Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bridging Memories

Someone once said 'You've got to rumble around in the ground for the walk beneath it'.

The public notice had been up for well over a month now announcing the proposed building of a hotel and holiday homes along the fringe of Coal Strand. A vast beach ecompassing miles of sand, it lay just under a mile from Cludell, a thriving fishing town. While the little beach at Cludell was very popular, it was often overcrowded. It was hoped to bring some of its market to Coal Strand, and to develop this area as a holiday destination.

Kate continues on from Harty's Wood, arranging the wild flowers she has picked according to colour and size into a pleasing bouquet. She had a 'good eye', she had often been told, and wondered at the expression. Why A good eye? Was one bad? She clutched her bouquet tightly as she made her weekly tramp to Scott's place.
There's a footbridge there now, where the body was found. It traverses that forbidden patch of ground, that forsaken spot forever tarnished with the memory of Scott.
Kate wades through the long thick grass, relishing the sensation on her bare legs. She hitches up her skirt allowing her to take longer steps, closes her eyes, stung by the wind, and walks on, arms outstretched, embracing the vastness, the wildness, relinquishing herself to the force.
She sits on the wooden planks of the bridge, bends her knees up under the warm tent of her skirt and wraps her arms tightly around them. This is the place where she feels most at home with herself, where she feels like she knows who she is. Her mind is muddled these days: sometimes she finds herself in the supermarket wondering why she had set out in the first place, the people swimming past her like fish in a tank. Only the other day she was on the bus home and she went right past her stop, and when she walked her way back, she found herself lost and disorientated, gazing in wonder at the identical pebble-dashed houses, which seemed at the same time familiar and alien.
A loud noise approaching reminds her that today is the day the building is due to start. How could she have forgotten when it's been the talk of the town? 'Isn't it great for the area?' people say. Or 'The hotel'll be up in time for Mike to get a job!' She is vaguely aware of what's happening, but remains peripheral to any talk about it. She's peripheral to everything and everyone in any case, so why should this be different?
Far off to her right, she sees the area marked out. She suddenly feels opposed to the idea of a hotel here. This is her spot, her and Scottie's! Who gave the right to some rich businessman to have his way with the place? She ploughs resolutely in the direction of the JCB, punching the air with her swinging arms.
'Hello, excuse me Mister...' she shouts up to the driver of the stalled JCB. She waves her arms, doubting she can be heard against the noise.
The machine comes to an abrupt silence and a strong middle aged man wearing a hard hat alights.
'Jesus, lady...I might not have seen you there. Don't come up so close!'
He looks vaguely familiar, she thinks. She wonders about this for a moment, but seeing him shift awkwardly, remembers it is up to her to speak. Suddenly she does not know what to say.
'When is the work due to start?' is all she can think of.
'Why, now!' he replies, stating the obvious. 'Just getting started on the foundations'.
A lorry approaches noisily, and the driver salutes them.
'Have a good day', he bids her cheerfully, indicating an end to a conversation that hadn't even properly begun.
As she trudges back towards the bridge, she feels diminished. This is where she comes to recover, to remember, to feels alive, not to be rendered invisible!
Returning to her position on the bridge, she looks on at the proceedings. She watches their movements: their pointing arms, their bending knees, their beckoning waves as the JCB trundles onto the demarcated area.
The arm of the JCB noisily rises skyward and coarsely scrapes into the earth, like the claws of an eagle closing in on its prey.
She sees Scott digging up sand with his beloved blue shovel, clumsily filling it into his bucket, his chubby wrists still lacking co-ordination. She guides his movements, talking him through the process, 'nearly there...that's tap it gently...' Their laughter as the castle collapses seems so immediate, and her lips curl into a weak smile as she stares into the past.
The 'beep-beep-beep' sound of the truck as it moves back brings her on to Scott's sixth birthday, the 'AWee-Awee-Awee' of the feathered Indians running around the tepee from the cowboys, with plastic bows and arrows. How he loved his Indian suit-the crown of spiked plumes around his head, streaks of sand on each cheek.
'Excuse me' a voice loudly interrupts her daydream. 'Is this yours?'
She turns around, surprised she hadn't heard anybody approach.
'Scott!' she gasps, alarmed by the presence before her. Quickly the realises her mistake. Why, he doesn't really look anything like Scott, she notes.
'No. It's Tommy' corrects the little boy. 'Is this yours?' he repeats, holding out a worn leather wallet, with the iconic 'Spiderman' web on one corner. Scott's wallet, his only personal effect that was recovered with his naked body, must have fallen from her bag along the bridge. She carried this with her everywhere, like a rosary in her pocket, the soft feel of the leather providing something of a comfort, a reminder of the good times.
'Yes. Thank you. It is.'
'Here you go', says the boy cheerfully and turns to run back along the bridge. He is soon out of sight.
Kate struggles to her feet, holding on to the railings to balance herself. She shuffles along the bridge, and makes for home.

A place can mean so many things for so many different people, she thinks. And time plays its usual game of hide and seek, of which, it is always a winner.
'You've got to rumble in the ground for the walk beneath it' someone once said.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely ...and sad! So true too. Well done Martha!