Something not to tell the grandkids

by James

She needed a cigarette. Never smoked in her life, but right then she needed to hold a cigarette between her finger and thumb and sit there with it unlit because she couldn’t meet its tip with the lighter’s trembling flame. She needed brandy, many of them, and she needed these people in this dockside café to look her and somehow understand just a little of the trauma that had come her way. They were noisy and happy, dressed in their bright pattern shirts and flapping shorts, most of them in sandals or flip flops, one guy even in slippers.

Jesus Christ, rape, that’s what it would have been. Oh, she might have been willing, no, that was wrong. She might have acquiesced, but God knows, rape it would have been all the same.

And Jason, sitting there smirking in the captain’s cabin, telling her it wasn’t a big deal, telling her she had one special skill so why the hell not use it? Not as if the guy’s that overweight.

This made Dani smile, just a little bit. Still think that, do you, baby?

She stirred her coffee, building it to a lazy whirlpool, then in with milk, drop by drop, taking comfort as the spots swirled from white into brown.

A sudden yell made Dani spill milk across the saucer and the tabletop. The café was still, heads turning this way and that. Another single shout, and then, a moment later, a whole host of yells. The noise was coming from a decrepit patrol boat moored on the other side of the backwater. One of the tourists suggested that someone must have found a dollar and the whole café erupted in laughter.

Dani smiled, just a little. Not a dollar. Someone found a whole purse of coins.

The café began to settle, then someone pointed.

A man was on the roof of the patrol boat. He was bare chested, shuffling on his hands and knees, grasping at the trousers around his thighs. The diners cheered as he made it to the safety of the other side, but now groaned as he went down the metal steps into the waiting arms of a pair of uniformed border guards. Another cheer rose as the man slipped free – minus his trousers - and scrambled back up to the roof.

All the shakes were gone from Dani’s fingers. She held a packet of sugar between finger and thumb then flicked it twice with a finger of her other hand. Never had sugar in coffee before this day either. She stirred as the café rose in cheers. He was in the water!

It was less than one hundred metres across the backwater, and he only had to make it over the invisible line that marked the border over which the border boats from each country were not supposed to cross. Even Jason with his doggy paddle should be up to that.

Dani sipped her coffee, smiling all the while. She did not join the diners who charged for the dockside to greet this escaping hero. Let her last and final memory of Jason be that look on his face when the captain of the boat told him it was a deal, and then ordered Dani ashore.