Friday, 27 May 2016
Sandyway Beach was a little town with no more ambition than the frogs which sang it to sleep at night. It hadn’t really changed that much in the two hundred years it had been in existence, but it was still a nice little place to be born, live ,and die in.
Visitors were few and far between given that it was so far off the beaten track; the ones who did turn up tended to be lost or pretended they were when they found they’d driven all that way just to turn up in that little town.
But if you could see the beauty in the place and not ask too much out of life then it was a perfect place to waste away your days.
Wars had been declared and settled, rulers had come and gone, storms had kicked up a fuss and died down again, and not of those things ever touched Sandyway Beach.
Perhaps the universe was saving up all the town’s triumphs and disasters for one throw of the dice and perhaps that throw came in the shape of Clive Otterman.
Clive had once been a strong, fit man who could take on anything and come good, but little by little, bit by bit, life kicked the crap out of him until he held up his heart in surrender and decided to see out his days just sitting by the sea. He felt that life wouldn’t come looking for him under these circumstances; it would pass over him like the angels in the Bible and smite some other sucker.
I guess Clive had always underestimated life - in the way that we all do - because fate doesn’t always attack in big slashes and stabs - sometimes it kills by a thousand cuts and fate wasn’t quite done with Clive yet.
He’d lived long enough to know that life sometimes worked in mysterious way, truly mysterious ways – not Biblical, just those little surprises which sometimes happened at the right time to the right people. That’s what occurred with Tommy Speak, who was the man who lived on the beach and whom life had decided was ready for a little miracle.
If one word was used to describe Tommy it was ‘ordinary’ – in the way that all animals clinging to a rock circling the Sun are ordinary. His school report called him a normal kid - nothing outstanding. His Geography teacher had written ‘ordinary’ and left it at that. Except what is ordinary today could have been considered exceptional many years before. If an ordinary man had stood in the middle of the American Civil War with a camera/phone he would have been considered anything but ordinary. But look what you’ve made me do - I’m well off the story. So just believe me when I tell you that Tommy was the most ordinary person you could ever meet.
Then Tommy met Clive and the rest, as they say, is one huge, confusing mess. I’m not telling you here and now that Clive and Tommy were somehow called on by Heaven to do what they did, I’m just trying to say that from where I was standing it very much looked that way.
Tommy never really asked for normal in his life, it was just the way he was put together and I never really knew if Tommy was just plain lucky or if the universe liked him so much that it gave him a helping hand from time to time.
One night, just before he headed back to the beach, Tommy lifted what he thought was his jacket - but in fact it turned out to be the jacket of one Jeremiah Andrews. I think that the fact the label inside said ‘Property of Jeremiah Andrews’ would have been a giveaway.
That was the evening of the Grand Night Dance. Everyone in town had been at the hall for a jig to thank the Founding Fathers for putting Sandyway Beach exactly where it should be – in the perfect location. Needless to say, Tommy had been drinking Archie’s famous Crab Beach Brew and this left him with the feeling that he could take on the world.
There had been stories passed around town for years about the kind of business that Jeremiah was operating; it covered everything from diamond smuggling to selling donkey meat to the Mexicans and everything in between. To be truthful, those were actually some of the better Jeremiah stories; as the others would have made your hair stand on end – assuming that you had hair,that is.
Tommy swayed and swaggered his way down the cliff path towards the beach, something he had accomplished in many conditions (sometimes it was him, sometimes it was the weather, sometimes it was both). He could do it with his eyes closed and he normally did, but this night he had a strange feeling that he was being watched. I think most folks have got that ability to know when pair of eyes are drilling into the back of their heads.
Suddenly right in front of him, like an apparition, was Everard Smithton.
“Howdee, Tomaso,” as that was the way Everard liked to talk.
“You almost made my hair turn white, Everard,” screamed Tommy who didn’t have any hair.
“Sorry Tomaso but I hate walking back this way alone, especially with that thing on the loose,” said Everard in an accent that was hard to pinpoint (and I’m talking about a continent, never mind narrowing it down to a country).
“What thing?” Asked Tommy, who actually wasn’t really caring.
“I don’t suppose you’ve got a smoke?” Asked Everard.
Now here’s the funny thing, Tommy didn’t smoke but he immediately reached into the top pocket of Jeremiah’s jacket and there were cigarettes and a lighter.
“Well I’ll be....” said Tommy and handed the stuff over to Everard.
“Much obliged,” said Everard as he lit his cigarette.
The two of them were just jumping from the last rock on the sandy beach when the thing that had gotten loose moved towards them.
“What are those two eyes?” Asked Everard, nervously
“Well, my guess is that they’re two eyes,” said Tommy sarcastically (Crab Brew always made him sarcastic).
Then the moonlight caught the animal full on. It was a leopard which had escaped from Fanny’s Victorian Circus which was exhibiting at Seapoint, two towns over. The leopard was stealthy crawling towards them, the way that cats do just before they go in for the kill.
As the leopard started to charge, Tommy went into the right pocket of Jeremiah’s jacket and there was a pistol which he pulled out and shot at the leopard. Tommy missed but the leopard wasn’t hanging around to try again.
“Well I’ll be..” said Tommy.
When they got to Everard’s caravan, they said goodnight and Tommy and his pistol headed for his home on the beach.
On the other side of town, Jeremiah Andrews was just getting out of his truck when a large leopard jumped him. He went into his right pocket to get his pistol and the last thing that went through his mind was: why had he just pulled out a half-eaten sandwich (one that Tommy had left in his jacket for the walk home). By the time Jeremiah got to hospital he was stone cold dead.
As Tommy entered his boat-on-the-beach which he called home, he put his hand in his left pocket thinking the key would be there and in fact found several thousand dollars all tied up with string.
“We’ll I’ll be...” said Tommy, realising this had been one of his better days.
Clive Otterman was not a shy man, nor a man who had been known to be the crazy one in a group. He was just a guy who, it could be said - had lived, and then one day when he was long dead someone would say, 'I wonders what ever happened to that Clive Letterman?' then the guy who asked the question would sip his drink and forget why he asked.
Now to be forgotten ain't a bad thing, it ain't a bad thing at all, but each of us would like to think that maybe just once in a while someone would have a thought about you and perhaps smile or even shed a tear that you were long gone.
There was a box under Clive Otterman's bed where he kept his quiet desperation. It wasn't something that he took out in public to be stared and pointed and poked at, nope, Clive's desperation was kept well buried and he found that bringing it out in the middle of the night was the best solution.
Each of us lives a kind of desperate life, unless you're real stupid and you don't question a single thing (there are folks who say that not questioning is the happiest way to live, but I would have to question that - yeh, that was me being ironic). What I'm trying to say about Clive was that he could get a little addicted to feeling desperate and when he wasn't feeling desperate, he would start to worry about not having something to worry him - wow, when you start down the irony path, it gets hard to put the brakes on.
Desperation fuelled him, he needed to worry to work, or move, or do things which meant that when he was happy, he was the laziest sonofabitch that ever sat on his bee-hind.
I guess what I 'm really trying to tell you, is that Clive was born with his collar turned up, his head down and was just spending time waiting on his death without hurting anyone else or himself. You'd think that life would say that was a reason to leave the poor sucker alone and let him get on with it - but you'd be wrong. Life had put a tick next to his name the way the Revenue people do and that could only mean one thing - trouble.
The night that Clive and Tommy came together in the universe, I guess the planets were in some sort of weird alignment but come together they did. Clive had been down on the beach filling his lungs with good sea air before he planned to go too bed when he heard a gunshot and a man shouting 'We'll I'll be...' in a manner that suggested that the man’s nose was bleeding.
Clive ran to the little boat house on the beach expecting to find a dead lover and someone with a revolver standing over the body. Instead he found Tommy who had just shot the tip of his nose off with his careless use of a firearm.
"We'll I'll be, if tat ain't the weirdest ting...," Tommy was talking through his bleeding nose and it made him sound comical.
"I was so sure there weren't anymore bullets in the ting..."
"Seems you were wrong," said Clive forgetting about his quiet desperation for a few minutes.
"Do you see the end of my nose anywhere?" Tommy asked.
"Well there's a question I didn't think I was gonna be asked when I got out ma bed this morning," said Clive who looked down and found the end of Tommy's nose.
"Is this it?" Said Clive proudly holding the nose tip aloft.
"Dat's an olive, I tink," Said Tommy who wasn't about to have an olive stitched on to the end of his nose.
"Then I guess you blew the end of your nose to the four corners of this room."
"Are you saying ma nose has vaporized?" Asked Tommy.
"I guess I am, by the way my name is Clive, Clive Otterman and you are?"
"In a lot of pain," said Tommy in a sort of smarty pants way.
"I'm going to take you to the hos-pee-tal right now and then we are going to become good friends, I can feel it," Said Clive in a genuine way.
"You would do dat for me, take me to the hop-i-tal?" Said Tommy with tears in his eyes.
And so that was the night that Clive and Tommy became the best of buds, although it wasn't going to be an easy friendship nor a particularly uneventful one but then Angels and their friendships never are.
bobby stevenson 2016