A few months back I wrote the following story for Ideastap portfolio. It’s online here but I also wanted to give it a decent outing on my blog…..
It’s well worth visiting Ideastap and setting up a portfolio and there are some great links, competitions and prizes.
He waited where the train dropped him. The heat made the rails shine and wobble as they stretched into the distance. He stood at the far end of platform three, cleared his throat and gave it the hard sell.
Ladies and gentleman, you know the problem. Today you’re staring at the solution.
His phone vibrated in his jacket pocket. He tried to ignore it, but succumbed and fished it out. ‘Mr Myatt – we can’t apologise enough….’ It was an email from Jeffers, his only appointment that day. He didn’t need to read anymore. There was nothing to kick so he swore and slumped on a bench. ‘Thanks a bloody bunch.’
He sat for a while massaging his temples, thinking. An idea struck him, later he’d describe it as a reaction unable to fathom where it’d sprung from. Something made him get up, walk along the platform and climb the stairs. It was the same imaginary force that made him get into the first taxi and ask for ‘Shaky Bridges.’ The name meant nothing to the driver so Andy had to give directions.
They crawled out of town in heavy traffic and soon they were in fields of glowing oilseed rape. They passed the old hall and the dovecot, the disused airstrip where Andy had ridden his BMX. A barn had been converted and part of the church grounds sold for a sprawling detached house, but little else seemed to have changed. ‘Just here’ll do nicely,’ he said and paid the driver.
He followed the lane, crossing the bridle-path and avoiding the dense clumps of thistles. Heat shimmered from the fields blurring the outline of hawthorn and oak up on the ridge. He kicked off his boots and they landed in the reeds. His tie remained stubbornly knotted, but he got it so the loop would slip over his head. His shirt was stuck to his spine and he cringed as he tugged the cotton from his skin draping it with his socks and trousers on the springy cow parsley. Stripped to his boxers he closed his eyes, felt the sun warm his back and the whisper of breeze about his shoulders as he stepped into the glassy shallows shuddering at the cold shock of it. He wriggled his toes, pushing through the pebbles and plugging his heels into the cool silt. He crouched, cupping the river where it ran in eddies beneath an overhang of turf and sluicing his forehead and neck until fat drops ran from his eyebrows.
When the sun had dried him he leant on a gate and looked out over the river valley. The stony ground fell away sharply to boggy fields spiked with marsh grass. They’d spent hours up here, their little gang. He wondered what they were all up to now. He wasn’t the type to keep in touch and avoided Facebook and all that nonsense. He sat down against a tree and took out his phone. There was an email from his boss Pelly. Any update on the Jeffers situation? Know you’ll deliver whatever, Andy. Keep me posted. That wasn’t a compliment, it was a threat.
Andy stared up at the shafts of sunlight piercing the branches. High above on a gnarled old branch was a loop of orange rope. It must’ve been the same rope they’d used as a swing but there was no sign of the plank they’d used for a seat. He got to his feet liking the feel of roots and cool peaty earth between his toes. He patted the tree with a palm. The bark was mouldy but striped with slashes and gouged where names and dates had been carved with blades. A heart, shaped more like an apple, had a clumsy arrow puncturing it.
Tony & Penny
He ran a finger along a scar. These were names he knew. He walked around the trunk reading them. His pulse thumped in his throat.
Katie S 4 Andy M
He blinked. At the base of the next tree ‘Andy M and Katie S Forever’ was written. Andy Myatt. Katie Swain. He traced the words with his fingertip. Katie must’ve written them. He’d always liked her, but never felt able to tell her. He’d drunk too much at their sixth-form’s last get together and she’d grabbed him and kissed him. He’d been too stunned to respond and he’d walked away touching his face where her lips had met him when some of the lads had laughed. Katie’s folks had run a café in town for donkey’s years. What was it called? He dismissed the thought as stupid.
He took out his phone. There were three missed calls from Pelly and an email instructing him to call Pelly PDQ. He deleted them. He pulled on his shirt seeing the farmer was coming over the ridge in his tractor. What the farmer would make of a man in his pants sitting cross-legged beneath a tree was anyone’s guess. The farmer pulled up alongside, asked if he was OK. ‘Only we had a bloke up here last New Year trying to get on the railway. Reckon he was after doing himself in.’
‘I’m just enjoying the view,’ Andy said.
The farmer stroked his chin, didn’t look as if he believed him.
The name came to Andy. ‘Is there a cafe in town called Monty’s?’
‘Used to be,’ the farmer said.
‘Oh,’ Andy said and pulled on his boots. That was that. At least he wouldn’t be making a fool of himself.
The farmer said, ‘it’s called Katie’s these days.’