Low Season

I pulled the collar of my black jacket up against the saturated wind whipping off the sea, the cheap polyester chafed my neck, the sweat slightly stinging, rubbing the three day stubble. Its been a few dull days. I notice only now that the remaining buttons on my jacket have been threaded through the wrong holes, knocking me off kilter. So that’s why I have been rolling and wavering like a ship in a storm. I hope.

We approach a bench on the deserted prom, one of the ornate wrought iron ones with a gentle wave of wooden lats. I need to sit down. I take my jacket sleeve in my hand and wipe down the bench, rubbing away the droplets of standing water on the chipped green paint – first on the side where Iris sits, then a cursory wipe where I sit.

The cold water soaks into my trousers, drips behind the knees. What a washout. Looking into estate agent windows for almost an hour had been the highlight today. Pubs still close in the fag-end of the day here. A few youths in nylon fashions are throwing chips to the gulls down on the shingle. I hope they don’t come up here.

She is looking out to sea, through the mist coming off the sea, steaming, looks like the whole ocean is about to burst into flame like fat in a pan. I want to ask what she is thinking, but can’t bear the pause, annoyed knotting of brows, then falsehood. Anyway, how can you know what you yourself are even thinking? I just checked my thoughts and saw a picture of an industrial estate in summer, a loop of a pop song, a worry about a pain in my foot and a wondering over dinner. All that, and something else, something I can’t put my finger on… a preconscious yearning, no, wondering… Wandering.

“What are we going to do tonight?”

I don’t fucking know. Go home. This town is the dregs. I almost beheaded myself in that sash window at the B&B. I’m desperate to make this a time to remember, but I can only see a newspaper-print grey collage in my mind when I look back at the last days. A splash of red paint over it would be an improvement.

“Spelling. Punctuation. Grammar. Put the phone down!”

A man wearing a long coat with long strands of grey hair twirling in the sideways wind is approaching the bench, striding fast, pausing. Looking out to sea. Striding forward, turning, walking towards us.

“Spelling. Punctuation. Grammar. Put the phone down!”

I smile in his general direction, seeing an out-of-focus image of Iris, and her falling face.

“Spelling. Punctuation. Grammar. Put the phone down!”

He smiles back.

“Spelling. Punctuation. Grammar. Put the phone down!”

In one motion he swings his body round, face cast into crags, like an unmade bed, highlighted by the faux-gas lamp. He slams down onto the bench and spatters of water fly, the rest starting to creep up him in a dark cloud.

“The last hanging an the first public school were half a mile from each other! Whadda ya think of that? The moon rises every night, and stays there all day too. Did you know that!? If you walk in a straight line, you get back to where you came from. If you walk long enough!”

He breaks into a hacking laughing cough that forces the image of bubbling green mucus into my mind. The actual image follow a moment later when he coughs. A gull swoops on this foul sight, thinks better of it, then retreats into the pale bright grey sky, its little black head with thin beak, jerking up down left and right like a joystick.

“I can tell you a way to get what ever you want! I bet you’d like that, eh fella!?”

I nod and grimace in affirmation, Iris looks away from me and back to sea.

“Right, I presume you are familiar with wanking? Yeah? Thought so. What ya’ve gotta do is craft a clay pot that fits the shaft of your erect penis perfectly. Won’t need much clay in your case, eh geezer! You the proceed to masturbate into this vessel. The vacuum it creates sucks you in. Its pretty intense. Then, as you are about to come, you focus on your goal, your desire, whatever you want to happen. Keep this image in your mind, picture it hard, as you come. This will be very difficult due to the intensity of the orgasm. If you manage it, bury the pot a foot deep in loose brown earth by the light of a full moon. So you can try this once a month. I call it “The Earthenware Virgin.” Its never been known to fail.”

Iris seems to be focussing on, watching, the beam from his blue, bloodshot, yellowing eyes, which passes by her face and into mine. I try to avoid this beam. I feel like he knows what I’m thinking. The first one ever.

After a while I don’t hear what he’s saying. If not her, then what else is there?

“I sat and drank whilst my dreams decayed. Therefore I’m not. You cannot believe the freedom of not. All it takes is to not be what anyone wants. That’s your trouble pal, you try to be what you think she wants. She doesn’t know what she wants.”

He jerked his thumb at Iris, still holding me in his optic flow.

“But she knows it ain’t you! Ha! Have you heard of presque-vu? Its one of the family of words that includes deja-vu. It means “nearly seen.”

I try to respond to this, but I just can’t access my thoughts, or put them into words. I think they are in my brain’s recycle bin, awaiting deletion. He takes another almighty rip on his purple tin and I see his throat convulsing with the cascade of treacly booze. It looks like it was about to come back up like Vesuvius, but he rode the storm. Talk about presque-vu.

“Don’t judge a man by the can.”

I ignore this and find my words;

“Hey, actually, yeah, I have heard of that – its mentioned in “Catch-22!” You are just quoting that to me! I bet you got that stuff about the pot from somewhere else too!”

“Yeah, and where did you get those words you just spoke from? Did you invent them? Dream up the syllables and letters? Then how did I know what you were talking about? Everything is endlessly recycled and re-jigged in a constant game of musical chairs. And the music has just stopped – and I’m in your mind. I know what you know, and you know what I know. i.e.: nothing.”

He stands up, casts a shadow over me, with a glow of yellow, this aura around him. I see a stained glint from his teeth in a rictus grin, his eyes holding mine as his arms swirl and swing, knees knock, and the dance of the whirling dervish begins.

A metallic ting and clatter breaks the thread. I look to the sea wall and see that she has been throwing stones at a can of Tennant’s on the beach. There is a little pile of round smooth stones on the wall beside which she stands. The can has been dented and upended, and lies looking up at the gulls.

“Gulls just wanna have fun!” he screeched.

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