and souls, listened to your former husband and followed him like some school of dumb fish. It was a good thing you ended the marriage.”

Grandmother was positively laughing now. Then she turned solemn. “It is a good thing he died. The filth he’d spread about women-this and women-that was disgusting.”

“So women can openly curl light now?” I said wryly and she darted me a quick startled look. The conversation died a sudden death and we ate the fritters in silence. I had more questions now. I had thought that by coming back to the village, I would find answers and resolutions. I had imagined a nice ending. Now there were more open ends.

At day’s end, I bade them farewell. Grandmother wept and wanted me to stay for another day. I had a life now in the City and I needed to go back to the School, to Auri and Josh. With a final embrace, I left my mother and grandmother.

However, before I left the village proper, I collected some oyster shells and stored them in my backpack. I also collected seawater and kept it in a small perfume bottle. These would be the physical memories I would bring back from my village. The rest of the memories would be in my heart and mind.

Mirra-Mirra-Mirra.

To the sea, I return.
And I did.

And I will return again and again.

~*~

Oyster Fritters

You will need:
Five tablespoons of oysters (cleaned and washed of grit)
Five tablespoons of finely-chopped celery
Five cloves of garlic, minced/finely-chopped
Five scallions, minced/finely-chopped
One teaspoon of soy sauce
Half of a teaspoon of sugar
A quarter teaspoon of ground white pepper
Half a cup of all-purpose flour
Half a cup of cornstarch
Two tablespoons of water
One cup corn oil

Combine oysters, celery, garlic, scallions, soy sauce and sugar.
Mix flour, cornstarch, and water and then mix with the oyster-vegetable mixture.
Heat oil until it is hot.
Immerse the ladle in the oil until it is hot.
Fill the ladle to almost full with some of the oyster mixture.
Immediately hold it just under the surface of the oil until it is set, then tip it out and fry the cake until golden-brown, turning it several times. Drain to remove the excess oil.

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Responses

  1. Bittersweet. And lovely.

    And there is more to this tale, I hope, that will be revealed in time. Thank you for sharing a glimpse into an interesting world.

    • Thank you. 🙂

      I am still undecided as to whether I should continue the tale.

  2. I think its beautiful and I’m interested in the reality of the sea and the women, the disconnectedness of the men. And the sea witch? I want to know more about Grandmother.

    • Thank you. 🙂

      I think I will write more – time willing! – about the disconnectedness of the men and Grandmother (whom I patterned after my own grandmother). I wrote a story about the sea-witch in the short “The Sea Witch’s Tale”, featured in the consolidated Book One: http://www.scribd.com/doc/20481985/Of-Oysters-Pearls-And-Magic

      Really appreciated your comments and feedback!


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