Flash Fiction for for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. The challenge asks us to write a piece of fiction from the photo prompt provided in around 100- 150 words – give or take 25 words. It encourages participants to comment, constructively, on other entries, so supporting each other’s writing. If you’d like to join in with this challenge, follow the link in the title of PJ’s, blog: Beautiful Words to see what to do. The challenge runs from Wednesday to Wednesday every week.
Here is this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Sonya:
. . . and this is my story:
At fifteen, Baktu was the best pearl diver in the village. Everyone said so. He loved the ocean, and once submerged, he became one with its cushioning depths. He could hold his breath far longer than the other boys, and knew exactly where to search for the pearl oysters his people craved …
‘Look, Grandpa,’ Joti said proudly, rousing Baktu from his memories as he surfaced and dropped his harvest into the bucket hung over the side of the little boat. ‘It’s almost full!’
Baktu smiled, and the boy dived again into the shallow water, landside of the reef. Edible oyster beds were plentiful here, and there was little threat of sharks – unlike beyond the reef where village boys still dived for pearl oysters in the deeper waters. Just as Baktu had once done …
Baktu grabbed the side of the boat, but too late…
He was eighteen when the shark had taken his right leg, ending his diving days. But Baktu would never forget the sensation of the ocean’s cushioning embrace.
Word Count: 175
If you’d like to view other entries, click the little blue frog below:
For anyone interested, here are a few points about oysters, pearls and pearl diving from several sources including Wikipedia:
Oysters are bivalve molluscs found in temperate and warm coastal waters in all oceans. But not all species of oysters produce the shiny, costly pearls. True oysters are found naturally in shallower waters, very close to the coast, and have been cultivated for food for over 2,000 years. Pearl oysters are found in deeper water. Pearls form inside oysters from the accumulation of nacre (mother of pearl) the material lining the oyster shell. Pearls formed inside edible oysters are lustreless and of no value.
Many thousands of years ago, humans probably discovered the first pearls along the seashore, while they were searching for food. It is also probable that they wouldn’t have taken long to realise that the gems had come from the sea.
Before the beginning of the 20th century, the only way of obtaining pearls was by divers gathering large numbers of pearl oysters or mussels from the ocean floor, lake or river bed. These were brought to the surface, opened up and the tissue searched. More than a ton of them were searched in order to find 3-4 pearls. Pearl divers were trained to stay under water for at least 90 seconds, often descending to depths of over 125 feet in a single breath. Many tied baskets or nets to their bodies to collect their harvest.
Pearl diving has been practised for over 4,000 years, from the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and the Sea of Japan. Native Americans also harvested freshwater pearls from lakes and rivers like the Ohio, Tennessee and Mississippi, while others obtained them from the Caribbean and waters along Central and South America. In the time of colonial slavery in northern South America (along the coasts of Columbia and Venezuela) an occupation among slaves was that of pearl diving. In shark-infested waters this was extremely perilous, but any slave who discovered an extra large pearl could buy his freedom.
In Japan, pearl divers were traditionally women called Ama, which means ‘sea women’. Women are considered better pearl divers by many because they conserve heat better in the severe cold of the ocean.
In the early 1900s as pearls became harder to find, new pearl diving techniques were developed. Diving suits and breathing apparatus allowed for deeper and longer dives. It is estimated that 2000 people worked as pearl divers at this time.
Mother of pearl was used to make buttons for shirts.
Today, pearl diving has largely been replaced by cultivated pearl farms, although a few island nations undoubtedly still continue the practice.