An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Kursaal Flyers

Charlie awoke to sunshine pouring across his face. Given that the previous two days had been overcast it came as something of a surprise. A pleasant surprise. It had been a long hard night at the files for Charlie but at least he knew it was before 2 o'clock: the sun moved past at about two at this time of year. It hid behind the big stand of poplars by the railway lines. He stretched and rolled to one side sleepily, uncreasing his old bones and muscles, sinew and tendons. HIs next move, his first genuinely conscious movement was to retrieve a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from the bedside table. He lit one and drew on it as if his life depended on it. Which, given the way he felt most mornings, it may have done. He coughed and cleared some phlegm from his throat. Propping himself on one elbow he squinted across at the clock - he had ditched the alarm clock a few years back when his eyes had first begun to let him down and had instead installed a bloody great big wall clock directly opposite the end of the bed: and already he was having trouble reading it. He shifted the book out of the way (The HIdden Files if you're really interested) and retrieved his reading specs.

He crushed the butt into the ashtray with a brown stained thumb, now stained with ash, and immediately lit a fresh one resting back on the pillows. He took off the specs and dropped them beside the bed. And then he closed his eyes. It was all memory now. All recall. The access Gee had given him was not just read only it was copy and print disabled too. He had had to commit everything to memory - no wonder he was knackered. There was half of a cup of cold coffee on the floor down by where his specs now were, maybe last night's, maybe older: he grabbed it and slugged the viscous brown muck back. If you're too lazy to make fresh then you drink what's at hand. Feeling the grounds between his teeth he rested back again and smiled a self satisfied smile. He was thinking about Gee. Gee and Mary.

Mary had been dead nearly ten years now and it must have been nine since he had seen Gee. He no longer missed Mary - he had become accustomed to her absence over time - all he had now were happy memories of her - all regrets and sadness were purged from him in the intervening, desperately empty years. She and Gee had been close - who knows, perhaps they had been lovers - who cares? Not he. Ten years ago he had been - they had both been - on the force together. I t was only Mary's death that had moved them both on - and both to the same firm. And despite the fact that they left the force within months of each other and moved to the same firm they had seen very little of each other from that point on. Gee had risen through the hierarchy quickly - he had been a natural manager and administrator - but Charlie had stayed at the sharp end - the operational pit face if you will. No hard feelings. Gee deserved his success and, any way, Charlie was happy with his lot. It wasn't that they had drifted apart, rather that they had obstinately, purposely, gone their own ways: had gone on to their own separate successes. It was as if the pain of Mary's death had unzipped their relationship and set them both free. The crab had got her in the guts and had taken a long, hard, tearful time to carry her off. Fucker. But that was behind him now and if the crab wanted to come and get him then he was ready to go now. There was little left undone and nothing left unexpatiated - he was all talked out and ready for an end to the solipsistic dialogue that others would call his life. Arno Schmidt was his man.

Unbidden, a memory popped forward almost fully formed - a trip to Southend one Bank Holiday - who knows which one - the three of them in Gee's ancient Jowett Javelin - ancient even then - a collector's piece now no doubt - the bowling alley - Peter Pan's playground - the waxworks - or was it a house of horror - or both - the trampolines - fish and chips - he recalled a wonderful chip butty - the butter melting out as the bread collapsed onto the chips soaked in tawny malt vinegar and running up his sleeve - Mary eating prawns and Gee tucking into winkles with a pin he kept in his lapel - Charlie always had a razor blade in his - some beers - a port and lemon for Mary - just the one, she was driving them all home - an evening at the Kursaal - on to the Cliffs to check out Alexei Sayle - more beer - more fun - more laughs - a coffee and an ice at Rossi's. What times we had.

He dragged himself out of the reverie and cast back to last night's session.


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