Fish Lorry

It was waiting there, at the harbour, purring loudly when I arrived. The lights outside the sea rescue centre were blazing but the truck cab was dark. How can he sleep with such a racket going on? The refrigerator in the lorry has to remain on, obviously, else the fish would go off. But such a noise. A purring sound, as I said, but from a large cat, a happy, satisfied cat, whose talons are digging into your thigh. No sign of the fishermen either. Have they been out all night? And in this cold? It was below freezing. The car had it at -5 at some point while we waited for the frost to clear from the windscreen. The cars in town were all coated with it. It glistens in the yellow light of the streetlamps. Beautiful. As is the hush that the cold engenders. There was no one shouting, no high jinks. A few shapes. Two men in black coats, hoods up, leaving houses in North Road. Different houses, but they left at the same time. It was rather dramatic. I caught my breath. Why leave home at 3.30 am? Where were they going? Even my double-layered gloves weren’t sufficient against the cold, my fingers stung with it. Into my pockets they went, making walking less free. It’s enough, just to be warm. Yet the cold on my face was lovely. And then I saw a tent. Someone was sleeping in a tent in the Castle grounds. A tiny little pocket-size tent, the curved type. It was pitched on the grass but even so. So cold. Is it by choice?

He called me from the car. The battery’s flat, I’ve called the AA, you stay in the warm. Don’t worry, I’ll sort it. It was amazing, he said later, he changed the battery, just like that in all that rain. It poured. Hard, sleety rain. From the radio London sounded dry and sunny. I listened to the Remembrance Day parade. Don’t call me, I said, I want to do the two minute silence. He did it too. I said that poem in my head, he said. I can’t remember it now, something like – in going down with the day, we will remember them. I said it in my head. I cried the day before, on the proper eleventh day, eleventh hour. It’s the brass bands, they always make me weep. I’ve cried in the street before now. We used to stand together in Cambridge, in silence, holding each other. Too easily moved, he and I. Too easy.

I think about going to see her. I’d like to. I want it to be good between us, or at least peaceful. He calls her a witch. She is not. She just saw a possibility for love, that’s all. I tell him of the plot line for Homefront. That’s a bit far-fetched, he says. How can it be? I say. It’s true. They are true stories. But to steal a baby like that, in broad daylight. It happened. It obviously happened. In war, anything can happen. Anything. I am humbled by the stories, as I was listening to the veterans on the radio. And that widow, the one whose husband killed himself to escape PTS. They are so scared that they are going to lose control and hurt someone, she said.

We turn them an eighth every day for two months, she said. Thousands of bottles of Cava in a cellar in Catalonia. We keep them lying still for seven years. What a commitment of time. A time of waiting. Waiting to see.

I am to start writing today. There is power in the starting, said Goethe. So be it. I have the first line. Just remember how much you love to do it. Waiting for the words to come. Just start. There is time. There is time for it to happen. For the story to appear. Go to it.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.