The Last Newspaper in the World
21 November 2014
17 THE RABBIT GETS A SHORT BREAK
Bernie was in the lounge, checking business news again when we walked in. He looked up and waved. Angelique gestured for me to sit at the dining table. Bernie came out and handed me a beer from the fridge, placing an empty bottle on the bench.
‘So how’s it going?’ he asked.
I knew he wasn’t referring to my health.
‘Mixed. I think we’re on to something but I don’t know,’ I said, my voice trailing off as I thought of Harry and wondered what he knew or didn’t know and if he knew what he knew, why didn’t he just tell me. ‘Have you heard anything from the cops?’
‘No, I must say the drums have gone very quiet,’ Bernie said, adding, ‘that does sometime mean they are up to something but want to keep it very quiet.’
‘Or they know not much more than we do, or even less?’
‘No I don’t think so, but you know the saying ‘Coastlands cops, we never get our man’.’
‘That’s a bit brutal isn’t it, Bernie?’
We laughed a bit. Angelique put down a bowl of onion soup. Steam rose between Bernie and I.
‘Yes that may be son but you ask Harry, he knows more than I do. Well, must be off to the club; it’s darts night.’
I started to sip at the soup as he went out the door holding a set of darts in one hand. The soup tasted better than I thought it’d be.
‘So my soup is not horrible then?’
‘Hmm, yeah good,’ I said as I slurped down another spoonful. ‘What is it?’
‘Soupe à l’oignon gratinée but please don’t make that noise.’
Looking up, I saw her black eyebrows raised and a slight tilt of her head. It wasn’t the first time she’d queried my eating habits. I’d seen her occasionally wince across the café as I chomped down on a defenceless pie. Harry and I had lower standards in dinner time etiquette; in fact I think the old boy was worse than me, if that was possible. I wondered why Angelique liked me if she hated my eating habits so much.
Angelique bent over and wiped a tiny piece of onion off my bottom lip and kissed me. The rabbit was left to its own devices for a while.
Angelique’s room was a bit cold. It was fully dark now and she was asleep. We were heavily covered in blankets and a duvet and lay close together in the double-bed. I could feel in my left arm the heat from her body, so alive but so relaxed. I reached over and ran the back of my hand down her side from the bottom of her ribs to her hip. In the dark, I could see the outline of her lips part, her eyebrows frown. She reached over with her right hand to touch my face, and then rolled over on her side away from me.
A message came through on my phone. I reached down and pulled it out of my jacket. It was Harry: ‘Breakfst. 0800 @ Gordon’s.’ I okayed him back and thought briefly about why he wanted to meet at Gordon’s for breakfast but this quickly gave way to a vision of the lines that night coming into the beach. If I woke early enough, I could get a surf in before the meeting. I reached over and kissed Angelique on the back of her neck and went to sleep.
The waves the next morning were good. Not quite as large as the night before, which in some ways was a bit disappointing, but did at least let me get out quicker for each ride. I told Angelique about Harry’s text and she was quite surprised.
‘Gordon does not usually open the café for breakfast in the winter,’ she said, pulling a perfect turtle-neck sweater on, and then rubbing her hands together against the cold. ‘Maybe Harry has called him to alert him to this possibility?’
‘Quite likely, I think, always with the planning, Harry,’ I said from the bed. I remembered my board wasn’t in the back of the car.
‘So you are not going out this morning?’
‘No, I haven’t got time to go back to town and get my board.’
‘Oh, why do you not use Bernie’s. I am sure he will not worry.’
‘I’m not that keen. I’ve seen the old boy’s dunga.’
‘You know, big and heavy. Not overly responsive.’
Angelique laughed and leant over me, taking hold my shoulders with her small hands.
‘So choosey. I think you are a little tired and scared of the cold water.’
She went out of the room and I could hear her waking up Bernie to tell I was going to borrow his board. He said something back to her but I couldn’t hear what he said, although it sounded like assent.
Angelique came back into the room, her black hair swinging and her eyes alive. ‘Yes, you may use his board but you must take special care. You must go now, because I have to go and help Gordon set up for the day.’
I called out thanks to Bernie as I went down the hallway and he reminded me to look after his beloved – I think he meant his board. Angelique took me out to the garage and opened it up before walking off to the café. In the half light, I could see the long board slung on a rack along the wall of the garage. I’d forgotten it was a pintail, narrowing tightly as the shape ran down from the full nose to the tail. I had to admit: it wasn’t a bad looking board. Picking it up off the rack, it was heavy but it was beautifully balanced as I carried it out. I got my gear out of the car and changed in the garage. It was a bit nippy but the wet suit helped. As I walked past the house towards the beach, Bernie appeared on the door step in flannel pyjamas and gave me the thumbs up.
‘I’ll look after her,’ I called out. Bernie waved and went inside.
Looking down the beach, I could see the day was going to be clear as a slow blue light crept up from the horizon. The swell was smaller but the occasional big one swept through, cracking out ozone into the early morning air. Sitting out the back on the big board, I felt awkward but not too cold. Although I was in a hurry, kind of, I waited and felt the lift of the board up and over the swell rolling through. I felt more fish than bird; there was no flying on Bernie’s board, just feeling of being more fully connected to the water.
I paddled further out than I normally would, just to give the longer board more room to drop into the wave than on my short board. As I rose over a swell I could see the horizon feathering, indicating a good set wave on the way. Turning, I felt the adrenalin surge mixed with the fear of the unknown. Then, as the wave self-inflated, grew higher, approached faster and started to lift through me, I paddled into that other world, where there is only light and sound. The pintail did its work, its tight tail helping me drop down to the bottom of the wave and quickly turn the board to snake up and across the face of the wave. Water like the strongest, coldest shower flowed over my back, but I crouched forward and pushed through out on to the face. Normally, I would kick out of the wave as the wall stood up and prepared to crumble but the big board was slower than I was used to, and at the last minute I twisted around to face the beach, crouching to take the impact as the board dropped down through the foam. The boom from the collapsing wave felt like a jet had landed on the beach but I hung on and managed to catch a small reform wave, only to fall over as I stood up. I had just emerged from below the water, grabbed the board and prepared to paddle back out when I saw Bernie standing on the sand dunes waving.
‘Nice wave. Nine out of 10 for the dismount though,’ he said. He held up his watch. ‘Harry rang. He wants you down at the café, now.’ I unzipped and rolled down the top of the wet suit. Bernie handed me a towel. ‘So you and Angelique,’ was all he said as we walked across the road. I looked over and waited for the wisdom I was sure was coming, but it didn’t and we walked in silence down to the garage. We discussed the possibility of a shower but I just ran some warm water over my head and tried to shake the tangles out of my hair.
Bernie leaned in the doorway and pulled a face, saying ‘you really should try harder, for Harry’s sake.’ I shrugged and gently closed the door to get changed. ‘You know he’s greatly depending on you now,’ Bernie called through the door. I wanted to pull a Harry and tell him to ‘f off’, but I succumbed and asked Bernie why. No reply came back, and when I came out Bernie was in the kitchen pouring a coffee. He held up his cup in a goodbye salute, his bald head to one side. ‘Thanks for lending me the board, it’s cool,’ I said as I waved at him and got out quickly.
The Last Newspaper in the World
By Mick Stone
Published by BMS Books
An imprint of Business Media Services Ltd
The Last Newspaper in the World
Copyright © 2012 Mick Stone
All rights reserved.
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BMS Books an imprint of
Business Media Services Ltd
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