Short Story – ‘The Pier’

Read an extract from ‘The Pier’ – a prize-winning short story:

The pier demanded to be walked.  There it was right in the middle of the view from Harold’s window, the sea view for which he paid extra.  The pier was the next best thing to a mountain and he’d climbed plenty of those in his time.

So he was getting himself in training.  He’d come a long way since the stroke when that bossy physio, bless her, made him practise with the Zimmer up and down the corridor.  She’d been the first glimmer of hope that he could take control of his life again.  And take control of his life is what he intended to do.  Now he could make it to the shop on the corner to buy a newspaper, but it still took him ten minutes for his pulse rate to return to normal.  He’d sit on the bench in the hall watching the hands of the grandfather clock jolting round as he listened to his heartbeat.  In the early days it took nearly half an hour before he was ready to climb the stairs.  But he never would take the lift.

He had a master plan.  When he was down to five minutes recovery time he would extend his walk as far as the promenade and watch the waves.  The next stage would be the deck chair stand, then the entrance to the pier and finally the pier itself.  He’d reckoned it all up with the help of his pocket calculator and he figured he’d be on the end of the pier at sixteen hundred hours in six weeks time.  Operation Opportunity.  That’s what he called it.  He wasn’t going to push his luck and risk a second stroke.  He’d been lucky to recover from the first.  Losing his independence – damn sight more scary than any of the dangers he’d encountered on a mountain and he might not recover so well a second time.  Harold had no intention of surviving as a vegetable.

He’d reckoned without Ida and her friend Doris.  It was the third time he’d walked to the seafront and they were leaning on the rail a few yards along, laughing and smoking.  Every now and then he picked up a whiff of perfume on the breeze.  It reminded him of holiday romances: the glow of cigarettes in the dark, the click of a powder compact, the smell of sweat and lilies of the valley.  He felt intoxicated…

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