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I do like to be beside the seaside

by James

The sand is warm against my bare toes. I can feel it trickling between each digit as I dig my feet through the hot crust to the damp cool beneath. It’s a natural exfoliant is what it is, sloughing dead skin from feet. The times Sandra has complained about my gnarled wizard’s feet surely she can’t complain when I track a little sand into our bedroom.

You’d think anyway.

This is a moment’s peace for me. The sun is warm on my face, breeze washing my skin, and there it is again, the harsh cry of a seagull or two, and combined with a sudden surge in the breeze and I’m there, on the beach, rumble of the surf ringing in my ears.

A shack on the beach, that’s all I would have needed. Four walls and a roof, and the roof could have been a sieve as long as there was one dry corner for me to curl myself inside my sleeping bag. It wouldn’t have mattered though, back in my surfing days, shagging all night out in the sand dunes, come rain or fine. Me and Lizzie, me and Sian, me and what’s her name? Not me and Sandra. I got her in the water once, and that was it. Stand up on a piece of wood floating on the sea, was I crazy?


The shatter of glass breaks the spell. Damp sand between my toes, and who knows what else, damn neighbour cats think my kids’ sandpit is there own personal litter tray. The seagulls are still here, two big bastards perching on the neighbour’s shed, eyeing me with disdain. Traitors they are, slicing through our bin bags with their razor beaks when they should be wheeling and soaring as I skip the waves on my board.

One of the kids begins to cry and that’s my cue to creak my weary body from its sandpit hidey hole, to don my happy mask as I straighten my back and return myself to the desolated kitchen where the three year old screams and the four year old is pushing the broken bottle around the floor with a broom.

Oh, the joy of this. Screaming kids cooped up inside our little house while my wife drives her fancy car to her plush office and spends her day inside air-conditioned meeting rooms. I could have stayed a beach bum, nothing but me and the waves, and Lizzie or Sian, or…Sue, that was the other name, Sue.

It would have been a pointless life, of drifting and driftwood, of night-time beach fires and cocktails drunk neat from the bottle. Wasting your life boy, that’s what my father would have said, though here’s the ironic thing, says the exact same thing to me now, house husband that I am.

Maybe I would have been wasting my life, but at least I’d have been surfing.

mystery of the sea 2

by Dan

Author’s Note: This is a sequel to a story called “The mystery of the sea” first published in storyclub Jan 2019.

Oh mighty sea raise up your hand, and hurl your plastic back to land! It tries but only reaches sand, please try again tomorrow.

The man. Slow Stan, awakes and shakes and rises with a hacking cough, he says “fuck off” to no one and everyone and turns his face to the weak March sun.

He limps to the seclusion of the tall wall behind the huts, takes a leak and speaks to himself in tuts with a mumbling jumble of terse grumbles and confused delusions.

On the sky white dancers want answers as he trudges toward the sea’s edge to undertake his daily task, seeking a treasure he’ll never find. “What treasure?” all the young gulls ask, the old reply “His mind”.

King of the surf, but lost on earth, he combs the rocks, finds wet socks and shells and bits of old rope, a bottled message launched in hope, from Marlie aged 8 in Maine who hoped it would reach someone sane. He says “fuck off” again, coughs again and lets the bottle smash just to hear the crash of glass on stone, Marlie’s better off alone.

Meanwhile inland far from the sand, his daughter, thinks of him out on once-reachable beaches now locked down, she calls the hostel in the seaside town, who say they’ll keep an eye out. She has her doubts if they will but still, if they don’t could she blame them for it? At the best of times he’s a stubborn old git.

She puts down the phone and calls to the kids it’s time for a Joe Wicks youtube vid.

In a rockpool Stan spits and hears some bits of noise that sound like the distant shouts of men, which he ignores, moving on again.

The men come closer in awkward relay crossing rocks in hi-vis gilets and masks and shouting, “Stan! Wait there!” into the wide and open air, but the sounds disperse unheard beneath the weight of his own cursed words.

“I know their fucking game” he mutters as they stutter in their chase, he watches one slip like a fairy on butter- on rocks Slow Stan has pace.

“Fucking Russian spies!” He cries as routed cormorants take to the skies.

Now up to his waist but on he scythes, “You cunts ain’t taking me alive” he roars to the shore, before a wave pulls him under, splits his legs asunder and as the men look on in shock crushes Stan on the dark black rocks.

His body is recovered soon after.

Because of the situation there is no ceremony, no need for grief or laughter.

His daughter’s pleased he sort of died at sea, the way he would have wanted it to be. Preferable to being thoughtfully interred, he’ll really just be missed a bit by her.

Though she still somehow wants the world to know, he used to be a good Dad years ago.

They put a sign up by the shelter shack,

The sea still tries to throw the plastic back.

The last summer

by Jenny

Bethan leaned against the splintering wood of the ice-cream hut and stared out across the crowded beach. It was just about warm enough to take off her hoody and bare her arms to the air. It wasn’t, contrary to the opinion of one rather large man, warm enough to lie, spread-eagled in a thong, in the weak May bank holiday sunshine. In Wales for God’s sake.

The queue for ice cream snaked around the hut and along the seafront, but Callum caught Bethan’s eye and slipped her a wink and a Mr Whippy with raspberry sauce and nuts from the side door. They shared a tight-lipped isn’t-this-bloody-awful-but-hey-ho smile before Callum had to get back to work. Bethan took her ice-cream to the far end of the beach, where the tourists didn’t go.

It wasn’t as nice down here, but at least it was quiet. Bethan loved the main beach on winter mornings on her way to college when noone was around, except dog walkers and seagulls and mist. When the sea hurled itself grey and furious at the shore and you couldn’t tell where the water ended and the sky began. The sand seemed to stretch out forever and the whole place was wrapped in a kind of desolation that resonated in her chest.

And on early spring evenings when she and Callum and Alun and Lisa would make a fire and watch the sun set early, holding bottled beer through long sleeves and stealing smokey kisses with one another in the starlight. They would pass joints and play games, share secrets and stories.

She only came to this tucked away spot in the holidays when the main strip was filled with pinking, garish tourists. Here among the broken bottles and dirty sand there were no screaming children or plastic parasols, no tang of chip chip-shop vinegar or wet, excited dogs. There was just Bethan and her thoughts. The last summer.

It would all be different soon. They all swore they’d stay in touch and that coming together in the holidays would be like they’d never left. Theirs was true friendship and it would take more than a few miles to come between them. No-one they’d meet at university could know them like they knew each other. Some things were just too strong to stop, they had all agreed it.

But Bethan knew better. Without really realising, she had begun to memorise things, storing them up like little polaroid pictures in her mind to take away with her, intact and preserved forever. The smell of salt and woodsmoke in her hair; the way Lisa held the joint with her thumb and forefinger like she was in a 70s prison film; the way Callum’s face freeze, mask-like, when he thought no-one was paying attention, as he stared out to sea, taking in the scene as if it were the last time he would ever see it. He never said, but she knew he felt like she did about it all.

Bethan pulled her knees up to her chest and licked away the dribbles of ice-cream that ran down the cone, tasting in it every summer she remembered while she dreamed of what September would bring.

Planet of the Apes.

by Claire

As he left his trailer and walked over to the cliff top, Charlton Heston really did wish that he had put his vest on. There was a chill early morning wind blowing up from the beach below and the sun had not yet breached the horizon.

Charlton purveyed the location of this morning’s shoot, a beautiful swathe of Californian coastline with broad golden strands and azure waters. His attention was caught by a scoop of pelicans as they flew past, making prehistoric silhouettes against the sunrise. Charlton should have felt blessed but somehow, he could not shake off the sense of disappointment and dread that had overcome him in the last few days.

The man who had been a mighty charioteer, the Prince of Egypt and John the Baptist was now in a film about talking apes. He was not entirely sure how this had come to pass but felt it may have had something to do with his agent being a good for nothing gambler, who sold Chuck off to repay a debt.

The blessing was that he wasn’t playing a monkey. He thought about the first day in make-up, as his hair was lightly tousled and some sweat applied to his brow, he looked across to see Roddy McDowell being fitted into his chimpanzee mask. “Hello Charlton” said Roddy in his tiny little effete voice.

“Call me Chuck” said Charlton “How’s it going?”

“I’ve been here 2 hours already” said Roddy “and I’ll be lucky to be ready by lunchtime. This mask is very constricting”

“Shucks” said Chuck “see ya later” and left the makeup van feeling smug in that respect at least.

Still he couldn’t shake off the sense that this could be his downfall, the film to end his career - how would anyone ever be able to take him seriously again?

As he stood pondering a large truck drove along the beach. On the back of it was the top portion of the Statue of Liberty. Charlton knew this was essential set dressing for today’s filming, but he could not for the life of him work it out. He had read the script over and over and just didn’t get it -why, if he was on a planet where monkeys were in charge, where he and his astronaut buddies had crash landed from outer space, was there a replica of the Statue of Liberty?

“I need a drink” thought Chuck, “don’t care what time it is”. On his way to the Winnebago he passed behind the director’s trailer, dodging the shards of broken bottles on his way. As he rounded the corner he heard grunting, then a high pitched squeaking, followed by the sight of a chimpanzee being sodmised by a gorilla. The chimpanzee was wearing plimsolls, just like the ones Roddy wore. Charlton was suddenly overwhelmed and felt a surge of anger.

“Dam you, Dam you all to hell” he raged at the top of his voice before sinking to his knees in desolate despair.

Charlton’s impassioned words floated in through the window of the director Franklin J Schaffner. He turned to the blue-eyed monkey beside him in bed - “grab a pen will ya..I need to write that down”.

The Locked Room Pt 6

by Jon Peters

Outside the church, everything is right in the world. Maybe it’s only that I just escaped the inferno inside.

Evelina and I back away from the building as the smoke begins flowing out of the exit. That’s when I realized I was shivering. My teeth clatter. I glace at Evelina. There are creases in her face that I’ve never seen before. She looks terrified.

This is too much. How can we survive this world, knowing what we just saw? Will it ever be normal again? No. Absolutely not. Like a shattered bottle from a bullet, this world can’t be put back together again. All the king’s horses, or some long dead fable I can’t quite recall.

Zombie shrieks are upon us. They’ve broken through the windows of the church. Some of them are on fire, their clothes burned off, their charred bodies falling out of jagged windows. I stare in fascination.

"Do you think they realize they’re on fire?” I ask Evelina, grabbing her hand for support.

One of the, short fat used-to-be middle-aged man, rolls on the ground before looking in our direction. Crotch smoldering, he howls and lung-sprints toward us.

“Looks like my ex-boyfriend.” Evelina spats, arms crossed, frowning. I snort laugh, and she puts her elbow on top of my head like I’m a stool. Just like she always does when I need it most.

“Let’s get the fuck out of here,’ I say, brushing her arm off me and not bothering to mask my smile, the fear replaced by an endorphin high.

“Seaside.” Evelina grunts the word. Her decision is made. No need to argue.

“Lead the way,” I say, pushing her forward. Evelina quickly breaks into her long stride and I struggle to catch up. But I do, running in her shadow, one eye on the zombie horde spilling out of the church. We out pace them quickly.

“Guess all those games of chase really came in handy,” I say, breath catching in my throat. I force deep belly breaths, breathe in my nose and out of my mouth. My legs feel tight, my stride too long. I shorten it, pull myself upright. Now I’m in the race.

League City borders a sleepy coastal town called Seaside. Nothing there but a few crab shops and an old draw bridge. Place is stuck in the mid-twentieth century. Something you’d see in a black and white photograph. Feels ancient. A part of my grandma’s life. Old Texas.

It’ll take us twenties minutes at this pace to reach Seaside. There’s a shrimp hut underneath the draw bridge, right on the water. Our friend Christy works there. The three of us can overcome anything.

Between us and Seaside is a desolate marsh. Chest deep water.

Surely the zombies can’t follow us through the salty wasteland...

After the Funeral

by Russ

After the Funeral

I ducked out of the… I want to call it a wake, but in truth our family have always just called it ‘drinks’, because that’s the default way of putting a punctuation mark on anything. Either way, I ducked out just after they unveiled - took the cling-film off - the buffet. I grabbed a couple of slices of that pie with egg running through it, and went.

There are parts of the world where sunset will bathe the horizon in golden warmth, then there’s here, where it just means the sky turns from a greyish-blue to a greyish-grey. The sea wind caught me as I stepped from the alleyway and onto the front. It was too cold not to be wearing a proper coat, but it was too late now. I stuffed the last shard of pie into my mouth and buttoned up my suit jacket, brushing pastry crumbs away as I did.

This place had always been one of joy, from the beaches, to the mini-golf, to the mobile funfair which seemed to have grown roots at the top of the harbour steps. In my memory it had always been sunny too, probably because whenever the rain fell mum and dad would just roll us into the arcades, or the play area with the ball-pit and that vertical metal sheet which acted as a slide and left us with friction burns every year.

As I shuffled round a cluster of broken bottles, I looked along the prom, the high-tide lapped at the flood-walls to my left; any sand-castles which had survived the day now sat beneath the waves; a tiny medieval Atlantis. The place still wore the mask of its former self, you could see it in the celebrity emblazoned sign over the old Baron Tussauds - lord knows how they got away with that - both the paint and the painted were now faded. Most of the arcade fronts were corrugated shutters, but Joyland still stood proud; a cacophony of 8-bit tunes and primary coloured light-bulbs.

I took a breath, turning it into a sigh, and pressed on toward the harbour. As the lights faded from the amusements behind me, new ones blinked on at the fairground in front. The plinks and plonks from one were chased out by the booming beats of the other, thumping bass echoed against the wooden boards of empty rides, as stall holders leant and smoked, threadbare fleeces tied round with leather pouches.

This place wasn’t desolate as much as it was discarded, like an old toy, still functioning but no longer in favour. My mood calmed with the familiarity. A buzzing in my pocket spoiled the peace just as the thick smell of oil and waffles hit my throat, my brother’s name flashed on the screen, suggesting my absence had been noticed. I put the unanswered phone back in my pocket and took a lungful of the greasy sweetness in the air.

‘They can wait,’ I said to nobody, rummaging in my pocket for change.