Books Magazine

Eye Witness

By Ashleylister @ashleylister

On Saturday, Dave and I spent a peaceful hour and a half on Fleetwood Promenade staring at clouds.  My little yellow car might not be much cop when it comes to CV joints (if you know a cheap source of near-side front CV joints for a 2001 Daihatsu Cuore I've a slightly less rare unicorn to trade) but it does boast large windows which have been cleaned this year and seats that are comfortable when jackets are applied as headrests.  The pair of happy burbling bellies filled with fish, chips and mushy peas were a contributory factor to our indulgent ninety minute gaze.
Through the front window we had a view of a twist of tide, contorted and gradually bulging, like our girths, until it engulfed the long, black scratches of bladder wrack.  Buoys and men stood side by side at the water's edge so that we couldn't tell one from the other.  They were standing so still and at such a distance that we heard our neighbours in the car beside us repeat our conversation:
"Is it a man?"
"No, it's a buoy."
"I saw it move."
"No.  It's definitely a buoy.  It looks just like the other buoys."
"It definitely moved.  It's a man."
"Yep.  That's a man.  Fishing probably."
And not once did any of us suggest that it was a woman.
A three-legged spaniel flopped down beside a small boy who ran his hands through the tangled pebble-dash fur.  A sandy shiba inu ran up to the cast iron statue of a terrier and crouched before it, tail sweeping the salty air, inviting it to play.  The dog ran around to the sculpted rear and sniffed it but even this could not convince the dog that its metal counterpart was not alive.
After consulting Google Maps, we figured out which hills were Arnside and which bit of land was Walney Island. We disagreed over whether the hill, covered in wind turbines, was closer to us than Heysham Power Station, one wall of which glimmered as a golden square in the intermittent sun.  Dave remarked that it was odd to think that the other walls, facing the south, east and north respectively, would never know that much light.  It took me a minute or two to work out what he meant.
In a relaxed state, my mind picked out animals in the clouds.  Several mice became elephants as the expectant air was stretched across a backdrop of rain-grey mush.  The closer the rain clouds came, the brighter the cumulonimbus appeared, edged in charcoal gray and seemingly lit from within.  Great cauliflower masses were thinned before our eyes.  A great lion leaped at another mouse but was only a slither of amethyst minutes later.  Porridge specks and clotted cream balloons pushed in front of giants with indigo bottoms and apricot hair.
We saw what we saw, not what we knew and, let me tell you, clouds are not white.
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