Friday, July 29, 2022

THE SANDS OF LlANDULAS


I was kindly allowed to contribute a short story to the UK Crime Book Club's Summer Shorts initiative over on Facebook. Written with a summer theme in mind, this is taken from an anthology of short stories I am currently writing. No idea when it will be completed, but I like to keep the noggin' going in between drafts of longer works, by writing short stories.



THE SANDS OF LlANDULAS

by Jonathan Peace


June, 1978

1

The boy sat on the beach, just a short walk from the caravan park. The footprints he had left as he’d made his way to this spot were the small indentations of shoeless feet, scattered at irregular intervals to try and avoid the sting of the hot sands as much as possible. At times it looked like a giant had carried the boy; in other places they were but the tracks of scattering mice. He wore a West Ham United football kit, the purple and blue top crinkled and torn in several places. The white shorts were as battered as the top and stained in places. One sock was pulled up high, nearly all the way to his knee; the other was rolled down to his ankle. No boots sat beside him, but he did have a bundle wrapped in a wet tea towel. 

The beach, or at least this part of it, was empty, save for the boy. The day was hot, the sun now directly overhead leaving no shadows to be cast on the golden sands of Llandulas beach, North Wales. The exposed flesh of his arms, legs and face was reddening under the ferocious heat. If he knew or noticed, he gave no indication as he continued to dig at the sand with a plastic shovel, throwing glances at the tea-towel wrapped bundle beside him inbetween frenzied bouts of digging.

In front of him and beyond stretched the Irish sea, its blue surface still and unmoving, a perfect mirror image of the sky above. No birds flew across the vista, no ships danced on the waves. It was as though the boy were lost within a timeless scene, a portrait painted of the perfect day.

But the day was not perfect. The day was far from perfect.



2

The boy turned and looked back the way he had walked. Sand dunes grew like monstrous molehills, their crests feathered with sand grass now bleached brown by the constant heat. It had lasted for days, this heat that sapped your strength with each hot minute beneath its gaze. For his mother it had been just another annoyance to be handled, a frustration to be calmed. For his father… it had been the last straw of a million last straws. 

They had arrived at the caravan park three days ago, full of excitement. Full of joy. Their first holiday together for years. It had taken every scrimped pound, every saved penny. He had done jobs for the neighbours, cutting grass and washing cars, adding his fifty-pence earnings to the holiday jar. When his aunt sent him a five pound note for Christmas, he had dropped it in without question.

Slowly they watched the jar fill up and when his father upended it, he had laughed as all the coins rolled out in a metallic thunderroll that seemed to go on forever. They had counted the money together, stacking coins in towers of bronze and silver. Fields of notes lay scattered across the dinner table in the kitchen. He knew he would never see that kitchen again, or hear the laughter that rang through it when they added all the towers and fields together to find they could finally afford a weekend away. 

A sudden wind bristled the crests of the dunes, whipping sand into the air to dance and float away. The path was still empty but he knew that soon they would come.

With a sigh, he turned back to the hole in the sand before him and continued to dig.



3

He jammed the shovel into the widening hole. Scooping up sand, he threw it onto the pile behind him.

It was the heat that was to blame for what happened. Not his father’s temper which was just as hot when fired up. Not his mother’s anger which was as cold and calculating as a shark in the deep depths of the sea. That was what he had called her. A shark. At least, that’s what he thought his father had said. Despite their shouting, it was hard to hear through the plastic folding door of his room. He had stayed in the small room of the chalet that had been given him, playing with the Han Solo figure his father had bought him only that day. 

Walking along the promenade he had spotted it in the window of a newsagent of all places. Not a toy shop, not like Allwares back home in Ossett which had a whole wall dedicated to Star Wars. He had spent hours staring at them, going in each Saturday to look at the rows and rows of Stormtroopers and Jawas, Darth Vader and Princess Leia. Deciding which to get next, planning how long it would take to save up, how many more cars to wash, and lawns to cut. Upstairs was even better; that was where they kept all the spaceships. The huge Millenium Falcon and Tie-Fighter boxes. Luke’s Landspeeder and the Imperial Transport. So many wondrous things.

He had R2-D2 and Chewbacca, but he’d lost the wookie’s bowcaster gun somewhere in the garden. And now he had Han Solo, Chewie’s mate, and when the shouting started he had stayed in his room and played. The top of the bed had become the desert wastes of Tattooine, the space beneath it, the hangar bay of Mos Eisley. His suitcase, the Millenium Falcon.

He was dressed in his football kit, ready to go play with his dad in the small football field in the caravan park. He had been waiting for hours. His dad had gone to the cafe bar for a quick holiday drink, the same cafe where they had shared tall, cold glasses of knickerbocker glories, and cola floats. Sometimes they had ice-cream sandwiches. It wasn’t his fault he had come back drunk. Again. He worked hard, his father said, had worked overtime and covered people’s shifts so that they could go on holiday, and if he wanted a drink then he would have one.

That was what his father had yelled, sweat from the heat bathing his face.

His mother yelled back, sweat from her anger soaking her face.

That was when the boy had come out of the room. Just in time to see his father hit his mother.

Again.



4

The first wail of a police car drifted across the quiet sands and the boy dug harder. Nearly there. Nearly deep enough.

Sweat fell from his face, hiding the tears that stung his eyes and made it hard to see. His hands kept moving; dig, scoop, fling. Dig, scoop, fling.

Sand blew around him as the wind picked up, carrying the sounds of help and doom towards him. Dig, scoop, fling.

Dig…

His mother had fallen against the small table of the chalet, hitting her head and making her cry out in pain. He had seen his father snap out of his rage in that instant, worry flooding his face, disbelief at what he had done replacing his anger. He stepped forward to help.

Scoop…

Pain and embarrassment became a rage of her own and she had reached up, one hand on the table, the other on the chair, to lever herself onto her feet. Her hand had touched the knife and the next moment it had swept across his chest, opening up his shirt. At first he had simply stood there, disbelief on his face and then the blood had begun to run, a trickle that quickly became a torrent. He fell forward and she caught him.

Fling…

They fell to the ground together and rolled back and forth, each one struggling for the knife that lay at his feet. Mother’s head was beat against the floor. 

Father’s face had long scratches gouged into the skin.

And then somehow the knife was in his hand.

His arm stabbed forward; his leg, her chest. Their cries became grunts and startled shouts as the blade found its mark again and again. First him, then her. Her then him. Blood was everywhere and then suddenly all was silent.

Dig. Scoop. Fling.

He had stood there, staring at the unmoving bodies of his parents, no longer arguing. No longer shouting at each other. 

No longer breathing.

Dig. Scoop. Fling.



5

Crying openly now, he threw the plastic shovel aside and reached for the bundle.

The tea towel had once proudly declared the Sands of Llandulas a resort for families to relax. Now it was a bloody shroud. He unwrapped it, being very careful. Cautious of its contents.

Someone called his name. A man, a policeman, stood at the crest of the dune. Called his name again before running down the path towards him, so he would have to be quick, but he had to look one last time.

He peeled back the last layer of the towel. 

A knife.

Han Solo.

Both covered in blood.

‘Billy!’

He didn’t turn at the sound of his name. Just wrapped the towel once more and dropped the bundle into the hole. Using his hands, he scooped the sand back, covering them, burying the scraps of his last holiday into the hot, golden sands of Llandulas.


Copyright © Jonathan Peace 2022

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