Knott laid the hot bike down gently in the knee-high grass among the night shade of the trees, shy of the flood-lit garage forecourt. He threw his helmet down. He rubbed his head vigorously, unzipped the jacket and took out the empty plastic bottle nested there, threw that down, too. He straddled the five-bar gate & walked the dark field until he felt he had a story straight. He smoked the last inch down to the roach, flicked it into the night.
He pissed an approximation of his signature & spat an exclamation into an old tin bath filled with rain water that he came across in the moonlight. He tried his half truths on the constellations. He tried them again on the mud. They stank, but they would do. After some time he climbed the five-bars again. He picked up the plastic bottle from beside the cooling bike and strolled the road onto the forecourt. He felt he was in a scene from a film.
Emma Clark waved him from behind the glass. He couldn’t decide if this was good or not. He held the plastic bottle high and nodded to the pumps. Her voice was metallic, flat on the tannoy. “Ain’t you forgot something?” He didn’t know what this meant, so he nodded and tried a smile.
He squeezed a pound of petrol into the bottle, screwed the lid down tight with his wet hand, wiped it on his jeans, walked the forecourt and paid at the slotted glass adding the lie about the bike being over near Eastwell. He made much of it and it was hard to tell if she believed him or not. She giggled a lot as he spoke. His smile twisted his face in the reflection. She laid her head to one side, as if she was really listening to him or balancing his words, or something. Her eyes were sea green, gold shards flashed within them in the fluorescence.
“So, yeah,” Knott said. “The bike’s over near Eastwell.”
“Uh huh, near Eastwell. You said already.” She giggled again. “You’re stoned, yeah?” They spoke some shit until he was just nodding and looking too much at the shape of her on the other side of the glass and his reflection in it. Memory silhouettes floated there. Emma studied her fingers quite closely as she spoke and occasionally she raised her eyes to the glass and smiled. But he had lost the thread.
They had fucked around one night last summer: a drunken, fumbled almost-fuck, out on the beach behind The Eight Kings the night of his sister’s birthday. They laid in the fine sand and she had drawn her nails down his back beneath his shirt and the pain caught him so much by surprise that he asked sharply if she was serious, but he had said it mostly out of shock. He had worn her scratches for almost a week before the scabs were flaky enough to come off beneath his own snub nails. Their teeth had clashed. Her lips were soft and her tits were hot little kittens in his palms. Beyond this the night was a delicious blur.
“So, you’re stoned, right?” Emma asked again. Knott smiled, bit off a pinch of hash, handed it to her through the slot and three minutes later he was back out in the dark, tall grass, among the trees, crouching beside the bike with the petrol at his feet. He stared into the hard light flaring from the forecourt some hundred yards down the road. It bled the tarmac white. He listened to its thrum and the sleepy creaking of the trees around him. And then, in a flash, he decided that the whole stinking deal was off.
He stood the bike and walked it out onto the tarmac. When he thought he was clear – the road, quiet – he kicked it over and rode back toward home along the empty cliff road. The sea shimmered and the petrol in the plastic bottle sloshed beneath his jacket next to his heart.
The night was teal. Teal shot through with silver darts. The night was teal edged with blurred shapes. The night was teal measured with barely broken white lines. He rode the bike as if he was a cowboy, his knees clamping the tank. The bike vibrated through him. He followed the stream of light, leaning this way, leaning this way. No other vehicles came to him and no others were in the mirror mounted on the handlebar. At the junction of Hunter’s Lodge he passed through a great laundry of white moth cloud. The blood rose in his nape and rushed his scalp beneath the helmet. He smiled. He breathed out and at that moment he throttled the bike down – the white lines tickered, the blurs became real things, the silver darts became stars. He brought the bike to a stop. The engine purring. He rested his boot sole on the tarmac and looked up into the night, acid burn and adrenaline surged in him.
He scooted the bike one eighty and went back the way he had just come. As he passed Hunter’s Lodge he suddenly remembered the taste of her mouth; something like melting vanilla ice cream. But that wasn’t quite right.
The night was teal and he would burn down the old naval base after all.