Wednesday, 27 June 2012

On my way.....

Thanks to all of you - the small but rather wonderful band of people who have read this far, whether you stayed for the whole trip or just dropped by for the odd perusal I am very grateful. Its been fun finding the pictures and the music but now the words have run out....

Well they have for now - expect to see Liquid Tin Too sometime soon, its just waiting to happen once the laptop is restored and I'm not faced with working on an old pc with the response time of a ZX Spectrum. Hopefully you'll come back when I do - it gets rather addictive this blogging thing. In the meantime check out the eclectic selection and fine writing, music, pictures and philosophies on the blogs down the right hand side.

And to be going on with - well, there was no place for this in the story but now's as good a time as any to give it an outing and it somehow seems appropriate for the story, for the blog and right now for a whole lot of other reasons..... turn up your speakers, get the leather soled shoes on, sprinkle some talc on the kitchen floor and....take it away Dean,


Saturday, 23 June 2012

Flotsam


           Jaz and Crush walked the tideline, there were lights everywhere along the beach. Half the village was out. Not that that was many people at this time of year, but enough who cared for the sea and those on it, enough of those who’d had close brushes with it themselves and enough who’d lost others.


          It was three hours since they’d last seen Terry. It was pitch black and the wind was still howling through their coats and whipping the sand up into their faces with a vengeance. Neither of them flinched as they stood and looked, and looked and looked.


          “Over here!” a voice cried out from the rocks at the side of the beach, a torch waved. “Over here – gi’s a hand !”



          A dozen people ran over – there was a dark shape in the water, several people held back as the water flushed forwards again. Jaz pushed past and waded through the thigh high water.


          “Crush, help mate, come on, need you..” he sounded almost in tears behind the bravado.

          Between them they pulled out a ball of seaweed the size of a man’s torso. Some of the watchers on the beach sighed, but Jaz didn’t pause – he pulled and he pulled and the seaweed gave over to a long piece of yellow plastic…which in turn pulled up the back half of a red and white board. Smashed in two, foam protruding from the fibre glass, swollen and yellowed. Fins shattered. There was more seaweed tangled in this and they couldn’t pull the broken board free. Crush waded in next to Jaz and grimly tugged. Between them they grunted and pulled and resolutely never said a word. The water lapped around their waists as the ventured further and further out. An old nylon fishing net swept past them and was hauled up by the guys behind, pulling it away from them as they got on with their grim self appointed role.


          Then suddenly the board gave and they were tumbled back into the water, landing on their backs in the freezing darkness. Jaz clung to the piece of board like a limpet and pulled himself, then Crush upright, their bodies shaking with cold and effort. He reached down along the tangled seaweed and found what had been trapping the board. He hardly dare feel any further. The flotsam that held it back was part of another board. This time he didn’t even need to look. He pulled it out and slung it towards Crush.

          “S’yours mate.”

          They carried the broken boards up onto the beach and walked away. Leaving others to find whatever else was there.


          Behind them the sea was calming down, cleaning up. The sun was beginning to flood light across the horizon. They sat at the top of the beach, wet, cold, tired and silent. Jaz walked over to his car, parked up on the high sand, opened the door and reached in.

          He lit up a cigarette, offered one to Crush who took it despite himself. They sat and watched, sat and watched. The sea was still there, the beach was still there. Nothing else was.





Fin







Sunday, 17 June 2012

Letting Go



           Dave pushed away from Terry’s board just as the next set came rushing in, double overhead at least and breaking behind them. Just behind them. Dave paddled furiously, Terry tried but his arms were too weak and he swallowed as the wave picked him up and flipped him over, board flying away from him, leash pulled taut. A last gasp of salt sodden air as he felt the water close over him, push him down and spin him round, his only point of reference the tight tugging on his ankle as the board pulled away. He curled up in a ball, like he had once before, remembering that if he got hit by eight feet of fibreglass he was out of the picture. He span. Lungs bursting. Heart hitting his ribs so hard that the pain overrode the lack of breath. He tried to swim along the leash, figuring that the board would float and he’d make it back to the surface, but all he found was deeper water. He was out of time, his lungs couldn’t hold it in any more. His ears roared, the static was back. His heart thundered. Still he span.


           Light. Maybe. In his head? In the sky? Somewhere he felt calm. He opened his mouth and tried to breathe in the salt water. It choked him and he kicked out again, violently, desperately. His head broke the surface and he gasped and choked and clawed for air. He had seconds before the next wave caught him again and spun him under. Mercifully this time he was held down for a few seconds less. He was wrecked exhausted, but still in the drop zone.


          He felt along the leash for his board but it was gone, leash snapped and board set adrift. Another wave hit him on the back of the head and he was held down longer this time, the calm came sooner. The darkness and the light seemed to merge into one another and the roaring in his ears stopped. He smiled. Let go.



Monday, 11 June 2012

Gone




          Terry knew she was gone. People didn’t make those shapes with their bodies and survive. He lay face down on the clifftop unable to speak or move. He couldn’t cry or think. He was blank. He lay there until the moon came up, until the cold made him shiver into a sort of consciousness. He couldn’t think about it. Inside his head all he could hear was static. Screaming static. He couldn’t start to make his body move further; he curled into a ball holding his knees. Rocking, shaking. Head exploding with white noise. It hadn’t happened, it hadn’t happened, it hadn’t happened. That was all that went through his mind for hours.


          He stumbled through fields and over fences, keeping away from the roads, the paths. His clothes sodden, his eyes hollow as the valleys he walked over, pushed through. No food, no drink for days. He slept little and fell over often. Still the white noise. He smelt of piss, he stank of it. His mouth was cracked and sore and his hands cut and bruised. The clothes were falling off him by the time they found him and took him away to the hospital.


          His parents were contacted and they agreed it was best that he stayed there for some time. The doctors asked questions but he just said it hadn’t happened. It took a long while, six maybe nine months before they though he was okay to go out and face the world again.


          It hadn’t happened – he kept on repeating that to himself even when the static switched itself off. He believed it. Locked it away in a corner of his mind until he didn’t even know what hadn’t happened any more.



Sunday, 10 June 2012

Outside - Part 2

         

          Terry sobbed as he held onto Dave’s board. Dave didn’t hear a word.


Out


          Terry took Ali by the hand and pushed back the branches of the bush, stepped out onto the ledge and gripped the rope ladder with the other hand. He smiled at Ali and she half smiled back. The sun was low enough to light up her face and cast her shadow on the wall behind, Terry thought that she looked perfect. He found himself watching the two of them like a scene from a film, with him outside of it. He didn’t say a word.


          Ali moved forwards with less confidence than she normally showed, still gripping Terry’s hand, tighter now, nervous. He had to let go to get the ladder and pull himself on. She took a further step and held the bottom rungs as he climbed on and made his way up a few feet, allowing her room. The sea swirled below. It was a messy sea, no good surf now, no-one out there. A high tide with a lot of white water, just turning to fall back away and release the beach again, let go its grip. The sound of gulls was the only sign of life anywhere around them. Another time and Terry would have been happy to spend the rest of the evening sitting on the ledge with Ali, waiting for the sun to set and the sky to fill with orange and deep pink, bruised edges with promise of another good day tomorrow. But this time was the wrong time, Ali and Terry needed to get away from here. At the back of his mind he wondered what would happen if Dave suddenly turned back up.


          Ali climbed on the ladder behind him. It swang free beneath them, setting up a waving motion which took a while for them both to get the measure of – they clung on while it slowed itself down. Terry moved up two steps and then looked back; Ali took two rungs as well and gave Terry a reassuring glance. Another two rungs, then the same. Then another three – soon they were almost at the top. A gull flew close by Terry’s head and he studiously stared at the cliff wall until it passed. You never knew. Then his head reached the level of the cliff top, level with where the pegs holding down the ladder were. They looked solid – he’d worried a bit about the weight that they both were putting on them, but he’d not thought of that until he started the ascent and it was too late now. A bead of sweat trickled down his cheek. It was OK now, he could afford to be relieved now.


          He started to lift his weight off the ladder and as he did he looked back down at Ali, the ladder had started to swing in the breeze again and she fumbled with rungs as it slipped away from her foot. She gasped.


          Terry couldn’t understand. She was only a few feet from him. Her hands seemed to drop away from the rope and she fell, freewheeling her legs as she dropped. Terry watched, unable to move. Her body swung through ninety degrees and her head caught the cliff with a muted smack. She didn’t make a sound as she started to spin through the air, her arms stopped grasping at nothing. It seemed to be forever. She fell past the end of the ladder. Her foot clipped the ledge they’d stood on moments before, dislodging a piece of soil as she dropped. Dropped like a doll. It wasn’t real. She fell. She fell. Terry open mouthed but silent, not even breathing. Watching. She fell. Then the rocks caught her – broken teeth waiting. She hit them with her back, bending at an impossible angle, her shoe flying off into the sea below. She bounced sideways. A wave hit the rocks and she was gone in the spray.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Outside



          The water was cold, sucking the breath out of Terry’s body as he plunged in holding the board under his arms and leaping out and away from the rocks, just as the swell passed underneath him. It gave him maybe ten seconds to get much clearer before the next sloping face bore down on him and pushed him back onto the granite. He gasped, gurgled air, pulled the board underneath him and paddled furiously with all his strength and will. It was freezing. He had no wetsuit. He was aware that he had very little time. But he’d understood that he never had had that time, nor had Dave, and the two of them needed to break this. Even if it meant that they never went back to shore.


          The slick glass moved effortlessly away from the rocks just in time to be lifted by the water as it picked up. Terry swung the board to face outside the break and windmilled his arms through the water. As he crested the wave he looked around, down into the troughs on either side, up onto the break inside. No sign of Dave. He had time to reflect on how the cold wasn’t hurting anymore. The wind was blowing the tops off the waves and there was foam flying all around, filling the air with ghosts and visions, flecking the cliffside with momentary works of art. He carried on paddling. He clung to the rails when it seemed the turbulence was going to be too much and threatened to spin him down into the iron water below. This was no malleable tin anymore, this was granite and iron and teak and diamond, hard and unyielding, in charge and in control, not marked by the movements he made on its surface – untroubled by his presence. Worse – unaware of it. The wind screamed around him and the only lights he could see were the dim glow of the headlights on the cliff above. Too far above to be much help but at least they gave him some bearings – to see which way was up if nothing else.


          He was well clear of the rocks by now, still gasping air and taking the full storm on his uncovered body. He started to pray out loud – even though he hadn’t set any store by religion for over thirty years – the sea did that to people. He’d heard that no drowning man ever died an unbeliever.


          Then he saw him. Maybe. There. Off to the left. Fifty feet ? Reachable ? He swung the nose up and let the unbroken energy take him closer – he didn’t want to be seen or heard – although neither was likely on this night – didn’t want to scare him – if it was him. He’d believe in ghosts too at a time like this.


          He knew that there was but the one chance for either of them – wipe out or lose a board now and they had no future. If it was Dave over there and not a rock or a trick of the storm then he might still not be able to do much, but he had to say something, somehow explain, make him listen. Even out here in the mouth of the storm bobbing about like so much tiny flotsam in the bleak endless swirl of energy. No respite.


          Terry’s arms were hurting. He was close enough now to see between gusts of foam that it was Dave. His hair plastered back, no longer looking like an ageing beach bum but exposing his age, his skull showing through the lines and the tan. His arms drawn and wiry and his chest rising and falling with effort. His board seemed part of him, a long thin flat bone where his legs should be. Like a forgotten creature returning to the sea. Death might ride a pale horse but death on the sea had a nine foot longboard in red and white and it did the job just as well.


          Dave just stared through the foam. Looking inland. Staring but not seeing. Another swell rose up beneath him and pulled him that little closer in to where the heads of the waves toppled over and sent tons of icy water crashing down, barrelling into the beach. The break was there just in front of them. Dave was waiting for it. It was too busy being the sea to bother itself with thinking about waiting for Dave. But he’d come all the same.


          Terry had no idea what to do next – Dave could paddle away the moment he saw him and he’d be gone. He could turn violent again – Terry had seen enough punches thrown in the line up to know that it didn’t matter how far out at sea you were there was still the potential for getting hurt – and getting hurt in these conditions wasn’t going to make things easier.


          He settled for paddling over and lining up alongside – maybe four feet away – further than an arm’s length. Dave didn’t move. Didn’t acknowledge him. Didn’t stir. For seconds, maybe a minute. Nothing.


          Then he turned and looked at Terry. Terry felt he’d known he was there all along.


          He shouted – against the crash of the heavy topped waves and the raging wind his words sank into the sea with no trace. He pulled at the nose of Terry’s board. Terry tensed, expecting to be flipped off. Dave just pulled them closer together and yelled again.


          “I’m sorry ! You ….shouldn’t….be …here...” each word with effort. He sounded drained but still sat firmly upright on the board as if he were rooted in the ocean.


          “Dave – you’re wrong…it wasn’t like that.. Whatever you think…it wasn’t you…….you didn’t….. it wasn’t the way that you think……”


          Dave looked uncomprehending. The wind whipping his lank hair back around his face.


          “Don’t do this….we need to ….we need to get this sorted. Not this way….” Terry pleaded. He was cold. He felt  the energy falling away from his body with each blast of wind. His fingers were white where they held onto the board. He tried paddling back a little, away from the falls, but Dave held onto his board.


          The next few minutes would take them both over if they didn’t move.


          There was a crack as another big wave split itself on the rocks, somewhere off to the left of them. White water flew high above them obscuring the cliffs for an instant.


Terry summoned up all his remaining strength and bellowed close to Dave’s ear,“You didn’t leave her there….you stupid bastard…. It wasn’t you….!”


Thursday, 7 June 2012

Secret Spot - part 4



           Terry saw Dave. Saw the car. Couldn’t bring himself to just walk away. He knew Dave had followed Ali out. Wondered if at least he might know where she was headed. Swallowed his pride and started to walk back towards the beach, covering his eyes against the bright white end of summer low sun. The car went up the cliff route. Terry followed but lost sight of it before he’d gone a hundred yards. He had nothing to do – nothing to lose - so he kept on walking. Back. Could you go back ? He had to keep moving.

          It took about three quarters of an hour to make it to the clifftop. No sign of anyone. Dave’s car was parked up near the hotel road but the hotel was shut. Terry sat down on the grass and waited. There was still plenty of time to leave today if he wanted to. Plenty of time to stay as well. The sun was still warm and he lay back in one of the sandy hollows carved out by the wind and rain. It was secluded and he was in no mood to really see anyone and pass pleasantries. His face felt the breeze, his stomach felt like lead. He was stupid and na├»ve, angry at himself and so very sorry about what he’d said to Ali. He just wanted to make it right again and didn’t know where to start. It had taken him and his quickly lit temper just a few minutes to blow it and, now that he had, there was that familiar feeling of never having been able to say the right thing in the right way at the right time. He missed her already and all he wanted to do was make it better.

           It was a while, lying there, gazing at the sky, pulling out blades of grass between his thumb and forefinger, twisting and worrying them into balls of chlorophyll, before he heard any other sound. The sound of scratching and scrambling, distinct from the steady wash and crash of the waves below. He sat up. Seconds later Dave’s head appeared over the clifftop. He pulled himself up with a grunt and started to pull something else up from below. Ali wasn’t with him. Dave looked agitated and swore loudly a couple of times apparently at nothing. Terry didn’t want to speak to him – the body language was enough to make it clear that Dave wouldn’t be welcoming. He had these moods and you were advised to steer well clear of him when he fell into one. Even Joe kept away for days sometimes.

          Dave walked fast, back towards the car, jumped in and switched on the engine in one motion, spraying coarse sand as he pulled away and dipped down towards the paved road. The gears screeched as he hurtled around the first right hand bend and disappeared amongst the high walled lanes, noise absorbed by the thick banks of stone and earth.

           Terry sat there for a moment, then, curious he walked over to the edge where Dave had appeared a few minutes before. His mind was clearer now than it had been a while ago. Thoughts of the past chased out by the lure of the present, a puzzle to work out, a sense of needing to know that pushed out the self pity and the stupidity he felt.

           There at the top of the cliff was a ladder, securely staked in with two huge wooden pegs, just below the eye line of any casual passers by; pegs of the type used to secure marquees or circus tents. It was just in a heap on the grass, hastily pulled up. Thick coils of weathered hemp grey-green with age. Terry stood looking at it. He pushed it experimentally with his foot, towards the edge – it was surprisingly heavy and hardly moved. He bent over and found the bottom rungs, lobbed them over the edge, their weight taking down the rest of the coils and rungs in a clattering scramble to obey gravity. It fell straight and clean, no tangles. Terry stood still, looking over the edge to where the ladder seemed to end. It wasn’t long enough to make it all the way to the ground, he wondered what Dave had been doing – hell, it wasn’t like the ladder had been hidden, he didn’t feel like he was snooping. He decided to give it a try.

           The difficult part was getting onto the ladder in the first place, he edged backwards to the topmost rungs and, still holding on to the cliff, let his feet feel their way down until they stopped on the next rung. Then the next, until Terry was confident enough to stand upright against the ladder and trust it to take his whole weight without relying on the clifftop. He was breathing heavily and starting to sweat. He wished he’d taken off his jacket. Part of it was exertion but the greater part caused by his unreasonably thumping heart. He looked down and his heart raced faster. The tide was well in and the rocks below were threateningly vicious. Like fins and humpbacks breaking through the waves, speckled with scars and encrusted with barnacles, sharp and solid. He’d scrambled up them from the beach before at low tide and even then they seemed high enough from ground level. The distance between him and their tops now gave them added scale, not diminished but enhanced by the perspective. Somehow more part of their parent cliff from up here than they ever were from below.

          He wondered idly how long ago they’d fallen and taken up their new location, down in the wash and thunder of the sea. Centuries ? Decades ? No-one ever seemed to see them fall, yet there were always those who could recall the old landscape of the beaches, before this arch had crumbled to a stack or that rock had moved to change the way the water flowed across the beach. Sometimes there would be a big rockfall after a storm, but other than that no-one saw the rocks move – although imperceptibly day by day they moved as surely as anything else on this planet. Nothing stayed the same for a moment.

          Gingerly he felt his way down the ladder, blood thumping in his ears each time he took a foot off a rung and let it down to the next, that instant instance when he was stepping out into space. His hands never left the rope sides, sliding them down each time, making sure that he didn’t let go. He could remember something about always having three points of contact from when he’d gone climbing years before and now he was making sure he used that knowledge deliberately and surely.

           He took his time, slowly and surely until he reached the last rung, just touching the grass of ledge where it fell. There were signs that the bushes had been disturbed recently and he could swear he could hear something. Somewhere close but out of sight. With a deep breath he stepped off the ladder, still holding tightly with his hands, the skin stretched white across his knuckles with effort. Then onto the ledge. Solid ground. He sighed with relief. Next he pushed through the scrubby bush that lay in front of him and stumbled into the darkness of the cave behind.

           “Jeez….! Shit !”
          Before his eyes adjusted to the gloom, he was hit full in the face and fell back against the side wall of the cave, smacking the back of his head against the dusty rock as he went down, landing on his back and blinking the tears out of his eyes. His nose was throbbing and his skull aching.

          “Bastard !” – he was kicked in the side of his leg.

          “Bastard!” – another kick as he instinctively curled up into a ball.

          “Whoaaah! Hey…no…..” he fended off a third kick, recognised the voice. “Ali, Ali, what the hell, it’s me – Terry !” He put his hands out in front of him, partly to ward off any blows, partly to show he wasn’t about to swing them at her – a gesture of surrender.

          “Terry…?”  The voice was filled with anxious surprise, but also with suspicion – it came from the other side of the cave, a dark corner.

          “Yeah – Terry. What the hell is going on, why’d you hit me ?”

          “Oh god Terry! It really is. I thought that you were Dave. The bastard. He ran off and left me here, I couldn’t get out. He’s so sick. He , he…” She started to cry. Then she stepped forward, out of the gloom and Terry saw her face for the first time since that morning. She came towards him and hugged him, sobbing loudly into his shoulder. He could feel her hot wet face against his neck and let himself relax to hold her, pulling her close and holding her tight. Wanting nothing more than to erase the last twenty four hours. It almost felt possible now. She shook, out of cold, out of fright, out of relief ? Terry pulled her even tighter and forgot about his bruised face.

           After an age they relaxed and she stepped backwards to look up at him, his eyes adjusted to the gloom, she looked small and tired. “I want to go now.” Was all she said. He nodded, took her hand.

           “There’s a ladder,” Terry added superfluously and kicked at the dust on the cave floor. So many questions he wanted answered and so many that he wanted not to have to ask. But for now it felt better. They were together and he started to think that whatever it was that Dave had done it had done them a favour. It had after all brought them back together, however unlikely the setting.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Off The Rocks




           The sky was darkening by the minute. Night sweeping in on the horizon, ink bottle blue/black against the gun metal of the ocean. The trees lay flat against the wind and the road ran with water in sheets of silver. There was precious little beach left, it was a spring tide and the water whipped up to the very top of the sand, soon it would be over the road and maybe, if people were lucky, it would stop before it reached the shops and houses. If they weren’t it wouldn’t be the first time, not even this year.

           Waves crashed and roared and brought the night in on a fanfare of white noise. Where they hit the solid rock they sent up streams of white foam, twenty, thirty feet into the air, raining down the other side then momentarily revealing the rock draped in white before the next set obliterated it again. There was no one to be seen in the village. The spray whipped against the walls and carried sand far inland. Windows glowed dimly, curtains closed, drawn against the battering ram of the storm front. You could feel the pressure dropping.

           The car was empty when they got to the cliff. Keys still in the ignition and headlights still on, facing out to sea and reflecting off the torrential rain. There was no stillness, everything seemed to be unleashed. The noise of the sea, the wind, the rain coming together. There was no prospect of hearing them calling out Dave’s name but it didn’t stop them trying.

           Jaz knelt by the cliff edge peering down, looking for the smallest sign, but everything was in motion and the spray obscured the edge of the sea, the highest rocks were the only things peering back at him. Terry stumbled against the wind, heading for the lower path down to the rocks – the sea already well past them by now, huge rumbling swells rolling over granite and breaking maybe fifty feet inland of where they stood. The swell was easily fifteen feet high but hard and cruel, not like a summer swell. Their faces slammed down like great fists as they broke, no gentle peeling, no second chances, no quarter given. This was the sea in full pomp, this was the wave in untamed state. You knew who was in charge here and it wasn’t you – not even for a moment.

           Crush swung his van so that the headlights lit Terry’s way, he jumped out, pulled out some rope and ran over, sliding on the slick mud that covered the road. Terry turned back and faced him.

          “You know he’s gone in.” It was a statement not a question. “I’m going down too”

          Crush just nodded – he could see that wasn’t an arguable point. Terry looked grim. His face ashen and his hair flattened by the rain, wet clothes flapping in the gale he made no attempt to pull them close or button himself up – he looked like a man with nothing.

           “Board ?” He looked at Crush again. “I need to take a board”, again this wasn’t a request. Crush just turned and walked to the van, pulling out his old battered eight foot malibu from the back. Terry took it wordlessly and walked back along the path of light to the edge.

          Jaz stood up, unable to understand what was going on – he ran towards Terry but Crush grabbed his arm as he went past, pulling him over on the grassy clifftop.

          “Leave him – he’s not going to listen. I don’t know what’s gone on between them two – but it’s not ours to get involved in now. This is it. This is the end of things and we just have to be here ... for some god unknown reason.”

           “But….” The words died on Jaz’s lips as Terry threw off his jacket, stepped out of his shoes and disappeared out of the light, a shadow against the rocks and then gone.

           “We have to hope there’ll be some pieces to pick up, that’s all.” Crush looked into the darkness and then pulled Jaz to his feet, “Come on, we’d better see…”

          They walked to where Terry had last been visible to them, saw a figure on the rocks below, shirtless, waiting for the right moment. The moment that meant he could launch himself off without being dashed back against the cliff. Out in the water they thought they could see someone else paddling sideways across the bay, lifted by the water as it swelled underneath. But it might as well have been a ghost. When they looked again there was no sign of the figure, and now no sign of Terry on the rocks either.


Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Cutting Back


          ‘Terry !!’

          Terry swam back up into consciousness. At first all he could do was lie still with his eyes tight closed, smells of musty wood and dampness, yellowing paper and old cardboard filled his head and he started to retch. Eyes still closed he pushed himself up onto his knees and instinctively turned his head away as he was violently sick. His head pulsed whilst he sank back down onto all fours.

          “Terry !!”

          He couldn’t comprehend what had happened. He rubbed the back of his head and slowly opened his eyes. He had a cut, his hair was matted with blood and a slow thick trickle was spreading around the sore lump he could feel nestling underneath, throbbing slowly and perceptibly swelling as he sat up, head down. Dave.

           He ducked again. Avoiding perhaps another blow. The chair was upturned by his side. The room was almost dark, lights off, storm battering at the front windows, blocking out the white grey sky. Dave was gone.

           The smell of his own vomit almost made him throw up again. His thoughts pieced together the last few moments. Not all of them made sense until he realised that he was piecing together not just the last few moments but the moments from years and years ago, forgotten, hidden, unknown. He moved away, slumped up against the front of the counter dislodging some of the magazines.

          “Terry !!!”

          Somewhere someone was yelling his name.

          Sometime someone was yelling his name.

           He crawled to the end of the counter and curled up, wanting to be left alone. To sink into complete oblivion. His stomach was churning and it had nothing to do with the blow to the head. His eyes were watering and his fists clenched hard enough to hurt. The tightness meant to cause enough physical pain to stop that sickening inside – but it was never enough and it never had been.

          “Terry !”

          The yelling moved. It was somewhere behind him. He could hear the sound of kicks and cursing. Somewhere a long way away the sound of wood splintering invaded his attempt to disappear, to shrink small and be left alone.

           Behind him he heard the sound of a door crunch against the wall as it swung back and he felt the blast of wet air as the wind pushed past and flicked the pages of books, stirring dust from shelves and raising sweat on Terry’s forehead.

           He was aware of the people standing over him and could see the two pairs of feet, one in boots and the other in beach shoes. A hand reached down to hold his shoulder gently but with tension. It was cold and shaking.

           “Terry ?”

           Slowly he looked up – Jaz and Crush, it was Jaz’s hand on his shoulder. “What happened mate ?” he said almost gently.

          Terry couldn’t answer, but struggled to pull himself up using Jaz as a lever. Jaz didn’t try to help, just let him work at it for himself. Crush flicked on the lights.

          “Shit ” He just pointed at the pool of blood and vomit on the bare wood floor.

          “It’s OK……..I’m OK”  Terry managed to speak at last. “I’m not, you know, OK, not really. But that…” he pointed at the blood, “Looks worse than it is…..got smacked over the head with something….Dave……..I….”

          “Easy mate – come on – you need anything….?”

          “We came down when you didn’t come back; saw Dave driving off like a lunatic and no sign of you. So we been bangin’ on the windows ever since, couldn’t really see in but thought that was you on the floor. Jaz kicked the old back door in. What the hell happened?” The words just fell out of Crush’s mouth, he looked at Terry, open mouthed and waited.

          “Dave, oh Christ Dave….!”

          “Terry, you’re not making any sense, he just smacked you round the head…”

          “No – leave that…” Terry was on his feet lurching and agitated now, holding the back of his head and walking up and down, round in circles, looking like he was trying to clear his thoughts simply by walking away from them and refusing to let them catch up.

           “Dave – Dave’s going to do something really bad…..” Terry stopped – stared at Jaz and Crush. “Where was he going ?”

          “Cliff road I guess…”

          “He’s going to go in off the rocks…”

          “In this fuckin’ weather, he’s not that fuckin’ crazy…”

          “He bloody is, isn’t he?” said Crush, looking directly atTerry.

          “Yeah, he is – and he isn’t coming out again.”

          They all looked at the window where the storm was driving great sheets of rain in blasts. Terry pulled himself up straight, “And you know what – the poor bastard doesn’t even need to. It wasn’t how he thinks…”  his voice cracked, he shook himself.

          “Get us up there – come on – get us some sort of transport – we need to get there too….”

          Crush pulled out a set of keys from his jacket,

          “Van’s outside”.


Monday, 4 June 2012

Spun


         “I was going back – I was – I wouldn’t have done that – It was a bit of a joke, well, not that – it was – I don’t know what I’d call it – I was pissed off with ‘er – I lost it for a moment – but just a bit like – she was really pissed off with me…..” The words tumbled out, Dave’s hands shook as he stared down at them.


          “I just didn’t….it was an accident…it was the accident – the car I mean…..all I ever intended to do was go back down to the village, pick up some stuff…..give her a scare like, show her that I hadn’t been behaving like a bastard…but that I could….I never knew…I never knew….no-one could have seen it coming….” Tears started to roll down his face.


          “I’ve thought about forever…..all these years…..I ain’t told anyone….not ‘part from Joe….”


          Terry saw that Dave’s hand was bleeding in the centre of his palm, a stigmata from where he’d gripped and clenched and unclenched the pendant, his print stained hands turning the red to purple as it oozed out. Terry sat there unable to speak. It was all too unreal and at the same time it was all so familiar. He wasn’t surprised. He hadn’t been expecting this. But at the same time he knew the story that was falling over itself to escape from Dave’s mouth. He was detached, disembodied. The ocean outside seemed to have increased its roar, making the noises that Terry knew he should be making but couldn’t. The rain had begun to slam against the plate glass panes at the front of the shop, the air hung solid with dark clouds and whipped up sand. The beach moving closer to them both.


          “Joe, Joe knew. But now, well, now with you ‘ere an’ all. I had to tell someone else. So’s you’d understand if nothing else. So’s they all would. I didn’t do anything, just didn’t do anything.


          What you got to know is that I really didn’t know what was goin’ on, after the accident like. I really didn’t know where I was, what was happening. I didn’t know which fuckin’ year it was or who the prime minister was or nothin’. They kept asking me all those questions. Then it just came back.”


          Dave stared at Terry – Terry responded by glancing away and avoiding his eyes. “Just came back. Don’t know if anyone ever told you. Don’t s’pose they did, you were out of here by then…”


          Terry nodded, half heartedly, his head was thumping with that nagging pain again. Dave was talking more but only some of it was going in.


          “Y’know, when I knew, when I really knew, that was at least a week and a half later… I told Joe. I did. He went down there that day. Can’t even start to think about what he might have found there…starved….cold….I dunno, don’t want to know.  Dead? That’s what I thought anyway. But when he got there, nothin’. He looked ‘round, couldn’t tell what had gone on.”Dave wiped his nose across the sleeve of his shirt.


          “But later, later he found this.” He held out the necklace again, grubby and smeared with the blood from his hand. “Found it down on the rocks, at the bottom, see ? Chain was broke. Snapped off like well, like…. I suppose she tried to get out, get up, or down. Slipped maybe? Fell ? Dunno. But the sea, there’s rips there that’ll take you well out past the headland. I don’t want to think about it no more. Every night, every day. I just don’t want to have it in my head.”


          He looked at Terry. Held his gaze. “You do believe me don’t you? It was an accident. I didn’t mean anything…anything to happen.”


          Terry looked away. His head full of conflicting sounds, like the inside of the shop had suddenly become a conduit for all the conversations he’d ever had, all the sights he’d ever seen. His eyes felt sore. His hands were dry and cold. His heart seemed to be pounding. A part of him that had detached itself from the rest started to wonder if he was having a heart attack. He couldn’t answer Dave. Dave whose eyes searched for some sort of absolution, and whose hands carried on clenching and unclenching.


          Dave stood up and started pacing in small darting steps, up and down, two steps one way, four the other, random, jerky movements. His mouth was moving but no sound was coming out of it. Words spun out in their own lack of conviction became that familiar humming noise. Terry tried to look up at him but his neck hurt, his head was the weight of a cannonball and something seemed very wrong with the way his brain was trying to make sense of it all.


          The hum resolved itself into words again and Dave restarted somewhere in the middle of a sentence, “….wasn’t meant to. Didn’t have to be like that, Christ knows Joe, Joe tried. He’s kept me going all this time. Took the pressure off. Now you. Now you.”


          Terry snapped back to the present, “Now you what ? Dave, What ? Why are you saying all this ? It’s not right, it just isn’t.” Terry didn’t even know why he’d said that. Something wasn’t right.


          Dave exploded, “Course it’s not fuckin’ right, it’s not fuckin right that I’ve felt like this for too fuckin’ long.” He pushed over a stack of tacky tourist gifts, sending piskies flying into the dust below the bookcases. “You – you had to show. I knew it. Could feel it. But wish you hadn’t. Wish you’d let me not do this. But I said it, said it to Joe, said I’d say one day. Didn’t mean it to be now. Didn’t expect you this soon, or ever perhaps. Now you’ve fucking done it, I didn’t want to. Why’d you make me? Hey? Why did you have to have a fuckin’ row with ‘er and then turn up again now? Why?” Dave was shouting, he gripped the counter and his knuckles turned white, even in the tepid gloom of the unlit shop his face glowed red. He paced more and more irregularly, getting further away and then closer each time to Terry, crowding him and just as suddenly spinning away from him.


          “Fuck, just say something, tell me that you’re angry, tell me you’re fuckin’ scared, tell me anything!” He raged.


          Terry could only say “It isn’t, it isn’t right….” Tailing off and fading as he said it. Dave’s eyes widened and he snorted, “Fuck – course it ain’t – it’s the end, the total and utter end of everything – I can’t do this – can’t carry this around any more.”



          Terry finally looked up at him again and a cloud seemed to clear from Dave’s face, the redness went away like the last shards of sunset falling behind the horizon. He stopped pacing, stopped where he was at the end of the old wooden counter. He breathed out and shrank visibly, deflating himself. He looked at Terry again and from somewhere inside him he found a more measured tone, a calm voice.


          “It ain’t right – true enough – it ain’t right – and it never has been.” He sniffed back some residual tears. He half smiled at Terry. “I’m glad you came really, I don’t know how long it would have been before I had to find you and tell you anyway. I’m sorry. I’ve got to go. I’m sorry.”


          “Dave...” said Terry, then fell to the floor as the child’s wooden baseball bat hit him squarely and forcefully on the back of the skull.


          Dave threw the bat on the floor beside Terry’s prone body and walked out of the back door of the shop, picking up a packet of cigarettes on the way. He conscientiously locked the door with the big set of keys he’d taken from the shelf and then, humming into the roaring wind and driving rain, loaded a board into the passenger seat of his car.


for the title alone 
 

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Diving For Pearls


          Ali edged along nervously behind Dave. He turned around as he reached the edge, a triumphant smirk on his face, waiting to be commended. He waited. As ever his timing was wrong.


          “What the hell are you doing Dave ? Why are we standing on the edge of the sodding cliff when I’ve already told you that I don’t want to be back here ? Why have you got that stupid fucking grin on your face, this just isn’t funny.”


          Dave’s face tried to remould itself into something more serious, but he still looked a little too pleased. He told Ali to come closer, which she did, but cautiously. Then he lifted the end of the rope ladder up to her puzzled face.


          “This is somewhere….somewhere to go, see ? You said you wanted to come back, but didn’t want to come back into the village, well, not for a while ?” The sentence hung there whilst he looked for some confirmation. None came and he struggled on.

          “Well, look, this place – down here – no-one knows about it. No, that’s not true, no-one knows but me and Joe an’ Jaz an’ Crush. It’s a kind of place to come and think. Joe’s here all the time.”


          Ali looked unconvinced – she went to turn away.


          “No, no, have a look, I think you’ll be surprised. I come out here sometimes, just to be here.”

          Ali was still looking cynical and was about to lay into Dave for having stupid boys’ own fantasies when what she really needed was someone she could talk to, let off steam to. Dave pulled his rabbit out of the hat, “Joe keeps a stash in there……”.

          Ali wanted a smoke more than anything, apart maybe from her need to lay into Terry and mankind in general . She shrugged wordlessly and Dave led her to the edge, holding her hand in his own cold fingers as she edged backwards towards the ladder.

           Down in the cave Ali was silent, she was impressed despite herself; the cave sheltered them from the winds that flew along the clifftop and once Dave had lit the small oil lamp she gave a low whistle at the interior, at the sheer drop they had just lowered themselves down and at the idea that they could be seen by no-one. The walls shimmered and swayed as the lamp flickered and guttered, became solid as the flame established, solid shadows and solid rock. The floor had been freshly swept with a rudimentary broom of twigs that stood by the entrance. Joe was obviously keeping the place tidy. The walls were cold to the touch of Ali’s hands as she ran them along the stone but she stopped feeling the penetrating cold which had pervaded the outside world. Her eyes grew wide as she peered through the half light at the back of the cave; a small trunk, plain wood, sat there and she peeked inside. It held some incense, some matches, an ornate tobacco tin; which she lifted out and opened, revealing just a few bits of dry tobacco.


          “S’Joe’s treasure chest.” Dave laughed uncharacteristically. “Tried bringing a couple of them old Navy ammo boxes down here to sit on like, but the things were so heavy that they damn near dragged us off the ladder….we let ‘em go….they smashed down there,” He indicated the invisible rocks outside of the entrance, “really smashed – whew, they broke up into splinters like matchsticks…..”

           “Anyway…” He recovered himself and his train of thought, “That’s just Joe’s little box of treasure, he thought it looked like it belonged in here.” Truth was, thought Ali, it looked like it belonged in an old lady’s house, holding her treasured letters and photo’s. Still, it was something to sit on and she plonked herself down on it. “Where’s the stash then ?” she asked, still feeling cynical and unwilling to let herself look impressed.

          “Should be in there…where yer sitting.”
  
          “In the baccy tin? Bloody things empty Dave, come on. Any more ?”

          Dave looked at the tin and sighed. He reluctantly pulled out a packet of his own from his back pocket and threw it to Ali to roll. He sat down next to her whilst she did it, stiffly holding himself just a sliver away from her. She lit the spliff and inhaled deeply. Blowing the smoke out into the light of the lamp and then beyond into the darkness. She passed it to Dave and sat there looking away from him, starting again to think of Terry, to think of what to do and where to go next. How to make that move or how not to. She knew she was stumbling around at a crossroads and it scared her. She shivered. Dave passed the joint back to her and as he did he put his arm around her shoulder.


          Ali flinched slightly, but not noticeably to Dave, who was acting as if he’d done nothing untoward. Again she shivered and felt Dave’s arm rest just that little bit heavier across her shoulders. Perhaps, she countered to herself, he thought that he was comforting her or maybe somehow keeping her warmer. That’d be a first from him she realised darkly. Dave seemed to relax the way he was holding himself and imperceptibly he moved from stiffly not touching to allowing his leg, and then his upper body, lean in against her. The clamminess of his damp clothes permeating through to hers. She looked at him. Eye to eye. He returned the gaze and smiled. His fingers locked around her upper arm.

          “Fuck right off Dave !”

          Ali jumped up from the box, eyes livid with anger, pupils dilating and contracting as she moved in and out of the light.

          “I was only….”

          “You were only what ? You stupid tosser!” The anger she had been brewing up for Terry leapt out of her mouth in a stream of invective and half formed thoughts, “You were going to fucking comfort me by trying it on?? Well, fuck knows I’ve seen it before, but for heaven’s sake Dave. What the fuck makes you think that I’d be interested in being comforted by you again, huh?”

          Dave looked down at the ground, then up at Ali defiantly, the colour rushing into his pale cheeks, “I give you a lift, I bring you here, you smoke my dope, let me put my arm ‘round you – what the hell am I supposed to think ? You always were a bit of a bloody tease you were. No wonder we didn’t ever get it on properly.”

          “Nothing to do with that you twat !” Ali spat, “The reason why is exactly the same reason that I’m here shouting at you now you stupid stupid idiot. You have no fucking ability to read other people, can’t get it into your thick head when it’s not the right time. Now is not the right fucking time ! Jesus, if it wasn’t like you could tell how I was feeling. You dozy git – you – oh Christ – all of you – all you fucking men who think that you can tell us when we should be feeling right, what we should be feeling, how we should be doing things. Christ, why oh why?” Ali looked around the cave, the walls now seemed a sickly yellow, she wanted something to kick out at, something to damage. “Terry, fucking Terry, all he wanted to do was look after me, be with me, now look what I’ve done, look how it’s all gone. I’m in a fucking cave with some idiot who doesn’t know fucking up from down. You’ve done him a favour Dave, that at least I’m really glad of. He doesn’t look half so much a twat as you do right now.”


          Dave stepped towards her. Without speaking he grabbed at her arm and she clawed back at him with her free hand. “Fuck off Dave, come on, I just want to go…” He grabbed her other hand and threw her backwards, she hit the cave wall with a soft thump and staggered to stay on her feet.


          “Dave…” Her voice trembled and then regained its strength,” What are you gonna do now then ? Jesus Dave, this is fucking weird even for you… Look, let’s just go?” There was a hint of a plea in the last word that made Dave smile grimly again.


          “That’s it isn’t it?  Weird, fucking weird. Yeah, you always thought I was weird – I’m not, not weird you know, it’s you who needs your head examining, s’you who wanted to come down here, what the fuck was I s’posed to think eh ? You always blew hot and cold. I’m not the weird one in this place, not me no.” Dave picked up the joint from the floor where Ali had dropped it; he took a deep pull and then threw his head back and laughed as if he’d had a brilliant idea. “You don’t want me around – fine. You won’t find Terry around either – he’s gone, see. He probably couldn’t stand it living with a fucking nutter either.”

          Ali stood silent, tears running down her face. Her back was sore where it had caught the wall. Dave was between her and the cave entrance. “Bastard.” was all she could say.

          “Me?” Dave laughed again, “see how much of a bastard I can be shall we?” He stepped towards her again and raised his hand. Ali ducked instinctively and ran into the shadows at the back. Dave laughed again. “I ain’t that sort of bastard you stupid cow.” He made no effort to follow after her.

          Ali shrunk into the darkness, the cold running through the wall and into her skin. Her eyes stung and her head spun. She was finding it all too abstract, she felt like she was watching this all happen to someone else. She didn’t really think that Dave would hit her again, but she’d seen him flare up before, she didn’t really know what he might do. It scared her. She was utterly on her own and Dave was stalking around the cave entrance like a victorious rutting stag. She had to make him see her as Ali and not as this messed up person he’d turned her into in his head.


          “Dave…?” Ali was quieter, more measured this time, “Dave?” He stopped pacing and turned around to face her. “I’m sorry Dave; I’m sorry, look I’m a bit in shock. I just wasn’t ready for well… what almost happened…”

           Dave roared, “Nothing fucking happened, nothing ever fucking happens….” He moved towards her again, arm out in front of him like he was feeling for her in the darkness, he pushed her again. This time down onto the hard floor. Ali kicked and scrabbled her way to her feet. Dave reached for her again and this time she flew at him, arms and nails and teeth and feet all waiting to make contact with Dave’s body. Her nails found him first - she dug them into his cheek with a ferocity that she didn’t know she had. Dave recoiled and tried to fend her off, tried to cover himself at the same time. She pulled her nails away, raking him, tearing a strip of skin from below his eye and across his nose. He yelled. He hit out. Ali went down on the floor without a sound. The dust flew up from underneath her.


          Dave stepped back, wiping his face on his sleeve, trying to see if there was blood or not, unable to tell in the pale unnatural light. Ali didn’t move. She was staring at him. Blank. Dave went to say something and then thought better of it. He walked away from her prone body towards the mouth of the cave. He turned and looked at her again.

          “You stupid bloody bitch, fucking calm down!” He  stepped half out of the cave. Holding onto the ladder. He stooped down and did something Ali couldn’t see. She was fixed to the floor. Scared and afraid.
  
          “Bye then,” Dave seemed to virtually leap up the ladder and Ali watched his feet disappear from view. She sat there alone. Too stunned to move at first. Then, as what was happening began to dawn on her, she scrambled across the floor of the cave, kicking over the oil lamp, killing the flame and plunging her into an almost total darkness save for the light which pushed its way between the branches that fell across the entrance.
  

          She yelled at the top of her voice and broke through the opening to see the ladder being hauled up from somewhere above. Dave had deliberately unpegged it and left her down there.


          Below her the tide was rising and the waves slammed on the rocks. Above sheer mud slicked rock. She sat and howled, her voice barely registering above the wind.