Blossom jumped from rock to rock across anemone-strewn ponds teeming with life, her net flag waving over her head with the bucket of water spilling as it wobbled, and then I saw the squid.
It reared up on its flabby body, towering over her delicate, blonde topped, seven-year-old frame. The tentacles twirled over her head as she was bewitched, traumatised by its appearance before she disappeared in one squelching gloop into its mouth. I watched as it hopped towards me, I could smell the salty freshness from ten metres away. Its shadow started to slither over me as goosebumps rose on my arms.
‘Mummy, wake up! Look what I found!’
I opened my eyes to see Blossom in front of me. Her net was at her feet and dripping seawater into the bucket, she held up a squid for me to examine.
‘I found it in the last pool before the rocks dropped into the ocean. Daddy held my hand while I fished it out of the pool.’
‘You’re such a brave and clever girl to find a squid and finding one is very unusual, they live in the deep parts of the ocean. I think that it must have been dropped by a fisherman. They often use them as bait to catch other fish from those rocks.’
‘Daddy said the same and he asked the fisherman if it was their bait, but they said it wasn’t. One of them said they had seen a few lately with the seas being a bit rough and certainly not seasonal. What do you think mum, you are a zoologist aren’t you? Please tell me I’ve found a new kind of fish!’
‘Yes, I am, and they are right they are found here normally.’
I could see the turn of disappointment wash the smile from her freckled face.
‘I thought I had found an unusual fish, Daddy did too.’
Her head was bowed as she put the squid back into the bucket and put the bucket down in the sand at my feet.
I pulled her into my arms. My budding little naturalist was always keen to discover a new species and every outing either to the sea or a walk in the country she saw as her opportunity for greatness.
‘Finding this is very lucky Blossom, it is rare to find them on the beach and you should be proud that you saw it.’
‘I know, but I hoped that I had found a new fish. Can I keep it? We could give it a name.’ She poked at it with her finger in the bucket.
‘Blossom, if you could only live in your room would you be happy?’
She cocked her head to one side before shaking it.
‘No way mum, I want to see the world and I can’t do that if I am shut up for the rest of my life! That would be like being in prison and I have been a good girl not a naughty one.’
I smiled when she said this. ‘Yes you have been a very good girl and I am sure that this little fellow would also like to see more of the world. How do you think he could do that if he was in a bucket or a fish bowl?’
‘He couldn’t,’ she got to her feet picking up the bucket, ‘I will go ask Daddy to put it back into the sea.’
‘I think that would be best, but before you go let me have another look at it. Maybe I can identify the species.’
‘Species? Oh you mean you want to give it its proper scientific name.’
‘Yes, everything has its proper scientific name and this one will be no different.’
She passed the bucket to me and I looked at the forlorn creature in an inch of salt water already knowing what it was but it would serve her to see how to do it.
Well, it’s a member of the class Cephalopod which includes octopus, squid, and cuttlefish. This one is a squid which gives it the next name, the order, it’s a Teuthoidea.’
‘Why are they such difficult names?’
I smile remembering how I struggled with the names when I was at school.
‘We use Latin names because it is a language that is standard across many different people so when we talk about a Cephalopod everyone knows what we are talking about. Interesting with this one is that Cephalopod means Head Tail which comes from Greek, not Latin.’
‘OK, now that is getting odder but I can see why they called it a head tail you can’t see where the head ends and the tail begins.’
‘Exactly, you are a very observant little girl. Then we put them into other groupings and this belongs to the order Teuthoidea. There are many species in there that I don’t remember. Can we call this one Cephalopod Teuthoidea?’
She looked into the bucket again and said proudly, ‘I name you Cephalopod Tooth or dare.’
‘I smiled as she picked up the bucket and net before clambering over the rocks to her dad.
‘Dad! Dad! Mum says it’s a Tooth or dare and it’s rare to find here.’
I leaned back against the large rock behind me thinking how clever she was. How far would she go in this life? Would she go into science? Too early to make those decisions. Too much still to explore before making a career choice.’
My eyes grow tired and I close them and listen to the waves hitting the rocks some twenty metres in front of me.
I drifted off into that lovely space where sleep is almost visible but the world was still present in my ears, tickling them with the sound of the waves, and with each crash the smell of ozone wafted into my nostrils. Then the waves seemed to stop and there were screams before I was swamped with a wave. I opened my eyes to see the fishermen scanning the sea below. Standing, I saw my basket submerged in a foot of water.
‘Blossom, Pete where are you!’ I screamed splashing across the rocks as I saw men dive into the boiling angry sea below.
It’s cold. Some would say that that is obvious when you are in a mortuary. Deceased bodies start to decay from the moment the life goes out of them. We all are in a permanent state of decay when living, but that life preserves itself by renewing the cells.
I look again at your face – the only part of your body visible above the white plastic that encases it. It reminds me of the squid at the beach and in my dream. The blonde hair has lost the sparkle that first attracted me to you. There is a slight stubble on your face that I know you hated, you always detested the rough feel of it.
Heroic you were diving into the frothing waters to help rescue those washed off the rocks by the freak wave. A selfless act is how the press reported it. I’d call it stupid, reckless to have considered doing it.
But you did and you did rescue some or at least helped to. The most important one was only found a day ago. I glance at the other table with its small plastic bag that I had stood next to a minute ago.
‘Look after her. Find her some more Tooth or dares.’