Several years ago I started writing about a man called Gus who lived in a village very like our village here where I live. Gus lives on his own, and seems not to have a job; he’s lonely and sad and misses his ex-wife, more for her company than because he still has feelings for her. He doesn’t seem to work and spends a lot of his time walking, down by the water meadows, on the beach, round the boatyard, round the village, and he often ends up in the pub. I have no idea what I intended to happen in this story or where it was going or what I had planned to happen.
I shared the first part of the story four years ago – here:
Today I came across more stories about Gus… he’s still wandering about, lonely and alone but I still have no idea where the story is going! here is the next part:
Trudging across the water meadows and looking down the land was shadowed ad dark. The tufty grasses, the large-leaved plantains, the sea grasses were a dark mass beneath Gus’s feet. When he stopped and looked up, the sky was still light, a strange purple grey with a slight tinge of pink. The last rays of a hidden sun caught the hill and gave it a light outline as if drawn in chalk. Looking west to the sun set, the sea was dark, the sun a brilliant globe of vermilion, the sky lost in a pale wash of indeterminate colour.
It was somehow thrilling, but Gus was not thrilled. He turned his back on it and continued his tramp across the meadow which now seemed on the dark side of disk. A dog running past him made him jump; he was so lost in thought, had thought for a while that he was the only person still alive in the whole of the universe, that seeing this flash of black and white as the collie ran past him quite made him jump. He stopped and watched as it ran on, nosing among the scrubs of bushes and maritime plants.
He sort of wished it would come back and nose at him so he could pat and pet it, rub its ears have the sort of innocuous conversation one could have with a passing dog. But it sniffed around the suddenly darted off, straight as an arrow. He stood staring after it. Maybe he should get a dog. Maybe he would become so involved in its care and taking it for walks that he would forget about himself, forget about the web of misery which ensnared him and seemed unbreakable.
Last night some dog walkers had greeted him, conversed in cheery tones, he had vaguely and belatedly recognised them as people from the pub. If he’d had a dog maybe they would have stayed chatting…
“Good evening!” He literally jumped, startled by the voice which had arrived from nowhere. He had thought himself alone, but here was a figure striding past him, greeting him cheerfully.
“Good evening!” he called to the figure’s back, a small man or a woman he could not tell. “Lovely evening isn’t it?” He was desperate for converse, desperate to detain the stranger.
“Wonderful, lovely!” it was a woman with a low pleasant voice.
The dog raced back and twined round her legs so she had to stop and Gus was able to catch up. But then he could think of nothing to say.
“We’ve been lucky with the weather recently, haven’t we?” she asked with a warm, friendly voice. “It’s been beautiful… my neighbour has been hoping for rain but I’m sorry that I just love the sunny days we have been having.”
He had come up beside her but could not make out her face, whether she was old r young, attractive or ordinary. She was bent over the dog pulling something from its fur. He wanted to stop to converse but that would be too creepy, out here in the dusky meadows, the light now dying from the sky.
He strode past her. He clambered over the style and started along the path; there was a man standing in the middle of the track ahead of him, silhouetted against the sky. He was looking down towards Gus and seemed large and threatening, etiolated, extended legs, a short thick spider’s body, a tiny head. He was quite spooky but Gus clumped up the path towards him and the man stood aside for him to pass and responded in a pleasant voice to Gus’s ‘good evening.’
The path dipped down to another style and Gus wanted to look back to see if the man was staring after him, he had a sense of someone watching him, staring at him. He clambered rather awkwardly over the style and looked back along the path but it was empty, no-one at all on the pale smudge of the track. There was no spider-like man, no collie dog, and no slim woman with a low pleasant voice. Gus paused, straddling the style, curious, and for a moment wondering whether he should walk back along the path to see where dog, woman, man were.
He looked up at the sky and the stars were brilliant and he stayed for a while picking out the few constellations that he knew, but even after he climbed down from the style and reached the beach road, there was no sign of the people and creature he had seen. Should he walk back, casually as if he was just doing a walk of a certain distance, to this point and turn back? But no… and he did not know why but he felt uneasy all the same.
He walked along beside the rhyne, it was too dark tonight to see whether there were any ducks or not but he peered over the wall anyway. He walked on and did not meet the dog-walkers of the previous evening.
He crossed the road to the pub and there was a quiz beginning.
“Are you in the quiz?” a man asked. He had a pint pot with biros standing up like soldiers and a load of change in the bottom.
“I’m on my own,” Gus said.
“I say, would you like to join us, we’ve been let down by our team, an elderly lady with a halo of white frizzy hair called him.