The Balled of Edward Lasalle
Heart pounding, he fell into a hunched run, low over the rocky beach. Dropping to all fours LaSalle moved like a panther, squat and predatory, slipping clandestine across the greasy pebbles until he was straddling the granite protrusion. Ignoring the searing pain in his hip, LaSalle closed the gap on the bird as it dared to fawn over its illicit catch. Catching sight of the hunched octogenarian, the bastard gull started, black and beady flecks darting as it sensed near moral danger. For once in his life, the old man was the quicker, and buoyed by decades of welling frustration he leapt; bony fingers summoned the remainder of their strength as they closed upon a pristine white throat. Shrieking with rage and surprise the bird took flight, launching backwards off the stone.
LaSalle rallied, each dilapidated sinew straining against its muscular predetermination as he held tight to the gull’s retreat. Amidst frenzied squawking he rose unsteadily, eyes blazing, sandwich all but forgotten. It was the last straw, destined to snap the proverbial camel in half. The creature’s malevolent irises met his, and with a start the old man realised just what he was doing, several feet out amidst the crashing waves with his hands wringing tight around a seabird’s neck. As the fingers relaxed, the gull let out a howl of defiance and came at him, razor beak thrusting ever closer to those grey and cataract-inlaid irises. LaSalle’s trailing leg slipped free from its footing, and he fell.
For one unabridged and inescapable moment the world ceased to turn. Both man and beast shared one final glare that crossed that last Darwinian divide. If truth be told, LaSalle had hoped to exit this mortal coil in a far more heroic manner. And yet, his heavy metallic watch flashing bright in the opportune lustre of a lightning bolt’s momentary flare, he saw no mean feat or life-defining moment. There were no witness present, no poem penned. Just one old man’s hand around a seagull’s brazen throat amidst the all-consuming fury of the English Channel – and a thousand Argus headlines, dreamt up long into the night.
Tonight it seems like pure torture! I’m trying so hard not to stare, but I can’t stop, it’s like they’re calling to me. Perhaps I shouldn’t bottle this up; perhaps for once I should let it all out? I’m confused; it’s too much to cope with tonight. The tears start to well, my heart is racing and every irrational hormone is surging throughout my body. Bail, bail, bail! I’ve got to go!
I tried so hard to maintain a smile whilst I struggle to my feet and then it happen, something I’ve wanted for years, waited so patiently for. “Peggy” I flinched as I heard Ms Bateman’s niece call my name. “Yes my dear” I managed to force out. “Would you like a chocolate?” The tears instantly breached and flooded down my face, I smiled from the bottom of my heart “Thank you, I would so love one, it’s been so long since I tasted the delights from a chocolate box”. Mrs Bateman’s niece couldn’t miss my tears so she turned, hugged me and handed me the whole box. “Please Peggy, these are yours. I will bring more for my aunt tomorrow”.
That single expression of kindness and compassion stayed with me until my dying day, as news of my misfortune whispered from resident to visitor and I often received a box of delights to savour and finally silence the taunting.
Gav is drunk.
You can see it in his ordinarily militant body; His usual brash march is more of a meaningful flounder as he meanders across the pebbles.
Gav opts for an unnecessarily loud and exit from the blaring serenity of Brighton beach, striding past the bank-holiday families with their middle-class picnics. The hipsters with their disposable barbeques bought with their disposable incomes.
They are all being circled and Gav ruffles the seagulls’ feathers as he strides noisily past them.
Tourists and locals huddle round tables drinking premium beer from flimsy cups as the sun starts to set.
Gav turns back to look at the glitter-bomb ocean. The sky is as beautiful as a Bierstadt.
Gav breathes in the wafts of charred meat, cigarette smoke, aftershave and salt. He listens to the voices shouting over the deafening base lines and the sirens overhead.
He pulls his last can of lager out of his pocket. It’s still perfectly cold.
He holds the can for a moment, feeling it penetrate his hands and enjoying the sensation. He cracks it open and takes a swig.
The beer simmers in his mouth and the taste is wondrous. And at that exact moment, Gav knows it’s a good time to die.
Katie quickens her pace along the seafront. Edie’s hungry and she’s all out of snacks, and the need-food-now-meltdown of a toddler is the last thing Katie needs.
She’s about ten minutes from home, except she doesn’t call it home because it’s a dump. Katie weaves Edie’s pushchair in and out of the obstacle course of tourists and mobs of language students who are literally everywhere. She’s an absolute pro at this and is practically sprinting now. Most of the human obstacles back away or stand completely still as they see her coming towards them, which pleases Katie enormously.
Katie stops momentarily to catch her breath, then distracted by the sunset. The backdrop to the litter-covered beach. An absolute mess. Just like her life. The main difference being that there won’t be people in high vis jackets coming to pick up the pieces of her life in the morning.
She starts to run again, committed to getting Edie fed and put to bed so that she can finish her short story which needs to be submitted by tomorrow evening. It’s for a competition.
She probably won’t win though, she thinks.