dead wrong

Over a hundred years ago, my great grandfather was the self-appointed "captain" of the Clifton Volunteer Surf Lifesaving Club. One fateful morning, as the story goes, great grandad and the members of the Club (a dozen neighbourhood boys aged between eight and twelve) met on the beach just after sunrise as was their practice and began setting up the equipment.

The surf was high that day, the breakers smashing into the boiling sea with resentment and vindictiveness. The wind too was angry: the boys wrapped their arms around themselves as protection from the stinging sand. Shivering in the icy cold air they hastily went about their preparations, taking care not to meet the eye of the pompous bully of a man looming above them. Great grandad of course took delight in demonstrating his imperviousness to pain, adopting his trademark posture of aggression: chest and jaw thrust forward, hands on hips, eyes narrowed with disapproval. The sky was grey and cloudy, the air cold and wet with drizzle that would soon swell to rain.

Although it was not yet seven-o-clock, if you had stood close enough you would have smelled the whiskey on great grandad's breath as he shouted his orders against the noise of the howling wind and crashing surf, marshalling the boys into their positions for the first drill. Miserably, anxiously, tearfully they obeyed. All but one, Johnny Harris, who was hard of hearing, so it wasn't his fault that he wasn't in the right place at the right time. In fact, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, as he was about to find out.

Great Grandad took Johnny's failure as a personal affront. Drunk on rage and fear and self-loathing, he picked up one of the "floaties" and threw it as far as he could into the surf. Then pointing to the sea he scowled at Johnny and shouted into the wind, "off you go, sonny, show us your stuff!".

to be continued

Copyright © S R Schwarz 2007. All rights reserved.

wicked and sick (refresh/home)