Les Méduses – the makings of a short story
I always get into the sea when the old women get in. Not because they are frail and overly careful, quite the opposite they are wise old birds, wiry and tough, and they’ve been swimming here all their lives. The problem with swimming here are the méduses. My french is not great but méduses is one word I know. It means jellyfish and the jellyfish here ‘piquant’ and the sting can last for days – as much as four – according to one old lady who gave me a lecture on the whole thing as I was just getting into the water. She pinched her arm and grimaced to show me the intensity of the pain.
But today when I looked down from the road to the sea below there seemed a lot of old women and men swimming so I went down to the rocks and into the sea with confidence. Still I could not shift the thought of the jellyfish. I couldn’t relax. And this is my favourite time of the day; early morning when everything feels clean and translucent, the palm trees shaped exotic against the sky, pink and orange villas staggering up the hillside. Normally I would lie on my back and take it all in but today I couldn’t. I watched a striking woman in a brown straw, peaked cap take to the waves and begin to swim out and I followed her trying to catch her magic. Then I saw a couple get in followed by a man in a white hat. It must be safe I thought. But as I passed him on my way out of the sea the man in the white hat said to me, ‘Il n’y a pas de méduses?’ And I said ‘I haven’t seen any. It’s okay.’ So now I was the expert.
I now have a metaphor - long strands of jellyfish that can’t be seen. I’m intrigued that jellyfish have no control over their movements. And I’m also intrigued by the idea of being perceived as an expert.