Pismo Beach at Sunset
Jonno slowly made his way through the gallery, checking that everything was in order. Part of his hindbrain was telling him that he should be in a daze, but whilst he was conscious of the event that was now only – he checked his watch for the three hundredth time that day – 90 minutes away, he pushed it away as much as possible and gave his attention to the scene before him. Attention to detail was one of the things that had made all this possible, and brought all of this to bear: every picture in the gallery hung straight and every piece of objet d’art was displayed to best advantage in the lighting available. Even the dressing was perfect, designed to emphasis a particular piece, or to show the link between one piece and another. Jonno had coined the term ‘anti-focus’ for a piece of dressing that was the opposite of the focus: it drew the observer in whilst being itself completely unobtrusive.
At 15, Jonno was acutely aware of this being a BIG DEAL. It had all started with an Auction of Promises. His father had managed to acquire three lots, one each for Tophe, Jonno and Tom: each was perfect for the boy it was given to. Jonno’s had been a week of lessons with a professional photographer and artist. He’d been impressed with Jonno’s work and had very kindly included some of Jonno’s pictures in an exhibition that he’d mounted. Jonno and his family had received VIP tickets for the event, and on the evening there had been a number of conversations between Jonno’s parents, the artist, and the gallery owner. All of which led to today: the gallery owner had been persuaded to run a charity event for Jonno’s school, with work by Jonno on display to anyone who had received an invitation. Jonno was trying hard not to think about this, since he knew who at least some of the invitations had gone to: the gallery owner was well connected.
The collection was astounding: not only had Jonno taken every photo, painted every picture, cast, carved, welded and worked his way through myriad techniques, but he had framed and mounted every piece himself, having made even these from scratch. He selected every material himself and went to great pains to match the material, style and finish to the piece. He stopped for a moment in front of one of his favorites.
Last summer, the whole family had gone to California, where his mother had been temporally based for work. They’d all had a marvelous time. Comparatively little time had been spent in San Francisco or Los Angeles, but rather they had taken in the parks and the National Forests at Shasta-Trinity and Los Padres. Death Valley had been on the itinerary too. But it had been Pismo Beach which had been the highlight of the trip for him. He’d not been able to take all the kit that he wanted, but his lessons had paid off and he’d been able to take some remarkable pictures with a rather ordinary camera. He’d not had long, as the sun sank into the horizon and was swallowed by the Pacific Ocean. Tophe had been building a fire on the beach itself for a barbecue, aided by Tom. There was a picture of the fire elsewhere, odd-coloured flames from the salt encrusted wood dancing in the night. But it was this picture, with the sun setting the sea alight, that always held Jonno’s attention for a little longer.
© David Jesson, 2018
Staircase to Nowhere
“So, this staircase, what does it look like?”
Marsha was sat opposite a wizened old man with the kindest eyes she’d even seen. He was asking about her recurring dream. The one which had been steadily driving sleep away.
First her Jim had begged her to get help, then her boss Mr Mack had taken her aside for a private word. His concern for her had shone through so much that, against their usual practice, she’d crossed the line and talked to him about personal stuff.
First about the dream, then about her fears of what it meant. She’d cried whilst telling him how worried she was about seeking help, fearing being taken in by some sort of charlatan. He’d patted her hand kindly and agreed that was something to be avoided at all costs. Then he’d dug around in his desk and pulled out a business card.
The man was a psychotherapist, but his area of speciality was dreams. Mr Mack said he’d helped him. Smiling, he’d admitted he’d only gone because his wife had put her foot down.
Marsha described the staircase. Slowly, a picture was formed, with the gaps being filled in by her responses to his gentle questions.
“Hmmm, so we have a beach, at sunset, with a spiral staircase that is old and rusty. But this staircase, it goes nowhere. This last is what causes you to be frightened, no?”
Marsha nodded her assent.
“You will not be surprised to learn that staircases are indicators of change, of transition. You are imagining – I think – that this one is portent of change which will result in an unexpected, unwanted, even abrupt ending, yes? Yet, from our previous conversations, I don’t believe that you have an abnormal fear of death?”
Again, Marsha nodded.
“So, let us look to the condition of the stairs – old and rusty, huh? This leads me to look to the past. To ask maybe what you have buried away? Something you are ashamed of perhaps? Something that didn’t end as you planned?”
Marsha burst into tears. Handing her a box of tissues, the therapist waited for her to speak.
“I don’t know if I’m crying out of relief that whatever this dream is about is in the past, rather than my future. Or whether I’m crying because your question has struck a chord within me. Either way, I feel so much better.”
“Good. So, shall we work together to uncover this … whatever this is?”
Marsha nodded, this time with a smile. A small one, but a smile nonetheless.
© Debra Carey, 2018
Thompson’s treasure had loomed over their heads for five years. Wayne Marin was Spanish, but a descendent of the Incas. The treasure they were in pursuit of belonged to the long-lost Inca Empire. “C’mon Wayne, you’re the explorer. Hurry up I’m almost at the beach”, Kyle barked. The hike through the mountains had been treacherous but they had made their way through the rocky cliffs and finally to what they hoped would be their final destination. Marin stood at the edge of the cliff leading into the final descent before the beach. His map consuming him, he ignored Kyle completely. His brow furrowed, he glided his finger across the map. Pencil marks and annotations made it incomprehensible to anyone else. Kyle never bothered guiding them through their quest. He was an accomplished map reader himself, but a lost Inca treasure was Wayne’s area of expertise. “C’mon get down here, one hell of a view!” Kyle’s voice echoed up the mountain trail. Wayne heard him this time and began descending. His feet followed the loose dust and gravel preceding them. The final path twisted and turned slightly but he eventually reached the bottom. His right boot sunk into the sand followed by his left. He had reached the beach. The silence was strange at first but soon became very addictive. Uncharacteristically, Kyle hadn’t said a word since Wayne had caught up. He sat on a rock staring into the sea. Wayne walked up to him. The view was spectacular. The sunset immersed the sky with red and orange. Ripples of colour across the sea seemed never ending. Untouched by people, civilization and time. Neither man wanted to interrupt the others tranquillity. Wayne shuffled slightly. He knew they had to continue. There would be another puzzle set by the pirate William Thompson they had to solve. The sand under his feet shifted causing Kyle to drift out of his daydream. “Hell of a view right”, Kyle said. Wayne nodded as he removed the notebook within his pocket. “Cheer up. We made it. How many years have we been talking about this. Crack a smile? Please?”, Kyle maintained the grin on his face not doing well to hide his excitement. The edges of Wayne’s lips stretched out into something that resembled a smirk. “Knew it. Mr solemn and serious finally shows emotion”, Kyle joked. “Now where is the next clue”, Wayne said. He fiddled the folded map out of his pocket hoping for something.
Two hours had passed, and they had gotten nowhere. Wayne’s patience was waning. He paced along the beach whilst Kyle sat looking at their notes on the sand. Kyle looked up at Wayne. He didn’t hide his frustration very well. He let out a cry of anger and threw his compass onto the sand. Realizing he had to stay calm, he bent down to pick up the compass and gazed at the sunset one more time before giving in to surrender. The rocks lay in the sea aligned in front of the sinking sun. Where had he seen that before? He frantically slapped his pockets trying to find his notebook. He couldn’t contain his excitement. “Kyle! Get over here now! See this?”
“Uh yeah sure…”
“Kneel here and look between the rocks towards the sun”
“Ok? So?” he was dumbfounded
“Look at the shadows”. They swayed across the water. Kyle followed the shadows up to their tips. They all converged at one point. The rocks weren’t far from shore. They swam up to the convergence. The seabed was slightly raised right there but only just. You would only have seen it if you were looking for it. Wayne rested his hand on the sand, instinctively tracing the Inca symbol for abundance and prosperity. A flower. Eventually his finger found some sort of button. He pressed it without hesitation despite the risk of a trap. Behind him metal groaned. The spiral stair case rotated into the ground. Sand began to fall into the orifice left behind by it. The two explorers clawed their way towards it. As they reached the circular hole in the ground, they realised it was a tomb. In big, gold encrusted letters on the wall, it was proclaimed. THE FINAL RESTING PLACE OF THE PIRATE WILLIAM THOMAS, DECEIVER OF THE ENTIRE SPANISH EMPIRE.
© Adi Gajendragkar, 2018