Everything is better down where it is wetter

by James

She was a day tripper out of Falmouth, ill-suited to ploughing the slow rising swells bursting icy venom across her bows. She was twenty miles out, slow chug of her engine making a miserly seven knots. How many hours did the crew reckon before they made Norway?

Deep down Stuart knew it didn’t matter.

He was up front squished elbow to elbow on a wooden bench, sat with teachers and lawyers, and with management consultants and with doctors and librarians. What they shared was this journey and the grey hair and puckered skin that had Europe saying non and nein and nee.

Wifey hunkered in tight against the cold. Belowdecks was warm but up here was the sky and the good sea air to fill their lungs.

Maybe it was the Elton John sat on a bench facing them, back hunched resolute against the breaking spray. He had the floppy hair and the sunglasses, bright red rims the only slash of colour in this grey.

But of course not. His kind were well out of it, long gone from Blighty before this hell.

A choke from the engine, silence broken slowly as a murmur of unease rippled through the passengers. Wifey either asleep or made of stern stuff – not a flinch as the cries began.

And here came the crew, friendly smiles gone.

No more fuel. End of the trip, unless…

Stuart didn’t move. Habit held his wallet with him still, but this deal not even cash only. You have a wedding ring? You have something with a diamond? Stuart with a wallet built on plastic, everything not nailed down sold for this ticket.

As the lifeboat motor faded so to the broiling anger that scorned the fleeing crew. No mourning for the blood in the scuppers or bodies that twitched in example.

Peace had come, but not silence. People with tears to cry, Gods to call on.

Stuart Meadows sitting arm in arm with wifey, hands squeezed tight.

He said, ‘But the boys got out before the French closed the tunnels.’

A squeeze of his hand the only reply.

It can’t be Elton sitting there. Real Elton with a pocket full of rubies but theirs is statue still, the only life a trickle from beneath the rims of his glasses.