The fine white sand is almost too hot to walk on as I make my way up towards the beach.
The approach to the seafront is slightly uphill, and gently winds it way between tall, closely-packed dunes. As I trudge through the sand with the picnic box, I wonder for the umpteenth time how tall the heavily-grassed sandhills are. Thirty feet? Forty? They must be all of that, as they block out the sun for most of the day.
But right now, the sun is overhead and midday fierce.
Mad dogs and Englishmen, I mutter absently.
Talking of which, as I crest the rise at the top of the dunes and step onto the narrow beach, I am greeted by England’s finest madman. My best friend, iDifficult, Evil Genius by Royal Appointment, sits on a old-fashioned deckchair under a huge, flat parasol. He is resplendent in an elbow-length, black-and-white-striped Victorian bathing suit. The dark sunglasses and close cropped hair are his norm, but the waxed, handlebar moustache is new and magnificent. The pink water-wings are a jaunty touch, too.
Roth! he cheers, Splendid to see you! He doesn’t rise, but waves cheerily with his right hand.
I notice his left hand is tied by a length of parcel string to an elephant.
The creature regards me incuriously for a moment, and then looks away to resume tossing sand idly over its shoulder with its trunk. I notice that the behemoth’s nose-limb is sporting a pair of mirrored pince-nez sunglasses. It gives it - him? - a faintly aristocratic air, despite the lack of clothes.
This all comes as no surprise, but I’m too hot and bothered from my short uphill walk to ask about my friend’s companion right now.
Grab a seat! enthuses ‘Difficult, indicating a spot beside him. Bring it over here, the shade is glorious!
I drag over the matching deckchair and fumble ineffectually with it for a moment. I've never liked the damned things; too fiddly to set up. Doing it one-handed while carrying a heavy insulated box is not helping matters either, so I put my burden down.
After what seems like five minutes cursing and wrestling, I ease myself into the wood-and-cloth seat wearily. The picnic box sits beside me.
There is a faint thumping from inside.
A martini appears in my hand, and I nod in thanks; my friend is a genial host.
I've brought the lobsters you wanted, I say, sipping the drink. It’s strong with a dash of kina lillet, and has two black kalamata olives on a stick. Just the way I like it.
Thanks. Did they give you any trouble?
This seems an odd question, but I have a equally odd recollection.
No, no problems, I say, popping the lid off the coldbox. The sound of snapping claws emerges and slowly intensifies. But I could have sworn these lads were dressed and cooked when I saw first saw them. I recall it vividly, in fact. You know, when I bought them from the deli at the supermarket.
Oh, they were! enthuses the mad genius, his eyes sparkling over the top of his shades. He adds in a hushed tone, I revivified them.
I glance down at the hostile contents of the cool hamper. And the hostile contents look right back at me, making it chillingly clear via pointed claws and antennae wiggles that I Should Watch My Step. I find the whole thing rather unsettling.
So these are… zombie lobsters? I lean back nervously, half expecting them to shuffle and moan.
No, not at all! laughs ‘Difficult. That’d be reanimation. Not to mention cruel and unusual. I just used the time machine to rewind them back to when they were still alive. He shrugs, They’re much happier this way. Besides, he grins, I can’t stand seafood.
And to make the point, he tips the box over in the direction of the surf. The lobsters and several gallons of water spill onto the sand with a hiss. There’s a moment of indecision from the crustaceans – attack or flee? But realising that discretion is the better part of not being eaten, the two marine arthropods make a break for the water. They eight-leg-it down the steep incline, claws waving, to where the beach and dunes vanish into the surf of the little horseshoe bay.
In a fistful of seconds, they’re gone.
We sip our drinks and take in the view. It really is rather beautiful. An endless ocean under sun, broken only by the occasional crumbling spire. Close to shore there are occasional glimpses of submerged atolls. Well, not so much atolls; more the remains of nearby houses.
It’s a shame about Cambridge, I say absently.
Yes, it’s hard to imagine this used to be your back garden.
We stand and turn to face the downward slope of the path. A hundred yards away, my little old house sits in a tiny sandy vale, dwarfed on three sides by the gigantic dunes. We stand at the other end of the long, thin rectangle of land. The dunes surround the entire thing, thick and tall and level, with us at the top of the upward slope.
Beyond us in all directions, almost level with the top of the dunes, is the sea.
I still find it alarming to see my house safely below sea level.
The badgers really did a grand job of… starts ‘Difficult, attempting to wave expansively. The string on his left hand reaches his limit and prevents this. He sighs. The elephant looks up at the tug on his foreleg. With a heaving grunt, the beast stands and moves a little closer.
I now feel inclined to ask, but I don’t like to interrupt.
As I was saying, repeats my friend, the badgers did a grand job of shoring this all up. His wave is extra-expansive now. He indicates the winding path up to where we’re standing. Adding the slope up here to make the beach was inspired. Imaginative landscaping.
Yep, I nod, Hoth and Sollust used it as their masterwork for The Guild. It took them a while, but apparently after everyone left the town it got easier.
The reply is quiet, introspective. We had plenty of warning, I suppose. He shakes his head ruefully. Seems stupid that we didn’t prevent it.
I can't disagree.
In the distance there’s a wide cluster of centuries-old spires from the university colleges. I can just make out tiny waves lapping against them gently; it’s a calm day at sea.
What’s the date? I ask on a whim, happy to change the subject.
June the seventh, comes the absent-minded reply. Why?
No, I mean what year is it?
Oh. 'Difficult fiddles in his pocket and hands me the core of the time machine. I glance at the brass, enamel and glass device, and shade it from the sun to read the display.
Good grief, I manage.
My friend removes his shades and looks my way.
Yes. Sooner than we think.
We stand for a while in silence and remember the town.
As we return to our seats, ‘Difficult is halted by the string again. But his companion ambles to catch us up, and ultimately throws his massive bulk down with us in the shade of the mighty parasol.
Now seems as good a time as any.
By the way, I've been meaning to ask... Why are you going around with this fella on a string?
Well, he’d get up to mischief otherwise, says the elephant, flashing me his Parole Officer ID with a flick of his trunk. An old, wise eye peeps from behind the mirrored shades.
I glance down at the empty picnic box and think of its previous occupants, while 'Difficult hums a disconcerting little tune to which only he knows the rhythm.
The elephant may have a point.
As the sun begins its descent into the west, the three of us gaze across the ever-changing water, and dream of what might have been.
This blog entry is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2010
Captain's Blog - Supplemental
This is a quick awards entry. For those who don't like them, or don't want to spoil the surprise, look away from the screen now.
My dear friend CatLady has collared me this week, and accused me of being a fabulous liar. While I resent this (patently true) slur, I was brought up to respect my elders and so quietly accept this nifty little award from the fabulous “Boom Boom” Larew.
To accept this award, I’m supposed to the write a number of lies/truths about myself, one of which is the odd one out. This sounds an interesting exercise, but I have a simpler quiz for you – I challenge you to find the exceptional snippet of information in today’s entry.
There’s one, and only one. Whether it’s fact or fiction is up to you to decide, but I know which way I’d be leaning.
The first person to spot it gets a free pair of my socks.
Perfect for eBay carpet-bagging of celebrity gear.
I would love to pass this onto two of my favourite liars (Scott Free and iDifficult), but unfortunately they’ve been tagged already, and are currently helping police with their enquiries.
So for now, I’ll have to sit on this one.
If you are a fabulous liar and believe you’ve been overlooked, please accept my apologies. But take heart from the fact that you’ve got me fooled. Man, you’re good.
If you were looking away, you can uncover your eyes now.
This blog entry is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2010/2012