That Summer He Died

Free That Summer He Died by Emlyn Rees

Book: That Summer He Died by Emlyn Rees Read Free Book Online
Authors: Emlyn Rees
it?’
    Alan jumped down two steps. ‘You’ve been reading too many books, boy. Life’s not that simple. Some questions it’s best not to know the answers to.’
    James lengthened his stride, caught up with him again. He smiled.
    ‘How can you say that? You’re a writer. How can you say I’ve read too many books?’
    But Alan saw nothing remotely funny about this himself. ‘Some things you don’t want to know. Some things it’s best you never find out.’
    ‘But—’
    ‘But nothing.’
    Alan came to a halt. They were now maybe fifteen steps from where the cliff face slid into the sand and disappeared into its unfathomable depths, like roots into the soil.
    Alan faced his nephew. ‘You still want to write, don’t you? Just like you were banging on about the day after Monique’s funeral. That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? Because you want to learn how it’s done.’
    James felt the skin of his face begin to tingle, as if he’d been out in the sun too long. It was true, he’d cornered his uncle after the funeral, at his house, when most of the mourners had already left. James had been drunk. But Alan had been beyond that. James couldn’t believe this conversation had primed itself on his uncle’s tongue then, and been left until now to be launched.
    ‘You remember that?’ he said.
    ‘Drunks remember everything. That’s why everyone hates them. They’re the people who sit there till dawn with you, and then remind you the next day what an arsehole you’ve been, and tell you all the crazy stuff you said.’
    ‘I’m sorry.’
    Alan sneered, ‘You can forget the apologies. You’re not a baby any more. Anything you do, anything you say – you’ve got to live with it. Get used to the fact; it’s there until you die.’
    ‘And writing. I suppose I should forget that, too?’
    ‘If you can forget that,’ Alan said, turning front and walking on, ‘then you shouldn’t ever have thought about doing it in the first place.’
    It was the first positive statement he had made. It gave James hope.
    ‘So, you don’t think I’m stupid then, to want to––’
    ‘Not now.’
    Alan hawked and spat, like that was the end of it. He stumbled down the last few steps and sank his feet into the sand. And then, before James could answer him, they were amongst the bodies gravitating towards Surfers’ Turf. Alan exchanged a few grunted greetings with the people nearby, but didn’t bother introducing James to any of those who looked him curiously up and down. Some people, he noticed, steered clear of Alan and did not look him in the eye. Probably because of what a grumpy mad bastard he is, James thought. Or maybe it was because Alan was so famous. Maybe they didn’t want to be seen to stare or care.
    They reached the wide concrete steps leading up to the rock plateau where the beach bar was. The bodies grew thicker here, the chatter louder. Alan shouldered his way unceremoniously through the crowd, ignoring the mild complaints in response.
    James stuck close, trailing in the older man’s wake, suddenly self-conscious in the face of this intimate gathering where everyone so apparently knew everyone else. Eventually they reached the open doors of the bar and moved inside.
    The scrum of people jammed into the place reminded James of happy hour in the London pub that, until recently, had been his local. Squashed flesh. Jabbing elbows. A sauna of other people’s breath. Cigarette and even bloody pipe smoke drifted across the room, like dry ice in a night club.
    But the similarity between the two locations ended there. This place was way too idiosyncratic to be confused with anything James had encountered before. Surfboards hung from the rafters in the ceiling, their waxed surfaces painted with erratic, psychedelic patterns. Photographs of tanned kids against two-tone backdrops of sand and sea, with their boards dutifully standing to attention by their side, were scattered across the bright pink sections of wall

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