One night, we carried, half dragged, dead Sally, the four of us, down main street in the rain, to the beach and we laid her out on the cold, hard sand and, hidden beneath the toll of the waves & the cliff shadow, conducted an ad-lib & somewhat ad-hoc, psychedelic service to her memory.
Right down main street while the town mostly just slept!
We left Lower Sea Road & crossed the car park where the skate kids left curlicues of skin from their knees & we bridged the wet wood beneath a moon like a face in the trees.
“She would have liked this,” said Jenner. The narrow spaces between the beach huts allowed for discard, stinkweed and squat piss. She dabbed her palms on the print of her dress.
“Yeah,” said John. “Yeah, she really would.” And I suppose he would know, what with her being his squeeze. He sounded hollow. I suppose that’s how widowers sound.
The tide was up and I counted the seconds between the blinks of Beacon light as it turned its three-sixty. Twenty-three. The empty parade shimmered & rattled in the slant rain &, beyond, the shape of the town. These are the things that reassure.
A dice throw of stars. And beneath, unseen, the deadeye fishes haunt and hunt the sea meadow weed.
We really put ourselves out for her when we put her out. It was the most we’d managed in a long time.
Sam put his back out, or so he would have it, that black death night on the beach. I can’t believe though how that could quite be. Looking back, back on it now, with time to reflect, I don’t recall him being too much help in the pallbearing. His role was more ministerial. There are those, and I include myself in their number, who still deem him magic. Magic and whatever that conjures.
We laid her body, stiff & sodden, the four of us, at the foot, the font of the blue clay cliff. The air was wet-through, like mist, like water. And, the wind! Oh, holy! The wind was woeful. Funereal, Sam said. And he was right. A dead weight, Sam said. Man, we could barely swallow at that one.
The people in the town shouldered a sheet & turned, yawning. Some stared blankly into screens, staving zeds & morning. Here and there light filled glass. Streetlamps, lean lanterns, pooled the asphalt. The black shop glass looming behind rattling shutters. The gutters blubbing and bubbling. Shush! Shush, the fossils are sleeping in the bedrock.
We didn’t bury her. Not as such. Couldn’t. Not with the sand being so compact. We didn’t have the tools, the wherewithal or the knowhow. But we draped her, dressed her, careful, in a linguine of brown and green weed and the borrowed orange blanket into which we had wrapped her and carried, half dragged, borne and delivered, her, here – to this acre of beach: the church of the beach. All the clouds rolled one way, like miles of nothing mourners: like penguin isles, pirate ships and shuffling puffins. They cruised into and crushed the cold diamonds above and I wondered, as I struggled with my corner of our load, dear Sally, if it wasn’t the stars that were moving, but the clouds.
Earlier, Sam said, “London. London’s dead. Near as damn it. Damned it is. The city of the dead. Bins spewing crap rats. You’re never more than ten feet from a fucker and that’s fact. Closer, closer, I reckon. Proper rats, mind you. Big buggers. Bowie weren’t wrong.”
He liked to wax London and we were happy to hear, what with it being a mythical land.
John said, “Yeah.”
I looked around at that utterance. It took forever to turn my head. By the time I recognized John on the other side of the room that lonely yeah had disappeared into the haze and I forgot why I had done so. John was the colour of celery. Some distant future time later I returned my gaze to Sam. He was fixing his cloak about his neck & shoulders.
“Diamond Dogs,” someone said.
I nodded. I don’t know why. I stopped nodding. I felt sick. I looked around the room. Took it in in about one second. The smoke, blue and beautiful and almost unbreathable hung around everyone’s face. We were shrouded, apart from John. He was taller. Taller than ever. He stood, propped against the wall. The wall was a field of flowers.
“Size of cats. Fucking size of.” Sam stamped on every word. “It’s happening there. It’s happening.” He drew in heavily and he tapped the ash into his palm. “Or, rather, it ain’t.” The words appeared from his mouth in a funk. He pushed his hair from his face, blowing the words and the beautiful smoke up into space. He smiled or sneered & Jenner came back into the room with a rough looking orange blanket. She placed it on the sofa, stroking it, saying, “This. This. This.”
I thought again that I might like to throw up. There were faces in the flowers on the walls now and they fascinated. So many faces. I counted them, starting with John’s, and I forgot about puking. They were the faces of people I knew, people I’d met, and a whole load I didn’t know yet. There were animals, deer in misty woods, sleeping cats, curled around themselves, snapping dogs, dinosaurs, goats. Gods, statues of gods, aliens, shadows. Ghosts. After awhile I forgot what I was counting and I started counting backwards, to collect all the numbers back mostly and to corral all the faces and when I got back to John’s celery face I thought, again, that I’d rather like to throw up.
Sam, his tiny teeth all yellow, like old baby graves, leaned over and handed the smoke jar to a thin and bony hand that reached up to him out of the smog.
“Yeah, diamonds, you see, are a girl’s best friend.” He looked around the room and gathered up our eyes. He held up, first one hand, fisted, then the other. “And dogs, dear dogs, dear, people, are a man’s.” He opened, slowly, the first hand and gently blew into his palm. Now, I’m not sure what happened there. Well, I know what I saw. I saw dust, or diamonds. Or something. It sort of makes sense, now, that it was just the ash from the joint. Whatever it was it hung on the air just above my head for a little while and then fell, volcanic, and disappeared. Before I could think another thought he opened his other hand and pointed toward the door. He spoke in a strange and high-pitch voice, “Fetch! Good dog!” His eyes shot off across the room and I followed as fast as I could with mine. Maybe I saw a dog. Something dark left the room. Maybe I just saw a tail disappear round the door. Maybe. It was smoky. It was quick. I don’t know. Maybe it was nothing.
“Nothing to see here, folks. Nothing out of the ordinary.” Sam said. I looked up into his face and he was staring right into me, grinning his graveyard. He stretched out the word, or-di-na-ry, like I was a monkey learning a language. Someone laughed from somewhere beneath the smoke. It sounded like Sally. I was surprised to hear her laugh. She was laying down there somewhere, on the carpet, buried beneath the funk: last seen alive about an hour ago. Her laugh, thick and silvered like a coin, made me jump really. Ha, ha. Haw. Ha. A complicated laugh, made more so by her being ripped to the tits. And dead. I guess we all were.
I looked again to the door and wondered the dog or the dog that I thought I saw and my frown must have been a ploughed field because Sam reached over and gently touched my head. His hand was cool.
“Diamanté, more like,” I said. I don’t know why I said it. I was touched. I was stoned.
I was anointed.
“You’ll see it when you believe it,” he said. “Now, we should leave.”