Clarke parked the bin trolley on the promenade and took a seat next to Richard on the bench. He gazed up at the sky and smiled. “Looks like spring is here at last,” he said.
Richard smiled back at him, then turned to look again out to sea. The grey clouds of the morning were shrinking, and shafts of yellow light were descending from the sky. Spots of light glittered brilliantly on the water and the white waves crashed calmly where they broke on the shore.
“You local?” asked Clarke.
“No. Visiting. I have a day off work,” replied Richard.
Clarke nodded slowly. “What do you do?”
“I’m a teacher.”
Clarke nodded again. “Do you enjoy it?”
“No,” said Richard. He closed his eyes and felt the sun warming his forehead. His neck and ears went cool as they were brushed by the wind. “But it keeps me in touch with literature. That’s what I teach.”
Clarke fell silent for a moment. “Li-te-ra-ture,” he said at last. “What’s that?”
“It’s writing about life.” Richard’s eyes opened and he spoke sleepily. “It’s about things we know but keep on forgetting. It’s writing that surprises us by telling us about ourselves.”
Another breeze sprang up and slipped over the grey and purple pebbles of the beach. A leaf of brown sea lettuce flapped and a shred of dry bladder-wrack rattled. The washed-up disc of a beer can lifted and knelled on the hard round stones.
Clarke turned his body toward Richard and leaned his shoulder against the back of the bench. His left leg straightened in front of him. His heel touched the ground. His toe cap pointed straight up. “Which writer do you like the most?” he asked.
Richard shrugged. He looked at the light on the water and considered. “Shakespeare,” he said vaguely. “Thomas Hardy. John Steinbeck.” He shook his head.
Clarke nodded. “And have you ever tried to write better than them?”
At first Richard frowned. Then he thought about it. He opened his mouth and was about to speak, then he stopped and thought about it again. Very slowly, a new light of possibility came into his eyes. “No,” he said quietly. “I haven’t. Now that I think of it, I’ve never really tried.”
Clarke smiled warmly. “That’s it then. Maybe that’s what you should do.”
Clarke stood up and took a step across the promenade. He stretched out his arms, took a breath, then turned round. “I think it’s important that we all have heroes,” he said. “But I think we should remember that, like us, they’re just men.” He took his trolley and rolled it away down the promenade, and the white gulls made circles in the blue sky above his head.
Richard blinked and looked out at the sea. He pulled a notebook from his jacket pocket. He saw the dark buoys on the glittering water and a pair of seabirds that were skimming across the sea. His eyes awakened with the light of the horizon. His pen found the paper and the words followed it across the page.
Dave Alcock lives in Devon, England, and writes about the ordinary people and places of the British provinces. His stories focus on psychological change and the seeing and acceptance of new things.His work has been published online at Every Day Fiction and STORGY Magazine.
The SHALLOW CREEK Short Story Competition
Mallum Colt, proprietor of Colt’s Curiosity Shop, invites authors to explore the sinister shadows and crooked streets of his once splendid town of Shallow Creek.
Guests are gifted a Shallow Creek visitor pack consisting of a map of Shallow Creek, a character profile, a specific location, and an item of interest.
These items shall act as a source of inspiration as Mallum Colt guides his guests through Shallow Creek and reveals the secrets and stories of a town bereft of sleep.
For more information and full terms and conditions click here…
Twenty-four short stories, exclusive afterwords, interviews, artwork, and more.
From Trumpocalypse to Brexit Britain, brick by brick the walls are closing in. But don’t despair. Bulldoze the borders. Conquer freedom, not fear. EXIT EARTH explores all life – past, present, or future – on, or off – this beautiful, yet fragile, world of ours. Final embraces beneath a sky of flames. Tears of joy aboard a sinking ship. Laughter in a lonely land. Dystopian or utopian, realist or fantasy, horror or sci-fi, EXIT EARTH is yours to conquer.
EXIT EARTH includes the short stories of all fourteen finalists of the STORGY EXIT EARTH Short Story Competition, as judged by critically acclaimed author Diane Cook (Man vs. Nature) and additional stories by award winning authors M R Cary (The Girl With All The Gifts), Toby Litt (Corpsing), James Miller (Lost Boys), Courttia Newland (A Book of Blues), and David James Poissant (The Heaven of Animals), and exclusive artwork by Amie Dearlove, HarlotVonCharlotte, CrapPanther, and cover design by Rob Pearce.
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