On the Prom

Your voice drifts across the rectangle of decking where I’m sitting, between the café and the beach.
‘Ok darling. Yes, of course you know what you’re doing, but I just-‘
You place the mobile on the table, cradle your head in your hands, then pick it up again.
‘Hello. Yes. No. It’s ok I’m fine. We were talking but I lost her. I think the signal failed. Well everything seemed fine, but-’
And then I’m distracted by snarling and snapping, a dog fight erupting, their anxious owners trying to restrain them.
Couples walk by, children follow. A man cradling a folded deck chair wanders across the promenade and onto the shingle.
You leave.

A couple take your place. She drops her shopping bag onto the decking. He slides a tray onto the table.
‘You got warm milk didn’t you?’
‘That’s what you always have.’
‘Sometimes you forget.’
He drinks his lager, she sips her coffee.
‘She’s having a party you know. Thinks the cake’ll not be ready. Hopes it’ll be ready by the weekend, but that’s only two days away. They’ve got a bouncy castle ordered. I hope the weather’s nice.’
He nods, drinks.
‘Doesn’t know what she’ll do if the cake’s not ready, probably have to bake one herself, but it’s not ‘her thing’. Lazy, if you ask me.’

A school group pass.
‘Miss, Miss I’m hot, can I take my blazer off?’
‘If you must.’
‘Hey he’s taking his blazer off, can I?
‘And me.’
‘Miss can I?’
‘Yes, yes, all right, but make sure you keep tight hold of them. And what’s going on here? Stop that.’
‘It was his fault.’
‘Was not, she started it.’
‘I really don’t care who started it. You’ll both behave yourselves, now.’
The school party weaves its way along the promenade, adults at the front, and rear barely holding the line together.

She sips her coffee, he’s down to the dregs. She looks at him.
‘It’s easy for her. Don’t know why she worries, they’re not short of money. You should drink more slowly.’
‘That went down a treat.What’s he doing now?’
‘Something in the Service Sector. She makes it sound important. He was never the brightest button in the box. You said as much.’
‘Dunno, always seemed pleasant enough. A bit dull.’
‘Anyway they’ve a nice car and they’re always going on holiday, long weekends that sort of thing.’
‘Must be earning.’
‘That’s as might be, but the other day she was saying she’d be at a loss if his job went, well you know how things are these days, but he’s got a good pension and he might retire early anyway. So I said to her, I said, ‘Well it’s all right for some. She got quite snooty at that.’
‘Finished? Let’s take a stroll else I’ll be wanting another pint and then that’ll be the day gone.’
‘And me with it if you start drinking now. And what about this shopping?’
‘I’ll carry it.’

My coffee’s cold. I take the cup back to the counter, walk along the promenade.
I see the black t-shirt, bold white lettering, KISS ME I’M FAMOUS, before I see him. A young woman glances at the t-shirt, at him, sniggers.

A small group gather round a young man squatting on the pavement. He shuffles three black discs on a small rectangle of cloth. He turns all three over, only one has a white face, turns them over again and continues to shuffle.
‘Where’s the white one, choose the right one and win.’
£20 is placed on the cloth, and a disc turned over to reveal a white face. The discs are set in motion. Again money is placed on the cloth and the white disc is revealed. The crowd grows. A police van pulls up at the kerbside. Cloth, discs, young men disappear.

Sitting on the shingle, watching the turning tide. It’s been a curius sort of day.