The Old Place #FridayFictoneers

It had been years since I had last seen the place but it was now on route to Cory’s school. The first few times we passed the old market and deli building it didn’t register, I guess because of all those first few days nerves.

One morning, I pulled over and took a look.

‘Why we stopping here?’ Cory asked.

‘Grandpa and Ma use to own this. It’s where daddy and I meet,’ I explained.

Cory shrugged and went back to watching cartoons on the Ipad.

He was still too young but one day he would know all about his daddy.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/02/27/1-march-2019/ with thanks).

The Cowboy Ghost #SundayWritingPrompt

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I couldn’t sleep, my operation was tomorrow and my head was all over the place. I slipped from the hard hospital bed and drew the thin curtains around so I wouldn’t disturb anyone. Turning on the lamp which blinded me, I dug around for my Ipod and headphones.

Music might not help me sleep but it might calm me. Putting the headphones on, I scanned through the Ipod till I found natural sounds music. Relaxing waves of the ocean filled my ears. I lay back and let them carry me away.

I pictured a white sand beach, hot sun, palm trees, ice cold coconut and pineapple juice drinks. The sea was a dazing bright blue with just a touch of white on top of the waves. I was sitting on a chair basking in the sun, next walking along the shore, feet getting wet.  then I was swimming in gently tumbling waves.

I smiled, feeling all drifty-dreamy.

The song changed to the rattling of something….the neighing of a horse? Oh, was I riding a horse on the beach? How nice!

The creaking of a wooden sign blowing in the wind, a crow cawing and the beach scene changed to being in a desert.

I reached, keeping my eyes closed, to stop the track and re-play the ocean one but then a handsome, rugged man floated to my mind and my finger stopped.

The man, a stereotypical wild west cowboy, was riding a brown horse into a wooden built town. A strong wind was blowing, stirring up the top layer of desert sand. A storm was to be coming. The cowboy got off his horse and looked around, the town seemed to be abandoned.

I decided that whatever was happening here I didn’t want to know. I tried opening my eyes but they felt too heavy to do so. I fumbled my fingers across the Ipod but I couldn’t find the right button to press. I sighed, give up and carried on listening to the track with scenes playing out in my head like a movie.

The cowboy was stood in the wild west town, listening for signs of life. He heard tinkling piano music coming from the saloon. Walking over, his spurs clicking, boot steps heavy, the music grew stronger and he started to hear laughter. There where people here after all! He stepped up onto the porch, it creaked under his weight then he opened the saloon doors which screamed on disused hinges.

The music and laughter stopped. The place was empty!

The cowboy looked around and saw a thick layer of dust everywhere. He went over to the piano, boots and spurs loud in the silence and pressed down a few keys, out of tune wheezing notes sounded. That wasn’t the music he had heard before.

The cowboy walked out, confused. A rumble of thunder sounded, the wind was getting stronger, sweeping the desert sand about. Next door, was a motel. He walked in, wondering if he could get a room for the night. He went up to the counter and ring the bell once then repeatedly. Nobody appeared and dust lay here too.

He headed back, collected his horse and wandered through the town. It started raining and the sky was growing dark. The cowboy didn’t really want to spend a night here but he felt there was no choice now.

A church bell rang out, he stopped and counted, ‘one, two…three, four…five, six…seven, eight…’

He went to the wooden church and tried the door but was locked tight.

The rain started falling heavily, the thunder rumbled again and in the distance, the now black sky was light up by a fork of lightening.

The cowboy’s horse stamped her feet and neighed nervously.

‘It’s all right, girl,’ the cowboy said as he rubbed her muzzle, ‘Looks like we got to stay the night. Let’s go back to the saloon.’

Hurrying through the rain which was fast turning the dry sand to mud, the cowboy turned behind the saloon and found a stable. It was rotting like the rest of the buildings but still standing for the moment. They went inside and found dry but moldy hay.

The cowboy lit a lantern, casting light to see by. He made his horse as comfortable as he could then sat for a few minutes. He fell into deciding if to stay the night in the stable with his horse or not. Would the beds in the saloon be more comfortable?

He decided to go and see. The cowboy got up, taking his bed roll, the lantern and whatever else he needed. He headed outside, braving the storm to get back into the saloon.

The cowboy pushed open the door and went in with rain dripping off his leather hat, coat and pants, sandy mud clumping his boots and smell of the storm thick in his nose. The saloon was as empty as before.

He went behind the bar, found some bottles of whisky and took them upstairs. His boots stomping as the wooden steps squeaked. He pushed open the door of the first room with his foot and looked in. There was just a single bed, side table and a curtained window.

He went in, placing the lantern down on the side table and got himself comfy. Boots came off, jacket too. He uncorked one of the bottles with his teeth and took a few swings. It wasn’t great whisky but it tasted okay.

He made the bed, settled in and pulled a book out of his belongings. Drink in one hand, Bible in the other, he listened to the storm raging outside. The wind was doing it’s best to bring down the wooden buildings, there was so much creaking and snapping. The rain was like a whip, lashing about. The thunder was rumbling like the empty belly of a beast and sometimes lightening would flash up the curtain covered window.

The cowboy began to doze off. Warm, comfy, whisky hazy.

A pearly piano note broke through the storm, quickly followed by more as someone played fast across the keys.

The cowboy stirred. The Bible slipped to the floor with a slap. He awoke and listened, frowning at the piano notes he was hearing but knew he couldn’t possible be.

A woman’s laughter echoed, wood creaked, long skirts swishing.

The cowboy smelt hints of perfume.

Voices rose and fell, chairs scrapped the floor, metal cups clanked and the piano music came impossibly fast.

The stairs creaked once more, lighter this time as if the person upon them was bare foot and weighed little. A gentle girly laugh and ruffle of skirts outside the cowboy’s chosen room made him believe he was no longer alone.

The cowboy snatched up the lantern and got to his feet, drawing one of his guns, he went to the door but it squeaked open before he could touch it.

All the noises stopped, silence hit him painfully but the cowboy stood his ground.

The door swing then was thrown against the wall with a loud bang.

The cowboy just had time to make out the woman – tall, fair haired, huge blood red dress- before she launched herself at him and sent them both tumbling to the floor. The cowboy shot his gun, the bullets hitting the ceiling and causing wood and dust to rain down on them.

The woman’s hands wrapped around his throat. He felt ice cold, dead fingers choking the life out of him. He struggled but her grip was too powerful. She bashed his head against the floor, he felt waves of dizziness and nausea. The cowboy tried to smash her with the gun but he lost his grip and the weapon skidded away. He grabbed her with his hands, fingers fisting the silky dress and slipping through the material.

The cowboy’s head smashed into the floor and he heard a deafening crack,  blackness washed over him.

Outside, the rain poured off the roofs of the wooden buildings, the wind howled through empty rooms, the thunder echoed as lightening flashed over the church tower and set the wooden cross ablaze.

 

My eye lids fluttered and I came back awake. The glaring lamp above me stung my eyes. I pulled my headphones off and rested a few minutes. My mind felt strangely blank but then bits of pieces came back to me.

I couldn’t hear any weather. There were the sounds of other hospital patients’ sleeping and shifting on scratchy sheets. Nurses’ hushed footsteps and whispered voices reached me.

Heavy footsteps with a slight metal jingle crossed the floor. The curtain around my bed fluttered and I got ready to explain to the nurse why I was awake.

The curtain carried on moving as if someone was running their hands over it looking for the gap to part them. It got faster, a huge rippling all over which was more like the wind then a person.

A spike of fear hit my stomach, what was going on?

Hands appeared, reaching through then the fingers bending to find the edge of the curtain.

‘Thank, God,’ I whispered, ‘I’m sorry for being awake, I’m having trouble sleeping.’

The curtain was violently yanked back, I jumped, almost tumbling from the bed, ‘there’s no need for that!’ I cried, scrambling in the blanket.

Then I saw him.

The cowboy from my dream! I heard his boots and spurs hitting the floor, the cracking of his leather jacket and pants. His hat was down, half covering his face, I could make out a strong jaw line covered in black stubble. His throat was badly bruised, some of which were outlined like finger marks. He smelt of stormy air, burning wood and old whisky.

‘He’s not real. You’re still dreaming,’ I whimpered, clutching the sheet to my chin like a scared child.

I heard a rumble of thunder, a clash of lightening, rain hitting the window like stones and a desert wind howling down the ward. I wanted to turn to the window to look but something held my gaze fixed on the cowboy.

There was a plop, plop sound and despite myself, I looked over the edge of the bed and onto the floor. Black blood was pooling around the cowboy’s boots, it was falling from the edge of his coat.

‘What do you want?’ I demanded.

He took his hat off and put it to his chest as if in an old fashioned greeting. I saw his face fully but it was just a skull! Deep hollowed, black eye sockets, no nose, high cheek bones, wide jaw and two rows of clenched together gold teeth.

I fought for breath but couldn’t get any in. My body went numb and I so badly wanted to tear my eyes away but I couldn’t!

The cowboy turned slowly, spurs scrapping the floor. He showed the back of his skull which had been totally smashed in. There were chunks missing and cracks running along like crazy paving.

I screamed and screamed.

 

(Inspired by; https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2019/02/24/sunday-writing-prompt-campfire-ghost-stories/ and also, Sound Effects: Night In A Ghost Town https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sch7HyYANiI with thanks).

The Wrong Shoes #SundayPhotoFiction

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The teenage girl walked into the studio set, the blue and white chequered dress swishing around her. She was nervous, this was an important scene in the movie but she followed all the directions and got everything right.

During the lunchtime break, the director and wardrobe designer came to her.

‘You did just fine,’ the director said, ‘but I’m having a problem with the shoes.’

The girl looked down at the sliver slippers on her feet, puzzlement on her face.

‘They are not coming up well on the film,’ the director continued, ‘so, I decided to change them to these ones….’

The wardrobe designer came forward and showed the teenage girl a pair of bright ruby red, shinny shoes that seemed to sparkle with magic.

‘Oh!’ the girl cried, taking the shoes, ‘they are…just….I love them!’

The girl slipped the shoes on, they fitted perfectly. She smiled up at the director and designer.

‘Great!’ the director said, with a clap of his hands, ‘let’s get back to it then! We’ll need to re-shoot this morning’s scenes.’

The abandoned sliver slippers were dumped back in the wardrobe department, totally forgotten forever.

 

(Inspired by; https://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2019/02/23/sunday-photo-fiction-february-24-2019/ with thanks. Photo Courtesy of Susan Spaulding).

Punk #3LineTales

three line tales, week 160: protesters meet riot police

The big wigs said we couldn’t stand up, we were too small and not important but they were wrong because our belief was more then they could ever imagine.

Filling the streets, marching to the beat, demanding voices heard, we were seen as a disturbance, a trouble that needed to be controlled by the blues and yellows with their riot gear.

We didn’t want a fight, we the silent wanted to be come the spoken but emotions ran wild, battles broke out and we lost that day, however people heard our words and we shall come back stronger.

 

(Inspired by; https://only100words.xyz/2019/02/21/three-line-tales-week-160/ with thanks).

 

 

Sunflower #CCC

Sunflower Dead

Sunflowers remind me of her. I was twelve in 1940 and a London evacuee but countryside life didn’t agree with me. I was ill all the time and the farmer’s daughter, who was my age, looked after me.

One morning, she brought sunflowers fresh off the field to my sick bed.

‘They cheer anything up!’ she said, ‘sunflowers are my favourite.’

I agreed but it was her who cheered me the most, my first and last love.

We found each other after the War, married, children, a life together but now I putting sunflowers on her grave and she has returned to my memories.

(Inspired by; https://crimsonprose.wordpress.com/2019/02/20/crimsons-creative-challenge-15/ with thanks).

 

 

Carved #100WW

The dead tree in the park was to be removed but first an artist had been allowed access. He had thought awhile about what to do – paint the tree? Chainsaw sculpt an image? Use the branches to display other works of art?

He liked that idea! But he was going to need help. He ran art classes in schools so decided to get the young people to make pieces to decorate the tree. Then they all went out and did just that.

Lastly, everyone carved their names into the trunk signing the art piece off.

 

(Inspired by; https://bikurgurl.com/2019/02/20/100-word-wednesday-week-109/ with thanks).

 

Roses #FridayFictoneers

I came home, exhausted after a full day in court trying to convince everyone my client wasn’t a murderer. Sadly, he was but it was my job to try and get his sentence reduced.

Dumping my stuff, I sank onto the sofa, kicked off my high heels and wrapped myself around a large cushion. I felt like I could sleep forever.

Something glittery caught my eye. Sunlight was falling on the glass roses my husband had brought for Valentine’s day. I couldn’t help but smile, at least somethings weren’t bad.

 

(Inspired by; https://rochellewisoff.com/2019/02/20/22-february-2019/ with thanks).

 

 

Timeless #WritePhoto

It was a silly idea but it stuck in my head and what did I have to lose anyway? An afternoon getting lost, back tracking lots then finally finding the correct field. Though, it’s hard to say those hours were wasted because I actually enjoyed getting out of town and into the countryside for awhile.

I’m NOT going to start at the beginning, I’m sick of doing that with the doctors, nurses, support workers etc. I sound like a broken record in my head, stuck repeating the same lyrics over and over. Sorry for the use of cliche, but as I’ve found out things put plainly get more understood then some hyped up analogy.

To all those people and everyone else – family, friends, colleagues- they need to hear it to understand it, no matter how many times it takes. Also, they like to hear me being positive; ‘I’m okay,’ ‘I’m doing fine,’ ‘No, I don’t need help,’ ‘Thanks for your concern, I appreciation it.’

And all the while I’m just screaming in my head; ‘Can everyone just F off and leave me alone!!’

It’s strange how we are sort of programmed to hold everything in, to stay ‘normal’ when everything is anything but and just carry on.

I thought about this the other day, when I saw a boy having a tantrum in the shop because his mum wouldn’t buy him a toy. He was full on getting all his emotions out for everyone to see and though people didn’t like it, we all understood what was going on.

That’s what I want to do! Just scream to the world that I’m not happy and I didn’t get what I wanted in life and now I’ve been told not much can be done about it. As an adult, I can’t seem to do that. It’s not the to do action when you are mid-thirties.

The action is to accept and move on.

Or else you go out and try silly things like this!

Now, I’m walking across short, wet grass, heading to the almost center of the field. Ahead the massive standing stone looms, it’s a strange twisting shape and a total blot in the flat landscape. It’s a mystery how it got here but legend says it’s an ancient healing stone and has cured millions.

I come to a stop beside the stone. It’s covered in dark moss and bits have been chipped away which is why it has an odd shape. I guess people were so desperate for healing they removed bits. I wonder if that worked for them or if the bits lost power? Does it actually matter?

I touch the stone like I’m meant too. It’s freezing and wet, not a surprise there. I feel foolish. I breath and hope no one is seeing this right now!

Do I believe the stone will heal me? I’m not sure. Common sense says no but common sense also says drugs are meant to but when the drugs stop working what then?

When you lose belief in one thing how can you find it in another?

Tears roll down my cheeks, hot and salty, I don’t wipe them away. I’m too tried.

I move closer to the stone and hug it. My arms don’t reach all away around and there’s a large gap my fingers try to bridge but don’t. Dampness and coldness sink into me like the starting up of a shower before it gets hot. The stone is smooth, worn over the years. I press my cheek to it and just let everything go.

I cry, scream, shout, punch, kick, I bash my head against the stone.

Dizziness sweeps me. Sobbing, I slip down to the ground, press my back against the stone and turn my face skyward. Shutting my eyes, I listen to my hammer heart, my ragged breaths and a headache building.

It starts raining softly.

The stone feels warm.

And for the first time in a long time, I feel little bit of peace.

 

(Inspired by; https://scvincent.com/2019/02/21/thursday-photo-prompt-timeless-writephoto/ with thanks).

The Poet’s House

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Arianie had only one thing on her mind as they pulled up behind the abandoned house and that was books; what condition would they be in? Could any be saved? Even good enough to sell?

Her boyfriend, Lex, turned the van’s engine off, satisfied they were hidden from view. Lex and his three friends; Tyler, Evan and Rhys got out and scouted around making sure no one else was about.

Opening the car door to let some cold air in, Arianie listened to the birds chirping, distant traffic and footsteps in the overgrown garden. She looked at the house which from the back looked fine at first glance. Closer though, masses of cobwebs could be seen in the windows, the net curtains were colored by age and dirt, just like the windows and was the back door slightly ajar?

Bored of waiting, Arianie got out, tightened the pony tail she had twisted her dark brown hair into and walked across the long, damp grass in her borrowed safety working boots. Not sure and not caring where the boys had gone, Arianie walked up onto a decking area which was tumbling away from the house.

Someone had smashed a pane of glass in the back door and used it to break in.

Putting on black gloves, from the pocket of an old winter coat that was so last season,  Arianie pulled open the door and cringed at the piercing shrike the rusted hinges let out. Her eyes shut as she yanked the door all the way open then she peered inside.

‘Arianie!’ Lex’s voice called.

‘I just want to get it over with!’ she snapped back.

‘You know the rules.’

She muttered something under her breath as Lex joined her on the decking. He nudged his way passed and stepped into the house, shouting, ‘Hello! Anyone here?’

Arianie followed him into a small room that was like a back porch area. There were mud encrusted boots on bristled mats, worn coats on hooks, bits and pieces on the shelves and a stopped clock on the wall. There was also a smell, that was hard to identity but it was a mix of dust, mold, rotting things and wet dog.

Wrinkling her nose and pressing the sleeve of her coat to her face, Arianie walked on and into a kitchen. Ignoring this room, she stepped through an open door and into a hallway.

Lex’s voice was echoing through the rooms and from behind her Arianie could hear the others coming in.

She walked through a dining room, a living room, and a front room, noticing things the men might take. The house was full of stuff and a thick layer of dust and cobwebs covered everything.

As she walked and looked for books, Arianie recalled what Rhys had said about the place. It had belong to a poet, though she had never heard the name before, he had died ten years ago and nobody had come forward for his body or estate. That was why the house was perfect target for them; lots of items to steal.

Lex came downstairs, shouting the coast was clear.

Arianie went into the hall to meet him, feeling like her allergies were starting up though she had double dosed antihistamine.

‘There’s a room upstairs just for you,’ Lex said in a low sexy voice.

Arianie pulled a face but couldn’t hide her building excitement.

Letting Lex take her upstairs and into a back bedroom converted into a study-library, Arianie found her slice of heaven.

There were floor to ceiling bookcases on all the walls which were only broken up by the door and window. Books, untouched for years crowded the shelves. There was a desk by the window, with a high leather chair and in the opposite left corner a matching arm chair that had a small table beside it.

‘Get to work,’ Lex spoke, giving Arianie’s bum a pat as he left.

Any other time she would have told him off for that but words at the moment failed her.

Slowly, walking into the room, Arianie began with the books not on the shelves; those that were on the tables or floor. Strangely, she had always been a big reader but today it was values that drew her more. Her granddad had been a rare book dealer and he had filled her head with knowledge Arianie had always deemed useless. That was until she had met Lex and got in on his ‘second hand business’.

There was never enough time on these kind of jobs, so she hurried through as much as she could. By the open door, Arianie stacked books she thought could be sellable and left others where she dropped them.

From time to time, Lex or one of the others would come and take the books away. Arianie could hear them going through the rooms, opening things and scattering everything. The poet might not have been rich but like everyone else he had things other people would pay for.

Arianie knew she would never make it through all the books in the room. So, once she had figured out if and what the system was in place to order them by, she moved quickly through the subjects.

The poet had liked classics, mythology, legends, history, old fashioned romance and poetry.

Taking down a volume of Shakespeare and seeing it in good condition, Arianie pulled out everything by the playwright and stacked it in the doorway.

‘Shakespeare always sells,’ Arianie muttered, echoing her granddad’s words to her once.

There were other people who sold well too and she was quick to find and pull out those names too.

‘No more now,’ Lex said from the doorway.

Arianie turned to him with books of War poetry in her hands.

‘Shame,’ she replied.

Checking she had all the War poetry books, Arianie quickly scanned the rest of the shelves just in case a hidden gem stuck out. It had a few abandoned places back, when she had found an first edition and signed Peter Rabbit book.

Nothing at first but then next to the desk was a section of books that seemed different. Arianie pulled them out and saw they were the poet’s published works. Maybe, no one would buy them but it was worth a shot. She added them to the pile in her hand then left them balanced on the desk whilst she looked through the draws.

Lex and his friends would never forgive her if something was missed. She might specialize in books but she also had a duty to find anything of value.

The desk was empty, just old letters, papers, stationary that weren’t worthy. Collecting the books, she went downstairs and outside into the cold air. It was growing dark which meant the raid was coming to an end.

Arianie walked to the van and saw the back double doors open. Inside were stacked a few small tables and chairs, a tall lamp, cardboard and plastic boxes which contained more breakable things and all the books she had selected.

A cold blow of air made shivers run up her spine despite the protection of her coat.  Arianie walked around and opened the passenger door of the van. She put the books into the foot well then climbed in. She closed the door and was glad that there was a separation between the back seats and the loading section of the van.

Picking up one of the poet’s own books, she sat reading, whilst the men finished the job then shut the van doors. Rhys, Tyler and Evan got into the back seats and Lex climbed into the front. Someone passed the beer cans around and they sat drinking and chilling.

‘What you got there?’ Lex asked Arianie.

‘Just one of the poet’s books,’ she answered and give a small shrug.

‘He any good?’ Rhys laughed from the back.

‘Maybe. We’ll see how much we get for him,’ Arianie responded, ‘can we go now?’

‘Sure,’ Lex said.

He started the van up, gulped down the rest of his beer and threw the can out of the window.

They drove out of the hiding place and back onto the road, mixing in with the traffic as if they were normal people heading for home.

Salt

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Doctor Roy Parker stood on the end of the pier, huddled in a huge winter coat and looking around. Everyone thought him mad to take a seaside holiday in February but he embraced it. The quietness at the out of season resort, the emptiness of the beach and town, no worries or cares, created a perfect escape from an intense twenty-four hours- seven days a week hospital job.

Resting his arms on the rotting wooden rail, Roy watched and listened to the gale force winds creating mini sand storms along the beach below. Out at sea, the wave tops were whipped into meringue peaks which then crashed onto the shore and got left behind by the large rasping, rolling salty water.

Rain started falling, fat drops plopping onto the wooden boards, the damp sand and stormy sea. Roy didn’t mind, this was nature at one of it’s wildest moments and he could just become lost in the raging weather. He balanced himself against the elements, letting them sweep everything away for a good while.

The wind became more violent, throwing sand and waves upwards to Roy. A tingle of danger went through him and the Doctor decided he’d had enough for the moment. With rain and sand grains clinging to him and sea salt the only thing he could smell, Roy finally turned away and walked back to the large dome cafe that dominated the middle of the pier.

He opened the door and was greeted by a gentle warm hug of air. Choosing a seat near a  right hand side window, Roy noticed he was the fourth customer in the cafe. Two old ladies in their seventies or eighties, sat a few tables away in the center row, were enjoying a meal. To the far left, next to a rain coated window, a young man in his twenties or thirties, sat with his eyes closed and hands around a white mug. A yellow Labrador guide dog sit at his feet, tongue lolling, face attentive.

The rest of the tables, though set for customers were empty, giving an eerily abandoned impression to the place which the weather made all the more real.

Looking towards the counter and kitchen area, Roy saw a bored teenage girl at the till putting a brownie onto a plate. Listening, he heard a soft brush of musical notes coming from the kitchen along with the smell of mingled hot food and coffee.

Roy picked up the plastic covered menu wedged behind glass salt and pepper shakers and a bottle of vinegar. He scanned the deserts and drinks list then turned the menu over to see the meals. There wasn’t a lot of choice but that wasn’t a surprise.

Meanwhile, the waitress took the brownie to the blind man and spoke to him for a few minutes. She patted the guide dog’s head. Roy got the impression they knew each other which in this small town was easy to believe. Then the girl turned, coming towards him whilst digging out a paper pad and pen from her white apron bag.

‘Hi, what can I get you?’ she asked in a fake bright voice.

‘A pot of tea,’ Roy answered.

The girl noted it down.

‘And fish and chips.’

The girl made to nod then replied, ‘if you order the special it comes with tea, bread and butter.’

‘Is that a pot or just a cup?’ Roy asked, avoiding the temptation to look at the menu again.

The waitress thought for a moment as if she had forgotten or was deciding something, ‘I can make it a pot,’ she stated and wrote on her pad again.

‘Thank you,’ Roy said.

The girl walked off and disappeared into the kitchen. Roy listened for voices but the wind, rain and sea were in storm mode and all other sounds were now blocked out. Turning to the window, Roy watched the rain pounding against the glass and clouding the view which he imagined on a nice summer day was a picturesque beach.

He was lost in his thoughts for awhile, so when the waitress appeared with his tea, Roy was slightly startled.

‘There you go,’ the girl said as she set a tea pot, milk jug, sugar bowl and cup down.

Roy thanked her as she headed back to the kitchen then looked at the mismatched and dented tea set. The poor sliver colored tea pot had seen better days, the rim of the sugar bowl was chipped and the darker sliver milk jug looked like it could fall apart. He gingerly poured the steaming tea and fridge cool milk into his tea cup.

‘Excuse me, Sadie,’ a man’s voice called loudly.

Roy looked about and saw the blind man trying to attracted the waitress attention.

‘I’ll get her for you, dear,’ one of the old ladies spoke.

‘We are leaving now, Mark,’ the second replied.

‘Thank you, Iris and Lilly. I want to leave too,’ the blind man answered, ‘the storm sounds bad, so I’m going to get a taxi.’

They both got up. The first lady, who was wearing a powder pink felt coat and had a hint of pink in her white permed hair, walked slowly to the counter. The other lady dressed in a pale blue felt coat and with blue wisps in her white hair, went over to the blind man.

Roy watched, wondering if they were twins or sisters or friends.

The waitress appeared at the counter, talked to Iris or Lilly then picked up a phone.

The old lady went back to her sister or friend and after saying goodbye to Mark and his dog, headed for the door.

Roy braced himself to feel the bite of the wind as the door opened but he was sat far enough away that he felt just a whisper of the chilly wet air. He picked up his tea and took a few sips, feeling warmth sinking into him.

The girl appeared at his side and placed two plates down, one had two slices of bread and small pot of butter, the other held his fish and chips.

‘There you are. Is there anything else you need?’ she asked.

‘No, thank you,’ Roy answered.

With a single nod, the girl swept away and over to the blind man. She talked to him, no doubt saying she had ordered a taxi.

Roy arranged the plates of food how he wanted them then put salt and vinegar on his fish and chips. He picked up his knife and folk from the white napkin and started eating. It wasn’t the best meal he’d ever had but it tasted great today. The chips had just a crunch to their outside and were soft in the middle. The fish was lightly and crispy battered, soft and tender inside. With the added salt and vinegar the whole thing came together in one celebration in Roy’s mouth.

So distracted was he, Roy didn’t noticed the blind man leaving till he felt a touch of cold. Looking up and towards the door, he saw the man going out and the waitress helping him. She closed the door and hurried through the cafe into the warmth of the kitchen.

Alone, Roy took a moment to glance around then carried on eating. The fish was tasty, though the salt was drying out his lips and he had to keep licking them. He drink some more tea to help. Unable to stop, he ate quickly, forgotten how he’d built his hungry by a morning walk in the town, then along the edge of the beach and around the pier.

He was finished before he knew it. Pouring the last of the tea, Roy hugged the cup and listened to a rumble of thunder in the distance. He looked out of the window and though it was hard to think the weather had gotten worse, it seemed just that.

Roy finished his tea and sat relaxing for a few minutes. Coldness crept over him and he felt stiff in his legs and back from the plastic chair. Perhaps, it was just his imagination but he felt a slight rocking motion.

Getting up, he went to the counter and looked for the girl. A door labeled kitchen was open in the back wall and Roy could hear radio music more clearly now.

‘Hello? he called, his voice sounding loud in the empty cafe.

‘Coming,’ the girl called back.

She appeared, trying to turn a scowl into smile.

‘The bill, please. And if it’s not too much trouble could you phone me a taxi?’

‘Here you go, the girl said and handed him a slip of paper, ‘and yes, I can. Where are you going too?’

‘To the Mermaid Hotel,’ Roy replied as he dug out his wallet.

The girl took his money and made the call. He listened as she said the address of the cafe and the hotel. She hung up the phone and turned back to him, ‘The taxi will be a few minutes and pick you up from the pier enterence.’

‘Thanks,’ Roy answered, he added a ‘goodbye,’ and went to the door.

Preparing to step out into the storm, Roy took a deep breath and opened the door. Rain that felt solid hit him and the strong wind tried to force him back. Roy wrestled with the elements, hurried out and back along the pier.

‘It is swaying!’ he cried.

Daringly, he looked over the safety rail and saw the sea waves arching upwards around the wooden supports. Imagines of the pier collapsing, the buildings crashing down and himself thrown into those violent waves flashed through his mind.

Panicked, Roy ran off the pier, slipping on the wet boards and dodging the small buildings and stalls that were dotted around. He made it safely to the enterence which was an indoor hallway connecting the street to the pier.

Huddling inside there, water dripping everywhere, Roy looked out for his taxi. A rumble of thunder made him jump then laughing loudly, Roy let all his fear go. Of course, the pier was moving! It was built to do so! How else would a wood and iron structure survive the sea? And the storm was only that and nothing to be scared over.

A red car pulled up outside, horn blaring.

Roy opened the door, walked out and got into the taxi.

‘The Mermaid Hotel,’ he said to the reflection of the driver’s face in the rear view mirror.

‘Right O,’ the driver spoke and peeled the car away.