A chapter from a work in progress by Lois Elsden, as yet untitled:
Across the water meadow
A skein of birds arced across the sky, they were flying low and against the dying light of the sun were almost in silhouette. If Gus had been more of an expert he could have said what they were, would have known whether they were geese or swans or something more obscure.
He was interested in birds, but never could remember what the creature looked like which had sparked his interest. He would stare at some cocky individual perched on a winter’s twig, or pecking at a swathe of grass or crouched in a reed bed and would try his utmost to remember the size, the shape of the head the colours of the back and the wings… but later, with the bird spotters book he would wonder whether it had been grey with a brown stripe, or brown with a grey stripe… or whether it had been grey at all.
Now, as he trudged across the water meadow away from the sea, he took the birds to be some sort of sign, but what it was he could not read. He looked back at them but could barely make them out against the dazzle of the sun setting. It had been a miserable day, grey and mournful, rather like his mood, but now as evening slipped into night, the skies cleared and the sun, going down in a rather half-hearted way, was carelessly chucking some pretty colours across the blue, as if it was making a perfunctory gesture.
The few stars that were visible, on the other hand, were rather jaunty and bright, like show offs at a dull party. Would the moon come out? He stopped and looked up at the heavens but there was no sign of it anywhere. He sighed. He had come out to walk for something to do, not because he enjoyed it or wanted to… If he’d been with someone else, if he’d had company then maybe he would have enjoyed it more, but now he was just trudging the circuit from house to beach, to estuary, then cutting across the water meadows and back home.
Should he go to the pub… was he in the mood for pub banter? Not really, but maybe it was better than returning to an empty house. He trudged along beside the rhyne, glancing into the darkening water but there were no duck bobbing about. As if they read his mind there was a fierce quacking from somewhere upstream as someone fell out with someone else in duckland.
A couple of people was walking towards him with a large shaggy dog and they greeted him by name as they met. He had no idea who they were but chatted briefly. Yes, it was a lovely evening, it had been a dull day, hadn’t it, yes he was on holiday, school was over for another year, yes how lucky teachers were to have such long holidays.
As they walked on, calling goodbyes over their shoulders he remembered that they were people from the pub, they were in the quiz team which most often rivalled his. What their names were he couldn’t remember, he wanted to call them Sally and Dermott, but that wasn’t right. He walked on, puzzling over their names, as if it mattered, because at least it gave him something to think about.
The pub was unexpectedly crowded, with people he did not know which was a blessing. He bought a drink and retreated outside where the smokers gathered even though it was becoming chilly. He sat with his pint at a table near the unused bowling alley and let the darkness settle around him.
©Lois Elsden 2016
Here is a link to Lois’s novels: