They all saw her. Standing on the boardwalk outside the old woman’s house, smoking.
The old woman was dying of cancer. Not from cigarettes, but still. They did not approve.
In the house, the old woman was frantically peeling potatoes, scraps of skin flying everywhere, sticking to the sink, windows and her woollen clothing like a plague of starchy warts.
On the boardwalk her daughter sucked in oxygen and nicotine, blowing yellow halos at the setting sun. She crunched her toes into the cold sand of the beach, shivering in the pushy wind.
From here she could see into the darkening kitchen where a hurricane of grey hair spun into shadow, but mostly she looked at the reflection of the sunset on the window, its beacon brightness shining like the edge of a new coin, and wondered if sailors would see the gleam and steer away from the crescent, or spill on the rocks so close to home.
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There was something wrong with the sea. The waves were oily and green and forest-filled, like the kelp had been ripped from its leathery footholds by a far away storm and carried here by the currents. A thick tangle of tentacles and skeins spread across the water holding bulging sacs that popped open as they reached the surface and spewed hundreds of bugs onto the undulating skin.