Me and Burt is likely the only true free-climbers left in Kent since Wogs pitched off and broke his spine. You notice we always mark the fallen by their chief injury, not the fact they was killed, which Wogs most certainly was, as any sod would be who fell three hundred feet? Soft sand and water, you say?
Bollocks. Iron hard from a height like that.
Why do we keep on? We’re Scots is why. Famous cragsmen. Climbing crags is in our blood, you might say. The cliffs is why we moved down to bloody Dover in the first place.
A big girl, strong, quick-tempered at the best of times and apt to throw punches if she didn’t like what you said. Before we were married, I used to think this was cute. Now it’s just embarrassing, especially showing up at the office next day with a busted lip or a shiner. It was always worse when she drank.
We were in the car when I must’ve said something, just driving along when pow, the right side of my face exploded. She’d hit me with her shoe. I finally got it away from her and chucked it out the window.
Chuck leaned against the blade of the backhoe, clearly nervous. “They didn’t say nothing about it being no graveyard, Donnie.”
“Oh, the tough guy is afraid of ghosts now? Gimme a fucking break.”
“It’s bad luck is all.”
Donnie lit a Kool. “The man paid you to do a job, not for your opinion about what’s lucky. Get into your goddamn machine and get started. The dump trucks are on the way. Slab’s being poured tomorrow.”
“But what about the bodies? Under the slab?”
Donnie laughed. “They ain’t going nowhere. It’ll be nice and dark and peaceful. Get to work.”
October 17th, 1975-
It’s happening again, stronger this time since I stopped taking the lithium. I know the doctor says I need it, but I just can’t stand the foggy feeling. Besides, this time the voice has been more pleasant. You remember when I told you about the one I kept hearing so bad right before I went to the hospital? The deep man’s voice I called Screamer? Yeah, well, he’s gone. Now it’s a woman’s voice, calm and sweet. And amazing– she knows thing about people. I mean, she really does.
I really like what she tells me.
Photo by Dale Rogerson
Sher’f come by and tell me we got another maybe gone missing in the bog, asks if the county can rent my fanboat again. I tell him I got fishing planned. I always tell him that. Drives up the price.
This time it must be somebody important because he pays my price right off, no dickering. I go to the boathouse and pull her out. Sher’f and his man bring the poles and chain like always.
There’s this little girl, too. She’s trying not to cry, holding herself together. I don’t ask her name, just give her a life jacket.
“There you go. Get on it.”
“You know why I can’t stay, Joey. I couldn’t face them. Not any of them.”
“So you said.”
“I need you to understand. It ain’t about you.”
“Yeah, I get it. It ain’t about me.”
“Well, it ain’t.”
“Sue Ann, why you drawing this out like this? You asked me for a ride and I give you one. So go on. There’s your bus. Go.”
“I just don’t want you to feel like…”
“Like what? Like it’s my fault? Whose fault is it then, Sue Ann? Tell me that.”
“Mine. Or nobody’s, I guess.”
“So how does this work, exactly?”
She shifted on the seat. “Are you fucking serious?”
“I just never did anything like this before. Do I pay you first?”
“You never saw this on TV or nothin’? Shit. Yes, you pay me first. Fifty for the hand, seventy-five for the mouth,a hundred to put it in me.”
“You mean here in the car?”
“Yes in the car. Where’d you fucking think? Out in the parking lot?”
“Okay, okay. You don’t need to be mean. And no, by the way.”
“No, I never saw it on TV. We didn’t have TV.”
Sure, blame me. I done the safety check like I was supposed to. What am I going to say to the crew chief? That them chains look like they were used to yank stumps, all stretched out and bendy? You think he would have done anything but fire me on the spot?
Do I look like I can find a job that easy?
Look, the way Parker Amusements runs things, something like this was bound to happen. Ask anyone here. They’ll tell you the Zipper’s bolts are half rusted through, that the Tilt is falling apart.
But ask in private.
It’s a taste. It doesn’t make me a monster. I keep it confined to the digital world.
Under no circumstances would I ever, ever act on it.
Not even if I went to a foreign country where such things are overlooked. Encouraged, even.
I was this way even as a boy. I’ve simply gotten older and they haven’t.
I would never use my work computer. My phone is encrypted.
Most of the members of those groups are like me, acting out a fantasy.
Never print out anything. Not even the stories.
I would’t tell anyone. Are you crazy?
You think New York is expensive until you go to any other city in the world. They are all expensive. London is the worst. It’s old, too. You don’t realize how old until you find yourself there without money.
Poor have lived in London for a long time, long as the city has been around. There are ways of doing things, a structure. It might look like chaos to an outsider, but there rules and laws in play, a strict hierarchy.
And like all laws, you never know what they are until you break them. By then it’s too late.