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Flatline

May 13, 2012

It was back in the mid-60s, on holiday at a Butlins camp, that I met a girl from the small Lancashire mill town of Oswaldtwistle.  I was with one of my younger brothers; she was with a friend.  We were both in our late-teens, myself tall and slim with a Billy Fury quiff, long sideburns and a smile that tended towards the supercilious, she gorgeous with a delightfully kittenish manner and northern twang.  It was a perfectly innocent flirtation, a bit of holiday fun and no more, and I should have let it go when our week came to an end.  Instead, a month or so later, I journeyed north over Oswaldtwistle Moor by bus…

One night, February-last, feeling a bit fed-up over my declining blog stats, I found myself thinking about her again.  Was she a greying grandparent now, like me?  Very likely, but in my mind’s-eye she’d always be that Lancashire lass of yesteryear who teased me with her kittenish smiles.

Her real name was not Kathleen, of course.  And the story below, although rooted in memory, is very definitely fiction.  Hope you like it.

 

FLATLINE

 

Midnight, a full moon limning the last of the snow beyond his study window, his face reflected in the pane.  He removes his glasses and uses the broken end of one arm as a toothpick.  The computer hums gently.

Glowing on screen is the poetry blog he started six months ago, ‘Not So Dusty’.  It was exciting at first, building an online community of followers.  Not such fun, though, when his site stats dipped and crashed.  He was morose and tetchy over Christmas, much to Jill’s displeasure.  Their grandchildren took to creeping on tiptoe.

He continued posting, even titling one piece ‘Poetry for Ghosts’.  A pathetic waste of time when he should have been putting together a new chapbook.

Replacing his glasses, he turns back to the screen.  He selects ‘Tools’ and hovers the mouse over ‘Delete Site’, as he does every night.

If it weren’t for that one blip on his flatlined graph, that one comment he hasn’t replied to yet…

 

Twizzletips said:

 

After the festive cheer

I think of yesteryear

And remember your quips and quiff.

 

Consider this a dodgem-bump

If you wish.

 

***

Nothing could have been more spontaneous.  He was swinging a dodgem left-left-left in the bumping melee.  ‘Rock Around The Clock’ was belting from the speakers.  Then he was rammed from behind, the culprits a pair of giggling girls of around his own age.  A moment later, he and the brunette were out of their cars, jiving together as dodgems swerved around them, sparking the overhead mesh…

Her name was Kathleen.  She and her mate came from a small northern mill town with a funny name.  He and his mate were from Crewe.

“I shall call you Quiffy,” she said.

“And I shall call you Twizzletips.”

Hand in hand, they headed for the chairlift with Trev and Ginny following awkwardly at a distance, as they would for the rest of their week at the camp.

Once, on the boating lake, they pulled their pedalo under cover of an overhanging tree as the awkward pair paddled by.  Down the sunlit dunes, they’d settle in one hollow, the awkward pair in another, and Twizzletips would turn her tranny up loud to cover any little noises they might make…

A month later, chancing it, he crossed the moors by bus.  Her house was in a poky side-street leading to the canal.  Her mother admitted him sullenly and called her down.  And there, in a stone-cold parlour, Kathleen killed his dream with the flash of a diamond ring.

***

He knows what he must do now, and does it.  He replies to Twizzletips…

 

Quiff all gone, I’m bald as a coot,

Very much married, a family to boot.

It’s too late for us now, I’m sorry to say,

But always I’ll remember, back in the day,

Our dodgem-bump!

 

Twenty-four hours later, blog and snow gone, he sips cocoa in the dark beside Jill.

“Stop slurping and get to sleep,” she says.

 

-oOo-

 

© Copyright Paul Beech 2012

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6 Comments
  1. That’s one of your best stories to date, Paul! An absolute gem. Witty, and with a strong ending.

  2. Thanks, Angela. I’m delighted you like it. Quite like it myself!

    Your opinion matters very much to me.

    Paul

  3. Excellent, Paul! Memories are what keep our lives from being like an assembly line conveyor belt. As it goes, “back-in-the-day” are my favorite times. Youth, new loves, experimentation and infatuations are what made life grand … It’s wonderful to read your stories again.

    • Aye, “back in the day”, when we were the coming generation, raw, brash, juiced up… My time was the Swinging Sixties, and I shall have more tales to tell of that frenetic, pulsating, totally amazing era, when – as possibly never before or since – the generation gap split wide.

      Thanks for your comment, Jackie – very much appreciated.

      Paul

  4. Angela permalink

    That is great Paul! x

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