Look, I'm sorry. I know this is dragging on a bit, it's boring me too, but it's a true story and I've started so I'll have to finish. Just one more bit after this and you'll see the point, I promise. Incidentally, blogger has decided I can't add pictures so no light relief there either:
They looked at the caravan, and then at Stanley.
Stanley had a very simple way of avoiding any further discussion in the matter, he excused himself with a hearty “Good night” and crunched off, chuckling, the way they had come.
They watched him retreat along the edge of the pond and turn up the bank towards the orchard where his torch flicked into life momentarily illuminating the old apple tree which stood like a sentinel at its border.
Derek dropped the sleeping bags to the ground and sat on one of them looking forlornly out over the pond.
“Does it look like rain to you?”
“No, it looks like a pond” replied Colin.
“Nobody likes a smart arse…..I was thinking we’d be better off sleeping outside”
“Oh yeah, that would be lovely, we could build a little camp fire and keep watch in case the rotting corpse of Natty makes a reappearance, covered in pond weed and duck shit” suggested Colin morosely.
“Chuck us a can” ordered Derek and Colin duly obliged.
The unmistakable sound of click splffft twice in quick succession was followed by glugging noises, loud, theatrical burping and then the sound of two further cans being opened.
“I mean how the hell can you drown in twelve inches of water?” asked Colin.
“You can drown in an inch of water if you try really hard….or maybe he was eleven inches tall”
“Maybe it’s locked?” suggested Colin helpfully.
“’Course it is” mocked Derek, “I imagine it’s chock a block with valuable mole skins” and then “fuck it, I’m going for a look”, forcing himself to his feet a little unsteadily.
He stumbled up the slight rise towards the caravan. The moon behind him , although bright, cast no shadow of his on the dull surface of the caravan but it did illuminate the mist that sat on the high of the bank, caught by some lip, which eddied and pooled around his feet.
Derek didn’t hesitate but walked directly up to the side of the van and then, puzzled, stood for a moment looking for the door. It wasn’t obvious. The entire caravan seemed to be made from dull, dark rust and when he reached out a hand and brushed the surface in front of him it felt rough, like emery paper. He traced a finger to the side and felt an indent in the surface and followed it up and then, refocusing, the door was suddenly obvious. The handle was a flap like affair set into the surface and he curled two fingers into it and pulled. The caravan seemed to rock slightly towards him and then, with a small screech and what felt like the suction you would normally associate with the door of a refrigerator, the door opened towards him spilling forth a miasma of mothballs and sickly sweet mildew into the fresh night air.
Colin observed the whole performance from the safety of ten yards. From where he watched Derek seemed to have been coaxing the door open, as he traced his finger across and then upwards, almost magically, perhaps whispering some ancient druid spell of entry. As the door opened there was a soft “plop” in the water behind him and he raced up the hill in a jangle of beer cans to join his friend.
“It’s a bit whiffy” said Derek as Colin nearly bumped into him.
“It’s a bit dark”
“mmmm, cosy”, said Derek making the most of Colin’s obvious discomfort.
“Let’s go back to the car” which was half plea, half serious suggestion.
“You can if you like, but I don’t really fancy finding my way through those bloody apple trees without a light……”
“Smarmy twat” was all Colin could muster.
And so they retrieved the sleeping bags and stepped tentatively up into the tiny tin toadstool, Derek first of course.
It was a single room. Derek stood in the doorway and as he moved to the left to allow Colin room to join him the caravan rocked alarmingly under his weight. The wheels and axle which had been hidden by the mist obviously ran directly through the middle of the little caravan, through the centre line of the doorway.
“Pissed again” said Colin and entered to the right, whereupon the caravan corrected itself and swayed in the opposite direction. Derek walked to Colin, and it dipped further to the right, and then they both moved quickly across the centre line and the floor lurched dramatically downwards in that direction.
“Wicked” said Derek, “we’re going to spend the night in a tiny theme park”.
“Welcome to Nattyland?”, suggested Colin, “enjoy the ride. Keep you hands inside the carriage at all times and don’t go near the water”.
The caravan was a single room. Small windows to the front and rear (although there was no way to determine which was which) afforded just enough light to distinguish a sloping roof but gave no clue to the ‘décor’. The single most overpowering and obvious quality was the overriding stink of mothballs coupled with the syrupy sweet undercurrent that Derek had encountered earlier, and which now on reflection made him think of apples, overripe rotting apples.
The floor was smooth, carpetless and hard, and other than themselves and their few possessions was completely devoid of any feature or object. Derek opened the bag containing his sleeping bag and, holding the hood, swept it out across the floor soliciting a small puff of moonlit dust and a gentle rocking. Colin did the same in the other direction, with similar results. They sat together and flipped off their shoes, and wriggled into their respective nylon cocoons accompanied by the nauseating rock and roll of the van.
“Excrement” muttered Derek, “I need a wee”, and went through the process in reverse.
“Chuck us a fag” said Colin, “and a beer”.
Derek stood, silhouetted in the doorway, directing a silver stream of urine into the night. He fumbled in his back pocket and tossed the cigarettes over his shoulder in Colin’s general direction, where they hit him square in the forehead and skittered off into the gloom. Colin followed them, squirming grub like across the floor and sat enfolded in his bag to light one. The flame from the lighter briefly revealed what appeared to be dun, dirty brown flock wallpaper in a strange asymmetric design, but nothing of any real interest.
Eventually they slept, dreaming dreams of ocean swells and sailing boats, of hammocks and summer breezes as the slightest movement or readjustment caused their dark bower to gently dance.
“Thish ishn’t my tongue”, said a voice next to Derek, “it doeshn’t fit”
Derek reached over and felt around and sure enough found the face belonging to the complaint. He grabbed the top lip and pulled it towards the nose, soliciting an “Oww!!” and then his hand toddled off to the left in a wide arc encountering two full beer cans in their plastic lattice by his side. Deftly, for a man who has just awoken, he single handedly separated them, sat one on its base and pulled back the ring on the top. He opened his mouth and simply poured, soaking his face and the hood of the sleeping bag, but managing to get a reasonable amount in his mouth too.
He repeated the exercise with his arm reaching awkwardly behind his head and was gratified to hear a startled grunt which quickly subsided into gentle gargling.
“’sprin” said the voice this time. “aspirin”.
“Pocket” muttered Derek, and after a short pause the figure behind him began to bum crawl towards the door.
“Arse pocket in my jeans” said Derek, “I’m wearing them”. He felt around lifting his backside off the ground and located the packet in his back pocket, so far he’d only used one arm and he used it to propel the painkillers at the prostrate shape in the doorway.
It was morning outside. The light that scythed in through the crack in the doorway was bright and golden in contrast to the bleary green dimness that occupied the rest of the van. Slowly adjusting his neck, at every moment expecting a lance of pain from sleep stiffness or the previous night’s excesses, Derek looked down along his body to the window. The glass was completely covered in moss, dark and smooth where it was thickest, more brightly green at the edges where the sun made some meagre ingress, but nowhere transparent. More than anything else it resembled a badly kept fish tank.
He rolled to the side in time to see the figure in the doorway, head thrown back, dispatch two aspirin with a swig of beer and then unadvisedly lean against the door, which opened and deposited him on his back on the ground outside. For long moments the feet of the figure encased in the sleeping gently flapped like the disembodied nether regions of some unlikely sea creature before slipping sideways out of view.
Derek rolled over and attempted to re enter the land of nod, but was eventually forced to recognise the overriding imperative of his bladder. With a groan he struggled from the open end of his sleeping bag in a process that, in nature, results in the emergence of a delicate, beautiful butterfly but in his case gave birth to a hairy dishevelled gargoyle.
With a flop he sat down in the doorway resting his feet lightly on his friend and surveyed the lie of the land.
The land was indeed brightly lit and unrecognisable from the moonlit demesne of the previous night. The pond sparkled and glittered under an early morning sun that had risen behind them and now peered over the crest of their caravan. It was a big pond too, roughly oval and 30 yards across at it’s shortest span to the opposite bank from where Derek sat. And obviously quite deep, in the middle was what appeared to the roof of some kind of small truck, perhaps the original conveyance for their sleeping quarters, which was now submerged to the tops of its glassless windows providing a sun trap for several ducks who sat placidly on the tin platform.
Beyond the pond a small rickety wooden shed stood on the far bank in a patch of dusty earth amongst long uncultivated grass and beyond that a large unkempt hedge over which, vague and rippling in the early light, were the hazy purple outlines of low distant hills.
Derek breathed in savouring the fresh country air, sans eau de mothball, and immediately fell back into the van in a spasm of coughing.
He lit a cigarette and dropped an empty beer can on what he hoped was the lump formed in the sleeping bag by Colin’s head. It was.
“It’s too bright”, came a muffled voice.
“I need to go poo” said Derek, simply.
“Well go poo”
“Frankly my dear I don’t give a shit”
“I’m going back to the pub, the loo’s outside remember?”
And eventually after a few strategically aimed kicks and some plaintive wailing Colin was separated from his bag and, armed with their toothbrushes, the pair ambled back towards the pub.
It was a very short trek, completely devoid of the mystery endowed on it by night. The orchard was bright, airy and no more than rustic, the twisted trees took on almost comic shapes by the light of day. In just a few minutes they stood outside the lavvy which leant against the rear of the pub. To Derek’s delight there was toilet roll too, albeit the crispy shiny kind which he conveyed to Colin through the wooden wall.
“Hurt’s yer bum” he shouted.
“Does the trick though” replied a familiar voice from an open window in the side wall of the under the sloping eve of the pub, “you’re up then, I didn’t think Oid see you this side of nine o’clock”, he sounded genuinely surprised.
“When yer finished whatever it is you’ve got to do, Oi’ll get us up some breakfast”.