Friday, 15 August 2008
And as the sun set upon another day, the questions flitting through his mind began to slow and, like the birds and insects of the day, find a place to rest for the night.
The night was just warm enough to sit out, if you wrapped a coat around you. Henry sat, his body rolled back on the grass so that the base of his spine was holding him in place, stroking the ground, rather than the padding of his bottom.
He wondered at the sun, how its hue grew darker and more intense as its glare grew less powerful. Soon its red entrails filled the sky. He thought of how men once believed the sun descended with a hiss into the ocean at the end of a day, but was always thankfully liberated from the waters in the morning before its light and heat was snuffed out forever.
He then imagined the waning sun as a man being lowered alive into hot wax or oil. He thought he heard it howl as it dipped below the horizon.
After its demise, Henry sat there in the early dark for a few more minutes before standing up, shaking a spider from his legs and dissapearing back inside his cottage.
Thursday, 14 August 2008
She said she was going to take me to the ruined castle. She said it was like a fairytale, and that magic happened there. Then she held my face with her two warm hands and kissed me.
We held hands on the walk down from the car park on the top of the green hill. “It’s a bit of a walk,” she said, “but it’s worth it.”
We followed the thin gravel path cut into the hillside but paused as it turned and stepped down to craggier cliffsides to allow an older couple to pass. She put her hand to my ear and stroked it while whispering: “I want to take you to my favourite place, the best place to see it, for your first look at the castle.”
I smiled and nodded at her. She let go of my hand now and clambered down the grassy slope, diverging from the well trod path and into grasses perhaps untrod for centuries. “It was once King Arthur’s castle,” she said. “He slept here with his lady Guinevere.”
When we reached the cliff edge, she paused and turned to me with a grin of such mischief I almost bust out laughing, but I knew what this all meant to her and I didn’t want to break the spell. “It’s just up this hillock,” she said, and led me by the hand once more, slowly, until Tintagel Castle came into view.
We stood there, on the mound, and surveyed the green scene. Where was the castle, I wondered. Where the towers and battlements and the queen’s gardens? All long gone, of course.
Yet, she beamed and marvelled at it. No doubt, she could see it all, could picture its pomp and majesty right across the hillside. All I could make out were some crumbling ramparts and a great fence to stop children and old women plummeting into the waves below.
Underwhelmed, though I was, I bit my lip for her. I held my tongue. She stroked my head and smiled some more. This must have been exactly how she’d envisioned it, how she’d planned it in her head for weeks.
Then she turned to face me, lay down in the soft grass, unbuttoned her blouse and bent her knees so that her skirt slipped and jerked up her legs to her cream thighs.
She held her hand out for me once more and I took it with relish, my smile genuine now. I fell upon her then and soon made both our fantasies come true.
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
We walked all around the estate, John and I, when we were kids. John reckoned he was the cock of the six streets we lived in and he’d strut, chest exhaled, as we killed time over the summer.
We didn’t realise it then, but going to school was the only thing that really ‘happened’ to us. Everything in between was just time-wasting. The pattern continued once we left school and found work.
The summer boredom was punctuated by strong memories though. Fights, bike accidents, football injuries, kissing (maybe groping too); all are still clear to me.
Often, John and I took our bikes out along the path of the old railway line. The tracks had been lifted some twenty years ago and the council had turned it into a pleasant place to walk or ride bikes.
The track went for miles in each direction, and we’d never made it to one end of either. The time I’m recalling now was no exception. It was a warm day and John got bored halfway along and wanted to turn back. I suggested we cut off into the field and test our mountain bikes on the undulations of the ploughed soil. This appealed to John.
We were tired and sweating through the effort after just a few minutes so we put down our bikes and looked for somewhere shady to sit. Skirting the hedgerows we aimed for the few trees at the corner of the field. Once there we were amazed to see a collection of metal objects, rusting in the shade. It seems like little to get excited about, looking back on it, but for us this was a find!
A strange little scrap heap was being built in this random corner of countryside and, as we picked through it, looking for anything we could steal, we scarcely thought about who had gathered this junk together, or why.
I was rifling through a basket of tins and pans when John tapped my arm. He had gone quite silent and put his finger to his lips. I listened and immediately picked out the unmistakable sound of deep breathing.
John shuffled forwards on his knees and inspected a rusting piece of corrugated iron. He beckoned me to help him and we slowly tipped back the iron sheet like it was a great door to a rotting mausoleum.
Behind the brown and grey curtain, in a small hollow smoothed into the soil, lay a man, and as the sunlight flooded across his face he opened his eyes and smiled a miserable smile.
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
And in a minute, the mists came down on the summer meadow and frightened the bees away.
Condensing across the countryside, the thick blight rolled in with the grace of a ghost, hanging upon trees, lush in their rich summer hues. Everything in the meadow drank greedily then of the hovering water.
Luke was in the field, sitting there, crying amongst the long grass. Three strange children stood over him. They’d come as soon as the mist – they seemed to effervesce into life – and there they were standing over my cousin.
The whole family were searching for Luke. He hadn’t come in for his supper, but I knew he’d be right where I left him, still crying. And so he was but, as I stood at the meadow's edges and watched him, in rolled the mist and then the children.
These children were grave things and almost green in complexion, it appeared. They seemed to rise from the meadow itself, as blades of grass or willow stalks, and when they were upon him he stopped crying and I couldn’t see him anymore.
I shouted then, at these children and vaulted the gate, tearing through the field towards Luke. The three children merely glanced at me before dissolving back into the ground, draining away like meltwater.
When I came to the spot where Luke had been I could find no trace of his body. There was just a hollow, where the reeds and grasses were broken, where Luke had sat alone for an hour and cried.
Ice shards pricked my spine as I stood in that cursed meadow, and I ran in terror back to the humid garden and to my family. I stood still, on the full lawn, readying my mind with words; preparing the explanation that would tear all our worlds apart.
Monday, 11 August 2008
I never told her what I was thinking about. When we got back from our walk, I didn’t tell her it was over.
Instead, I said that I felt refreshed and I was going to have a glass of wine and did she want one too. She did, and we drank and watched TV and forgot that it was difficult to talk without our little crutches.
Still, things must be disintegrating instead. Perhaps a slow decline is better than full blown war.
She hasn’t accompanied us on our walk today. She didn’t really feel like it, she said. And she had some other things to be getting on with, she said.
So we’re walking together, Millie and me.
I’ve decided not to go across the sand today. It’s muddy and wet, of course, so I’m sticking to the path. A good sturdy path goes right along the distance of the beach, with an old Victorian railing running its length.
Millie’s free to run and play in the puddles though. That’s fine, she doesn’t need anyone else. Just some open space and her tongue’s lolling and her tail’s wagging.
A shallow slope runs down from the path to the beach. It helps to break the waves at high tide, keeping things pretty smooth.