Welcome to the promised new serialisation from the Eclectics, which will post at the same time every Monday for the next few weeks. I have fond memories of outlining Coldwater Cottage in a bar in Dahab, in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, looking out over the Red Sea that I couldn’t dive in because I’d come down with a cold. Perhaps that explains why Ian doesn’t have a wonderful time on his own dive, but I hope you’ll have a good time following him under the English Channel to Coldwater Cottage:
“Don’t.” Ian was tense, and he wanted Jakki to know it.
Jakki sighed and tucked the cigarette packet back into her cagoule. “It’s not dope, Big Brother, it’s just a fag.”
Ian waved at the can connected to the outboard motor. “This is just a tank of petrol. It doesn’t know the difference.”
Jakki gave him a look he’d seen a thousand times on the faces of the teenage runaways, prostitutes and drug addicts he spent his weekdays trying to turn into something other than human detritus. It was a look that said, ‘I know you mean well, but what you’re saying has nothing to do with me’. It always frustrated him, but seeing the same look on his sister’s face hurt him in ways he doubted she could imagine.
“Here, zip me up will you?” He said.
Jakki half crouched and half crawled over to him, unused to the motion of the small boat. He showed her how to close the zip across his shoulders and seal him into his drysuit. He attached the buoyancy jacket to the scuba tank and checked the regulators. Two hundred bars of air should give him plenty of time, but making the checks alone left him feeling naked. He was breaking the first rule of diving by going alone, and his club only let him hire the equipment because he said he was meeting a friend from another club.
“You know there probably won’t be a thing down there but a pile of boulders?”
“You’ll find the cottage. Mum will help you.”
It was like trying to persuade an addict to clean up. Their mother had died in a car crash eighteen years ago, when he’d been six and she was two. Ian could see how she’d built her hazy memories into a guide and guardian angel over the years they’d been apart, but that didn’t make it any more likely he’d find a house that had fallen off the edge of a cliff. He looked at the fortnight-old scar in the chalk where several hundred tons of rock had crumbled beneath their childhood home and dropped it into the English Channel, probably crushing and burying it in the process. It was eleven years since Ian promised himself he would never set eyes on Coldwater Cottage again. He didn’t think he was likely to break the promise today.
Next week: The Dive
Cover by Manda Benson
Other stories by DJ Cockburn available online