A Flash of Dorsal Fin

Jasmine brought me the ball again and shook her fur just as I stooped to pick it up, sending a spray of sand up into my face. Since I moved to the coast, sand is now a constant in my life. Every dip in a pocket reveals a new gathering of damp and slightly fishy dust, stuck like glue to every surface. I hurled the ball and Jas pelted after it, her pitter pattering paws the only sound in an otherwise silent evening. I had the beach to myself most days anyway, but recently it had become even more unusual to see another dog walker or jogger. Jas was none the wiser and was soon back at my feet again, tossing the ball up where it splatted against my shin and left a patch of sandy residue.

The evening was gloomy. Clouds were gathering and the little sunlight left was concealed behind the point at the end of the peninsula. My wet dog was getting curlier by the minute so I gave her a treat and put her back on the lead. She picked up her ball and carried it lovingly, ears lolling either side of a sand-clogged beard. I headed up the hill towards the pink splodge that hinted at an impressive sunset and scanned the shore. Herring gulls were gathered together on the rocks while a pair of red breasted mergansers bobbed in the shallows. A cormorant shot over the surface. The usuals.

I struggled with the lead, my soggy gloves and a poo bag as I rummaged in my pocket. The vivid sunset paled instantly as my phone decided not to pick up any of the oranges or pinks that I was seeing. Scowling at the phone and the dog as she began to dig a hole at my feet, I contented myself with just watching the sunset, but a black scratch on the water quickly made my stomach flip over. I lifted the binoculars up and yes! A dorsal fin! I could barely believe what I was seeing. For the last month I’d believed that dolphins were mythical creatures and I was more likely to see Nessie. But no, there were multiple bottlenose dolphins out there. As Jas continued to tug at a particularly stubborn tussock, I buzzed with excitement as the dolphins surfaced again. I counted four fins, although it was difficult when they didn’t all appear together. They were heading around the point so I followed them, hurrying along the thin trail that wound around the sheer edge of the hill. If I tripped the wrong way I’d plummet into the sea but I wasn’t too aware of that at the time. Jas followed reluctantly, no doubt wondering what the fuss was about.

Again! Definitely four fins, dark against the pale water. They were out of the sunset now and trickier to spot. Without the bright light, they were swallowed up by the mist already obscuring most of the horizon. They came up again but I could barely make them out. I began to feel rain, the sort of rain you don’t notice until you’re drenched, so I walked back to the house, scanning sideways the whole time, but my dolphins were gone for now.

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