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Sunday, 12 February 2012
The Writers Collection
A few of the world’s most talented writers were challenged to submit short stories each week on a set theme. Please visit http://www.thewriterscollection.com to see some amazing stories by other great writers. The second topic was “Beaches”. Please enjoy my story.
The Peninsular War
On the school trip to Tenby, at the southern tip of Wales, the teachers stayed together while the children explored the dunes. These other kids from Hereford arrived in a coach that belonged to their school. All posh they were in uniforms and held their noses in the air. A girl called Gillian in a blazer and skirt left her friends and coyly joined our group. Robert knew everything because his dad, so he said, had been a teacher in America, or it might have been Japan. As she listened to his numerous tales, Gillian held his hand. Robert’s dad, so Robert said, had fought on these beaches in the war. Gillian agreed quite readily. She explained that the sand dune had sea on three sides. That meant it was a peninsular, and they, her school that is in Hereford, had done the Peninsular War. I realised a few years later that it was just a bank of sand that jutted into the bay, but I was seven and believed everything, as seven year olds tend to do.
By the end of the morning on that school trip to the sea, we had a conflict of our own.
Robert said the beaches were private and belonged to the Queen, and if we happened to be caught there, we would be locked up in the tower.
“Where’s the tower then,” Margaret demanded. She was the tallest in our form and was quite frightening in a way. Brave as he was, even Robert cowered under her threatening stare. He agreed to take her, but he explained that it was a secret, so no one else could follow. Gillian screamed as he pulled his hand free and Margaret gloated as she took her place. Gillian screamed again and again and became quite red in the face. Some of those kids from the other coach started to walk our way. They looked like a menacing army in blazers purple and grey. Robert turned and shouted at them, “You’ll be in trouble if you tread on the sand.” They stuck to the dunes and jumped between clumps of marram grass as they followed us along. As we ambled along quite aimlessly, we grabbed long strands of seaweed which marked the highest line of the tide, and slung them all around. One boy from the other school claimed he had seen the Queen watching us from the cliffs. All I could see was a woman in a headscarf but Robert swore he’d seen the crown.
We found a little rock pool and forgot our rivalry as we settled all around it with our new found friends. It was pleasant at first while we chatted and watched crabs as they scurried for cover. Margaret still had possession of the hand and refused to let it go. Then this kid from the other school demanded, “How come you can walk on the sand, if it is private and belongs to the Queen?”
Robert whispered that his dad worked for MI5 and the CIA, but at weekends, he was the Queen’s historic beach protector. I was quite impressed by this because Robert’s dad delivered our milk, but some snooty kid from Hereford said Robert was a liar. “No call for that,” Margaret said and pushed him into the pool. We laughed as he climbed back out with tears in his eye and blazer pockets full of water,
Gillian stood with her arms tightly folded, but her foot swung back and forth as she kicked the Queens sand into our faces. Dragging Robert with her, Margaret charged to attack. Robert couldn’t decide whose side he was on, but couldn’t free his hand. The other group got stuck in while Gillian screamed some more. We fought them on the beaches, in the dunes and the rock pools, as children tend to do. There were a lot of shouts, a few angry screams and occasionally a tear. The Peninsular War had started on the beach at Tenby, but it was over by half past two. Teachers they were who pulled us apart. Ours told us that our behaviour was disgusting, but theirs was just a disgrace to the good name of their school. When we got on our coach ready for home, Gillian put out her tongue. We pelted her with our porkpies and laughed as she screamed some more. And that was the end of the Peninsular War. Victory for us, I think.
Robert lives in Wales now with Margaret as his wife. I ran into them, quite by accident a decade or two ago. There they were on the beach at Tenby, Margaret still clinging to that hand.
Tuesday, 7 February 2012
The Writers Collection
A few of the world’s most talented writers were challenged to submit short stories each week on a set theme. Please visit http://www.thewriterscollection.com to see some amazing stories by other great writers. The first topic was “Brazil”. Please enjoy my story. http://www.thewriterscollection.com/2011/12/05/brazil-2/
If he were given the choice, Brian’s idea of a relaxing night at home in the company of friends would be to loaf in an armchair with a glass in his hand. Once again, with friends round, they were sat at the dining room table with a board game that was more suited to his wife’s intellect than his own. “That’s 3 for the B, 1 for R and 10 for the Z.” He declared as he sat back with a bright smile lit his face.
“Hang on, Brian, you can’t have Brazil. It’s a proper noun.” Sherri proclaimed with that ‘I’m a teacher of English which means, in word games, I’m always right’ tone in her voice.
“No it’s not,” he argued, already sensing that once again, he was going to be defeated by the domineering party in his marriage. “What about Brazil nuts?”
“It’s still got a capital B,” Malcolm intervened. “That makes it a proper noun.” Malcolm and Brian had remained friends from their schooldays, but like Sherri, Malcolm had gone off to university and now they worked in the same English department at the local school. When it came to an argument, Malcolm invariably swapped between supporting his work colleague and then his friend.
“Wait, though, Sherri.” Brian felt himself sigh as Anne began to speak. Malcolm’s wife was so quiet that it always seemed that she was seeking his permission before she uttered a word. Anne was well meaning but like Brian, always made to feel educationally inferior to their respective partners. Brian shook his head to no avail, as once again, Anne seemed determined to argue on his behalf. “If it is a proper noun, doesn’t that make it a proper word?”
“No, Anne, it just gives it a capital letter.” Malcolm always spoke to Anne as though he was correcting a third former.
“Brian you can’t have it,” Sherri snapped. “Change your letters.”
In contrast, Anne’s voice was hardly more than a whisper, “Let him have it for goodness sake, we’ll be all night at this rate.”
“Anne, he’s my husband. I’ll decide what he can and can’t have, thank you.”
Malcolm patted Sherri’s hand, “It’s only a game, Sherri, lighten up.”
“I’m just saying that he can’t have Brazil, that’s all.”
For some reason that, if asked, he would never be able to explain, that touch on his wife’s hand gave Brian an uneasy feeling, especially as it seemed that his old school friend was reluctant to let the hand go. “No you’re not,” he spoke slowly, sensing that his temper was rising. “You’ve just said you’ll decide what I can have. You’ll decide…”
“Oh for goodness sake, Brian, do you think I haven’t noticed?”
“Noticed what?” Genuinely confused, Brian continued, “I’d better change my letters”
Sherri stood up suddenly and scowled at her husband. “The way you look at Anne. Brian, I am not naïve.”
“Sherri,” Malcolm was treating the episode as a humorous interlude and smiled inanely as he poured more wine into the four glasses, even for his wife, ignoring her protest. "Are you suggesting there is something going on between Anne and Brian? That is so unbelievably funny.”
“You know what I’m suggesting, Malcolm,” Sherri snarled. “Ask your wife. She can’t take her eyes off him.” Anne lowered her eyes and blushed scarlet. “God,” Sherri swayed, “She’s got guilt written all over her face.”
“I haven’t,” Anne whispered softly. “Brian, change your letters, please.”
Brian reached for Sherri’s hand, but she snatched it away. “Sherri, you can’t imagine for one minute that I’d fool around with someone like Anne.”
Now Malcolm jumped to his feet with the wine bottle still in his hand. He was still jovial of course. It amused him to wonder why any other person might find any attraction in the unimaginative creature he had the misfortune to marry. “I beg your pardon,” he sneered mockingly, “Brian, but that’s my wife you are insulting.”
“Yes, Brian, that wasn’t nice.” Sherri suddenly became quiet again. Taking the wine bottle from Malcolm, she found it was empty. “Sorry Anne,” she continued as she replaced the bottle with the first that came to hand, “there was no call for rudeness. Brian, apologise to our guests.”
“I only meant that I wouldn’t have an affair with Anne, that’s all.” Brian tried to sound apologetic.
Anne was a little louder than usual. Frowning, she spoke directly at Brian. “I’m not good enough for you either; is that what you’re saying?”
“No Anne,” Brian hastily replied, “I’m just saying I wouldn’t screw my best friend’s wife. Pass me the bag, I’ll change my letters.”
“Ha! I was right. You do fancy Anne.” Sherri snapped as she topped up the four wine glasses with Vodka.
“Of course I do.” Brian admitted demurely, “She’s an attractive, friendly, considerate woman. I’ll change my letters.”
Malcolm still had that broad smile. He knocked his drink back in one gulp and took the bottle from Sherri, topping up his own and Anne’s glasses before handing it back. “There’s no need to sulk about it,” he laughed. “It’s just a game. Sherri, let him have it.” It was always this way with Malcolm. Condescending is the word for it but Brian wouldn’t say it. Four syllables he thought. I’m bound to be wrong.
“No. Malcolm,” Sherri snapped as she leaned heavily towards her work colleague. “Brazil is a proper noun. Brian, change your letters.”
“I’ve said I’ll change my letters. Anne, give me the bag.”
“No, Brian, it’s not fair.” Anne spoke so quietly that everyone strained to hear what she said. She took a large gulp from her glass, seeking courage from the vodka. “I would let you have it.”
“Brazil you mean. Thanks but if it’s the rules, I’d better change my letters.”
“No Brian, I’m not talking about Brazil.” She stood with a sway and dropped her arm onto Brian’s shoulder. “I’m talking about their rules. It’s Okay for them to screw each other every time our back is turned. Oh don’t try and deny it Sherri. I might not have a degree, but you don’t need an education to add two and two.”
“Anne!” At last, the ingratiating smile had left Malcolm’s face.
“Oh shut up, Malcolm,” Anne slurred. “You’ve had your share of affairs. And Sherri isn’t the only one.”
“Anne, behave. You’ve had too much to drink.”
“Give me that bottle. I haven’t even got started.” Anne grabbed the bottle and put it to her lips.
Brian collected the L, I and Z from the table. “Pass me the bag. I’ll change my letters.”
“No, Brian.” Anne scooped all the remaining letters from the board. Tipping all the letters from the bag, she started to rearrange them. “You missed your turn before. I’m not letting you miss another.”
Malcolm had never seen his wife take action without his prompting. In truth, she was generally forbidden to express an opinion without his permission. There was a curious note of concern in Malcolm’s voice. “Anne, what do you think you are doing?”
“Changing my letters.”
“But it’s not your turn,” Malcolm pleaded as Anne laid row after row on the board.
I WANT A D I V O R C E.
“There you are Brian,” Anne proclaimed. “I am yours if you want me.”
Brian nodded, but reached out and changed the first I for W and E. After studying the words for a few seconds, he smiled. “That’s definitely worth a double score.”
About eight months later, Malcolm picked up the postcard from the hall floor. “They’ve got married then. It’s only been four weeks since the decree absolute. I suppose they’re happy together.”
Sherri was always abrupt in the morning, and Malcolm timidly winced as she said, “Why shouldn’t they be, Malcolm? We are, aren’t we?”
Malcolm no longer smiled in that condescending way. Sherri had been promoted to head of department. Even at home, it sounded as though she was addressing an inferior. “Yes, Sherri dear, I meant, I suppose they are happy going to that place for their honeymoon.”
Taking the postcard from him, she looked at the “we are here” arrow drawn on the front. “Brazil, you mean. I can’t see what’s significant about that.”