#7 The Beach

#1 The Beach

whitstable

“That’s a nice one.”

“Yeah?”

“Really nice.” He nestled the shell in the palm of his hand and admired its colours. With a grubby, sandy forefinger he gently pressed the centre of the turreted shell. “It’s strong.” I could tell he had his heart set on it. His little eyes flickered back and forth, analysing every groove it wore in the resting sun.

“I don’t think they’ll let you keep that one.”

“I want it.”

“You’ll need to find a round one.”

“Okay.” He pocketed the shell as if I told him to. He smiled at me and comfortably began to stroll up the beach.

“Charlie? Did you hear me?” He stopped.

“I just wanted to see what it’d be like to keep it.” Tears brewed from his now fragile eyes. “There’s a small box in my dresser – it’s got a gold crown on the lid. There’s a small combination lock on the front. The code is 345634. Could you put it in there please? I hope to see it again.”

And then it hit him. Despite the sea air, sandy socks, salty chips, browning sunbathers and calling seagulls, he couldn’t lock out the concrete walls, the iron bars, the mashed potato. That’s all it was and all that will ever be – Charlie would never knock on number 45 Oakgrove Road.

“I’ll guess I’ll have to find it again, here on the beach.” He dropped the shell in front of him. “Remember where I left it.”

“I’ll remember.” The officer took Charlie’s arm and slowly walked him back to the car.

I debated on taking the shell, bringing it in for him. Letting him keep it close. He wouldn’t mean harm with it. It was the youth inside him that lusted the beautiful token.

I thought I should leave it, like it was his last mark on the outside world, to be taken back into the sea when the gentle tide rode in.

But I took the shell to rest in his dresser, hoping in a perfect world he’d be out to hold it again.

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#4 Paint

#4 Paint

/u/Sakmitshu submitted the following image prompt.

dd vv

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I didn’t know what to say at first. I was speechless, those guilty, colourful footsteps that lined the hallway. Gave the kid a yelling, that’s one thing I did. Sent her up to her room with no dinner. Mum would have felt bad so she would have slid a chocolate bar under the door. But I was never going to give in. Not to this.

Now, my Imogen. She’s got one hell of a memory. She remembers songs after hearing them once, she memorised the periodic table backwards just because she could and she learnt Lucky’s monologue from Waiting for Godot in a couple of hours because ‘she felt like it.’ Now, I read that card number outonce when I was on the phone to her grandfather – buying bog roll over the internet and he can’t read it – and she remembered it. I said it once and she had it printed in her head. Smart kid. Now, she’s never been into art or music or kind of expression stuff but she’s special in that she’s always been academically smart. We funded loads of courses for her, extra-curricular stuff, and those weekend classes, she’s breezing through them. And she loves it. She’s got a brain that’s going to get her the best life.

But when I spend this time and money on my kid – my only kid – who gets 100% of the attention and help, and she robs me, I’m obviously not going to be happy. She robs me. She did it without me knowing, takes my card and withdraws the money, then she leaves the house before I wake up, she spends it all and comes back covered in fucking paint.

I never thought to ask, though. I assumed she was mucking about somewhere. That’s why I got so angry. But it never hit me. I didn’t think – what kind of kid steals money to buy paint? And come back covered in the evidence? I thought she was on a wild spur, perhaps even drunk, not uncommon when she’s with her Valley girls, but I should have asked before getting so angry.

So I tried to settle it.

Gave her a big hug, you know. A proper long one. Tried to stop her crying but she’s an emotional girl, sometimes. She’s got a real soft spot. Every Sunday she goes to Mum’s grave and decorates it with flowers. Spends hours giving it life in flowers. “Colour for the dead,” she says. I think she got that from a poem. Eventually, I stopped her crying and said I was sorry. I asked her to tell me why she had done it and I promised I wouldn’t get mad.

Took her a moment to get the sentence out but she said she wanted to change the world.

I hate to swear in front of my kids but I laughed and said “With fucking paint?” She laughed too, she knew I’d be confused. So she took my hand and we left the house, walked down to the harbour.

She takes me to the water and there on the bank are empty paint buckets. She’s poured the paint into the water. Blue, pink, green, red, she’s gone mental with it. I’m confused. Of course I am! I’m thinking she’s trying to kill the fish or something! She can tell by my face that I’m confused and she says this:

“The water was dark.”

Then, I have to ask. Still confused, you know. I speak my mind.

“Are you trying to kill the fish?”

And she replies.

“There are no fish.”

Of course there aren’t. Not with Port Talbot coughing its lungs into the water, not with those fumes that suffocate the surface of Swansea bay. Nothing left anymore. Only thing I know is that my kid has got this artistic side to her I never knew and her expression is being swallowed by the muck in the sea.

And then I remember.

Colour for the dead.