THE CLIFFS OF DOVER..The cliffs of Dover were almost sparkling as a chilly March sun shone down. The wind coming straight off the Channel gave the passengers who were stepping from the ferry bus an immediate indication of how the sea was - choppy and dark. The ferry terminal was filled with English housewives with permed hair and various colours of bell-bottom trousers that failed to reach an ankle - a fashion that had lasted more than ten years among the middle-aged and elderly of the country and it seemed more than probable that it would reach a score.Jilly had been excused from school for the day. Mummy had some business to do, Jilly was told; daddy was away and there was no one who could look after her after school, not that day anyway. Jilly brightened considerably when she heard she was going to France, 'where they speak French and eat much better that we do.' Susan gave her a little of the language to work on the night before and Jilly took it to bed with her. Her eyes wandered around the room in search of the occasion she would be called upon to say, 'Parlez-vous Anglais?' She slipped into sleep repeating this over and over.'Why do the seagulls follow the boat, Mummy?' 'Because the passengers feed them, they throw food to them and watch the gulls dive for it.' 'That one there is not doing anything, it's just sitting watching us.' 'Are you cold?' asked Susan. 'No, I'm alright. I wish we lived at the sea, Mummy, with the seagulls and the boats.' 'You've taken to the sea very quickly, Jilly.' 'Oh it's better than the busy roads of cars and buses. It's empty here. Look,' she pointed out towards the horizon, 'there's nothing for miles and miles, just the waves.'The gulls squawked as they dived for everything that was thrown and Jilly watched with delight. The wind had watered her eyes and her cheeks were rose'. 'Let's go in.' said Susan. 'The wind's biting through me.' She pushed her sunglasses high up over her forehead trying to control her hair, which was in a windswept tangle and kept falling in front of her eyes. 'Not yet, Mummy. It's great out here. Why haven't you taken me to the sea before, I mean on a boat like this?' 'We did,' replied Susan, 'when you were younger.' 'Did we go to France?' 'No, we were in Sweden, you, me and Daddy. It was a cruise in summer. You must have been four.'
THE WHITES HAD BEEN...The Whites had been married 29 years and Nick White had somehow forgotten that, forgotten who he shared his life with and who lay beside him at night. He had forgotten and it wasn't yesterday, it could easily go back half their life together. For Marian White it wasn't something she missed, not with her husband anyway. She had decided that she would take a risk and fill her physical needs with others, not with one and only one, but two, three.... That way would avoid a possible attachment, a possible shift of her love. She could do that, lie in rooms around London corners and keep loving Nick. It was her explanation, one that she needed before she set off all those years ago. She couldn't remember when they last dined alone like this, but on the phone he had said to come in something nice and she did, and to distract from the nakedeness of her low-cut dress she wore a necklace, thin with a bead of a dark stone he had bought long before she had set off. He did not see it or did not seem to as he spoke short sentences to her and she replied with the same. The waiter arrived to serve, and Marian White finally let her fork to rest. 'So everything's fine at home?' said White. 'No tragedies if that's what you mean.' she replied. 'No, I didn't mean that. We've never had any tragedies so why should we start now.' 'We've been here before, haven't we?' 'Have we?' 'A long time ago.' 'And you remember?' Marian let the spoon rest in her soup. 'Yes.' 'Well l don't remember.' 'Then why did you choose this place?' Nick thought.' l think I saw it advertised.... in the tube. l was going up or down those stairs and the walls, you know how they're filled with posters as you glide by...' 'lt's to catch you while you're not thinking for those seconds.' said Marian. 'Yes, l know it is, but l'd prefer something more eye-catching.' 'A naked lady or two?' He took the last spoonful of soup to his lips. "ln the tube?' 'Why do you try so hard to be old, Nicky?' asked Marian. 'Why? Why?' Her voice wanted to shout. She had come a little forward in her chair when the waiter arrived and smiled at her as he took her plate.
JACK THOUGHT OF THAT...Jack thought of that time when it was cold and when he was sure he was on the right side of the fence, the moral and the political one, where rights and wrongs were clear. It was a good time for Jack, good against evil. There was an enormous buzz from being that self-righteous English patriot, which enhanced his appetite for all the good things in life. He had lost a friend in Alex, but, he reasoned, before he was that friend, all the good in him must have already been drained. He was wrong though, and the years since had all but told him that he was never Alex's friend - Jack did not have friends, they were just people to him, no real exchange of love and trust between them. As he sat with Jilly he could remember how he was as a younger man who had allowed to shortchange himself somehow, and he did wonder in the night what kind of person he was. A wrong turning on a busy road taken years ago might explain the deceit and deception, not for any ideals, but simply for the job of exposing the honest, if misguided, directions of others. The smug satisfaction of watching Alex drown in his ideals, watching and dreaming of where he was taking him, was something that even today, face to face with his daughter, he would never surrender. What explanation could there be for that? Another kind of Jack would have felt for Jilly instead of trying to patronise her. He watched Jilly go when he had planned to go first. It had not been a long meeting and he was sure he would never see her again. A young woman in his life but there would be, always, Alex. Many days and weeks after that cold night in Germany, when he had settled back in London, and after the report, a report, he was told, that had to be watertight, he let Alex go from his mind, without triumph and without grief. He heard how hard it must have been for him, being side by side with Alex, knowing and not knowing his mind. He did not know what to make of it. Alex was Alex and they did not know each other well, not really. Alex had been a troubled man for a long time. 'Alex,' he now wanted to say, 'Alex, I'm troubled, too.'
IT WAS ONE NIGHT...'It was one night, there was a moon shining, I remember; I looked up and tried to zoom in on it, tried to pick out parts where I wished I could have been.' He stopped as the moon of that night became clear to him again. 'It was funny, no, strange, to see it like that, because in the States you see it the same way and the longer I looked at it the more I was back in the States. Maybe all countries should have their own particular angle of the moon, that way you might not know where you are but you sure as hell know you're not at home.' Keech lay lost in his memories. Hanna tucked into him, her shoulders uncovered and bare, their pillows discarded on the floor. 'That night I wished I was up there, so far away from the hell down here. But that night I knew I could never survive up there, you can't. To be there I'd have to be dead, and yet I prayed to be there, to be peacefully dead.' Hanna listened - she was very good at listening - her eyes were so sincere that Keech emptied himself. 'It's not right that such fear should exist in people, but Holy Christ, it does. In Viet Nam you could feel your fear prickling at you like lots of little electrical shocks stabbing away in the jungle in the dark. To overcome it, you'd get stoned, that way you'd be drained but loose, everything was less threatening: the war, the killing, everything. If I'd be stoned I might not have seen the moon the way I did and .... it brought out the meanest hate I've ever felt - hate for the moon, the earth, and everybody on it. I searched my mind for anything that was worthy of my hate - I can now look back and say I survived it.' He turned his head and looked for Hanna's eyes. 'Go on.' she said. 'In Nam the killing was cruel; it was the way it must have been at the beginning of time. Maybe somewhere in your language you have a word, the right word that I can't find in mine.' She thought. 'Grauenhaft.' she offered. 'That sounds awful, what does it mean?' He smiled a little at her. 'Do you know it makes me feel good, better, that I'm not familiar with a word in my own language that could mean anything close to what I found out there. It gives my feelings no real identity and I thank God for that.' 'It was so terrible?' she asked in wonder. 'It wasn't just the night or the animal noises all around you, nor was it the slow death that I had seen so many have. It was more, and maybe the shining down that night brought it right to my eyes. Maybe good and evil were holding hands there where I was. Can you imagine all your protection gone, inside and out? I did then.' 'What happened?'
NEW WORK TO COME..
Disco and Deep Thinking
‘Hogan, I’m calling on behalf of little Sis... that’s not her name, I know, but over the years I’ve picked it up more and more. I’m ok with that.’ He stopped talking for what seemed like a good minute. ‘Her mom has been gone a while and she couldn’t let go of that fact as I wanted her to. I think she thought it was betraying her mother somehow if she found fun and enjoyment some days, if a moment of lightness descended on her. It was pretty dark I can tell you, Hogan.’ Yeah, I’m sure. It was all I had to give him. ‘And you know it’s had an enormous effect on her, her sense of living was lost for a while and I was a worried father. But we’re a good pair and we’ve helped each other…we sure have.’ He abruptly changed the subject and asked about me and we got talking one to one. We were at ease just being like that, thinking about Sis and then, of course, Ben. ‘The world’s a strange place, Hogan, it can feel quite barren and empty,’ he said, ‘not a planet anyone would want to put their arms around out of love.’ For all its decorations it was not too different from a downtown pizza place, he explained and I listened. The furniture looked fine, the typical red colored tablecloths and Amalfi pictures hanging on the wall did not by themselves inject a happy scene, it was us, the customers, who brought the love and happiness in through the door. He waited for me to say something and I wished we were having this conversation face to face cos a voice on the phone is fine for little things but this man didn’t have anything but big thoughts about where he had been on this barren place. I think he had been stretched out of all shape for quite some time and maybe he thought the stretching would go on forever. And that would be the same for his daughter too. Stretched and stretched to snap! So he called me up and once he heard my voice it kind of threw him. I could hear his deep intake of breath and I think for a second or two he was sure he’d got through to his son cos I felt with his first sentences I was Ben listenin’ to Dad.