• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 12
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Blown off course

She peered closely, inspecting the ruby residue. It was like the key had been dipped in guilt.

She saw violent scenes: something scarlet and fleshy, half burnt maybe, flung into an old cello case and sunk into the river. She looked past the key, to the expanse of the placidly flowing river, today mirroring the mouldy grey of the sky. She did this walk every day and so far the river had always kept its secrets. Not like the wind.

But perhaps she was wrong about the cello. You could tell from the flimsy wire coil that it was the key that nobody cared about. It was more likely to be the key to an old bike lock or, in these parts - a rural republic of private castles bordering the riverside - she supposed it could quite reasonably belong to a wood shed or an outhouse.

It was odd to think of a key belonging to its lock. Two parts, forever connected. (She’d been told she was a romantic.)

The wood shed would still work. She’d not seen inside their neighbour’s one for instance. A desperate clammy hand, still shaking from the violent slam of the woodshed door, clutches the key, while its owner fearfully scans the watery horizon looking for their getaway schooner. The sunlight is slowly melting through the clouds and the key is quickly hooked onto a stray wire of the industrial scrubland adjacent to the boatyard, left to jingle in the early morning breeze.


Blown off course

The wind seems to pick up on her idea, clinking the mast of one of the small dinghies resting on the marsh mud, a dainty applause to her mise-en-scene. Just then, she hears the slow crackle of tires along the unmade road that leads to the boatyard. Her watch shows it is almost 9am - the time that the builders usually come to start work on the houseboat. She doesn’t want this to be the end of the story, and she suspects that if she sees the key again there tomorrow on her morning walk, some dull monotonous void will replace the excitement she feels right now. She is not always in this mood.

She leans against the metal fence and yanks the key quickly off the wire, before resuming the path. Standing aside to let the heavy duty vehicle past, she gives a short friendly nod to the driver, as though all is normal. She turns the key over in her raincoat pocket, a cold amulet with a salty finish. She will write good things today. She will.

Behind her, the truck pulls up into the car park, reversing into a space next to the boatyard office. The driver, a broad man in a high viz jacket, is cheerfully whistling as he gets out. He feels around the top of the boatyard door frame, but draws his hand down again a few moments later, frowning. He is alone. There is an old box in his boot. His hand shakes.