A Stones Throw

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
a daily walk with her dog leads to a life changing event - or is it?

Submitted: November 23, 2013

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Submitted: November 23, 2013

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A Stone’s Throw

 

You are walking with Dasher along Portland’s East cliffs, as you do every morning. In the evening you usually take her around by West cliffs.

This morning, as you look down from the path onto a quarried ledge above the sea, the man who has been wild camping there all week is squatting before his tent, his back to you.

You take in the scorched patches of yellow and white lichen, the plastic carriers snared in the blackthorn, the can litter. Your rising anger tastes metallic, like too much early morning tea.

The man is reaching in through the tent flap, pulling clothes out and stuffing them into a rucksack.

Keeping it light. “You will take the rubbish too eh?”

He turns and looks up. “What’s it to you, bitch?”

“What?”

Dasher is picking her way down the scree towards the camp. She is used to foraging amongst the scraps left by parties, picnickers and bbquers.

“I said, mind your own fuckin’ business,” and he turns back to the tent.

Leave it. But you weren’t listening to yourself.

“Why don’t you Just pack up, take your rubbish with you and clear off!”

Rising he turns and aims a kick at Dasher as you yell,

“No!”

He lets his swinging leg fall and instead scoops the terrier up in one meaty hand.  She looks comical, still and stiff as that dog on wheels, only her legs stand on air. In her old age she is deaf from polyps and hasn't picked up on the violence of voices.

“I’ll kill your fuckin’ dog for you shall I?” and stooping to pass under the overhang, he straightens, swinging her out over the sea as if to throw her away.

You stoop, too, and pick up a rock, palm sized, rough edged.

“Don’t!” as you hurl the rock.

It strikes him on the temple and he staggering, drops the dog who lands on her four paws. Then he is gone.

Dasher sets off towards you, at a stately pace, as if nothing has happened.

You are sliding clumsily on the loose chippings sloping down towards the camp. The dog stops and awaits your approach. You bend to stroke her head and whisper her name before trespassing on the camp sheltered under the overhang.

You pass by the undefended mouths of tent and rucksack, taking in the already abandoned feel of the place. 

Becalmed like the dog, but with shock, you peer over the edge.

The man has landed at the foot of the cliff just above the surf. His head is flung back over a rock at an angle suggesting his neck is broken. The ends of his hair fan out like seaweed in the water. He isn’t moving. He is making no sound at all.

You stand up and look around you. There is no-one in sight. The dog is still standing waiting on the path.

“Come on Dash,” and you move ahead of her, back towards the cove and the beach hut.

Hot sweet tea.

And,

How mad is that? A man is dead and I’m going to the hut to drink tea.

And,

So? How dare he threaten Dasher!

And,

What are talking about? You have killed the man!

Have I?  

He’s dead for God’s sake.

He may not be dead.

Then why aren’t you running for help?

Standing in the doorway of the hut, sipping sugared tea, the sun low now over the West cliffs. The grinding whir of the rescue helicopter comes in from the East. You step away from the hut onto the beach for a better look. It is hovering over the cliffs.

That didn't take long. Did somebody see me then or did they come along afterwards?

A man in helmet and gear is being winched down.

What happened? I need more time.

You look the other way towards the steps. Watching for police coming down to get you. You wait. No-one comes.

The sun is gone from the beach. The helicopter racket continues. You begin to pack the hut up for the night. Gather books and writing block. Swill cold water round the cups and empty them onto the rocks.  Pack cheese and oatcakes into a plastic box and store them in the cupboard for next time. Finally you close and bolt the shutters leaving the hut in darkness.

The beach is twilit, the surf on the ebb, long and dragging, the stones grumbling under its pull. You turn away from the rescue drama out on the cliffs and lead Dasher away up the steps towards home.

A few people are gathering now to watch; a gangle of lads hanging over a parapet wall, a family group arranged on the steps, their dogs bounding up and down encouraging them to get a move on.

You push up against the gathering tide of neighbours now wandering down to watch, nodding here and there, not waiting for their questions. No-one takes any especial notice of you as they look out towards the helicopter.  They are used to your ways, to seeing you going to and from the hut, trailing the old dog.

At the top of the steps you stop for breath, waiting for Dasher to catch up. On up the lane and in through the back gate to the kitchen. The house is still. Dasher goes to her basket and falls asleep.

You unload your writing block from the carrier and lay it ready on the table for the days’ revisions. Sometimes you leave it to the next morning, to be fresh, to have slept on it. This evening you want to get straight to it. As you begin to read, tension dissolves like morning mist off the sea and you relax into the clear blue wallow of the story.

You stop reading and try it out.

I have killed a man.

Nothing. No alarm is raised.

As you fill the kettle, you know you won’t let it disturb the peace.

What difference would commotion make to him now?

Returning to your revisions you don't notice it when the helicopter noise stops.

Dasher wakes for her supper. As you spoon tripe and home cooked green gloop into her bowl,

I just wanted him to put Dasher down.

‘PUT HER DOWN!’

And that’s when you remember, that wasn’t when it started.

‘Leave it!’  And I didn’t listen.

You feel sick, winded, like you’ve been punched. You can barely make it to the sofa in the living room. You sleep for hours, and when you wake it is to quiet and stillness. You open your eyes and there is the image of him framed by the darkness. And like an old photo he is both present and somehow far away and lost to you. You don’t shut your eyes against him although you want to, instead you struggle  to sit up, to get closer to him. The ledge he lies on is whitened with gull droppings. His arms and legs are splayed as if playing at snow angels. You want to reach into the water and untangle his floating hair from the mossy seaweed.  You can hear the waves washing over the stone, feel the coldness  shrinking his skin to tightness over the new rock of his head. He’s as close as tracing a finger along the cold blueness of his upturned jaw and on into the hollow of his cheek. As you look at him clear in the face he’s as close to you as tenderly pressing closed each vacant, unseeing eye.

 

 

 

 


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