The Stone: Final Part.

by | Apr 12, 2024 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

As usual, she’d looked the wrong way

Of the five cars lined up outside the bar, I recognised three as belonging to the first visitors to the beach. I assumed the other two were attached to five and six. However, when I entered the bar, it was empty save for an old man sitting nursing a coffee. He wasn’t one of the earlier participants in the antics at the beach.

I ordered a beer but decided not to quiz the woman behind the bar with my obvious concerns. Instead I sat and took a satisfying gulp from the ice cold chalice. At the same time, I reviewed the morning’s events from start to finish. The more I tried to visualise them the less apparent they became, like morning mist on a sunny day. I must have looked puzzled because the old man addressed me from behind his coffee cup.

“You’re wondering where they are, aren’t you?” He said as if it was the middle of a conversation; so much so that I was taken by surprise.

“I’m sorry?” I replied in French, twirling the glass by the stem. It made wet circles on the table top.

“The couples, you’ll be looking for them, I suspect. I saw you checking out their cars. They’ve gone. You missed them.” My face must have been the image of confusion as he chuckled softly to himself. “Don’t worry, they all look like you at first, until they forget.”

“Do you mean the old people?” I cringed inwardly at my clipped description of the strange folks from the seaside.”The five couples. Where have they gone?” He gave another chortle but said nothing. Instead, he gestured with his eyes towards the ceiling.

“May I join you?” I said, making a move to get up.

“Of course, but not there,” he returned, nodding at the seat opposite.” It’s for her.”

“I’m sorry?” This began to feel like some sort of game, despite the language barrier.

“Please, take a seat. I’ll tell you all I know but I assure you, this time tomorrow, you’ll be none the wiser.” The man’s expression changed from mild humour to deadly seriousness. I took the seat diagonally opposite him and eyed the one next to me. My action was obvious as he was prompted to continue regarding the vacant spot. “For my wife. She’ll be joining me soon.”

“I see. Are you local?” I was trying to work out why she wasn’t with him at this moment.

“No. Paris, the fourth. We had a nice apartment there. Almost fifty years. Until she left two years back. Brain haemmorhage. One minute she was here, boiling spaghetti, the next, poof.” He made a gesture with one hand, opening the fingers to illustrate the last word.

“”I’m so sorry to hear that,” I replied, his earlier comment about her joining us eluding me. Then it returned and I looked at the chair again. For the second time, he anticipated my  thought pattern.

“I know it must be confusing for you. Gooddess knows what they got up to down there. I suspect that Marie has something equally wacky for us.” If I had been living in a fantasy world up to that point, the rarified air of the bizarre descended on me at his last comment. Despite Shimamoto patiently waiting to take me home to Morlaix, I drained my glass and approached the bar.

“May I buy you another coffee? Or a drink, perhaps?” I enquired of my new companion, placing the empty glass in front of the barmaid. She answered for him, with the strangest of comments, even in this ludicrous setting.

“He won’t have anything. He’s been here for two years cradling that cup like a long lost child. They all come and go but he still waits for her.” I had no answer for her and nodded at my glass. She made a brief motion in the direction of Shimmie outside then placed the glass upside down in the washer. As I watched the upward spray coating the inside of the vessel, my mind drifted back to my own tragedy six months earlier. It was, after all, the reason why I was here. I recalled the smile on my wife’s face as she stepped off the kerb onto the crossing. As usual, she’d looked the wrong way, expecting the traffic from the left. It was something I’d always dreaded and was continually warning her about. The motorcyclist, despite being within the speed limit, could do nothing to avoid her.  The week following the accident was a giant vacuum in a bottle. When the end came, I just wanted to join her.

The woman handed me the glass and leaned over the bar.

“Try to humour him, I think he’s in for a long wait,” she whispered. “By the way, yours will be along shortly. Take any car, the keys are in. I think you’re in for a treat. Just leave yours for someone else.” That was the last straw as the detonator fired in my head. What she had said made least sense of anything which had happened that day.

Just then, the door opened and I was greeted by the smile I never thought I’d see again.

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