On Sullivan’s Island I walked along the strip of sand toward the inlet where the tide daily rushes in and out of the marsh. The current rippled at the edges of the stream. Somewhere at sea there’d been a jellyfish bloom, and translucent bodies had washed up along the tide line—in wait for the returning tide, secret worlds visible beneath the thick membrane of their skins. Every morning it was the same. The gray strip of sand, the waiting jellyfish abandoned by the tide, the Atlantic disappearing into a haze from which ships might emerge, tall ships, their sails taut with wind, arriving from the distant shores of Africa.
One morning a flock of gulls stood about indifferently, gazing out to sea. As I got closer I could see, in the body of each jellyfish, a few rough slashes of the gulls’ beaks. They had sampled each one, one after the other, leaving the jellyfish leaking life, and now the tide would return only to sweep away the bodies.