by Glenis Burgess
Nick’s eyes flash with excitement. He twists the coin, heads and heads again, across the back of his fingers, as he looks for Keith. He’s been up since dawn, getting his gear ready, checking and double-checking his straps, his ‘chute, his harness.
There’s never a soft landing, but for Nick that’s the fun, not knowing if this jump is his last, the sight of the earth racing up at him the last sight he’ll see, the wind’s roar, the last sound he’ll hear. Everything down to him, deliberate, calculating every move, wanting the unexpected, the chance to prove.
Nothing to match the feelings when he’s done it, when he’s landed. When he knows he’s won, beaten nature again. Nothing to match the danger and excitement.
He’s on the balcony as Keith turns into the street. He spins round, grabs the bag and is out of the door of his flat. He’s downstairs and on the pavement before the Disco stops.
“Hi mate,” says Keith with a yawn, “not late am I? Hey, watch out!”
Nick throws his bag into the back, narrowly missing the baby seat. He picks up a lurid fuzzy parrot from the floor, holds it at his shoulder.
“Pieces of eight, pieces of eight.”
Keith checks traffic over his right shoulder. He pulls away, signals left and glances towards Nick.
“Jesus, is that where it is. Janey’s been screaming the house down all night for that. We’ve neither of us had any sleep.” He signals right and moves to the centre of the road. “Mandy’s at the end of her tether. I’ll just call in at home with it before I drop you off.”
“Oh mate, that’s the other direction,” cries Nick, “I won’t get there in time. I’ll miss my slot.
“I’ve got to get it back to them. There’ll be other slots, other times. ”
“Come on, Keith. Look, if you drive like hell to the airfield, it won’t take longer than the one-way system.”
Keith stays where he is, waiting for a break in the traffic, signalling to turn towards home. With scarcely a second thought Nick knows what he’s got to do. Knows he’s up against a new force of nature.
“You’ve not forgotten what its like, have you, mate? Not forgotten already? All those Saturdays. Us. Together. Adrenalin pumping. Keep the memory, mate, keep the memory. Remember the doubleheaded coin – tails we don’t, heads we do. Both of us jumping together. Angel and devil. Falling together. You’ve not forgotten that. Have you, K? ”
Keith glances at him and makes his decision.
“Bastard. You always were the devil. Hold on.”
He jams the indicator to the left, sharply swinging into the traffic. Behind him angry horns hoot, brakes scream.
Nick pulls out the coin, twists it across the back of his fingers. Tails you lose, heads you win. He knew the pull of the past was still strong. Stronger than a pink parrot, he thinks, looking out of the window so Keith can’t see his smile.
As they hurtle towards the airfield, Nick feels it, the control over Keith adding to the surge, every atom within him focussing, building. Forgetting Keith, everything, in the pull of the risk ahead.
Glenis Burgess went to Bristol University, worked in theatre for a while. Started writing last year.