“I was going back – I was – I wouldn’t have done that – It was a bit of a joke, well, not that – it was – I don’t know what I’d call it – I was pissed off with ‘er – I lost it for a moment – but just a bit like – she was really pissed off with me…..” The words tumbled out, Dave’s hands shook as he stared down at them.
“I just didn’t….it was an accident…it was the accident – the car I mean…..all I ever intended to do was go back down to the village, pick up some stuff…..give her a scare like, show her that I hadn’t been behaving like a bastard…but that I could….I never knew…I never knew….no-one could have seen it coming….” Tears started to roll down his face.
“I’ve thought about forever…..all these years…..I ain’t told anyone….not ‘part from Joe….”
Terry saw that Dave’s hand was bleeding in the centre of his palm, a stigmata from where he’d gripped and clenched and unclenched the pendant, his print stained hands turning the red to purple as it oozed out. Terry sat there unable to speak. It was all too unreal and at the same time it was all so familiar. He wasn’t surprised. He hadn’t been expecting this. But at the same time he knew the story that was falling over itself to escape from Dave’s mouth. He was detached, disembodied. The ocean outside seemed to have increased its roar, making the noises that Terry knew he should be making but couldn’t. The rain had begun to slam against the plate glass panes at the front of the shop, the air hung solid with dark clouds and whipped up sand. The beach moving closer to them both.
“Joe, Joe knew. But now, well, now with you ‘ere an’ all. I had to tell someone else. So’s you’d understand if nothing else. So’s they all would. I didn’t do anything, just didn’t do anything.
What you got to know is that I really didn’t know what was goin’ on, after the accident like. I really didn’t know where I was, what was happening. I didn’t know which fuckin’ year it was or who the prime minister was or nothin’. They kept asking me all those questions. Then it just came back.”
Dave stared at Terry – Terry responded by glancing away and avoiding his eyes. “Just came back. Don’t know if anyone ever told you. Don’t s’pose they did, you were out of here by then…”
Terry nodded, half heartedly, his head was thumping with that nagging pain again. Dave was talking more but only some of it was going in.
“Y’know, when I knew, when I really knew, that was at least a week and a half later… I told Joe. I did. He went down there that day. Can’t even start to think about what he might have found there…starved….cold….I dunno, don’t want to know. Dead? That’s what I thought anyway. But when he got there, nothin’. He looked ‘round, couldn’t tell what had gone on.”Dave wiped his nose across the sleeve of his shirt.
“But later, later he found this.” He held out the necklace again, grubby and smeared with the blood from his hand. “Found it down on the rocks, at the bottom, see ? Chain was broke. Snapped off like well, like…. I suppose she tried to get out, get up, or down. Slipped maybe? Fell ? Dunno. But the sea, there’s rips there that’ll take you well out past the headland. I don’t want to think about it no more. Every night, every day. I just don’t want to have it in my head.”
He looked at Terry. Held his gaze. “You do believe me don’t you? It was an accident. I didn’t mean anything…anything to happen.”
Terry looked away. His head full of conflicting sounds, like the inside of the shop had suddenly become a conduit for all the conversations he’d ever had, all the sights he’d ever seen. His eyes felt sore. His hands were dry and cold. His heart seemed to be pounding. A part of him that had detached itself from the rest started to wonder if he was having a heart attack. He couldn’t answer Dave. Dave whose eyes searched for some sort of absolution, and whose hands carried on clenching and unclenching.
Dave stood up and started pacing in small darting steps, up and down, two steps one way, four the other, random, jerky movements. His mouth was moving but no sound was coming out of it. Words spun out in their own lack of conviction became that familiar humming noise. Terry tried to look up at him but his neck hurt, his head was the weight of a cannonball and something seemed very wrong with the way his brain was trying to make sense of it all.
The hum resolved itself into words again and Dave restarted somewhere in the middle of a sentence, “….wasn’t meant to. Didn’t have to be like that, Christ knows Joe, Joe tried. He’s kept me going all this time. Took the pressure off. Now you. Now you.”
Terry snapped back to the present, “Now you what ? Dave, What ? Why are you saying all this ? It’s not right, it just isn’t.” Terry didn’t even know why he’d said that. Something wasn’t right.
Dave exploded, “Course it’s not fuckin’ right, it’s not fuckin right that I’ve felt like this for too fuckin’ long.” He pushed over a stack of tacky tourist gifts, sending piskies flying into the dust below the bookcases. “You – you had to show. I knew it. Could feel it. But wish you hadn’t. Wish you’d let me not do this. But I said it, said it to Joe, said I’d say one day. Didn’t mean it to be now. Didn’t expect you this soon, or ever perhaps. Now you’ve fucking done it, I didn’t want to. Why’d you make me? Hey? Why did you have to have a fuckin’ row with ‘er and then turn up again now? Why?” Dave was shouting, he gripped the counter and his knuckles turned white, even in the tepid gloom of the unlit shop his face glowed red. He paced more and more irregularly, getting further away and then closer each time to Terry, crowding him and just as suddenly spinning away from him.
“Fuck, just say something, tell me that you’re angry, tell me you’re fuckin’ scared, tell me anything!” He raged.
Terry could only say “It isn’t, it isn’t right….” Tailing off and fading as he said it. Dave’s eyes widened and he snorted, “Fuck – course it ain’t – it’s the end, the total and utter end of everything – I can’t do this – can’t carry this around any more.”
Terry finally looked up at him again and a cloud seemed to clear from Dave’s face, the redness went away like the last shards of sunset falling behind the horizon. He stopped pacing, stopped where he was at the end of the old wooden counter. He breathed out and shrank visibly, deflating himself. He looked at Terry again and from somewhere inside him he found a more measured tone, a calm voice.
“It ain’t right – true enough – it ain’t right – and it never has been.” He sniffed back some residual tears. He half smiled at Terry. “I’m glad you came really, I don’t know how long it would have been before I had to find you and tell you anyway. I’m sorry. I’ve got to go. I’m sorry.”
“Dave...” said Terry, then fell to the floor as the child’s wooden baseball bat hit him squarely and forcefully on the back of the skull.
Dave threw the bat on the floor beside Terry’s prone body and walked out of the back door of the shop, picking up a packet of cigarettes on the way. He conscientiously locked the door with the big set of keys he’d taken from the shelf and then, humming into the roaring wind and driving rain, loaded a board into the passenger seat of his car.
for the title alone