Friday, 23 September 2011

SANDMAN Extract #4 (from Chapter 2)

Here is the latest extract from my psychological thriller: SANDMAN:

The lad with rolled-up jeans pushed his boat down into the water; it was beached near the end of his garden. Jumping in, he sat down and rowed with a slow, fluid motion. Golden reflections from the low morning sun danced on the calm waters and the only noise he heard was the soft plop of his oars as they moved in and out of the water. A low mist hung low over marshland at the easterly tip of Blackberry Point where several horses dreamed by the water’s edge. A light breeze caressed the boy’s deeply tanned skin and he sensed the coming of a hot, sun-filled day. He savoured the freshness of the air greedily. It was good to be alive.

After a couple of minutes he stopped rowing, stowed the oars, and moved back to the stern where he sat by the outboard. In no hurry to start the motor, he was content to stare across glittering waters while the boat drifted gently. Squinting against the brightness of the sun, he looked towards the long sandbank that separated the harbour from the sea. Beyond, only faintly discernable through the morning haze, he could see the distant outline of the Isle-of-Wight. The beach huts along the golden line of sand reminded him of colourful beads on a necklace. Nature had painted a glorious picture here, but it was the touch of man which lightened the mood and confirmed it was a place of fun. Sand and sea; fresh air and the sound of breaking waves; it was a combination that created a special magic for him.

The sandbank always seemed like an island to him because of the nature of its community: people who slept and lived out alternative life-styles, while paying handsomely for the privilege of their lazy days. This thought always made him grin; he practically lived his entire life there without cost.

Standing, the lad pulled the starter-cord and his outboard motor burst into a noisy life that startled some oyster-catchers into sudden flight from their feeding place just off the point. In the distance, nearer to the nature reserve, and quite unfazed by the noise, the lad spotted a stationary heron standing majestically in the mist. Sitting back into the seat he headed down Hurn Channel. When he was quite near to The Run and the harbour-mouth, he turned around the immersed sandbank into Main Channel, observing the buoys. Finally he crossed the shallow waters of the open harbour towards the beach café and slowly approached his usual morning landfall.

His first visit was to the fisherman’s hut near the Black House, but Tom Blake told him there were not enough net or lobster-pot repairs to warrant any work that morning. The fact there would be no money coming his way that day was of little concern. His financial needs were few, although he did have some serious long-term savings plans for when he could get a job with more pay. He was always asking at shops but they never had any job vacancies. Still, one day he might strike lucky.

Although the tide was wrong that morning, he happily spent a long while beach-combing. This ended with him stacking some smoothly-bleached logs into his boat; they would look great in his display. He imagined they were borne by the Gulf Stream across the Atlantic before drifting down the Channel; they might have originated from just up the coast, of course, maybe from Poole Harbour, or perhaps from France, but he liked the notion of America best. Good floaters might well come from America. He was keen on America: ‘land of the free… home of the brave’. He was brave, and he always wanted to be free. When he was older he thought he might live in America and be really free.

After buying a coffee at the shop alongside the Beach House café, and sitting at the strangely tall table there to drink it, he wandered down the sand-strewn service road to the foot of Hengistbury Head. On the way he had to grudgingly step aside to let the little green land train pass by. Why should it force him off the road? He had as much right to be there as anyone; more, really. Why couldn’t the passengers walk like him?

He climbed the sandy steps onto the heather-clad headland and then lingered to gaze down along the coast to the east: his favourite view of Mudeford Sandbank. He always marvelled at the way it stood so strongly between the combined forces of two merged rivers on one side and the power of the sea’s constant lashing on the other. How wonderful that tiny grains of sand, effortlessly moved around by wind and tide—even by people’s toes—could jointly have the strength to form such a strong barrier. And what power the waters had. He knew it well. The fact people paid such enormous sums of money for their expensive beach huts also proved everyone else believed the sandbank would always be there. He reflected it was a good job there were never any tsunamis in Dorset. Or was it satsumas? He frowned uncertainly. He never mentioned the word because he knew one or the other were oranges.

Gradually his eye was drawn along the colourful line of huts to the Black House, the last building on the sandbank. It stood next to the fast-flowing tidal waters between harbour and sea, the place where he loved to challenge its power in his little motor boat, especially when its engine could only just match the opposing current. Under these conditions it felt as if he personally overcame the power of Nature, thanks to his own strength and skill.

After a while he headed for his ‘thinking seat’. He was a great thinker, or ‘dreamer’, according to his dad. That morning he dreamed of going to America and powering along Route 66 on the Harley Davidson he planned to buy; he always hankered for a more powerful motorbike. He imagined himself with an attractive blonde seated on the pillion, clutching excitedly to his waist, wholly dependent on his biking skills as he rode a ton to the accompaniment of that throaty roar. How he loved the sound of a Harley. He thought about the girls in his magazines: how attractive they were; how great they would be as girlfriends; what fun they would have with him crossing the States on his bike; what fun he would have with them at nights in motels. Yes, he would definitely do all that one day.

Then he imagined himself on nearby Poole Quay with his Harley and his long-haired girl, both in black leather, her wearing a short leather miniskirt, him the envy of the other bikers as they ogled his girlfriend’s long, tanned legs. He also imagined what it might be like to own a Sunseeker boat, to moor in the South of France, to smile modestly at the admiring café people at the water’s-edge. Which led to thoughts about the beach huts again, the happy families, the couples. Why did his life have to miss out on all that?

Hearing noises behind him, he glanced back to see who was coming. It was a family he vaguely recognised. They were happy and laughing. The man was tall, dark-haired and lucky: lucky because his woman was a real stunner with long blonde hair, now exposing a lot of sleek tanned stomach between her bright orange top and hipster jeans. The daughter was a fair eyeful too, although a bit young for him. She was also blonde, slim, shapely, similarly dressed to her mother, but her top was red. He knew they were hut owners. They had their boisterous dog with them, bouncing about all over the place, out of control, as usual. He didn’t like dogs very much. They were too noisy and unpredictable. The girl was throwing a stick and the dog was fetching it and then scampering around, barking excitedly, impatient for another throw: a dim, easily-amused creature. A family having fun: he couldn’t abide it. Hunching over and looking studiously away from them, he gazed moodily across the sea towards the island. Mentally, he merged into the landscape so he would not be noticed.

Soon the family disappeared down the steps and he listened to the fading sound of the girl’s laughter and the dog’s excited barking with relief. Why had he never had a happy family life like that? Then it came to him. Rubbish parents, that was why.

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