TRAWL (After B.S. Johnson)

Thirty minutes before power failure. I must get this down now. Before this whole clangerous trawler becomes only oxide and turns itself and us to dust to line the bottom of the sea and block gills and pollute more, more, more…

Another one comes over to check the monitor. Bends his sight around, takes in the map, the slowly-creeping dot moving further and further from the orange-lined land mass. The gun is loaded and discharged again. Just testing. Do that somewhere else.

An old cake, wrapped in tight polythene is retrieved from beneath the metal bench. On finally unwrapping, it seems OK. The pastry quite pale and dry, but seems edible, nice even… Yes, this is tolerable. He starts to devour it, saving the icing, when a face is noticed in the side of vision. She is leering over his shoulder, babbling in an incomprehensible language. He looks around with a question on his face, wondering if anyone is the keeper of this character. No one responds, all long-drained, lying on the gaudy carpets, stained and re-stained and stained again.

The vessel drops its left corner and another avalanche of rubbish falls to the floor. DURING THE HOURS OF DARKNESS THIS MUST BE CLOSED. It was not clear as to what this sign referred. A wall of metal, vast and shadow-casting looms in to take away the patch of sheer sunlight he had found. The sound it makes is deep and shuddering, a hammering and a scream emanates, and he can see the decades of different paint-jobs flaking off as the rust pushes through. His hand tightens on the rail to hold himself still, the room starting to jump frames, like a broken film it seems, thoughts coming and gone.

A small child, glasses, bonnet hat, comes around the door, sees him and her whole body jumps with fright. She retreats, dropping a dummy onto the pooling and grimy floor. Good. Gone.

A window is shattered. No one comes in. A horn tears across the mind, vibrating the sights around, the window, the table, bolted down, his vision pixellated. It continues beyond all the points where he thinks it will stop. When it does, it feels as if all sound has been ripped out of existence. He strains to hear, but hears nothing. Good. That’s chatter and bullshit gone. With this vast and fast cleansing of the sonics, he hasn’t noticed that everyone has got up, and is clambering and falling about, trying to work out what is going on.

The gun is cocked again. But not released. A slender and rather lined and weather-beaten woman in a tight orange garment walks purposefully by and raises binoculars to her eyes, leans round the monitor and looks through. Another vibration moves the vessel. But it moves him too. Something so penetrating and beautiful. Like light, like summer, like some sweet relief, a moment before orgasm, a rushing, crying, flying release! SHE DROPS THE BINOCULARS WHICH shatter one lens by his foot. He doesn’t seem to notice, and rises, and steadies himself on the metal bar, which is warm, and he takes her hand, which is warm. They clasp. And look. 

From the jagged metal hole in their battered trawler, two faces are upturned. The faces are not smiling, not frowning, not facing each other, but drawn nearer. Nearer each other and whatever they look toward. Imagine seeing that scene, now reverse yourself, keep going backwards, back further, until those faces are the dot of a crofter’s cottage painted white on a hillside of damp and rotting bracken. Viewed from a plane, when they still flew, on an island, which existed then. And between you and them now is a space, opening and closing, all there and not there.

Some vast sound emanates, feels like it is all powerful, but you can hear your own breathing over it, your own heartbeat. And now you can see yourself too, reflected in the invisible mass. You see not your own face, but your own self. All you have done and are yet to do. And at that moment you realise it is all alright, and you needn’t have worried, wept, shouted and feared all those times. For it is alright now and will be in the end.

A cacophony of thousands of metallic drum sounds fill the space, back on the vessel everyone crams forward, clambers onto the monitor and out the gashed hole in its wall. They congregate on the twisted deck outside, as a small figure is seen to float out of the echoing mass. It is a boy, brown trousers and black hooded coat, pale face and tendrils of red hair, neat, wandering forward, asking what is going on? What are we doing? When will we get there? The woman in orange moves forward to speak.

“Who are you? How have you come here? What is this…”

The drums are added to by a siren, and the boy speaks over this din, which starts to make the shoulders in the crowd move, feet tap.

“I am here just to say hello, to see how things have been going, see that you are taking care of the place. Not bad. Not bad at all. You – you there.” the boy points at our man, we look over to him, pointing at himself.

“Do you like this woman?” Points at Orange.
“Err…” He doesn’t look he knows her, has watched her before on the long journey northward.
“Yes, yes I do.” Too far? Seems the right answer. How?
“OK. Good. That will be alright, by the way.

A shard of shattering sound slices the air.

“Just checking the systems. OK – any questions?

The sounds are removed. No one speaks.
The glimmering nothingness starts to retreat. The boy moves back a few steps, then moves forward, parts the people and leans in the hole, picks up the binoculars, gives them to Orange, lenses fixed.

He backs away again, and turns, the rusty walls scrape alongside the trawler, and a voice from inside, suddenly inspired, shouts after him.

“For fun, of course – I mean, what else is there? Play. Look to the horizon there – some islands. Go there, keep moving, keep looking out. Use what you find, and trust yourself. Look, you know more about this than me. I’m just a boy. What’s that called?”
“A gull. Seagull?”
“Ah yes. OK then – that wasn’t a trick question. And I know yours wasn’t either. I probably should have left more instructions, or a note. Don’t worry. You’re doing fine. Good luck, my man.”

He smiles a little, our man, glances at Orange, who looks to him, a little trace of a downturn at the edges of her mouth. 

Is this all there is?

21 9


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