Onur Watches the Sea
By Luke Frostick
The wind was fresh and salty only a slight diesel aftertaste had blown in from the industrial works on the mainland. Onur sat in his beach shack; built lovingly out of rocks picked up from the beach. Some were natural, rolled down from the hills. Some were brick or lumps of concrete bought in by the sea rounded and softened by the thump of the waves. The roof above him was a single piece of corrugated iron. Onur liked it when it rained here and played its percussion on the metal above his head. He liked the way the sea danced with uncountable tinny impacts. But it wasn't raining today it was clear and hot, humid and windless. He took a drag on his hand-rolled cigarette. The tobacco was bitter and cheep. The smoke flittered through his ragged beard and his crooked teeth.
He wondered when the tourists would be back with nice factory made cigarettes that he could ask them for. On a beautiful day like today there should be at least some, but none had come to bask in the sun, to have barbecues and drink beer listing to the sea.
He ejected another thoughtful puff of acrid cigarette smoke.
Round his house he’d built a wall marking what he regarded as his. He’d built it out of the same stones and bits of eroded construction debris like those he’d built the shack out of. He’d lined the top with shards of broken tile, seashells and glass worn smooth like semiprecious stones. There was never a shortage of fresh building material for whatever project Onur was working on. The sea gave him much of what he needed.
The wall marked the edge of his castle and he kept his little courtyard of rubble immaculately clean, diligently sweeping out sand, and sea weed that blew in of the beach and the red dust, and pine needles that fell down from the hills around him.
In the courtyard he’d assembled a motley collection of furniture from white plastic chairs, to abandoned beach loungers and a table made out of a door that had washed up one day.
He took the teapot of the camping stove gas ring and refilled his little cup. He didn't have any sugar but he still stirred the hot liquid then tapped the miniature spoon on the rim of the glass letting a little clink ring out across the quiet footsteps of the sea.
He looked out across the bay to the southwest. The bright afternoon sun shone in his eyes and he had to squint to make out the other tall and craggy islands floating in the hazy light. One of the islands was littered with gigantic cranes they reminded him of gallows from a cowboy movie. He was glad he couldn't see them clearly.
One of the lads from the village had told him that it was a government project. They were building a mega hotel for wealthy foreigners.
“Bless the government.” Onur had said. Foreigners were good. They never shouted at him when he sold them beer and water at inflated prices.
“Always looking to help out, bless the government.” he’d said. He’d never voted. The village mayor had always done it for him.
He sipped his tea and realised that he hadn’t seen the cranes moving for along time. Was it day or weeks? He wasn't sure.
He walked around his compound and inspected his barbecue, he was proud of it he’d built it himself and fed it with wood from the hills and driftwood that washed up on the shore. Lots of things washed up on the beach, he displayed the more interesting pieces round his hut: bits of driftwood too interesting to burn, a construction workers helmet, bits of fishing gear, snorkels and a snowboard to name a few. He kept them around as talismans of sorts to keep bad luck away. They seemed to be working. Onur wasn't struck by the same misfortune that seemed to affect the folk who boated over from the city. He didn't frown like they did, or collapse onto his beach-towels and fall into fitful sleep. He didn't stare nervously into a smartphone screen shaking his head. Not that Onur had a smartphone.
He looked again at the sea. No tourists, no boats either. On a perfect day like today there should be boats he thought. No graceful sailing ships, no shinny speedboats pumping out the latest club hits or even any industrial ships, the vast container carriers that supplied the city on the mainland were conspicuous by their absence.
The only boats he saw regularly anymore were military. Sleek, grey and predatory on engines so quiet that he could barely hear them over the lap of the sea.
He looked northwest. Towards the city on the mainland. So far away across the water. He looked at the tower blocks black against the yellowish haze. They seemed tinny at this distance; even the smog seemed small when compared to the vast expanse of blue sky above it.
Onur was glad the smoke was gone. Over the last few weeks’ huge pillars of dense black smoke had been raising out of the city, plumes bigger than the tower blocks sinister and eldritch, bleeding and diluting into the sky.
Onur refilled his tea. “The tourists will be back soon” he thought. “That will be good.”