Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt: “A story that involves someone, not a stranger, standing on the edge of a precipice.”
by Phil Yeats
The sun remained high in the late afternoon sky as Alan climbed from the village to the cliffside path. That morning he’d found work processing the kelp harvest. Those twelve hours of hard labour would fund three or four days pursuing his dreams.
While strolling along the track to his hovel in the adjacent cove, he spied the local squire staring to sea from the cliff edge. Why was he standing on the brink? Did something in his lord-of-the-manor life lead him to the precipice?
The squire turned as Alan approached. “I have a job for you. Fifty pounds for an hour’s work.”
Fifty pounds was a fortune, more than he’d made during his day processing kelp. “Fine, what do you need?”
“Someone to deliver a bear cub to Miss Vanessa’s Animal Hospice.” The squire pointed toward a small copse some metres back from the cliff. “It’s there, and my estate’s in the car park. If you deliver it now, the fifty pounds is yours.”
Alan stared at the furry brown animal. “Is that a North American black bear? Vanessa won’t accept such a foreign beast.”
“All arranged, Vanessa will find it a home. Deliver the bear, return the car, and give the key to Mrs. Morton. She’ll give you fifty pounds. One last thing. Don’t mention how you came by it.”
Alan took the bear’s chain, and the squire strolled to the village. The cub was playful and rambunctious but not difficult. It climbed into the Range Rover after a little persuasion. Thirty minutes later, Miss Vanessa accepted the beast with no questions asked, and Alan was on his way to the manor house.
He parked by the garage and wandered into the kitchen. Mrs. Morton offered him five ten-pound notes and a bowl of steaming stew in exchange for the car keys.
Alan slowly shook his head as he counted the notes. “What’s this about?”
The normally loquacious cook offered no explanation as she resumed her task of preparing supper for the family.
Alan pondered as he ate. The secrecy was meaningless. Miss Vanessa and anyone else would realize the bear arrived in the squire’s estate car. It must be a pretense, a fabrication that would allow Vanessa to claim ignorance without outright lies. That allowed only one explanation. Martin, the squire’s mentally challenged third son, had acquired the cub by less than honest means, and the squire had to deal with it. Everyone knew the old gent had a soft spot for animals. He couldn’t bring himself to kill the beast, so he entrusted it to Vanessa.
After finishing his stew, Alan strode to Martin’s rooms in the estate’s gatehouse. He’d be missing the bear and eager to hear what happened to it. He’d also be incapable of prevaricating. Martin was a decade older than Alan’s twenty-seven years but like a child constantly in need of reassurance and friendship.
Alan found him crouched in his front garden feeding the squirrels. “Howdy Martin. Beer sound good?”
Martin, like his father, was a devoted animal lover. He spent his waking hours looking for wild animals to befriend. Martin also liked beer. He wasn’t an alcoholic. He kept no booze in his apartment, and if pub patrons offered him a drink, he never had more than a pint or two of lager. But he loved his pint. If the landlord let him, he’d share it with little critters he usually had hidden in his oversized anorak.
“I took your bear cub to Vanessa’s wildlife refuge,” Alan said after they’d settled by the fire in the pub.
“Thought you might have. She was getting too big for me, but I couldn’t leave her with the gypsies. They were mean to her.”
“Vanessa said she’d find her a good home.”
“Miss Vanessa will be good to her, but I think Winnie will frighten the other animals.”
“Winnie?” Alan asked.
“I named her after Winnie-the-Pooh. It’s my favourite book.” He pulled a tattered copy of the old version of A. A. Milne’s masterpiece with the E. H. Shepard drawings from his anorak. “Have you read it?”
“Yes Martin, I read it a long time ago. It was my favourite book too.”
He extracted a mouse from another pocket. “I read it to my animals.”
Alan lingered over his beer because Martin liked to take his time. He became anxious if he thought others were ready to leave. When Martin finished his beer, Alan bought him another. Two regulars sat at their table and offered to see Martin home.
Alan took his leave and walked to the waterfront, across the river, and up the path to the cliff top. He strolled past the place where the squire waited for him, then the copse and car park, and on to his home. Tomorrow, he’d wander the seashore looking for bits of driftwood and other beach debris. He’d turn his discoveries into sculptures he’d sell to the tourists when summer finally arrived.
He’d solved the mystery of the bear and had a pocketful of cash. With no pressing worries, his world was unfolding as it should.
Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/
Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/
Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com
Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/