Jaz and Terry sat in the bar of the pub, it was late Saturday lunchtime and most of the
other customers had drifted off. If it had been, say, July or August the place
would have been teeming with families desperately trying to force their place
in the queue for drinks or sitting around disconsolately waiting for the food
to arrive. Now, out of season, the place reverted back to its normal mode of
half-full local pub for the villagers and a few fleece-wearing beach walkers.
No surfers at this time of the day, they didn’t usually make it in until the
sun went down.
there was much sun today. The intimidating storm clouds had moved closer and
the sky was awhirl with high grey towers which seemed to boil as you watched. No
storm yet though. The sea reflected the uneasy colours and the tops of the
waves toppled ice white and unforgiving.
The juke box was playing some old
soul that Terry had picked out, Aretha followed by Otis. He missed the sound of
the records changing over now everything was digital.
“So why are you really here Terry? I was Ok with what you said at first, but it all seems a bit more than just getting away from it all?” Jaz looked at him with a precision stare.
“Good question…” Terry tailed off.
Jaz roared, “So, what’s the fuckin’answer then?”
The barman looked over in their direction then began putting glasses away on the shelf under the bar. The jukebox went silent for a second, it resumed with the opening bars of “Try a little tenderness”. Terry looked up from his shoes.
“D’you know what – truth is I’m not really sure. I mean, I wanted to get away from everything – from that mind and soul destroying pointlessness of work – I’ve spent twenty odd years, getting up, going to work, coming home, sleeping, going back again and for what ? It pays the mortgage; it pays for the cars and the clothes. But beyond that, I feel like I ought to be making some difference, but do I see any? Do I fuck? I might as well never have existed as far as work goes. I doubt if they’ve noticed any difference without me there.
I know I’ve bullshitted and fumbled my way into what’s quite a reasonable job really, well, in the scheme of things it pays well, people listen to me and do things for me, stay on the right side of me – all that crap. But when it comes down to it I just thought one day how immensely mundane and irredeemably useless it all was.
I know I know…” He waved his hand at Jaz to stop him interrupting, “I know I’ve said all this before, and you know all the stuff about Marie, but yeah there is something else.”
“Go on then”
“That’s the thing – I don’t know, I’m not sure. But there’s something I’m just not sure about and it's here.”
“What do you fuckin mean mate? What’s here?”
“You’ll only take the piss.”
“Go on, try me”
“Well, I’ve never really thought about things as much as I have in the last week, thought about why I used to come here and why I went off when I did, not coming back and all.”
“You ain’t the only one”
“Well – the thing is – I just feel that something isn’t right, like there’s something just outside my field of vision, flickering away but not something I can grab onto. Like the other day – I thought I saw someone watching me from the edge of the beach, but when I looked there was no-one there.”
“An’ you think this has got something to do with them ….?” Jaz looked bewildered.
“No, no you fuckwit, nothing to do with them – what I mean is that there’s something I’m not quite getting, something about me that I ought to get isn’t making sense. I was talking to Dave earlier, he was a bit flaky – like I know he usually is, but more so. He was talking about missing Joe and he had this look in his eyes, a kind of faraway look, but faraway inside – not looking outwards. That’s how I feel, like I’m looking inside for something and not able to find it any more.”
“Yeah, but why here? Why come back to Cornwall after all this time?”
“Thought it was about getting away from everything and maybe finding that place I used to hang out, get some peace. But it isn’t. There’s a reason why I’ve come here. I don’t even think it was on purpose. That is, I came down partly because I heard about Joe, but if it hadn’t have been that then something else would have turned up eventually that would have made me come here. Does that make sense?”
“Sort of….well, to be honest, no.”
Terry smiled at the ceiling, at no one in particular. It wasn’t a problem that he couldn’t explain it. He had only just realised it himself and was having trouble working it out in his own head let alone verbalising it. He stood up to get two more drinks and stopped by the juke box on the way to the bar. In his pocket he fumbled for then found a pound coin and dropped it in. Otis was coming to his conclusion and Terry listened as the brass wound up for the big finale, triumphant and sad in the same last gasp. He punched in some numbers at random and walked to the bar to the sound of something he’d never heard before, all bleeps and basslines. Jaz looked at him with a ‘What the fuck is that ?’ look.
“Sometimes,” Terry said in response to the unasked question,” You’ve just got to go with the randomness, see if it throws up something that you might like – or might hate – but whichever way it goes you get to try out something new.”
Jaz nodded sagely, “Yeah, o wise man - but this is still a bit shit innit?”
Terry laughed and turned to get the pints in.
Later, as they sank their third pint and were talking about the weather, Jaz suddenly stared at Terry with a real look of concern, “Look, you’ve got to find out what it is that’s bugging you – you have to mate. Seeing you down there in that crappy caravan might be a laugh for a few weeks but come on, you’re not twenty, you don’t want to end up like some of the people ‘round here. You know that. Can you seriously imagine what life is actually like for someone like Dave?”
“Dave? Well, apart from the whole people-dying-around-him thing I always thought he did OK”
“Yeah, maybe, once upon a time. But these days, these last ten years – you ain’t seen it – he’s falling apart, very slowly, but he is. There’s something there that he didn’t find – something that he needed to once.”
“What do you mean ? Once ?”
“Reckon now it’s too late. It’s like you said, he looks inwards too much. He’s not exactly the full pasty. I wouldn’t recommend religion to anyone but if there’s someone who needed some sort of faith and hope then it’s probably him. He don’t show it much, but I’ve been around when he goes off big style – I don’t know how to describe it but it's like a slow burning fuse that gradually, finally reaches the powder keg then ‘boom!’. Last time was about a year ago – after some sort of fight with Joe, dunno what about. He stomped around for days looking greyer and more weird by the hour, he stood up there on the cliffs for ages, out in all weather, didn’t talk to no-one. Then all of a sudden he was in here, the first person who bumped into him spilt his drink, got all the words that Dave seemed to have been saving up. The anger and whatever else it was just poured out of him, he shouted and raved at this poor guy, some Emmet, until the guy turned away from him.
Bad move. Dave grabbed him and thumped him one. Some of the locals got involved and dragged Dave away before this bloke could do anything – he was bigger and younger for a start – Dave was still swearing and shoving all the way out of the car park. Next time we see him he’s in the shop that afternoon smiling sweetly at the old ladies and it’s like nothing has happened.
Now tell me that’s normal? S’what happens to you if you stay around here with the same people too fuckin’ long.”