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Listen to the author reading part 1

The air is cool
The duvet soft
The sleeper sinks into the down
Down…
Down…

The wind whistles…

It’s an ill wind
A chill wind
Bringing Razor Bill back to this coast

True to his word
True to his boast
He’s out and about
Free as a bird
“Auk” he croaks
(a private joke)

Now perched
On the dark craggy face of the cliff
(hunched hungry and stiff)

He inwardly smiles
Not praying but thinking of prey
(the time’s coming near)

Licks the mist from his lips

A flick of the wrist
Finger-tips flash
Miming a slash from ear to ear

Disappears

The leer lingers

Dawn
A silhouette against a shimmering sea…

Sean
The selfish shellfish seller
Shivers
In shirtsleeves and shapeless sawn-off shorts
He shambles on the shifting shingle
Searching…
Sieving the sand with pink wrinkled hands

He seizes a solitary snail

With a dirty bent nail
He wrests the wretched winkle out of its shell
And into the…

Well… Well… Well…
Of his mouth

He swallows and blinks
Then says with a wink:
You’re welcome to whelks
But the winkles I think
I’ll keep for myself

A cat howls…

Sean makes out a shape in the shadows
He shudders
Shrinks back into his ramshackle
Makeshift shack near the shore

A sudden swoop

A shriek
All over in a twinkle
Sean is no more

Gentle whoosh of the wash of the sea

Sean Van Winkle
RIP

A seagull cries…

Around the breakwater
The surf
In pieces
Is sobbing and flowing

He rolls over… and coughs

Far-off
Nearly lost in the grey of the sea
A dingy dinghy in ropy nick
Bought on tick
With shabby sails tacked together
Is weaving its way through the waves

He rolls back…

It’s a creaky boat
A leaky boat
With a peaky crew
As they go about
Baling out
Pitching and tossing
Crossing their eyes and spilling their teas

But for Ahab their skipper
It’s all light relief
After decades of whaling
And gnashing of teeth

He turns…

The world turns
It’s lighter now
Past the brink of the day
Clouds are brighter and fringed with pink

The sand starts to glow
As the tide makes its slow retreat

The curtain flaps

A beating of wings

Way up in the air
The high and mighty
Debonair
(but flighty)
Birds of a feather
Mockingly flocking together
Look down on the sheep below

And those slow curly-horned newly-shorn
Woolly-minded sheep
Wistfully watch the fleecy clouds

And bleating out loud
In his fluffy white coat
A highly-strung lamb is acting the goat

A passing moth
brushes his hair…

The meadow is teeming with life

Near a small thicket
Grasshoppers play cricket ‘sans bat’
(they’ve all gone to roost)
They’re reduced to one wicket
And can’t find the ball
(so there’s rarely a call of “Howzat”)

Gnats swarm by the pool
But the bees play it cool
Just being themselves

A fly buzzes…

Not all fun and games
Fair rules and no blame
These bees being cool can be cruel

The hive gets a buzz being hard
Toward those who aren’t strong

The weak don’t belong…
They’re barred
These cute fluffy fellows
Can be brittle and crisp

All on his own
There’s a bee with a lisp

The bed creaks…

Some say there’s a law
That Nature is raw
Red in tooth
Red in claw
(and in beak)

Near an oak I hear a hoarse creak

No not a horse
It’s a croak
A croaking…
A little cruel joking:

You’re a darling
Says the starling to the worm
Don’t squirm
My… but you’re firm
And nicely plump
From your head to your rump
Mmmm…

A motor-bike nears…

Getting deeper and deeper
A humming is coming inshore
Braving the Mexican waves
Taking a chance
Abseiling the crests in their vests by the seat of their pants
Come the Vulgar Boatmen
Busking Russkies on jet-skis
Towing musky huskies on skis
All showing off
Splashing through rollers and sploshing through troughs

He lies on his back
breathing slowly…

Looking on from a bar
Looking pleased
Taking their ease
Shooting the breeze
Looking suave
Are Slavs
Doing nothing by halves

A hubbub outside…

Round the bend
In the pub
The hearties are having a party
In the Privateer reception room at the Pukka Buccaneer

After close shaves and patching their gear
The boarding-party left their boarding-house
And poured down the road in holiday mode
They came rolling in
All cheery waves and gales of laughter

The beer and rum flowed
(they’re a short time ashore)
But that was the night-before
And this
Is the morning-after

This fête’s worse than death for Young Jim
It’s grim
Under age
Skin coloured beige
Wrung out
Strung out
Under the table and over a barrel
Hung out to dry
He’s getting the rough end
The gruff end
Of an old hand’s tongue

A church clock strikes

After eight Bells
Smith’s ears are ringing
He yells:
I’ve bin took
(he’s thinking of slinging his hook)

Black looks

He throws in his hand
Demands a re-shuffle
Claiming the mate’s been rigging the game
And one of the crew’s
Been swabbing the decks of cards

Brief scuffle

Though the crew’s fully armed
No need for alarm
As most are now legless
The rest are four sheets to the wind
They’re muddled and fuddled
And huddled in groups
Airing their griefs
Sharing their gripes
Choking and smoking their sailors’ hornpipes…

A long low rumble of thunder…

Pulling the pints with a long face
(no trace of a smile)
From Argyll
The barman
A scarred man
A hardman

He’s stout
Barrel-chested
Double-breasted
They call him the Merchant of Guinness

Not a man to mock
He’s a shylock
A loan shark
His bite is worse than his bark

Though fond of the ring of the till
This lone shark prefers the thrill of the kill

Listen to the author reading part 2

Loud goodbyes in the street…
the sound of a car

Amid the hustle and bustle
Mussel-bound Mad-Jack Russell
Props up the bar with his wooden leg
Barks orders for schooners of port from the keg
For the boozy woozy sticky-lipped floozies
Picking at chips with cold-fish fingers

His gaze lingers
He aye-ayes them up and down
Brown eye out of focus
The other
The colour of brine
(an artful dodger)
Looking out for a sign
(another Jolly Roger?)

The voices fade away…

Outside
Under a bright blue sky
In the glare of the sun
Is a son of a gun
With silvery hair and long-johns
Patched like his eye

He’s a tired retired pirate
Who’s out and around
Wistfully weeding
Yo-ho-hoeing the ground

Passing the time
He’s re-living the past
A Cornish pastiche of bygone lives
(and lies)
Nods and hints in sepia tints
Not white-and-black
Not a stern look back

A look back with languor

He’s telling his tales to the tits
Before the tits turn tail and flit:

I is a pirate
Not a private eye
I is a privateer

I ’as two ears
But only one eye
So I were ‘a bit constrained’ as they say
In me choice of career

So
(he continues)
I is not a detective
’Cause me vision’s defective
Plus
I is not even the p’lice
’Cause I is short

I is short
Short of one leg

One eye one leg
But I is fully armed
Though me cutlass is pointless
Me pistol is flintless
An’ me parrot
Though still green an’ claret
Is flightless an’ shiftless an’ tactless

He feels restless and hot…

There’s a pause
Not applause
Not a titter
But the sound of one tail… clapping
Slapping the ground

He does have a fan
When its warm
(in the dog-days that is)
Ignoring the swarm of flies
A cosy dozy dog
Lies dazed and doggo

A fox barks…

Another pause…
Then more…
More paws
Four paws
Fore paws and hind paws
Rising from behind the dog-rose
A rosy stubby dog-end appears
(pink nose first)
Paddling in a puddle
Not a poodle
But a cock-eyed Cockney dog
Who cocks his leg and makes a call
On the dog and bone

A squeal of brakes

A shadow from Hell
Takes on different shapes
Different forms

Transforms into man then machine
Cat then a dog
A room
A nebulous fog

As if spoilt for choice…

It settles on Eddie C Eagle

Rain against the window-pane

He goes for a stroll near the mole
(to the south)
Eddie roams
Where waves foam at the mouth
Of the caves

It’s more than just greed
He’s under a spell
He cannot contain this angel from Hell
It must feed
It needs pain

In his mind he’s merging with the surging tide
Pacing his stride
Awaiting the wave

The brainwave

Passed from the master to slave
Lord of the Flies
Master of Lies
Lord of high-flyers like Eddie

It comes with a crash

With a splash he’s anointed
Appointed the task

He basks in the role
Not a chore it’s a mission
It’s the road to perdition for all

Gloating
Makes a mental note
To treat his cut-throat friends to dinner
Or better still…
A working lunch
He’s a hunch they won’t refuse

The Merchant of Guinness and Razor Bill
They’ve both time to kill
Their work is their pleasure
And besides
They’ve too much to lose

And later
Another…
Big Max

A special invitation
He’ll have no hesitation
Max trusts his reputation
(not his charm)
To keep him safe from harm
Safe from liquidation

A group of noisy young men
passes by

The Gang is out strolling
Patrolling the sands and the port
With their hands in their jackets
They come and they go
Talking
Not of Michaelangelo but of sport
And of rackets
(not tennis, though Dennis is due up in court)

They’ve watched all the films
And know all the terms of their trade
On the beach
It’s more cool to pack heat than a spade

All tooled up
(Black ‘n’ Decker? No…
More Smith ‘n’ Wesson
though Stanley still carries a blade)

They’re all meeting up with Big Rob

A job to be done

There’s Andy and Mikey
And Bugsy
And Biggsy
And Jimmy the Hat
And Donnie the Cat
And Matt
But flopped out on the sand are the Krays
(no strangers to slaughter)
Here they don’t flourish
They languish like fish out of water

More footsteps
The clicking of high heels…

Young Roy appears
(to the Gang he’s The Boy)

It’s been donkey’s years since he’s had a ride
Astride rather than in
Not a spin but a trot with a rein and a mane

He’s set on a run on a jack
Not a jenny

There aren’t many
In fact there’s just one

Diogenes

Not easy to please
He’s Greek
Stubborn streak
Not meek
A mean machine who’s not keen on Turks
(above all Young Turks who joy-ride hot Mercs)
It’s traditional
Intuitional
It more than irks
It sends him berserk
He won’t let him ride
It’s more than his pride can bear

He’s a threadbare knock-kneed donkey
With wonky legs and dicky ticker…
But he’s not a bootlicker

He seizes his chance
And feigning a trance
Follows the crab-ways
Clip-clopping sideways
And dances his way out of view

Listen to the author reading part 3

Sound of footsteps running in the street…

It’s not just the hard men
Scarred and scary men
Posturing
Gesturing
Vying for place

On the sands there’s a race
The resort’s Celebrity Sports
(an annual tradition)
There’s strong competition

It’s about recognition

It’s sublime

A maritime sprint
They’re leaving their prints
In the damp sands of time

On their marks are Groucho and Karl
Jelly-roll’s getting set
And Elvis about
(well just about)
To Go Man Go
(after he’s had a sandwich or two)

The footsteps fade away…

There are others
The loners
Leaving no mark

In the park some are at ease
They do as they please
A pleasure they treasure is leisure

In the slanting sunlight
In slinky slacks and sleeveless shirt
A slim sleepy
(and rather creepy)
Slav called Sly
Slides…
Slides down the slider
Then slips…
Slips on something…
Slips on something more comfortable…
His slippers
Then slips away

A drunk going home hums a tune… trips and curses

Sporting a sporran
Duncan Disorderly
Grins and gurns
Reels and croons and moons
On the merry-go-round

Out of kilter
Baring his all
He falls on his rrrrs to the ground

The drunk sobs…

Yet others
The motherless sons
For whom life is tough
The way is too rough

A man in a van
Having a breakdown
Pulls over and cries

Trying to pull himself together
He pulls up his socks
And pulls in his stomach
But can’t pull it off

That seems to be that
What a shame…

Poor Postman Pat has got fat
He’s not the same
Since he lost his black-and-white cat

Called his van
Morrison
Said it gave him street cred
That
And the cap worn front-to-back on his head…

Rap music from a passing car…

From a squeaky speaker
Comes a posh voice
A count counts down:

Three… Two… One… Go!
(it's the Count of Monte Carlo)

On the old polo field
By the mini-golf club
Small German cars are the stars of the show
As they go head to head
Toe to toe
Neck and neck
Recklessly past the last chequered flag of the drag

A dog barks as a ’plane drones
high overhead…

A bone’s throw away
A stone’s throw away
A stowaway
A caste away from the East
A Brahmin priest contrives to return
He’s having the time of his lives
(could be worse)

These days he prays
Repeating a verse:

Cows moo
In mysterious ways

He’s gazing past the trees at the meadow below
(once the site of a battle)
Where short-horn cattle
Are knowingly lowing
And peaceably grazing their knees

They’re clearly not cowed
By the threatening clouds in the sky
Their expressions are… dry
Let it rain if it will
It’s a balm

They don’t dash for cover
They’re lovers of calm in their dichrome world

As old proverbs say
They might stay there forever
Or at least
Till it’s time to come home

He feels a draught…

A breeze starts to blow

I see hedgerows sway to and fro
Like the trees

But no…
They’re hedgehogs in rows
Line upon line
With interlocked spines
And grey wrinkly toes
These prickly pigs are dancing a jig
But the only sound
Is the crackling of twigs on the ground

Soft as a kiss
A tendril of mist starts to rise
Twirl… then twist
Round a leg of one of the dancers

A cancerous chill
Creeps
Seeps through his bones
In this mist he’s alone
Frail
Frost-pale
He is lost
Trapped in a dream

Unable to scream
He stumbles away as if pulled on a chain
To the edge of the field and onto the lane
Where he stands
In silent desperation

Vibration through the ground
Then sound…

Acceleration

Low rumble
Then a ROAR…

Obliteration

When the truck disappears
In a cloud of black smoke
The first raucous croaks from the crows

Landing and hopping
Pecking and pulling and ripping…

He shivers…

The air is still… noises cease…
At last he can rest

Peace

All is quiet on the front
(To the west)

A car backfires…
twice…

The balloon goes up over the dune
And trippers troop in for the afternoon
Making a racket
In their bomber-jackets and
Shell-suits and tank-tops and…
Flip-flops

The convoy stops
Then pulls off the road and onto a track
To the back of beyond
By a pond

There’s Marsha
A blonde in a pill-box hat with a plait and gold braid
A marshal partial to martial arts

She’s always obeyed
(and even gets thanks)
When she lines up the coaches in ranks
As if they were all on parade

On the word of command
From the blonde with the braid
The coach doors hiss open
And out stream the trippers

The nippers with bucket-and-spade and flippers and goggles
The parents with hampers and Pampers
Scout campers with woggles and duffles with toggles
Some old folk who joggle on sticks
Gauche singles trying to mix

Then comes Oedna
(of Irish descent)
An event in herself
A bombshell about to go off and explore
She can’t be ignored
A Molotov cocktail of fire and ice
Paradise with barbed-wire
Sapphire eyes…
Forbidden desire

A man dressed in black slips away from the crowd
Eclipses himself in the shade
But doesn't evade the blonde’s watchful eye

Not this passer-by

Laughter in the street…

Brad strains on his chain
Big muscles and teeth
Small brain
Half-mad
All-bad
An Oregon hooligan pit-bull
A handful even for Max
Whose patience finally cracks
He goes into ‘doggerel mode’
Looking for someone to goad

Time for a snack
The wise-guys turn back
The wisecracks are made by Big Max

Hey Dai! D’you fancy a pie?
You still on a diet?
There’s a new Burglar King…
Could be your sort of thing
Why don’t you go on and try it?

Dai’s balding and thin
And has pale pock-marked skin
He gives a wry smile
Neither scowl nor grin

It’s so hard to gauge with Big Max
His mood can switch from laughter to rage
From pats-on-the-back to attacks
No-one’s out of arm’s reach
No-one’s “out of ’arm’s way” as they say

Nice suit says Max
What’s that bulge in your jacket?
If it’s your shooter
Do tell us please
Are you hiding a packet of peas?

The other guys laugh
It’s part of the game
They’re relieved it’s not them in the frame
Not them on the hook

Dai turns away
Mitch gives him a look
And catches his eye
As if trying to say…

Max sees
(time for tease)

Time for teas all round, he says
(looking pleased with himself)
Anyone dying of thirst?

Who’s gonna be first in the queue?
What’s up with you Mitch?
Developed a twitch?
Not itching to come for a brew?

They go off to a caff

But not Mitch
Who calls to the rest
That he’d best shake a leg
Breaks into a jog
(something about a man and a dog)

Listen to the author reading part 4

Nearby there’s a man in a car
With a scar
He’s a Face in a scarf
In a racy A-C Cobra
It’s Scarface of course
Sitting there staring
Knitting his brow
Wearing a frown
Watching the town:

The word had gone to Big Rob and the Gang
Cool things down between them and the Mob

Big Rob had concurred

The Gang have the shore and the surf
The Mob get no less and no more than their turf

No more rumbles
No more grumbles

Perhaps it’s innate
(a trait of the breed if you know what I mean)
That a sonofabitch like Big Max
Needs to be the top dog
Not a cog in a machine

Is Al getting lax?
Will he intervene?

An echoing voice…

In the harbour
There’s a barber called Weeny Todd
There’s a rod in his hand
He’s fishing for cod

He quite likes salt spray
And fish is OK
But he’d die for a pie
(Mrs Lovett is busy today)

There’s a lack deep inside
He feels hollow

A need to follow and greet

Who knows who he’ll meet
Or what treats… mmm…
Delicious new friends
He repeats:

This is the way your life ends
This is the way your life ends
This is the way your life ends
Cut
Not by a gang
But a crimper

Footsteps…

A shadow

Weeny Todd looks up
Ah, it’s you my dear Mitch
Take a pew

What’s your pitch?

Uncle
Marsha’s gone missing…

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