The Smoke Issued From The Lonely Boot

posted Friday, 11 January 2008

The Smoke Issued From The Lonely Boot

It was not exactly as strange as that may sound. The beach was deserted. The tide going out or just about to come back in. There could be seen a single wellington boot standing upright at the tide’s edge. Charlie could clearly see it from the cliff-top. I suppose it is strange, however, for there to be a single boot in such a position, managing to stay upright in the wind and the recently receding tide that passed on either side of it. But it was even stranger, no doubt, Charlie thought, for suddenly, without premonition, there to be smoke slowly drifting from the open top of the bootleg. Charlie did a double-take. He looked back to see if Susie had also seen it, but she was still buried in her book.

“Look at that boot, Susie.”

She prettily looked over the top of her reading glasses at Charlie.

“I’m in the middle of a sentence. Do you mind?”

“No, but look.”

She shuffled forward on her haunches so that she could more clearly see the beach.

“Hmmm, yes, a boot. Someone must be drowned…”

“But there’s smoke…”

“I can’t see any smoke. Ah, oh yes, there’s something rising from it.”

Charlie thought it might be a ghost. A very wet ghost! Or a genie from a boot-shaped bottle? Sinbad had found a bottle on the beach and his life changed forever. Perhaps it was a message in a bottle. A message sent by smoke signal.

Susie laughed. She, too, had been under the influence of strange thoughts concerning the lonely boot. Her book now forgotten because things had become far more interesting in real life. Whether Susie’s thoughts matched Charlie’s thoughts about the lonely boot only conversation between them would reveal.

Coastal erosion … cliff hangers … crumbling edges …

The warning had not been enough. Their conversation never took place. The tides came in and out, in and out. The boot and the book nudged each other in the swell … gently reminding each other that they might be swept out into the open seas beyond possible retrieval by the shingle beach. Even tides were not powerful enough to bring symbols together to give the clearest sign or meaning. Only time itself could do that – and time had tides, too

They must have imagined the smoke. Haddocks never came out of the sea already yellow.

Note: The above is an exact transcription of my last night’s ten minute off-the-cuff speed-writing exercise with a random title during the Clacton Writers’ Group meeting. Comments were from the point of Sinbad, the tale took a wrong turn. And subsequently, I’ve thought that it wasn’t a bottle Sinbad found but a lamp? Or was that Aladdin? A wrong turn in more ways than one!

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