The Shelter

Picture by Michael Bennett


A fictional interpretation of events during one evening at a seaside shelter in Wales

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The shelter seats were a welcome sight as George sat down with an exaggerated exhalation of breath. The noise was almost obscene as he grunted loudly and muttered something to himself. His attention was momentarily distracted by the young woman sitting on the sea wall. It made his wife, Agnes, look at him with a rising sense of annoyance.  As usual, she said nothing and sat down silently next to him with her hands folded neatly on her lap. It was the best way. He could get irritated so quickly these days if he thought she was criticising him. That’s of course when he could remember her name. His lapses into the world of forgetfulness were becoming all too frequent.

              The evening air was still warm as the residue summer heat remained trapped in the shelters new fancy stonework. It radiated out with the scent of sea sprayed brickwork and stale fish and chips combined with a hint of something a little more unpleasant from the damp patches in the corner. The overall aroma seemed so appropriate. It was also something Agnes always associated with the annual holiday pilgrimage. It used to be such fun when the kids were small. George had been such a good father then. Before his commission, before the explosion. Of course, it was never the same after that.

             Over time, Georges violent outbursts, so carefully hidden from public view, had driven the youngsters away. They could not handle it. But unlike the children, she had to. There was no choice. Stiff upper lip, and all that nonsense, instilled over years of military indoctrination. Georges swagger stick had been replaced over time by the brass handle walking stick. It was just as hard and left precisely the same bruises. She had put up with it over the years, trying hard to remember how in love they had been in those early days. There were still occasional flashes of tenderness. However, these were becoming increasingly infrequent as the sparkle gradually disappears from Georges’s eyes to be replaced by the long stare of lost memories. Even the grandchildren’s magnetic energy failed to raise the usual excitement.

             George was tired. Agnes was tired. Perhaps this would be their last holiday. She slipped her hand into her cardigan pocket and felt the small packets of medication. It was heavily regulated. Over the last few months, she had accumulated a few extras, just to be ready when the time came.

         Margret perched on the sea wall opposite the refurbished shelter. Her designer coat splayed at a provocative angle, while her cheap perfume fought valiantly against the pervasive aroma that emanated from the building’s interior. It was a regular stopping point on her evening promenade that had traditionally been an excellent spot to attract some paying romance. A source of income, which allowed for those little extras that made life worth living. It was a way of life that Margret knew well, especially during those lonely periods when her man did his disappearing act. She never considered herself one of those women who lurked in the dark side streets or loitered near the railway station. No, this was just a little bit of fun, some excitement in a dull and dreary life.

         Her daughter, Mary, sat patiently nearby. Far enough away not to crowd her style but close enough to learn by example. The young girl’s short-sleeved bolero cardigan with its interwoven silver streaks glinted in the garish light thrown down by the lightbulbs recently fitted around the shelter’s roof. It was the council’s attempt at bringing life to the forgotten seafront. It certainly made it a focal point, attracting the depleting visitors like moths to a candle. However, despite repeated hosing, the council could not get rid of the smell, which meant that such visitations were usually short-lived. Despite this, the shelters’ seats facing the sea were just discreet enough to allow for a little pre-event titillation, away from the locals’ hostile mutterings.

         Margret was hopeful. The evening was warm, and the seafront’s traffic had been brisk. The only thing going against her was the couple who had sat down earlier. The oldies, as she called them, inhibited visitors. However, she had seen them before and knew that they would move on shortly. She also knew that the man had spied her and knew what was what. From his fleeting lecherous glance, she could tell that his thoughts were not entirely focused on his wife. Margret shuddered and looked away. She watched as another couple walked purposefully towards the shelter. No business there she muttered to herself.

      John always wore a suit. Even on the annual company outing. Not just a suit but also a white shirt and tie, set off by polished black leather shoes. In his mind, it would be inappropriate for the manager to dress in anything else. There was no such thing as casual dress in his vocabulary.

          Beryl, his secretary, always his supporter and silent defender, ensured that she was also suitably attired. She had selected a long formal dress and appropriate lightweight tweed jacket, stockings and short heeled dark brown shoes. There could be no bare arms or excessive display of calf.

        Neither of them had considered the sand. Despite best intentions, it got everywhere. Erecting the deck chairs seemed to involve excessive volumes of the stuff. By the time John had finished his and so gallantly attended to Beryl’s he was covered in it.

        As the day came to its logical conclusion, John was determined to eradicate as much of the sand as possible, before getting on the coach. He had seen the shelter on the way down to the beach, not releasing its full potential until much later. It now offered the only haven of respectability to carry out his ablutions.

       Beryl offered a screen of decorum from the amused look on a nearby lady’s face, as John looked for somewhere to sit down. The dark green, painted wooden seating had seen better days. He decided to stand. Balancing on one foot, he removed a shoe and tipped it up.  An alarming volume of sand poured out, to join the rest of the accumulated detritus under the bench. Before replacing his shoe, he decided to remove his sock and shake it. Under the circumstances, it was not a wise move. Balancing on one foot was hard enough, especially with the objective of not placing the other naked one anywhere near the seats. As he tipped sideways, he reached out and grabbed what thought was Beryl’s arm. Unfortunately, it wasn’t her arm. Beryl’s bust was formidable and securely held up by a reinforced garment that would have done justice to the fourth bridge. His fingers found it and instinctively held on. What was underneath was soft and warm.  Beryl did not scream and did not attempt to remove her boss’s hand. However, she instinctively knew that things would be different at the office from now on.

Notes

THE CHARACTERS PORTRAYED IN THESE THREE SHORT STORIES ARE PURELY FICTIONAL AND ARE NOT THE PEOPLE SHOWN IN THE PHOTOGRAPH.

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