They are well-intentioned. For the most part. They walk into the park in their little groups, merry with lager and rum-and-coke, laden with sleeping bags and thermos flasks and rolled up ground mats. They’ll huddle together with their fellow do-gooders, music and torch shenanigans keeping them amused. They won’t sleep a wink, of course, but that’s not really the point, is it? They’ll have a tale to tell, a shared experience, something to post on their Facebook timeline. They’ll raise some money of course, let’s give them their due. Not that any of it will reach me, huddled on my bench on the less salubrious side of the park.
It was big enough for a grizzly but not the right shape. Too wide for a deer and not well enough defined to be a cougar. There was no frosting on the mud – whatever had made the tracks was close. Travis blew into his hands and shouldered his shotgun. Only a pale grey glow was left lingering above the treeline, the remnant of a sun long-set. He began to trudge up the forest trail again, breath clouding over his shoulder in the cold air. Continue reading “Alone Amongst the Beasts”
Most landscape features prefer to be viewed only in the bravado of their present. They have an assumed past, an anticipated future. We rivers aren’t like that. There is no room for rumination or conjecture. Like the path of a raindrop down a windowpane, you can trace my journey with a fingertip. Continue reading “Stream of Consciousness”
The walk has raised our man’s heart-rate and cleared his chest. He is breathing through his mouth upon reaching the crest of the hill. His counterpart’s presence was expected, but nevertheless our fellow’s shoulders droop upon seeing him. He feels duty-bound to approach. Eye contact is made and each trudges towards the other. The encounter will follow a familiar format.
Our man rubs his hands and stamps in the frost-hardened mud. His opposite looks to the tree-lined horizon.
‘A fine day for it, wouldn’t you say?’
‘Cold and dry all day, I hear.’
Neither seems to know what to do with their hands. One pair is eventually placed into trouser pockets whilst the other is clasped in the small of a back.
‘A couple of degrees warmer wouldn’t go amiss, though,’ says our man, forcing a weak smile. ‘This weather would freeze the balls off a brass monkey, don’t you think?’
‘I’m sorry. My English-‘
‘Sorry. Cold. Damned cold is what I meant to say.’
Both men look back from where they have just walked as if expecting the landscape to speak.
‘Doesn’t seem to stop the birds though, does it?’ He tries again.
‘All night they keep me awake. The ground…they find food when it is churned like this…’
‘Yes, well,’ he cuts in quickly. ‘I daresay the weather won’t turn any time soon.’
A nod. Our man looks at his wristwatch.
‘Nothing a good coat and a brisk walk won’t solve. You take the usual route, this morning?’
‘You know, I’m sure I heard pheasants in that copse over there. I’ve half a mind to take the dogs in and see if I can’t…’
‘Do you think we wait long enough?’
‘I think so, don’t you?’
His counterpart nods.
‘The usual line?’
One more nod, and they leave in separate directions. The mud is not yet thawed enough for his boots to sink in. He’s grateful. The material is ubiquitous. It climbs up trousers and grinds down behind fingernails. The smell of it is everywhere. He finds it repellent.
Dropping into the trench, our man is immediately flanked by subordinates.
‘Any progress, sir?’
‘Was he receptive to your demands?’
‘Are we going home, sir?’
The General enters company HQ and sits behind his desk.
‘Dictate the following and have it telegraphed,’ he barks. ‘Enemy command refuse to countenance cessation of hostilities stop. Further negotiations useless stop. Preparing to initiate main offensive stop.’
He rises and faces his officers.
‘Tell the men I have exhausted every avenue for peace. Tell them to ready themselves.’
***Thanks for reading, folks. The picture is courtesy of my four year-old daughter who said that she would like to draw a picture for one of her daddy’s stories. The two protagonists holding hands was her own twist once I had told her what the story was about. Not a bad way to look at life, if you ask me…’
On days like this I struggle to believe it happened. It did, though – right here on this beach.
Ankle-high rollers curl in over the pebbles, just a trace of foam on the forerunners as they lazily reach up the brown sand. It’s flat calm as far as the eye can see, with matted grey clouds reflected back up towards the sky.
As changeable as the sea, they say. If only that were true. Since you were taken from me one spring morning I’ve tried to follow, I really have. I’ve waded out from our private little beach, out as far as you did that day. The undertow signs promise much but deliver little. I haven’t felt so much as a tickle around my ankles when I’ve stood waist deep out there.
I could weight myself down of course, be dragged beneath the waves as Virginia Woolf was. That seems too serene though, not at all like your experience. I want to fight the tow the same way that you did. I want to hear the pebbles rattle and shift underneath me, to see the sun’s rays slant down through the sediment-heavy water as I strain for the surface.
No such luck today. The saltwater laps gently around my chest, languidly stirred into movement by the limpest of winds. It’s not even chilly.
I shiver nonetheless. A man who has experienced shipwreck shudders at even a calm sea. They say that, too.
***Thanks for reading folks. Any comments much appreciated!***
‘Is there a problem?’
The surreptitious closing of the door suggested that there was.
‘I’m sorry to inform you,’ began the official in a nasal voice. ‘That under section 27(a) of the Substance Abuse and Doping Act 2016…’
‘No,’ mouthed Ian, his eyes wide. ‘No.’ Continue reading “Performance Enhanced”
There was a time, you know, when I wouldn’t even have made it onto the open market. I’d have been snapped up as soon as it was murmured that I was up for sale. Phone calls would have been made. Guide prices would have been met and exceeded. My plush grass would never have had the indignity of a lawn sign thrust into it. Continue reading “Sell Yourself”