green eye coeur presse

where the eye meets the heart

Chasing the Dark Clouds
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1 Friday 7th September 2007.

When you leave one life behind and pivot into another, must you leave all of the first in the past? 

All of it? 

In its entirety? 

Abandoned like an ice cream wrapper that missed the bin you threw it at?

Is life just Caliban's hammered brain upon whose nature nurture would not stick? Nature the one-eyed ruler, controller of destiny and manipulator of molded souls such that we down here on the earthly plain are merely dancing at the end of puppet strings to a pre-recorded tune? Nature nurture, nurture nature, who is the puppet master who pays the piper and how does it all look seen through the plastic prism of an empty pint glass?

Occasionally – once a lunar month if not behind the screen of weather – the great celestial artist would paint a big silver disc on the black canvas of the night sky and he would lie on his bed and watch the arc of the full moon as it travelled across his bare bedroom window. On other occasions he would watch the giant copper beech as its branches tangoed in the buffeting winds, backed by the sway of the elms as the storm's accompaniment of rain provided the rhythm section that drummed against the glass. The nights he liked best were the raw ones when the charged flash of light heralded the percussion that would shake his very soul. Other times, when his body had stopped burning the sugar fuel of cheap cider at two o'clock in the morning, a little too much of this or not enough of that neuro-chemical would create a dissonance inside his brain that meant he would stare wide-eyed at the ceiling, yearning for that illusive companion he once knew as sleep.

On nights like these he dreamed for the raw freedom of the hills.

A simple freedom, free of the chemical radicals of the brain, free of the chemicals of real ale; the chemicals of, whisper it, of love.

Black Michaels, a young nephew couldn't say Blake – a name he didn't care for anyway, found himself back in Wales, the land of his birth, although a country he only knew as he would a distant cousin. High in the Black Mountains, where he had spent many long hours in his military twenties, he was in a land of hand-built cairns and red kites, mystery and music. And vast, empty loneliness.

He liked to think coming back to Wales was a spur of the moment decision, but if so why had he gone back to his house to pack his rucksack? Bergen, as he would have called it in the Army, a name he did care for because it was green, squat, ugly and indeed army issue. Taking the train to see a mate in Cardiff, but getting off at Newport at the last minute and taking another train north for Hereford, now that was a spur of the moment decision. Again, getting off the stop before Hereford – Abergavenny – that was spontaneous. Ah, but then again, here he was, a few miles north of the town in the gorse-covered high hills, making for the 500 meter summit that watched over the town like a sleeping bear after a fat kill, with all the equipment he needed to survive in the wilderness. Ok, punching his boss in the one-to-one, that probably was of the moment; storming out of the office never to return, that had been brewing for many months like the underground rumbling of a volcano's upset stomach before the molten viscera spews out of its ruptured mouth. Can something so predictable be labelled "spontaneous"? Come on, now, get real.

He leaned into the slope breathing deeply, hands clutching the straps that dug into his shoulder blades. The weather was good for this time of year, too late for the heat haze that would usually blur the view. He stopped and turned a quarter to his left. The air was clear, good for photography and he could see far down the Usk valley, past the small villages that clung to the Ice Age's carved hillsides, right to the iconic ridge of Pen y Fan and Cribbin in the Beacons, the mountains of his army training that battered his body and examined his spirit. Fine mountains.

He looked down at the town below him, hemmed by the river and the shoulders of the mountains on two sides and the blunt abrupt start of the valleys on the other. The shape of the town a neatly shaved triangle that reminded him of ... no, don't go there. There was enough pain already without going there. Enough pain to outlast the physical pain of getting to the top of this fucking hill.

The last ten meters steepened and he stepped up his pace. As he concaved up the slope he had to put his hands out in front of him to keep balance. At the top he was buffeted by a strong wind he hadn't noticed on the slope; it picked at his hair and the loose bits of clothing that flapped helplessly like a landed fish on the bank. He crossed the plateau of the summit, as if the top had been decapitated, which gave the hill its name of the Sugar Loaf. He put his hand on the trig point and looked up at the scudding clouds, murmuring sweet nothings to two of his former comrades that had not made it to Old Soldier. Had not beaten the clock. Turning to the north he surveyed the dark brooding landscape that gave up to the hauntingly named Black Mountains.

He could make out the route he had crossed when he was trying for the SAS but he was conscious he was not as familiar with the view as he had expected to be. But that was ok, he was no stranger to tricks of the mind. He spotted a copse down by the road that cleaved through the valley like a necklace and glanced at the hills beyond. That would do for the night, enough protection from all but the stormiest weather. He carried all he needed although he could feel the rising protests from all sectors of the ship warning the weary control centre that his body was desperately out of shape.

Contemplating using his hammock then thinking better of it – he ought have his first night on the floor. Remind his body he no longer worked in an office and it no longer lived in London. He had a large green sheet with a hood in the middle, a poncho in army parlance but Mexican bandits wouldn't be seen dead in it. He laid it flat, pegging the two brass eyeholes at each corner at the top of the sheet to the earth then with a telescopic pole acting as lift at the other end to make it tight and tent-like; the slope of the hill gave him a little extra elevation. He put his rucksack and sleeping bag inside, having retrieved the Russian-doll packed Trangia camping stove and tins. He realised he hadn't got any meths yet so found the small army metal box that opened out with two small tooth-edged sides and dug it into the ground. The solid white flaky block, called hexamine, he put under the contraption and set it alight, his nostrils filled with a sharp chemical smell that took him straight back to way back when. After a grass-infused cup of coffee he would cook rations that had been stored in his attic for almost ten years and sleep in the fresh autumn night air the sleep of the just. Tomorrow he would find a pub and work out what he was going to do with the rest of his life. The sleep of the just? The knackered at least. He hoped the exercise would help him sleep. Would he dream tonight?

He'd seen blood before. Plenty of it. His and others'. On the playground. On the rugby field. In pubs. Especially that dive in Berlin. He'd double-tapped a Provo outside Crossmaglen; the rounds causing fountains of blood, both front and back. But nothing like the blood he had found in his bathroom. Nothing like the time he'd run up the stairs into the bedroom expecting a capsule of empty pills. The inert body in the bed. But nothing. Nothing until he slowly pushed open the bathroom door. The first specks on the wall, more to the side of the loo. Heart beating faster. The heart pumping blood around his body. Door squeaking slowly open, swinging on its arc. Speckles now blotches, on the toilet. Stains on the sink. As the door swung ever open, it was like still waterfalls down the side of the bath. So much blood. He didn't know a body contained so much blood. Oh, Bella. What have you done?


2

There was no moon to be seen as Michaels woke after a solid night's sleep, but the same stars that were the backdrop as he urinated in the undergrowth shone on Jacasta Kaijacks as she put some rubbish out of the back door of her kitchen. She always marvelled at how much clearer, brighter, and more intense the stars were out here in the countryside, how much blacker the nights. How better defined the bleak landmarks than her comfortable experience of North London. As she stood looking up by her outdoor bin, her home was only a mile or two from where Michaels went through the routine of making himself a wake up 'brew' – although neither of them knew it.

She hadn't been able to get back to sleep after her husband's early morning rise for the long drive to whatever meetings he had today. She wasn't bothered by the early awakening for she could enjoy the quiet pre-dawn time before the day turned its engine on and broke the dam of comfort that snuggled her life. She may well have pottered around their bungalow as if it were her and her fledgling's nest, but she hated it. She hated the damp, the drafts, the seventies decor and tired old fireplaces that they couldn't use. She hated the remoteness of the hamlet, despite it having opened the treasure trove of birds and wildlife, its purity of air, even the stars which she adored. All of which gift wrapped the bleakness outside. She hated the fact they were grateful to find this place at all and that this was all they could afford.

 'Mummy. Please can may I have some toast?'

She turned and smiled at her sleepy child. 'Have some cereal first, hey?' He came towards her and she pulled him in to her, ruggling his hair. Her other son came out of her room and she gave him a cuddle too. She went into the kitchen, put the radio on, flipped the switch for the kettle and accumulated the cereal things the kids would eventually distribute on the floor. She made a cup of tea and put some toast in. The radio news told of the world's latest disasters. Were there more disasters now, or was there just more news? Weather, sport, headlines – all sensationalised, same old routines, same old content, just the names changed. She poured herself some more tea from the pot. Storms were coming. Arsenal had won. Even the traffic reports were all the same. Delays, jams, overturned lorries. A major pile-up on the fog-bound M4 near Swindon, another crash on the M6. Her husband would be impatient in the queue, seething. Tough. It was his decision to move his family to Wales, and his choice to do the extra travelling that it entailed.

 'Mummy. Please may can I have some toast now?'

 'Me too mummy.'

She popped her head through to make sure the cereal hadn't just been tussled onto the floor.

 'Can I have jam on mine, please mummy?'

 'Yes, yes, give me a second.' She retreated into the kitchen to her tea and the weather forecast and rummaged in the breadbin.

When she returned from parcelling the kids off to school she put the kettle on. It was a comfort blanket in actions. She always promised herself she would dress properly when she got home, but then she'd put the kettle on, sit with a cup of tea and contemplate her life. Graham hadn't rung which was unusual. He usually did when he was travelling. He must have gone straight into a meeting. This morning she almost didn't stir when he awoke at silly o'clock, but the eldest must have heard him because he came into her bed. Outside was dark, his feet were cold. Her husband murmured a goodbye. On other days she may have got up with him and made him a cup of tea, but she was just too tired. Too tired.

She tried to work out what she needed to do. There were plenty of things on the list in her mind, inside the house and in town, and she needed to pick up her husband's suit. But she'd just quickly give her friend a call. Hopefully Graham wouldn't check the phone bill (she did most of the bills since he was so often away) - she would probably be on the phone for half an hour.

By about eleven she didn't feel too bad. She couldn't be bothered to have another shower despite having swished the hoover around the floors too quickly. She dumped her husband's jeans in the dirty linen – its wicker was curved like a fairytale Indian basket but no Genie ever came out. She found some jeans for herself and checked for the car keys. As she was looking for her handbag the doorbell rang, followed quickly by a knock. People outside couldn't hear if the bell had rung. It was a little unusual for her to receive visitors out here, too remote for 'I was just passing' calls, and delivery people could never find it. She saw through the glass door an outline of two people who seemed to be darkly dressed and wearing hats. She opened the door to a policeman and woman. They didn't look very comfortable.

 'Mrs Kaijacks?' asked the policewoman, not unkindly. 'Do you mind if we come in?'

They looked like people who had been sharing a joke and had been admonished and were assuming a serious countenance as an act. What could they want? 

 'Come in.' She ushered them into the dining room rather than the lounge and pulled out a chair.

 'Tea?' They both demurred but she moved into the kitchen anyway and filled the kettle, as if to create some space. She asked again and the policeman accepted like a shy person at a dance. She made two mugs. No to sugar, yes to milk. She overfilled one slightly and had to tip it away, but spilt a little as she traversed the kitchen. The policeman moved a coaster towards himself. She put the cup down and went back to the kitchen for some paper towels. She lifted the cup and busied herself cleaning up. The policewoman put her hat on the table and looked around the room. The man looked out of the window onto the well-kept front garden. She noticed that the leaves were building up in the corner where the hedge cut back along the perimeter. On the slope of the hill outside, the farmer's dog bustled around the sheep, driving them towards a gap in a hedge. No one seemed to want to speak. A jet liner left high woollen contrails as it arrowed towards the west, high above the earth. Close to God.

 'Hm, Mrs Kaijacks,' the policeman hesitated and took a sip of tea. The policewoman fidgeted. She looked across at her colleague who raised an eyebrow.

 'Mrs Kaijacks,' began the woman, 'please forgive us, this is very difficult. We've got bad news I'm afraid.'

What could have happened? It couldn't be the boys, the school would have rung. Her mother? She's not been in good health, not since her father left, but would they know about her? Graham hadn't rung yet, but he had important meetings. Graham...

 'Mrs Kaijacks, there was a bad smash on the M4 this morning.' The policeman was still now, hands wrapped around the tea cup, which attracted his eyes as well. Neither of them had introduced themselves. The number, 1121 glistened from his shoulder in an imitation brass that echoed a finer by-gone age. 'A bad smash,' he repeated.

 'It's Graham, isn't it?'

 'I'm afraid so, Mrs Kaijacks.' The policewoman leant forward and put a hand on her shoulder.

 'Is he dead?' The pause lasted a lifetime. A tractor revved its engine and moved slowly up the lane past her house. Their house. The contrails were beginning to disperse, bleeding into the sky. It was a clear sky, unusual for this time of year.

 'I'm afraid so, Mrs Kaijacks. It was quick. There was no pain.' Oh, that's ok then.

She didn't know what to say or to do. The pair seemed to be looking at her expectantly, but she didn't feel like meeting their expectations. She didn't feel like anything. Who was in her head right now? Shirley Bassey, of all people. "And the world stopped turning". How did it go? Yeah, she loved him she hated him but indeed she always thought she would love him for all time.

 'Pardon?' she said to the policeman. 

"But what ever you do, I know I never want to be in Love with anyone but you." Even she's fucking Welsh. The uncharitable thought hit her hard.

 'Is there anything we can do, Mrs Kaijacks?'

 'No. No thank you.'

 'Are you sure? Is there anyone you would like us to contact? A relative? A friend? Some one who can come and comfort you?'

 'No, I'm OK thank you.'

 'Mrs Kaijacks, I know it is difficult, but you have two children don't you? You will need to think about them and the practicalities.'

It's not difficult when you're numb. Not difficult at all. Not when you can't think. Children? Practicalities? At the moment she just needed to breathe. To keep her heart beating. To get these people out of her house. However well they meant, the Welshness of their accents was grating on her. She wasn't sure what was said, but she had ushered them out of the door. They probably said something important. She sat at her dining room table. Looking out of the window. Her brow was furrowed in waves like children's pictures of seagulls above the sea, her face scrunched up. She tried to relax it. The cat had come in, she dimly remembered hearing the cat flap, and brushed against her leg, its tail high like a flag. She moved it away with her leg not wanting to touch it. It moved back towards her and jumped on her lap, its tail flipping the tip of her nose. She looked at it. She ran her palm along its back.

 'Geronimo,' she said. 'What are we to do?'


3

He had been lectured in a pub in London once about the nature of depression by some rugby-playing doctor-type, who was likely to make anybody depressed, and about how studies were showing it was cased by the lack of specific neurotransmitters in the brain. Dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, or however the last was pronounced, and if his memory served him correctly. He didn't know why the memory came to him as he packed his kit away making sure there was little sign of his residence. Maybe he did need more of those, it would be handy if they came on tap, but how could you be depressed when you woke up in the fresh air under the stars? With everything stored in its proper place, he packed his kit the same way every time, as did every man in his unit, and made off to the east towards the mountain he knew as the Skirrid. The holy mountain marked the boundary of the Black Mountains and was guardian of the southern Marches between England and Wales. He figured he'd find a road and follow it in to town then find somewhere to stay. He was losing height quickly now and found an old drover's track that led him to a gate and then a tire-chiselled farmer's lane. Through the trees and over the fields he could see the Skirrid across the road and railway line that led to Hereford, that would have taken him to Hereford if he hadn't got off at Aber. The steep face and sloping back of the hill always reminded him of the Rock of Gibraltar. He could see the lump of rock that had split off from the side leaving a large scar of sandstone. Rumour had it that giants were chasing the devil and when he jumped on the Skirrid in his loping escape he dislodged this outcrop. He knew that hill well. He pondered the doctor in the pub again. Why was that? What brought that man into his head right now? When he had come down by train he would find his mind locking in on the past, he spent too much of his life dwelling on and in the past. Brooding on unfairness, his mind would cramp him and crowd him, driving him deeper into himself. When he was in the hills the clean mountain air driven into his lungs cleansed him, the exertion of his legs made him free. 

When the lane became metalled, then led to a small B road he knew he could get into town. But then he glanced down where the road dipped to his left and saw what looked like a pub sign. He checked his watch, just gone 11. He might have dipped in. If he was lucky he would get a pint and a lift into town. His feet weren't as conditioned as when he could do up and over the Skirrid three times in one outing.

The pub was open, the recently-lit fire warming, in both senses of the word, and a locally made bitter in the barrel excellent. Low beams and plenty of slate gave the pub a cosy feel. He was the only customer in and got talking to the landlord, a tall silver haired man with a nice smile and a friendly face.

 'Walkin' holiday is it?'

 'Kind of, I guess,' he replied. He'd forgotten how much he liked the soft valleys accent. 'Thinking of moving down here. Know anywhere to stay for a while?'

 'You can stay by yehr.'

 'You've got rooms?'

 'Well, you can't stay with me and the misses.'

 'How much a night?'

 'Well, it's quiet, say, er, thirty quid a night it is.'

It was as simple as that.

***

Later. Would she be able to tell he was drunk?

 'It's me.'

 'What do you want?'

 'To find out how you are, of course.'

 'Fine.'

 'How's Joe-Joe?'

 'Fine.'

 'Is he in?'

 'No, he's not in.'

 'Can I speak to him, please?' 

 'I just told you, he's not in.'

 'He's thirteen, how can he not be in with his mother?' 

 'He's at scouts. It's half term. Camping. If you were any kind of a dad you'd know that.'

 'I have no means of knowing what he does since his mother doesn't tell me.'

 'You could find out. You did alright finding things out in the past.'

Pause.

 'Has he got a new dad?' 

 'That's none of your business.'

 'The emotional well-being of my son is my business.'

 'You should have thought of that while you were in the Army and never here for him.'

 'For him, or for you? Anyway, I'm not in the Army now.'

 'No, you fucked that up too.'

 'How is he?'

 'That's not far off none of your business either.'

 'Kelly, I'm still his dad.'

 'No, you're still his father, you never were his dad.'

 'Maybe if I'd had better support from my wife I could have done a better job.'

 'And what's that supposed to mean?'

 'Well, you were the one who went funny after he was born.'

 'Yeah, with a clinically recognised disease.'

 'Alcoholism is a clinically recognised disease, it never cut any slack with you.'

 'You wouldn't go to a clinic to get it sorted out. My problems got sorted out, your's still haven't.'

 'And what were the consequences, the cost, of you sorting yours out?'

 'And what does that mean?'

 'Well you're very quick to blame the Army for our problems but are pretty quick to forget about the times you attacked me.'

 'I was always there for JJ.'

 'And I was there for him but you lied to him and set him against me.'

 'I never lied to him.'

 'You lied when he was in hospital. You told him I hadn't called. I called every day.'

 'I didn't tell him you hadn't called.'

 'You didn't tell him I had called and you let him believe I didn't care.' 

 'No, Blake, you didn't actually care.'

 'I care more than you'll ever know.'

 'Well there's things people say and things people do. You just talk.'

 'He'll come and find me when he's ready and I'll talk, I'll tell him the truth.'

 'So be it. When he's an adult. And can make his own decisions and will know his own truth.'

 'And until then?'

 'And until then I reserve the right to do what I see as the best thing for him. And if that includes cutting you out of his life, then that's what I'll do. And it does.'

 'I can go to the courts. What you are doing has no place in law. A boy has a right to see his father.'

 'The courts! They'll take one look at you, an alcoholic ex-squaddie and throw you out.'

Unemployed now, too.

 'I'm not an alcoholic.'

 'Anyone who drinks as much as you as often as you is an alcoholic.'

 'I don't drink spirits. I don't need it. I'm not an alcoholic.'

 'You've got a problem. You joined the TA and end up working 300 days.'

 '200. 250 max.'

 'You can't have a beer without having ten.'

 'I'm not an alcoholic ...'

 'You can't have one of Joe-Joe's biscuits without eating the packet.' He didn't say anything. 'Take a look in the mirror, Blake. It doesn't look so good.' 

With that she put the phone down. He liked to think she put it down gently, but maybe that was just his imagination.

Why was it always like this? Always. All he wanted was to speak to his son. That's all. Was that too much to ask? Was that unfair? Why did she treat him like that, what had he done?

For a long while he sat still staring out of the window at the sloping side of a very fine mountain thinking about the conversation he had just had. Conversation? Isn't that where two people talk to each other? He felt that feeling again, rising, rising from the place where his soul ought to be.


4

The bed and breakfast he had found with the advice of the Crown's landlord was perfect. The owner's husband drank in the pub and the lady he directed Black to was a delight. In her 60's and at peace with the world, Jean was calm, curious and wise. He'd had a few glasses of red with her and her husband discussing the nature of his predicament, predicaments, and they were at a stage of their lives where they had seen it all and had no agendas to hide. Their place was opposite the local football club who were called the Thursdays. He thought that was cute. The house was close to the edge of town and he could see the hill he had walked up on his first day. Coincidentally he had walked up their very road to get to the hill. 

He got to explore the town that he only knew peripherally from his time in the military and he grew fond of it quickly. It was tight and compact and had plenty of pubs, most of which he had visited in the week he'd been there. 

He awoke on the Monday with a bit of a hangover but wanting a new start so he decided it was time to address some daemons. Not much he could do about thoughts of his son and the angry bitch of a wife who he couldn't stop hating when he woke up at three in the morning, but he could try and do something about one of the disasters of his past. He would go to Hereford, the journey he almost made but was now glad he had interrupted here. 

The pavement was uneven and he stepped with care. Last night's rain left pools that reflected the streetlights. Ahead a movement caused him to look up. The car that had passed him previously had stopped by a house and a man crossed his path to get into it. The front door was open, the light inside made brighter by the darkness of the morning. It came out in a block that washed over the front garden and pavement like a James Dean film poster. Mum stood mostly hidden by the door, modestly peering around in her dressing gown. Her arm was stretched around a boy and next to her stood a girl, a head taller. She wore flowing colourful pyjama bottoms and no top, despite the chill. She stood on tiptoe, waving gaily over the garden fence. Down the corridor behind the open door he caught a glimpse of a kitchen table and a cereal bowl. He didn't want to intrude and looked forward again. He smiled to himself and had to force himself not to look back at dad getting in the taxi. The scene must be repeated up and down the country at different times of the morning. When would dad be back? He didn't have luggage, maybe only going for the day, but back after the kids had gone to bed. The momentary glimpsed scene was sweet. The smile reached his eyes as he thought of his own son, could see him standing waving as he left the house. Could hear his wife's voice wishing him a safe journey. His ex-wife. When did he last see his son? A year ago? Longer? What was he doing now? Was he on his own doorstep waving away another dad? Had another soon-to-be dad slipped out quietly before the boy awoke?

A little further along the street a small brick wall delineated a garden from the pavement. The taxi pulled out and moved past him. The smile had died on his face. He sat down on the wall. He leant forward, putting his face in his hands, and broke down in tears.

He returned to the B&B and despite it being close to 9am he went back to bed. Bed was safe. Bed was secure. He didn't have to move. He was warm. He dozed with the thoughts of almost sleep that were so much better than the whizzing of the early hours' high intensity thinking he usually endured. Sometime later, he reached for the house phone. He dialled one of the other few numbers he knew by heart.

 'Hi Mother, it's me.'

 'Blake, how nice. Did you want something?'

 'No, Mother. I've quit my job.'

 'Oh, son, not again. Who did you fall out with this time?'

 'No one. I've moved to Wales.'

 'Wales?'

 'And I've lost my phone. If you do 1471 you can get this one it's the landlady's.' 

 'Why would I? I don't suppose we shall see much of you if you have moved to Wales. We didn't when you lived in London.'

 'Right Mother. Look, I didn't get Greg's number from my old phone. I don't suppose you know it?'

 'Well I wouldn't know his walking phone thingy-majig number. But I will have his mother's somewhere.'

Do we ever do anything we eternally regret? Things like throwing our phone away in a moment of pique? What's the expression? Something about repenting at leisure. Fortunately, after a bit of smooth talking with his landlady, he could use hers for a while. In theory incoming calls only, but he had pleaded with her for a few outgoings for which he would pay her. After his mother had called him back he dialled the number she had given him.

 'Hi mate, you back from Out of Africa?'

 'Yesterday.'

 'I've got a bit of news. I lost my phone. Well, I destroyed it.'

 'Destroyed it?'

 'Quit my job.'

 'Well, it only paid the mortgage.'

 'And I've emigrated.'

 'Hang on, let me catch up. You've destroyed your phone, quit your job and emigrated?'

 'Yep. To Wales.'

 'What's her name?'

 'Nope. No use cherchez-ing la famme. New beginnings. Start again.'

 'And your new job is ...?'

 'No. No job. Not yet anyway.'

 'Who's phone are you using?'

 'Landlady's. Got a good rate.'

 'Jeeze, I've only been away for a week, what are you like?'

 'Best move I ever made, mate.'

 'You know, funnily enough, I've heard that before.'


 'Hiya 'gain.'

 'Black, you know you said you moved to Wales?'

 'Yeah ...'

 'Well where-a-bouts in Wales?

 'Place called Abergavenny. Gateway to the mountains. South East, not far from Hereford.'

 'Is that anywhere near a town called, hang on a minute,' he then went into language meltdown 'Llanfihangel Crucorney?'

 'Llanfihangel?' Funnily enough he'd had a chat about the place with Dave the landlord and he knew approximately where it was. 'About five to six miles away I think. Further into the mountains.'

 'Give us a minute, I'll call you back.'


 'Me again. Can I come and stay with you.'

 'Fuck me that's a bit sudden. You think you can turn me into a gay?'

 'I'm serious Black. Sooner rather than later.'

 'I'm in a bed and breakfast. I can get you a room. Why?'

 'Great. Bit of bad news. A friend of mine has died and his wife lives where I said just now.'

 'You used "friend of yours" and "wife" in the same sentence?'

 'I also used 'died' Black, this is deep shit.'

 'Of course you can. When you coming? What can I do to help?'


 'Hi, is that Mrs Kaijacks?'

 'Hello?' Quiet, circumspect.

 'Hi, Jacasta.'

 'What do you want?'

 'My name's Greg. Hi. I am a friend of your husband's. Um, was.'

 'Greg?'

 'Yeah. I'm really sorry. It's so awful. Really sorry.'

 'I don't remember a Greg ...'

 'No, well, we were friends through a, a kind of society. A working club. At British Airways. He might not have mentioned us. He, well ... we worked together.'

 'Oh.'

 'Listen, Jacasta. I happen to be in Wales.' A white lie wouldn't hurt. In the circumstances. 'I'm staying with a friend. In Abergavenny, just down the road from you. May I come and see you? I would like to be able to help.'

 'Well, yes, I suppose so. You sound nice. Someone who would like to help. That would make a change. Yes why not? I suppose you know where we live?'

 'No, you tell me and I'll be along this evening?' He'd get a cab from London.


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