Brigstowe Bay was a grinning moon banked by rocky spurs.
At the centre of the smile was a bank of grubby sand, the Grand Pier with its sagging wooden roller coaster and sun bleached stalls selling candy floss and hot dogs.
On the northern spur, looking towards Torquay, were the wide streets and Romanesque villas of Upper Cliffside, looking down on the promenade in more ways than one.
On the southern side, set apart from the wannabe millionaires of Cliffside and the hucksters and charming liars of the promenade, was an area locals called ‘Brig’.
The pubs and cottages lining Brig harbour resembled squat toadstools, warty with jerry-built extensions, sheds and stillhouses. What fishing boats remained ran the coast, ‘fishing’ for washed up whisky and smuggled brandy.
A boy from Brig could beat a Cliffside lad hands down in a fight.
The door squeaked open. Kurt stepped out onto the tenement roof and propped the door open with an old metal chair he’d saved from a skip. He felt in the brick planter – no plants, just bricks – and fished out his tobacco wallet.
The cigarette paper slipped easily through his practiced fingers, flakes of tobacco tamed into a tube. The lighter flared, clicked shut.
The lead roof was still hot, petrol fumes dissipating a little as day gave way to night.
Laney’s voice reached him up the stairwell. ‘Kurt! Dinner.’
Downstairs the baby was giggling, hiccuping, giggling.
Not a bad life.
Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the picture and write along. See here to join in the fun.
The way down from the cliffs was a struggle, the boulders less even than they looked from a distance. The bladder wrack was still wet, slippery under her heels and she had to use one hand to hold her skirts up – she could just imagine how much trouble she’d be in if her only black dress was marked with slime and seawater.
‘Wait for me,’ she called.
Charlie was already a way ahead, striding from rock to rock. His trousers wore twin stripes down the hips, brown and green where he’d carelessly wiped his hands. His patent boots were muddy to the ankle.
Every part of her life felt shackled – working at the big house, the housekeeper with her sharp black eyes, the mistress running pudgy fingers over every mantel and sill. Free time was rare and even then she was not permitted to walk along the Front or go to the music hall or the fair, only to Church or on ‘improving walks’.
How she envied him those boots, those trousers.
She closed her eyes, breathed in the salt tang. Her corset pinched at the waist, on her lower ribs, cut under her arms. Even her breathing wasn’t free.
This was the closest she came, though.
If they sneaked down the beach, out of sight of the Grange, in the shelter of the boulders, there was privacy of a sort. The wind whipped sand in her face, tugged hair from its pins so it caught in her mouth, flicked against her cheeks – she loved it all.
Gulls soared overhead, hovering, wheeling, calling her to join them, mocking when she couldn’t.
Charlie had made it to the mouth of the cove. He sat on the sand, peeling off his boots and socks, turning up his trouser legs. He wriggled his toes in the sand like a little boy.
Hanna woke early, pushed her feet in to her sheep skin slippers, soft against her bunions.
On the stairs she always came down backwards now, since the fall.
At the kitchen counter, she rested her forefinger on the edge of the loaf, using the digit as a measure. She’d hook a finger over the rim of her coffee cup too, stop pouring when the heat reached her nail. Damn cataract operation couldn’t come soon enough.
After breakfast she walked to the lake, her stick sinking into the mud, grit rolling under her boots. At the mud flats she stopped, looked over the water, breathed in the day.
She missed the details, but she knew the sun twinkled like fairy lights on the water, that the birds sang out, defending territory and new broods.
Spring was on its way and it was going to be a good one.
Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View for inspiration. This week we are in Polanczyk, Poland. See here to join in.
There were four towers at the harbour, frameworks of scabby tubular steel, ladders and trusses, each six storeys high.
Matt would sit on a particular bench, by water tamed by the sea walls. The bench had a good view of all the towers but was furthest away from the litter bin. Because of the wasps and the germs.
He liked the way the towers’ uprights and diagonals acted as frames to scraps of billowing rain clouds and wispy cirrus and even bright clear blue on occasion. They cut the sky into fragments, brought it fleeting order.
When the sounds grew too much – music turned thumping, people shouting, the cars beeping, engines rumbling through the soles of his trainers – he’d go to the bench, watch the towers cut the sky into patches.
To anyone who asked – and plenty of those who didn’t – Kate would say it was because they wanted their daughter to be bright and colourful, to be a symbol of hope, connected to both the Earth and the Heavens.
Mike would stand behind his wife, smile and nod.
What he couldn’t add was that after Kate’s drink driving conviction, her brief imprisonment and lengthy counselling, after her affair and his decision to take her back, the baby was a symbol of calm after the storm.
The sole remaining, ephemeral connection between her parents.
Written For Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the inspirational photograph and pen a story. See here to join in.
The note led Sunny to a clearing in the woods, to a shipping container half concealed by ivy and brambles. If it wasn’t for the stencilled letters and numbers, it could be something from a fairy tale, home to a sleeping princess.
Once she’d cleared the growth from the door, sweat darkened her top and her arms were lacy with scratches, threads of blood.
She stared at the block of metal, wondering why. Why someone had sent her a note telling her to come. Why she’d obeyed it.
The sun was dropping lower, midges rising from the grass. Time.
She pulled the lever. The bars squeaked, turned slowly, rust catching on rust.
‘Come on,’ she muttered.
With one last tug the mechanism released. An animal smell – ancient and rank – hit her along with a wave of heat. She swallowed, tried to ignore the call to vomit.
The dry river bed shimmered, glassy with sun haze. A few cattle – bony as xylophones – followed tribesmen, nudging at rocks, chewing tufts of crisp grass.
The distant outcrops were scorched barren, a thicket of acacias turned khaki by weeks of drought.
He tugged his scarf over his nose to fend off a sand squall. So different from home. And yet….
Through squinted eyes, the dry riverbed became the River Affric, the cattle shaggy Highland cows, bellowing across the Glen. The outcrops were the mountains of Kintail or Mam Sodhail, the only Munro he was ever likely to climb.
In the sting of sand he felt pricks of snow, on the wind he smelt the heather, the tang of loch water.
He’d never imagined he would yearn to feel cold again, to chip at ice with the heel of his boot.
Sighing, he walked on. Towards the acacias and a hope of home.