Monday, 30 April 2012

Going down - part 1

Jaz, Dave, Joe and now Victor stood grimly on the headland. The light was at best indifferent; visibility waxed and waned with the curtains of rain that drifted across the whole sodden scene. They had been calling out Matt’s name for the best part of an hour now, checking along the tide-line, across the cliffs and down as far as they dared on the rocks. Nothing replied but the grim thunder and crack of the waves.

“Where exactly did you find it ?” asked Victor in an uncharacteristically low tone.

Jaz answered, resignation falling into his words, “Down there,” he indicated to the left hand side, where the beach fell away and the sea took over. “Just came out to have a look at the storm and there it was, half the fuckin’ board, smashed.” He lapsed into silence and scanned the sea again.

He’d immediately recognised the board and knew something was wrong. He felt guilty now that his first thoughts were to have a right go at whoever had wrecked their favourite toy, those thoughts soon turned to panic when he realised that more than likely one of his mates was out there. He’d run up and down the shoreline in a pointless attempt to see if he could spot anyone. Heart racing and head starting to whirl with a sickness. He realised that there wasn’t anything much he could do alone so he’d ran to Joe and Dave’s house, insistent and by now scared. They were out like a shot, Joe ran down the hill to rouse Matt; Jaz and Dave headed up the cliffs for a better spot. It was on the way there that they’d thought of getting Victor out, he might not be pleased but he had always looked after them and now they really needed it.

Victor was sitting in the empty bar of the hotel working through his accounts when they rushed in. He listened and then shooed them out – he’d phone the coastguard, they could go and look. Inside he fought against the sinking feeling that this wasn’t a good time to be in the water and whoever was had better have the luck and lives of a cat. The feeling demanded action and after he’d made the phone call he grabbed a waterproof and stomped across the slippery grass to catch up with Jaz and Dave. Dave looked out, saying nothing; they exchanged glances and resumed their scouring of the rocks.

“Coastguard on his way man.” Victor tried to inject some hope, but also felt he had to tell them the truth, “There’s a boat though. A boat gone down off Newporth with three fishermen somewhere on it. So no lifeboat for now, no chopper either.” He turned his face down, ”So they’re sending a crew down in the land rover, be about half an hour, forty five minutes….” He tailed off. “Come on boy, let’s hope we find someone before they get here. Maybe whoever had the board is safe at home and too bloody frightened to face me. I bloody hope so.”

Even so he turned his face into the wind and something in him hardened, turning the softened hotel owner’s features into those of someone that had seen a lot more than he wished to remember and didn’t want to see again. Determined and strong, he called the boys around so that they could search more effectively.

At this point Joe came running towards them, gasping for breath, rain streaking his face like tears.

“It’s Matt – It’s Matt !” he yelled at them. “Matt’s not there !”

“Calm down boy, slow now – slow - tell us” commanded Victor, strong and authoritarian now.

“Just went to get Matt.” The reply came in short gasps, “Not there. Not at home. His ‘suits gone. Guy in the garage saw him. A few hours ago. Heading to the beach.” Joe’s eyes were wide and staring, “He’s in there…”

They walked up and down, clambering down the cliff face as far as the slippery mud-stained slate would allow safely. Victor ran to the hotel and brought back binoculars, which were next to useless as the rain smeared them instantly and the salt spray gradually turned them opaque, as well as a length of rope. This was more useful; Jaz tied one end around his waist and, testing it with cold shaking hands, allowed the others to lower him further down the cliff than he would otherwise have been able. There were steps cut into a section of rock by the hotel and, roped, Jaz let the combined weight of the other three hold him as he struggled down to the point where the water started to crash over him. They had thought that he would be able to get a better look along the dark water from there but it was useless, each successive wave broke over him until clinging on for dear life became the object. He choked and spat mouthfuls of salt water. For their part the others reeled him in like some prize catch, a last wave catching him off balance and scraping him against the cliff wall before they pulled him back up to the relative calm of the top.

Still no sign of the coastguard. Still no sign of Matt.

“Shit, shit, shit !” Jaz exploded when he’d got his breath back. “Why did the stupid bastard do it, stupid selfish stupid bastard.” He dropped down to his knees on the soaked turf,” Stupid bastard, killing himself like this. What the fuck was he doing. What the fuck is going on ?” He yelled at the sky, an absolute wordless yell of pain and desperation.

Victor put his hand on his shoulder, gently but with some weight.

“Come on. Now’s not the time bra, let’s see what we can do. If we can’t do anything there’ll be plenty of time for this. Believe me, I know.”

“What the fuck do you know ?” Jaz rounded on him. Victor stayed calm.

“I know what it’s like to miss your mates and wonder if they’re dead, to look for them and hope like hell nothing you know is true. I also know what it’s like to find them, alive and dead. Man, you boys don’t know anything – before I came here, well, time enough for that later too. Time enough. Let’s go.”

Jaz looked up from the ground, ashamed at his outburst. “OK, let’s find the fucker.”

and that's called 'sad'....

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