Excerpt from “Primary Bonds” by Laura Tansley and Micaela Maftei

In Micaela Maftei and Laura Tansley’s co-written creative nonfiction piece, a group trip to the beach in the Pacific Northwest reveals “the currents here are not just in the water.” The first page of “Primary Bonds” from SAND 24 is excerpted here. 

Image of excerpt from SAND 24. Image Text: Creative nonfiction by Micaela Maftei and Laura Tansley. Primary Bonds. The temperature of the water in the Pacific Northwest is only acceptable if you have no appendages, if you have no backbone, or if you have enough blubber to make a thousand pillar candles thick as thighbones. Down there are spiny urchins and gliding otters; sea lions transformed from lumbering, hooting beasts into graceful dancers. Swirling in frigid currents and silent pulls, the water is a full-body experience. We creep in and it feels solid, then it feels like we’re somehow becoming it, like a drop of ink that submits and frays itself over and over until it’s completely diffused. The cold is absolute; there is no cold beyond this cold. I think I might be dying, we say to each other. There is no grace to our entrance or exit. But it's warm on the beach, late afternoon, even under the shadow of giant cedars. It’s September, and in this place September is still summer. As we sit on the sand and let this heat warm us, we notice that some of the tips of the trees have turned brown, dry, and splintered looking. Eagles survey from these uncovered places. Someone we’re with says, Trees are like people, they die from the top down. The steampunk pirates land at dusk. The sun is going down into the waves and the light is golden and the white spray comes over the rocks every six seconds or so. They crash into all this. Announcing them are half a dozen dogs ploughing down a gangplank, huge, panting, black, and sprinting wildly in circles around the beach, spit-flecked tongues lolling sideways out of their gigantic jaws. We pause and look around at the others, the locals. Someone must surely know who the pirates are; the black smoking boat is so distinctive in comparison to the zodiacs and yachts moored in the small harbour we arrived at. This place is so remote that everyone seems on a first-name basis, meeting as they must do again and again outside the general store on the dock, which is the only place to congregate here, everything focused around purchasing purpose and the balance between need and desire. But no one knows who they are, and all of us on the beach look blankly at each other as their dogs bark and the smoke pours from their seemingly self-riveted boat and our skins prickle with drying salty water.

MICAELA MAFTEI and LAURA TANSLEY have been writing together for over a decade. Their collection of short stories, The Reach of a Root, was published in 2019. They live in Victoria, BC, and Glasgow, respectively.

This excerpt from SAND 24, designed by Déborah-Loïs Séry, appears as it does in the print journal. To read more, buy a copy or subscribe at our webshop.