‘Will there be pirates?’ says Grace.
‘Might be,’ says Albie.
Grace often wonders what it’s like to wield a cutlass and the two of them have long, serious conversations about whether Nana’s parakeet could be trained to perch on her shoulder. Being ten and not five, Albie knows there are no galleons or flint eyed slavers at the docks. But he likes to see the glister of excitement in his sister’s eye all the same.
They play hopscotch by The Hole in the Wall, use a piece of coal to scratch the numbers and a ‘special’ stone that Grace finds by a half empty beer bottle as a marker. Her socks are grey with dust and slack round her ankles, though neither of them worry for now. A telling off feels far away.
They stop on Prince Street Bridge.
‘Want a look?’ Albie lifts her so she can see more than just the tips of the cranes.
They count the cargo ships and the funnels, the stocky tugs that slice triangles in the water, the tank engines that chug and puff, belching steam that thins to a streak above the warehouses. The bridge feels gritty under Albie’s palms and when his arms grow tired and Grace slides to the pavement, her dress is all smuts.
Her eyes swell with tears. Albie presses them away with his sleeve, streaking her cheeks black and pink. ‘Let’s go find a pirate,’ he says and takes her hand.
They dodge barrows, jump the rails, watch hessian bales and crates fly over their heads. A load of barrels – dark wood, smelling of Christmas – sways an arm’s length away and Albie pulls Grace close, holds her till they swing away.
By the engine shed there’s a chocolate brown dog splashed with white as if a pot of paint was dropped on his back. He has three legs, a soft pink tongue and a scarf tied round his neck like a sailor. Grace scrubs his ears with sticky fingers.
‘Perhaps he needs a home,’ she suggests, just as a sharp whistle calls him away.
When Grace trips for the third time, Albie says it’s time to go home. ‘Piggy back?’ he says.
And as she jolts and jiggles and her eyes sting and she can’t stop from yawning, she thinks of steam clouds and the smell of Christmas and of finding treasure with her pirate dog.
A couple of weeks ago, I shared the news that one of my flash stories – Will there be pirates? – had been selected to be read aloud during a Flash Walk around Bristol harbour side. Today, I thought I’d share that story with you.
It was a lovely morning – we were blessed with some surprisingly warm weather – and some great flash fiction was heard. If you nip over to the Bristol Flash fb page, you’ll find a link to local author and performer Tom Parker who did such a great job of bringing a voice to the story, despite bustling tourists and inconsiderately loud buses.
N.B If you study the pics really closely, you’ll find one of me with my back to camera – I’m the gal dressed in blue with the purple and grey back pack. Click on the image and you’ll see hubs to my right (looking very cool in his shades). Here’s an arty black and white pic of Tom performing the story. Can you spot me and hubs?