Some Coins Now

(2 minute read)
by Tim Goldstone

(Wales)

I had been assured that traveller’s stories of dangerous packs of wild dogs roaming the old part of the port were nonsense. Just one more of the tall tales passed from backpacker to backpacker in that part of the world. But it had nonetheless dissuaded me from venturing down there to find the shop where I’d been told I could get my rucksack’s fraying shoulder straps mended – until a strap had come away completely and I had no choice. It was my grandad’s former army rucksack that I’d found in the attic and I liked how it was worn and battered so people would think I was an old hand at this travelling thing. I wasn’t. I hadn’t travelled anywhere before. I was always a cautious boy. “Boring,” my mum called it. I was only going so I’d be more interesting when I got back. But I’d been away almost a month now and nothing interesting had happened to me.

I looked warily up at the hand-painted sign: ‘The Great Landlubbers Haversack Emporium’ as it swayed back and forth in the breeze coming off the decaying stone-built harbour where a single cannon pointed out to sea and a gang of small children took it in turns to scare away any seagull attempting to land on the rusting black barrel. The smell of drying seaweed was overpowering. Sensibly, I’d noted exactly the way I’d come, so I wouldn’t get lost on the way back. I licked my dry lips and tasted salt. A stork flapped down from the roof and landed a few feet from me.

“Is always straps and buckles breaks first. So, I replaces all of them magnificently. No point strengthening bad ones. No point, so no bother with it. Now, always needs extra padding where sack touches your back. Your spine important. Sore spine – disaster for sack wearer. Bump-bump. Ow-ow. Some bruising. No point for you. So, and never enough pockets. I will add. And secret pockets too, clever for all borders – you’ll see. Everyone like very much – always. Hide pockets so good I need show you where they are, or never find!” And he laughed until his old eyes watered. When he had no more breath left to chuckle with he managed to wheeze out, “Anything else you want?”

Mesmerised, I said “I’ll leave it to you.”

He appeared to like that, patted me on the back and said “Good boy. You return two days. All ready. So, some coins now, rest of monies when you take away, extra money if you want give me for good work,” and he held out his hand for coins, which I gave him and he seemed happy with. “So, out you go,” he said, “I leave immediately buy food this minute and get drunk with rum,” and ushered me through the door with the grubby, patched canvas sail nailed to the inside of it, then pushed me out into the street. The children had gone. The cannon was white with seagulls. “What you do now?” he said.

“I don’t know,” I replied.

“Good boy,” he said, shooing the stork before him as he jangled the coins on his palm, then limping off hurriedly down a worn cobbled path, leaving me standing there alone, trying to process logically what had just happened, until, with no time left to think, the sudden sound of barking dogs approaching at speed propelled me on my way, realising too late this wasn’t the direction I’d come from.

Copyright © 2022 – Tim Goldstone. All rights reserved.

About the Author 

Tim Goldstone

Tim Goldstone is a published and broadcast writer. He has roamed widely, including throughout the UK, Western and Eastern Europe, and North Africa, and now lives in Wales where he disappears into marshland with a rucksack and a rescue dog. Prose sequence read on stage at The Hay Festival.

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