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||AM AN OLD MAN and my clothes are in tatters
Most days I sit on the beach, undisturbed.
But I can’t help overhearing.
They were sitting nearby, midway between the two piers, holding hands like
“I’m not as young as I used to be,” said Tom. In truth he was barely thirty, but they had planned this weekend for so long that to be on the beach instead of in their hotel room demanded explanation – it was an unnerving break in the magic, like an actor floundering for the next line.
One might have put it down to honeymoon nerves, but they were not, of course, newlywed at all. Tom had been married five years, Kate had been married for three. Their affair had lasted exactly a year, and this was their anniversary present to themselves. Thirty-six precious hours reserved for physical passion of the most uninhibited kind, safe from spouses and work colleagues and friends from the town they had come from.
And now here they were on the beach, instead of in their room.
“Why are there two?” said Kate, to take his mind off his failure.
“Two piers. Doesn’t it seem odd?”
“The only odd thing is that they haven’t pulled that one down yet.”
It is a thought I have often had myself.
Three decades ago the western pier fell into disuse and now, after storm
and sea and arson have had their way, it is in ruins. Much of the structure
has collapsed. The rest is fire-blackened and rusted.
“Eyesore,” said Tom.
“It’s got a sort of ...” Kate couldn’t find the word.
“A sort of eyesoreness?”
Kate hit him on the arm. “That,” she said, pointing at the eastern pier, “that’s an eyesore.”
The eastern pier is the garish sister of the pair. Everything is flashing lights and neon. It smells of candy-floss and disinfectant. There is even a fairground at the pier’s tip. You can hear the screams of the people on the rides from half a mile away.
“You fancy seeing what it’s like?”
“I fancy you,” said Kate, leaning over to kiss him.
I was sitting on the beach, nearby.
“You should go back to your hotel now,” I said to them. I don’t like public displays of lust.
But they were too wrapped up in the kiss.
If they’d asked I could have told them that there were two piers because
originally they served very different purposes. The western pier, now ruined,
was the genteel pier. Sedate, respectable. It once housed a theatre, and what
could be more polite than that? The other pier, the eastern one, was always
so much rougher round the edges. Rowdier, far less proper. The fairground
is a relatively new addition, but the pier has always had something dubious
about it. And underneath that pier ... Well, I’ve seen and heard the
things that go on there. Strange screams of pleasure, strange visions of flesh
and – but I don’t like to think about it.
The whole town is strange. It’s never been right. The son of King George – mad King George – made this town his personal playground. It was the beginning of a trend. The town has, ever since, been popular with the twilight sort. Adulterous couples and homosexuals, sadists and masochists. Sometimes I think perversion is what keeps the town afloat. There’s no industry here, no docks, there’s nothing much to look at for the sightseers, and the beach has pebbles instead of sand.
Almost a year before the issue appeared, I accepted a Daniel Kaysen story for Interzone 188, my celebration of my involvement with Interzone for 100 issues. It was his first professional sale. By the time it appeared, he had sold four other stories, including two more to David Pringle for Interzone 178 and 184.
Daniel continues to write prolifically and I hope to feature many more of his stories here.
His previous publications include
The Eight Moon Dollar – Interzone 178, April 2002
The Comeback Season – Interzone 184, November/December 2002
Flights – Interzone 188, April 2003