A Day At The Beach - Trevor Reeves
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Then one day the students went off home to Africa, and my little haven was
just so empty and bare. I went to live in a little bungalow behind the pub
in Lancetown. Jack would travel there at weekends and we would talk of the
old days when we were little. Yes, I used to be quite little though you
wouldn't think so to look at me now. The 1940's and 50's were our days of
Hello, my name's Sil Neilson. You might wonder what the "Sil" is short for.
No, it's not "Silly". Nor is it Silvester because I am a woman and not a
bloody cat. It's Silureus because that's the name I made up for myself after
my divorce. It doesn't mean anything in particular. It sort of sounds Roman
and you have visions of a gallant warrior swaying back and forth on a
heaving chariot, dust flying, hooves and wheels thundering helmet flashing
and the stipple of gleam and sweat.
Perhaps it is real after all. I just love poetry. They say fiction is the
foundation of all reality. Well, I say it anyway. I've had some pretty heavy
real experiences most of which have been "poetry" by definition because the
other definition that they were all bad, is too awful to contemplate. I'd
probably be too big for that chariot anyway, being as I am, an ample
49-year-old of some 20 stone or whatever it is these days under the new
I'd love the movement though. It would be sexy - heaving - moist. Just
because I'm 20 stone it's no reason to assume that I'm gross and flabby. No,
just big. And heavy.
My doctor said I had a thyroid problem or something. It never stopped me
having fun. I had two sorts of lover. The young student type who often saw
me as an easy mark for a diversion but who were amazed at how interesting I
could make it for them - returning again and again. I had this little house
near the Oval. Just a tiny two-storied cottage with bare thick worn floors,
wandering walls and frayed rugs. And my massive bed. It had to be massive.
I'd taken on two students. Not ordinary ones either! They used the two
little rooms upstairs. Both came from Nigeria and were as black as your hat,
and tall, muscular and gleaming. I read poetry to them. Dylan Thomas.
"Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs - about the lilting
house and happy as the grass was green - the night above the dingle
Who cared what a dingle was. They loved it.. One was
studying computer something at the university. Something to do with the way
all the little neurones worked inside those daunting white boxes with
flashing lights. I could just see him, leaning over with his broad back and
full thighs rippling black under the white gear he mostly wore. His little
screwdriver poking and fiddling - pushing all the little neurones into
place. I could see him in darkest Africa, running - a sparkling dark form
thrusting deep into green brush and past broad flesh-coloured cliffs.
His name was Jake. You couldn't imagine a better name for him. I continued:
"....All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay fields high
as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air...."
I'm not too bad looking really. Deep black straight hair and big, big eyes,
smooth olive skin and a terribly (sexy?) soft voice.
".....and playing, lovely and watery, and fire green as grass....."
He got the message. Oh, he was fun. The big bed rumbled and rumbled. Robin,
his fellow Nigerian, was fun too. That name sort of hinted at British upper
class somewhat. He was a bit thinner than Jake and reminded of one of those
trim high-shouldered black athletes who dance along for 20 or 30 miles in
Olympic marathons in their white gear, furiously perspiring.
"Down the rivers of the windfall light........and as I was green and
carefree....", went Dylan. It wasn't too long when his lithe body was
mine. Being on the invalid benefit because of my thyroid, I had more than
enough time to play with, and I also had a few pennies to spend on this and
that. Robin had a car of sorts. He was studying surveying and in the
weekends we would go off into the country where I would read to him and he
would love me from behind over back seat - it was a very strong car but we
used to really make it rock rattle and roll. Oh, the thundering chariot,
whips flashing over the rugged Roman road. I was never as good a poet as
Dylan Thomas but I certainly knew what he could make you feel!
"Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long, in the sun
born over and over, I ran my heedless ways....." The abandonment in our
joy was complete.
It was wonderful. I told all my friends. Especially Jack. Now, I've already
told you that I liked older men, too. There was something about them. You
had to coax a bit to get the right moment. Jack & I grew up together, more
or less. I married someone else who happily now, I can say, is no longer
married to me. I don't get beaten up any more for having the appearance of
being stupid just because I love music and poetry. Jack taught music at high
schools all his life. A frustrated composer, he married a very arty
university woman and looked for the right contacts who would help him get
his A into G. The effort failed and so did his music. He was a splendid
After he retired and left his wife, he developed "collectomania". I don't
know whether that's the right name for it, my being a poet, not a
psychologist. Anyway he collected cars. Old cars. First they were stored in
the matrimonial home Jack was supposed to be doing up, to sell as part of
the matrimonial settlement. None of them went. Well, only one which he drove
around - breaking down often. He would ask friends to fix this and that on
it because he didn't really know how to.
On days when I was sick at home from school there was the reassuring hum of
the vacuum cleaner and Aunt Daisy, in her 9 o'clock advertising and recipes
program, would say:
"Good morning, good morning, good morning, it's a
lovely day to day...."
Wet and miserable really, but tell that to a
phonographic record that sometimes jumped tracks for five minutes at a time
because the sound engineers at the station were slumbering. "....lovely
morning, and I've just been cleaning out my back passage with tanol.... and
the sun is shining up it...."
I'd taken my huge bed to Lancetown even though there was no longer big Jake
to sprawl across it, and me. Jack and I never drank, but used to watch
people coming and going from the tavern shouting and laughing - shearers,
commercial salesmen and thin youths with shaven heads and black jackets
being towed by large dogs. And the thickset balding men from the masonic
lodge, their new Commodores and Falcons gleaming.
Jack was quite good after you'd got him kick-started. After that, a cup of
tea and then more talk of the old days.
I remember the bread puddings and pikelets. Just like clairvoyants like to
tell their customers their folks used to make, in their attempts to convince
them that they knew all about their folks in the afterworld. Jack had got
mixed up in the occult. He used to go to meetings with some people he met
down the bay. They were well known, and when Jack used to mention them by
first name from time to time I knew what he was up to, even though he didn't
tell me himself.
It made me quite sad. Jack was getting on a bit. His head was now bright
and bald and his hip replacement used to click and his leg wobble as he used
to prod himself along with his thick manuka stick. There was nothing much to
do in Lancetown when Jack was not there. There was quite a large Catholic
community in Lancetown. Their ancestors came with the gold rushes. There was
also the Masonic Lodge with its goats and slippers but I kept away from
those people because they were sexless and they beat their hapless wives
mercilessly. I became a Catholic.
One had to be choosy. I read in the paper about Britain's most famous
prostitute who numbered some 200 M.P's amongst her clients and liked even
milkmen and dustmen, or milkpeople and dustpeople, just to make feminists
who hate all men, feel better. This woman used to get propositioned
in aeroplanes sometimes and they used to do it in the toilets. This famous
prostitute would never let herself be spanked or whipped though, by high
class males of the establishment, who possessed high incomes and low self
I read poetry to Father O'Leary. He loved the words and the feelings and I
often wrote my own words for him as we sat there in the growing dusk after
Jack had gone off back to the city crouched over the wheel of his
spluttering car. Father and I watched the skinheads and others come and go
from the pub and he would occasionally draw a little silver flask from deep
in the pocket of his dense black jacket and sip slowly, carefully, the
glittering teak-coloured liquid contained therein.
I wanted to tell Father O'Leary that women were something other than
objects of worship or just mothers. I think he knew that already. To treat
women as a fiction or, at worst, an untouchable concept or creation of God,
was very unreal, I suggested. There was to be light at the end of the tunnel
created by poetry. I read on.....
"In my craft or sullen art", I read to Father, "exercised in the
still night - when only the moon rages and the lovers lie abed......."
Dear Dylan, he knew it all! Brisk autumn dusk after - need I say it - brisk
autumn dusk, I read to Father. Pub patrons came and went, like a shop window
changing in front of a runaway time machine.
"..........with all their griefs in their arms - I labour by the singing
light - not for ambition or bread - or the strut and trade of charms on the
ivory stages - but for the common wages of their most secret
Father O'Leary succumbed. He was like a little boy - crossing himself
beforehand and sighing "Oh Jesus, Jesus......." The seed had been
saved well. It was in full flight. There now, for a thick-set flabby man
with warm, puggy hands, knocking 45 he became a masterpiece of body
engineering. The choice was mine!
One night we heard a dog barking just outside the window. Legs apart and
with Father's bulk across me I saw a pale hairless face at the window. It's
pale marbly eyes saw Father's rump heaving and his dog collar lying limp
over the back of the chair.
Robust, lithe Nigerians were one thing but sober men of the cloth were
another. Jack got to hear about it. The skinhead who peeked whilst chasing
after his mongrel happened to be helping Jack move more of his cars into an
abandoned shop with a large yard up the main street at the northern end of
Lancetown. The matrimonial home in the city had become hopelessly
overcrowded with cars and more room was needed.
The arrangement had been that Jack set up there, so that when he came to
Lancetown in the weekends we could be together. There was a nice room at the
back of the shop that Jack had done out specially for me - for us. Lovely
cherry, blue and brown coloured wallpaper, old world lace curtains and a
brass chandelier. Being a fine carpenter on his day, he built a rarity - a
four poster bed with a gleaming cream quilt cover.
"For old people from the old world", he had told me, romantically.
Father O'Leary had beaten a hurried retreat and I heard that the masonic
men from the pub had been guffawing about it. Jack took it in his stride. I
went back to the city and took on a number of nervous breakdowns. The church
took me on readily there but my heart wasn't in it.
The flat I had taken on
was all concrete, damp and the wind threw itself across the densely
populated flat in its mad drive to hit the hills on the other side of the
peninsular. Marooned in a sea of land as my Dylan would say:
"...the mansouled fiery islands! Oh, holier then their eyes, and my
shining men do more alone - as I sail out to die...."
I took the bus to Lancetown one weekend. Jack said come, come by all means.
Lovely to see you. The yard was filling up with broken down decrepit old
cars and the grass was furiously weaving an impenetrable mat around their
wheels, unwilling to let them go. I went into the bedroom at the back.
The bed was there..... But there was a big black car engine sitting in the
middle of it. Sheaves of newspaper were crushed under it with the black oil
seeping through - the light oil yellowing the stains at their edges. It was
a quiet weekend. Jack was crippled with his hip clicking and clacking....
things had settled in. There was no help now for him from the local boys.
The sun glinted off the dry yellow long grass and there was a sort of low
summer hum in the air and now and then a car towing some piece of holiday
equipment farted its way up the main street - children with ice creams
dripping and uplifted, and pointing through the half-opened windows at the
line of decaying shop fronts.
I returned to my awful city flat. Things seemed better. I make regular
trips to Lancetown now. Jack bought a pair of narrow camp stretchers for us.
Jack is my only man now, do I need any other?
Yes, I do.
The church became boring and instead of going to late morning mass I head
off to the beach. In this heat wave, where else? The doctor said I must
walk. Otherwise I might never move again. I had purchased a small camping
chair in thin tensile aluminium tubing held together by tight strategically
placed springs. Made by those clever Chinese or Taiwanese, with a pretty
blue and gold beach scene printed on the fabric.
It was wonderful sitting on it there, down on the sand where the "melanoma
men" strutted and strode with their beautiful rippling young bodies and
enticing floppy penis-pouches in their very brief swimming things. Their
ugly thin white females lay about in the sand, their eyes revolving over
huge sunglasses like inquisitive lighthouse beacons. But the men?
Or should I say, boys. I did tell you, didn't I? I like them very young and
my mind turned to the huge bed I had, and Jake's hot black muscular rump,
the starlight sparkle of sweat and the regular thrust and pulse. And now
these sand-speckled wonders of physical perfection and pace to look at. Do
they know I'm here?
As Dylan concluded... "Not for the proud man apart - from the raging
moon I write, on these spindrift pages - nor for the towering dead with
their nightingales and psalms, but for the lovers, their arms............."
Oh, wonderful young men...... I leaned forward...
"....round the griefs of the ages, who pay no praise or wages - nor heed
my craft or art..."
The chair collapsed under my bulk. The young men turned to peer and laugh.
Their thin sand-blown women lifted their eyes above their huge dark windows.
Pages in their paperbacks flicked and turned in the slight breeze, their
cigarette packs, half buried in the sand, glinted like little tombstones.
The afternoon drifted on. We were at peace with the world.
Trevor Reeves has had stories and poems on Internet and in print magazines over the last 30 years. Lives in New Zealand. Edits Southern Ocean Review.
Notice © 1998 IP and the author
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