Monthly Archives: October 2014

Flotsam Jetsam

She walked the tide line along the beach, a neat procession of footprints marking her presence until, every ten strides or so, the sea dissolved them back to sand behind her. The tide was coming in and each wave bit a little higher up the beach than the last. She was aware of the water, which had been barely touching her feet before, now washing over them, nipping and tugging at her.

She paused to feel the slap of a wave against her ankle, a nudge to the the shore, and then the rapid undertow, the sea sucking at her feet as if to pull her out. Maybe ten strides in land and she would be above high tide, ten strides the other way, into a cold, salty embrace, and she would be gone.

She stared back down the empty beach, catching her dark hair up in a one handed ponytail to keep it from her eyes. Her footprints were all gone; there was no trace of her passing. Half a mile back up the sand, back where she’d left the car, a single line of prints led down to the sea and then disappeared. That was where she’d kicked off her shoes into the swell before tipping her handbag upside down, emptying its contents into the sea, watching as lipstick and credit cards and keys and cash had bobbed away. Then the bag itself, flung underarm to sit proudly atop a wave before it too was swallowed.

The photo was the only thing she’d kept hold of. She held it now to take one last look, clutched in both hands, letting her hair fall again down her back, strands whipping around her head. It was her face staring back up at her from the picture. Hers and his. Tightly together, fierce grins beneath young, unlined eyes. Her dark hair, as now, wild and tangled, but then from the night before; the warmth of their bed rather the cold of the wind. His hair was a mess too. Bedheads. That’s what he’d always called that photo. Mr and Mrs Bedhead taken the day after they had agreed to share a name. Tears streaked her face now as she stared at his frozen smile and his mess of brown hair. She wanted to fix this memory of him in her head, have it be the one she would carry in her heart instead of the recent ones. The ones after all that untidy mass of tangles fell out. The ones where everything became clinically tidy; smooth scalps, blue gowns, and white hospital walls.

She kissed the picture once, held it up between her thumb and forefinger to watch it fold and catch in the wind. Then it was gone, the two of them tumbling free over and over in the air before landing on the water’s surface. The last voyage of Mr and Mrs Bedhead. Now she was nameless again.

A sudden swell rolled up the beach and splashed against the bottom of her trousers. The tide was still rising. The girl with no name gazed out at the horizon, at the blue grey featureless expanse of the sea, and wiped hair and tears from her eyes. She wondered how far she could swim before her arms and legs became as weary as her heart. As the last wave retreated, pulling at her feet, she felt something wrap around her ankle. As she looked down it peeled itself free and floated away but, for a moment, she saw herself smiling up from the sea. Herself and then him. And then they were both finally gone, disappearing into the depths.

The girl with no name turned and walked back up the beach, a steady line of footprints emerging from the sea, marking her reappearance on land. The wind grabbed at her hair and she let if hang free, blowing and tangling itself into a wild, glorious, and alive mess.

 

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This is the fifth story in my series of 42 shorts that I’m writing to raise money and awareness for Mind, the mental health charity. Please share it if you liked it (or even if you didn’t…). If you’re interested in donating to a great cause then please visit my fundraising page: https://www.justgiving.com/42shorts/

Cellar door

Mark had run to catch up with the others, held back by Hobson over some minor imperfection in his trigonometry workings. He didn’t want to miss his bus and, more importantly, she might be at the stop. He definitely didn’t want to miss that. He slowed to the rest of the group’s walking pace as he came up behind them.

“That’s what she said, I’m not making it up.” It was Cooks – Jason Cooks but just Cooks to his friends – spreading his arms in sincerity.

“Seriously ? It’s that easy ?” said one of the others.

“What ? What are you talking about ?” asked Mark, still slightly out of breath.

“Cooksey’s sister. Apparently they’ve been doing something in English that’s got the ladies of St Benedict’s all excited.” This was Johnson – David to his Mum but Johnson in present company. St Benedict’s was the local girl’s school: a place that was equal parts magical, mysterious, and terrifying for Mark’s friends

“So ? I don’t get it ?”

“Exactly, you don’t and never have. But this just might mean that one day you do.” The others laughed. Mark continued to look confused.

“I mean that they get really – really – excited”. Johnson raised his eyebrows meaningfully. Mark shrugged. “Jesus, Marky boy, I mean more excited than when they had that supply teacher who’d done that modeling for Topman.”

“Ah, right…” a kind of comprehension dawned on Mark’s face. “So what’s got them all worked up then ?”

“Phono something” started Johnson. “Phono… what was it again Cooksey ?”

“Phonoaesthetics” declared Cooks, looking pleased that he’d remembered it. “They do it for A level but the 5th formers won’t know about it yet”. On this point he looked particularly pleased.

“Yeah but what is it ?”

“From what she told me it’s something to do with the sound of words” said Cooks. “But the important bit is that some words, apparently, sound so beautiful that they’re almost hypnotic. Especially when you’re, you know…”

“You know what ?” said Mark.

“When you’re chatting to girls” said Cooks. “I’m telling you, like I told the others, it’s what she said. She reckons some of the girls were practically in a trance when they heard them”.

“What words then ?” asked Mark. “The only sound I can hear right now is the sound of bullshit”.

“What do you mean ?” said Cooks defensively.

“What words give you these Jedi powers over girls ?”

“Well not Jedi for a start mate. Don’t start talking about Star Wars. No wonder you never get anywhere.”

“No, no, I know that.” Mark looked away, less sure again. “But come on then, let me in on it. What words ?”

Cooks smirked, his authority restored. “She gave me one phrase that I think sounds pretty good.” He paused until he was sure he had everyone’s full attention. “Cellar door…”. It hung there whilst everyone contemplated it.

“Selador ? What does that even mean ?” asked Johnson.

“Cellar door.” corrected Cooks. “You know, the door to a cellar.”

Everyone stopped and looked at Cooks. His great reveal was met with a mixture of derision and disbelief. “I know, I know” he said, trying to pacify them. “It sounds ridiculous but it’s true. This phonoaesthetics isn’t about what the words mean, just what they sound like.”

“Phono arse pathetic more like” said Johnson.

“Don’t believe it if you don’t want to” protested Cooks. “It works though. I’m definitely going to try it.” He suddenly looked conspiratorially at Mark. “Maybe I’ll use it at my sister’s party at the weekend. She knows that Caroline Jenkins. I bet she’s coming. She’s in the 5th year so she won’t know about it yet.”

“Don’t do that Cooksey” said Mark. “You know I like her.”

“Well do something about it then. I can’t have this secret weapon and not use it now, can I ?”

“I will, I will” said Mark.

“Ask her now or I’m using cellar door on her” said Cooks abruptly. The others were interested now, waiting to see what Mark would do. “I’m giving you first go Mark – you can even use the killer phrase if you want.”

Mark took a deep breath in and rubbed nervously at the back of his head. “Alright” he declared. “Alright. I’ll do it. I’m going now.”

They’d all started walking again and as they approached the bus stop a group of girls, uniforms emblazoned with the crest of St Benedict’s, noticed them and began whispering to each other. One of them turned from her friends and acknowledged the boys.

“Alright little brother.”

Cooks grinned cockily. “Less of the little. Just been telling the boys about that thing you did in English.”

“Oh really ?” his sister smiled back before briefly turning back to her friends who were all struggling to suppress giggles.

“Yeah” said Cooks, slightly less certainly. “In fact Mark’s gone to try it out right now on Caroline Jenkins.” He nodded his head towards a figure that was now marching with grim determination towards a pretty girl stood with her friends at the next bus stop along. “He’s been wanting to ask her out for ages.”

The older girls couldn’t contain it anymore and burst into hysterical peals of laughter. “He’s not going to use cellar door is he ?” asked Cooks’ sister.

“Yeah. Like you said. The most beautiful phrase in the English language. So beautiful it made you all…”

“Made us all quite giddy with excitement” she finished for him. “Practically unable to control ourselves. Ready to do whatever anyone asked”. She span around in delight. “That was it little brother, wasn’t it ?”

“Something like that” muttered Cooks. “What’s so funny ?”. He looked anxiously over at his friend who had now reached the object of his affections and had begun talking. Caroline Jenkins didn’t look like she was in a trance. She looked slightly scared. Cooks didn’t have much experience in this sort of thing but he was pretty sure scared wasn’t a good sign.

“Turns out I had it wrong” said his sister. “Turns out the most beautiful word in the English language is something different.” With a flourish she turned back to her friends. “What was it again girls ?”

“Gullible” they chorused together.

 

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This is the fourth story in my series of 42 shorts that I’m writing to raise money and awareness for Mind, the mental health charity. Please share if you liked it. If you’re interested in donating to a great cause then please visit my fundraising page: https://www.justgiving.com/42shorts/