Following his disgrace at the paper, Ron McRain rented a place in Whitby, enjoying the sea breeze, the saltiness etc. He ate fish and chips on his knees in a living room not much bigger than an office cubicle. He watched TV. There was not much to do except walk down to the beach or up to the whale bones where he enjoyed the view of houses and cliffs and the sea sloping off into a blank horizon.
He got a job in a pub. The pay was shit but he siphoned off quite a bit of their booze which was the silver lining.
Maddie, the other barkeep, gave him shifty looks.
Who are you, Ron McRain? she said.
I’m Ron McRain, said Ron McRain.
Yeah, but really.
Maddie was always so creative with her eyebrows.
At the beach Ron McRain would bury a stone or a pebble or a piece of sea glass so when the tide came in it would remain undisturbed. He must’ve buried seventy-five stones that way.
He knew he’d bury more.
At the water’s edge he stood against the wind. Buffeted. Alone.
I used to be in newspapers, said Ron McRain, locking up one night with Maddie. Big ones and little ones, he said. The daily rags.
Is that right? said Maddie.
You ask a guy in the middle of a jungle in Borneo and he’s heard of at least one of them.
Maddie was emptying the till. She was quick, almost violent with the change. She turned to look at him.
But you’re no longer in newspapers, she said.
I am no longer in newspapers, he said.
Sometimes the wind swept off the North Sea taking his breath away. A great sensation. Like instant painless death.
I never liked the papers to be honest, said Maddie, clicking closed the till door.
Ron McRain stared at the wad of twenties in her pale hand. She gripped them like they were hers. She gripped them then let go of them, watching the notes flutter to the floor.
Whoops, she said. Big whoops.
He was not Ron McRain; he knew she knew.
The wind rattled at the windows.