There was a day when my pen alone captured an exceptionally visual experience and I realised then that a pen could offer as profound a memory as any photograph. I was in a boat. On a river. And he hovered, about to dive. Iridescent blue plumage reflected in the waters below. Prey in sight, the hungry bird pulled in his feathers, in anticipation of his next move.

A gentle hum interrupted his gaze and with a flip of his stubby tail, he darted to the riverbank, all thoughts of his meal deserted. A wooden boat came into view. With its engine barely audible, it rounded the bend in the river almost indiscernible against the untidy woodland at the river’s edge. A woman sat tranquilly in the bow, hand trailing through the blueish grey water, leaving traces of memories trickling from her fingertips, in the boat’s wake. Reflections of green from the beech trees and wisps of silvery bark from the birch wavered on her face like shadows. The man at the helm gently guided the fisherman’s boat through the river’s meanderings; his eyes gazing along the banks; the tall reeds and yellow iris reflected in his
expectant, silent eyes.

The man’s faint intake of breathe made the woman and the bird both look up. The warm breeze whispered as time froze. The tableau in front of them came into view through mottled light. A majestic stag stood, head raised, nostrils quivering. The splendid prongs of his gilded antlers bronzed in the sunshine. A beautiful doe stood beside him, her flanks twitching slightly in rhythm with her breath; her gentle eyes alert, watching. Their fawn, almost imperceptible in the camouflage of his dappled young coat, as transfixed in time, as his parents. Humans, deer and bird were vividly suspended; the universe holding its breath from the absolute beauty of it.

With a snort, the stag raised his head and with the fluidity of one in flight, he, his doe and their young fawn, leapt and turned as one. The white of their tails dazzling, tantalizingly, as they ran. They were gone. The clearing seemed strangely silent and with a sigh, the boat traversed the corner and disappeared too, from sight.

With no more distractions the bird ruffled his spectacular feathers, raised himself off his stubby little legs and with the speed and grace of one so proficient in his hunt, he soared into the air. Watching, elongating his body into a streamlined lethal weapon, he dived. As he emerged again through the surface of the water, spangled droplets glistened on the scaly skin of a fish as it thrashed in its final death throws within the bird’s beak. Rainbows of colour, in seeming communion between water, scale and lustrous blue of the bird’s feathers, fell across the water as he rose. Belabored slightly by his prey, he flew slowly to the protection of the river bank and the kingfisher, in all his brilliance, silently relaxed and began to eat his meal.

-Pippa Slattery

Pippa Slattery is an emerging writer. Having raised her family, she is now concentrating on her writing career. Her story The Perfume Bottle was published in the anthology Opening Doors and she is currently working on an anthology of autobiographical short stories. She lives overlooking Lough Derg, in Co Tipperary. https://www.facebook.com/beyondbreath/