The Carolina Shag.

Deep in his cups, at the bar, eating peanuts from his fist, as if throwing dice, Garrett. Alexis took the stool beside him, saying, “There’s more piss on a pub peanut than there’s salt.”

He swilled the cider cloud, swallowed the dregs, wiped his mouth, replied, “I heard that.” He rhymed the word heard with weird, which was the way all the old families on the peninsula spoke.

His brother produced and prised a lidded tin, fashioned a thin cigarette from its contents. He nodded in the barmaid’s direction, waved a note. “When yous ready.” She looked up from where she was leaning, put down a book on the bar and glided toward the two.

“What yous readin?” he said.

“A book.” Smiling.

“Sat right?”

“Yeah.”

He considered this, but found he was at a loss to further the conversation. He indicated his brother’s glass. “I’ll have what he’s been having. He’ll have one, too.” Sparkling, she moved as if she heard music.

She had taken to dancing in her room above the pub in her free time and the moves that unravelled in that bedsitter had, with some inevitabilty, begun to translate into the everyday, imbuing the mundane with something subtle and otherwordly. He blew out a match and watched her draw the drinks, wreathed in blue smoke.

The twins huddled. Spoke in low voices. Alexis sometimes repeating the other’s last words.

“Yous stop doin that.”

“Jus gittin it straight.”

Garrett looked at him, glanced the barmaid, too. He leaned into his brother’s face until their beaks were touching. “Yous do that. Jes do it quieter.”

The Waylons lived over at Wellmead: Clarice (née Trott), Emma-Jayne and the newborn Layla, the twins – Alexis and Garrett – and the bed-bound octogenarian, Granny Trott. They resided in the glum faced house that squatted in the tangled brome at the edge of Cress Cable Wood. Garrett dwelt in a ramshackle caravan that flummoxed out the front. When the old woman had arrrived from the hospital she’d taken his room and he had slept a while in a bag beneath a rail of everyday coats and rubberised waders under the bare board stairs. But, what with the kid’s wailing above and the old woman’s coughing and the groans and clangour of the cistern, he soon found this wedge of space impossible. There were animals living behind the skirting and their scratching also etched his thin sleep. He couldn’t stretch his legs.

The caravan had once been cream, but six years of rain-grease and mold now glazed its surfaces. Inside wasn’t much better. But it was quiet. They’d once kept the chickens in it, but now the chickens were kept in a panel shed with oranged hinges and a corrugate roof on a scratch island in the waisthigh meadow. The birds came and went where the glass once had been. They came and went with clumsy red and black shudders. At night the foxes padded the island, snuffling the ground, the animaled air.

They stayed for another cider, then another. Garrett went to piss and when he came back he scooped up a fist of nuts, elbowed his brother. “Come on. I’m feelin lucky.”

Garrett drove. They rode in silence toward Weston on the Bridport Road, the moon racing in and out the cloud. They passed a half bottle back and forth like it was a grudge match. The sea was oil. At the crest of Cap Hill, the lighthouse beam flashed and the cab filled with brief light. Alexis said, “She had beautiful teeth.”

He slowed the truck. Stopped. Rolled his head over his shoulder and reversed back up the road until a dark dirt track, black on black, appeared in the trees on the passenger side. He edged the pick-up into the mouth, parked right there in the dark, cut the lights. He took the bottle from his brother’s lap. Necked it. “They’d make a lovely necklace.” Laughing.

They walked behind a pocket torch held low. The trees, bonewhite, stepping forward, weary, ushered them. The track became trail and they became silent. They flowed through the bracken and came to a ridge where the town could be seen, strung in the firs like decoration. They caught their breath and made some sense of the street lights and the few houselights. There was no breeze and the stars passed slowly in and out of the anvil clouds. He hit his brother on the elbow and said, “Come on. I’m feelin lucky.”

“I heard that.”

*

The house hid in the shadow of a sharply rising hill that was thick with gorse and plateaued with scattered, slow moving trees. They stood in the yard and listened to the house. It was silent. It was cold. They walked around one windlowless side. A paved path, bordered here by cabbage and cauliflower, here by lawn stretching out to sea, lead the unseen twins to the sealed window with the cold kitchen within. A vase of old carnations on a tablecloth like a green wing.

They passed the back door, half-glassed, and Alexis – back to the wood shed, wide legged, cupped hands, launched Garrett upward. He scrabbled onto the flat roof with a fuck. The bedroom window was still ajar. He reached up and in, unlatched and opened it wide. Then he went back for his brother. But Alexis couldn’t get up and both saw a flaw in their plan. “Go get summit.”

After a few minutes he found a bucket on a hook in the wood shed. The wood shed smelt of cat piss and sap. He took the bucket back to the wall, inverted it and stepped up on it, immediately stepping clumsily from it. Tried again. Failed. Alexis resettled the bucket some six inches away from the wall, took off his coat, balled it roughly, and slung it up onto the roof next to where Garrett lay, just his face and an arm reaching down. He stepped onto the bucket, breathed deeply and took his brother’s outstretched hand.

*

She danced in her bedsit room above the pub with an imaginary partner. He wore his hair combed into a neatly parted style, like boys in the old days. The hems of his slacks were weighted. His shirt sleeves, loosed at the cuff, revealing a slim, lozenge-faced watch with roman numerals. He wore a short, loosely knotted, brightly coloured silk tie, printed with either bold blooms of carnations or paradisal birds.

The record player, an open lidded box, clicked and hummed a warm hum. The needle edged out over the turning vinyl, hovered and dropped. They danced. Taffeta rising, rustling, shining, as he reeled her in and rolled her out again. They laughed like soon-to-be lovers; with sparkling eyes and flashing teeth. She listened to his clear whisper in her ear. He was of the opinion that rocknroll had lost its way after The Kingsmen’s Louie Louie. She asked him how so, he told her that the dance had changed around that time. He said, “People began to dance alone. I guess we just let go of each other.”

*

The old woman, for something to do, counted, as best she could, the simply depicted stars that adorned the walls of the room. She counted the fading blue and red rockets and the planets depicted there, too. They numbered many. Her breath barely stirred in her chest beneath the heavy blanket and after some eternity, realising that her thoughts had drifted and the number had been lost, she began the count again, starting from the top left hand corner of the room, spreading her gaze slowly over the childish galaxy spread all around her.

16 thoughts on “The Carolina Shag.

  1. the whole thing – wow. And this bit of poetry . . .

    ‘“She had beautiful teeth.”

    He slowed the truck. Stopped. Rolled his head over his shoulder and reversed back up the road until a dark dirt track, black on black, appeared in the trees on the passenger side. He edged the pick-up into the mouth, parked right there in the dark, cut the lights. He took the bottle from his brother’s lap. Necked it. “They’d make a lovely necklace.” Laughing.

    They walked behind a pocket torch held low. The trees, bonewhite, stepping forward, weary, ushered them.’

    Visceral!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You are one of my favorite writers!

        Somehow, I stopped getting notifications for your posts – I hopefully fixed the problem yesterday. At any rate – I will keep checkin back – you are too good to miss.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Loving the reference to South Carolina, where this beach dance orginated.

    Of course, a South Carolianian would never say, “Yous stop doin that.”

    They’d say, “You stop doind’ ‘at.”

    Any fictional UKer character attempting to do the traditional ritual would do well to remember the accent accompanying the origin. Authenticity is everything. Giggle. Xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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