Monday, April 24, 2006

"There's a long, long trail a-winding"


A bathing hut, I suppose you'd call it. Concrete. On the rocks ten or so feet above the water's edge with two sets of steps leading down to your choice of two jumping-in places.

We sat there, Charteris and I. The poor sod was still moon-burnt and would never recover the use of his hands. his eyes, as is the pattern with these things, were white.

Water lapping. Hint of a breeze. Was there tea? I think there was a flask of tea. Voices in the distance. Could have been from anywhere. They passed. Probably kids, higher up on the hill, near the obelisk.

So. Yes. Charteris. He took off his glasses and regarded the water. This had been a favourite swimming spot of his, I heard later. He named girls, and the naming lit up his face a little. Night swims, years ago. I held the flask cup for him while he sipped a little tea.

Such is the nature of the bay that he was able to point out the houses of old friends, a few hundred yards across the water but made all but inaccessible by the tide in its current humour. Dangerous around here, he observed. Unless you know the water.

Three times he tried to trick me into leaving the spot to get cigarettes or sweets or a bar of chocolate. But I wasn't turning my back on him.

He succeeded later, on another day, after his legs had gone. Logan, I think it was, brought him down to the bathing place that day. Just to sit and look, he said. Fibbing that he'd left his glasses in the car, he sent poor old Logan back up the hill and across the train tracks to get them.

There was a note in his desk, back at the Fen. He said he loved us and we were not to blame ourselves.

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