By Parson Thru
Danny and Arthur sat under the awning of the old store-boat on the wharf. Dennis had crawled off to sleep in his cruiser. Low voices could be heard from the houseboat down on the pontoon. The rain fell steadily in a light curtain.
The sun would soon rise from landward in the east, but a thick blanket of cloud kept it at bay for now. The two men watched the rain fall. They had been listening to it in silence for some time.
“So, come on, Arthur, tell me about yourself. Mr. Mystery Man.”
“I could ask you the same.”
“Aw, mate. That’s too easy. I just move around, that’s all. But I can tell you where I’ve been and how I got there. I was down in Totnes last. Before that, some friends up in Hebden Bridge. I’m gonna try to get to Italy at some point.”
“Yeah. How did you know?”
“There’s always a girl. Well, nearly always.”
“No shit. So. King of the Britons.”
“Give me some more of that.”
“Man! It’s time you learned to skin-up.”
Danny retrieved the makings from a pouch.
“I was wondering... how old are you, Arthur?”
Arthur smiled with a mischievous twinkle and picked up the demijohn of Old Leery.
Danny deftly rolled a new stick and lit it. The end flared for a moment, lighting up the space under the awning. He took a toke to test it out, then passed it to Arthur.
“I'm not sure it's a good idea to mix this with all that cider. It could have repercussions.”
Arthur took a decent pull, admired the handiwork, then handed it back.
“This is good. Very good.”
“I know. And you’ve been bogarting the lot.”
They listened to the voices in the houseboat through the hiss of rain and the call of a coot somewhere in the darkness.
"Ok, then." Danny persisted, "Where are you from?"
“It’s not so much where, as when.”
“Well you must have been somewhere. You've only been here a few weeks.”
Arthur thought for a while.
“I’ll tell you, Danny. Because I don’t think anyone will believe a word of it even if you tell them.”
Danny slapped him on the leg.
“Come on then, fella. Tell me where you’ve been.”
Danny passed the smoke back to Arthur, who stared into the smouldering end.
“I come whenever the nation is in peril. The Germans had defeated our army in France. They were choking off supplies from across the sea. Britain stood alone.”
“Mmmmm. Second World War? Dunkirk? Were you there, Arthur? My great-granddad was there.”
“Not so much there, as then.”
“Fookin ell. No shit? Straight up, like?”
Arthur looked quizzically at Danny.
“Sorry, mate. I mean, really? You were in the war?”
“Around it at different points.”
“So you won it and came here?”
“It’s not that simple.”
“What did you call that? Hanging on to it?”
“Bogarting. Here. Tell me what you did.”
“I got someone to convince Churchill to sit on some information.”
“Come on! Winnie? You talked to Winnie?”
“No. To some sailors, but important ones.”
“No shit. Hurry up with that.”
Arthur passed the depleted boonie back.
“What did they say?”
“That it was in the national interest to look the other way.”
“You’ve lost me.”
“The Japanese attack on the Pacific Fleet.”
“Pearl Fucking Harbor?”
“Get outta here! That’s fucking mad.”
“See? Our secret is safe.”
“So why did you come here?”
“Here in this boatyard, or here now?”
“Both, but here now first.”
Arthur wagged his fingers and Danny passed the roach back.
“Kill it, mate. Why now?”
“Because I heard millions of Britons in anguish. They wanted to take back control from the aggressor.”
“Aw, mate. I’m really sorry but, fuck me, you might have got it wrong this time. Good shout, though.”
“There’s no invasion this time, is there?”
“No, mate. Look upon it as a holiday. A chance to get blatted with a few mates.”
“I’m off to hit the sack, fella. I wanna be on the road when it gets light. Just need this rain to ease up.”
“Me, too. I’m not needed here.” Arthur squinted at Danny. “It’s been nice. A real pleasure.”
Danny put his arm around Arthur and gave him a firm man-hug. “Same.”
“Anyway,” Arthur tossed the roach behind him, “don’t let the rain stop you. It’s only water.”
He stood up and wiped himself down, then reached his hand down to Danny and the two shook.
“Coolio. Catchya later, bro.”
Danny watched him walk through the hulls and debris, then out of the boatyard.
“Your secret’s safe with me, Art.” he said to himself. “No fucker would believe me anyway.”
There was still no light in the east.
Proposed final scene of rewrite.