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The Hide

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
‘Will you see the Hide?’ she whispered.

Photo of boy, hiding: Pixabay

Re-edit: 31.08.19

Submitted: August 16, 2019

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Submitted: August 16, 2019

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The Hide

 

We were lost. We’d missed the village twice. Once, when I drove us as far as Goldhangar, turned the Yaris around, and headed back to historic Maldon, unsure if we were on the right road. And once, when we passed through Tolleshunt D’Arcy, the brown tourist sign indicating a Marina. Ending up on the outskirts of Colchester. I pulled over, blocking a farmyard track, as Darcy consulted the atlas spread across her knees.

‘Ellsbury Wick must be here, somewhere, back, there, darling,’ she said, gliding her ring finger along the yellow B-road half an inch as far as D’Arcy, after which my dear wife was christened.

‘Here, somewhere, back, there?’ I laughed.

I rubbed her forearm affectionately, loving her divine way with words, glancing at the eternity ring, the oath which said: I’ll always love you, dearest, whatever our life may bring. For some reason, her sentiment invaded my larynx. I was struck dumb, the coughing fit descending upon me too early. Midday had yet to pass.

Darcy held my hand tightly as I coughed and sputtered, bent over double with pain, my white knuckles clenching the steering wheel for dear life. Her face was riddled with concern, and with good reason: I was too ill.

‘Will you see the Hide?’ she asked me directly.

I wheezed like an asthmatic with emphysema, drew in lungsful of air, and replied, ‘I’ll see it.’

Darcy shook her head as if she didn’t believe a word. I turned the ignition and pulled over hard left to let a bright green tractor, and ruddy-faced farmer, haul a bumpy trailer of freshly-baled hay past us. Good day to you both, his gappy grin implied. Welcome to the coastal marshlands!

The day started badly. We usually set off early for our country rambles. On this occasion I hurt too much: my muscles ached, joints ached, my heart ached for a lost youth. Instead of helping Darcy pack the walking boots, russets and blackberry waters in the Yaris, I pottered aimlessly about the garden fertilising her tomato plants in my fluffy gown.

We eventually left at ten, only to be snarled in an endless traffic jam filing past Danbury on the A414 en route to a fuel fest. I watched an ambulance hurtle past us, its blue lights flashing, siren wailing. Some unlucky soul.

*****

Midday had yet to pass. Darcy brushed my cheek with the back of her warm hand, rousing me from my stupor. I turned right into the country lane and headed back to Tolleshunt. She saw it first, the white wayfarer’s sign, pointed left, shrouded with sweet chestnut leaves: ‘Look, love!’

…ick

No wonder we missed it. We drove down a leafy lane until the landscape broadened, flattening into barren sun-parched marshes, featureless monotonies only brightened by occasional rows of holiday bungalows. Ten minutes later, I parked the Yaris in Church Street between the Nag’s Head and the ancient market cross.

A swarthy man was standing outside the pub swearing into his mobile. He blushed and apologized when he saw Darcy. My beautiful wife has an arresting presence, an aura about her, guaranteed to make a countryman blush. I vaguely made out the shape of a young man throwing darts through the smoked-glass window of the bar. Other than that, the village was deserted. I heard my stomach tell my mouth it was time to eat.

Darcy was staring at the corner shop across the road. I stared into the cloudless blue heavens; the flaming yellow ball riding high. My gut twisted, sending my torso into convulsions of pain. My face contorted with agony. Midday had passed. Darcy held my hand tightly as the searing pain subsided. Her ice-blue eyes shimmered with tears. The swarthy man cut his call and watched us, the youth stopped throwing darts.

‘Will you see the Hide?’ she whispered.

I was unsure, I hesitated, breathed deeply, responded, ‘I’ll see it.’

Darcy was standing by the corner shop across the road. I noticed the Church. For the first time. The bunting from the Church fete. The freshly dug grave. Darcy was standing by the doorway. Then I was with her, inside the corner shop, selecting sandwiches. There was a girl with ruby hair. I asked if she had a toilet. She shook her head, sadly.

Darcy was paying for her sandwich: double egg mayo on wholemeal. There were corn kernels in her palm, smoky bacon flavour. I felt the sandwich in my hand: roast chicken with sage and onion stuffing on malted white bread.

Darcy was standing outside the shop, wolfing kernels. I heard myself pay the ruby-haired girl. Her twin appeared. Her identical twin. I asked if she had a toilet. She said I should try the pub. Automated conveniences abounded beside the car park at Woodcliff Green about a mile away. Near the Marina. Where I proposed to Darcy. I thanked the twins, who were white-faced with shock, for their courtesy, then went to find her, except that she was nowhere to be found.

I returned to the Yaris and wolfed kernels, nibbling crusts off my solid chicken treat. My gut hurt. I wasn’t hungry. I felt her hot breath on my cheek. Or was it a hot sea breeze on my face?

‘I was on my toilet,’ she murmured.

‘On your toilet?’

‘Mm!’

‘And was it comfortable?’

‘It had a warm wooden seat, darling. Will you see the Hide?’

‘I’ll see it.’

Darcy was standing by the market cross in her hiking boots. My legs felt leaden, heavy, with ague. I stooped to tie my boots, lumbered across the road bearing her zebra-striped rucksack, a picnic, and we set off. The swarthy man resumed his call, the youth started throwing darts, the:

Automated Conveniences at Woodcliff Green are Closed for Repair Work

…the notice on the black door said. My heart sank, my bladder burst. Darcy was standing with a sailing couple: deck shoes, matching khaki shorts, striped t-shirts, baseball caps with anchors, bronze tans, wrinkled walnut skins.

‘Try the disabled!’ they cried.

‘Thank you! Thank you SO much!’ I sounded like a tweeter or online poster. They thank a lot!

When I left the toilet, as clean and flushed as I found it, I noticed Darcy had re-appeared farther up the road, just before the sail lofts. We mounted some concrete steps together, to pick up the stony public footpath on the sea wall, the hot sun in our faces, our hair blowing stiff where we were exposed to the elements.

Presently, we arrived at the natural marina, a sea of greyish mud where the tide had washed out, leaving gaily-coloured boats high and dry on mudbanks strewn with splintered boardwalks, the odd discarded bicycle. I noticed the newest yachts and motor boats were berthed closest to the sailing clubhouse. A swathe of wary faces looked down on us from the tiered beer garden: silent, frightened masques of fear.

As we entered the nature reserve entrance beside Woodcliff Creek, I saw boats aged with grime, rusting hulks, skeletal frames sticking out of the mud, nautical corpses lost in a no-man’s land. Before us the sea wall stretched for miles alongside the creek, enclosing the main body of the marsh.

In the distance, the spectre of the nuclear power station and, on rising land behind a farm building, in stark contrast, a Second World War observation tower. I spotted the old red lighthouse ship, children playing, and reflected on the vanities of our past, the uncertainties of their polluted future.

If you have a dog then it must be kept under strict control because of the risk to the grazing North Ronaldsay sheep and suckler herd of Shetland cattle, the disturbance to wildlife. There wasn’t another living soul, as far as I could see, nor a dog, on the sea wall.

I saw Darcy standing further along the sea wall by the Leavings. There was fringing reed and scrub developing around the borrowdyke, always worth a look and a listen in summer for reed warblers and buntings, as well as dragonflies. I joined her.

We walked past the outflow sluice for the marsh, where precious water could gush out at low tide after the expected heavy August rain. Just ahead of us was the new counter wall, the high grassy bank that wound its way across to Blockhouse Bay.

A permissive footpath led us to the Hide, built into the counter-wall, from where we could watch duck, geese, waders and sheep on the grazing marsh.

Darcy stood at the entrance to the Hide. I felt my body twist and rack in agony. Felt my lungs heave, heart pound.

‘Will you see the Hide?’ she whispered.

Frightened I hesitated, breathed in, spurted out the words like blood from an artery, ‘I’ll see it.’

I followed Darcy into the Hide. The Hide was empty. There were two polished benches, one for each shuttered window, a wipe-board with the smudged words “sheep sighted” on it and a handful of leaflets bearing the slogan: Join Us Today and Save Your Wildlife for Tomorrow.

I sat down heavily on the bench and stared out of the window at the sheep grazing the dried river bed. There were dozens of ghastly black flies crawling up the inside of the window. I’d reached the Hide. I’d found my final resting place.

Darcy was standing just inside the latched doorway.  

‘I’ll always love you, dearest,’ she said.

And then she turned to go...

 


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