by Chris Clark
Conversation was, as it had been since she literally picked him up, sparse. Why had she picked him up? True, if she hadn’t slammed on the brakes and brought her truck to a screeching stop, various parts of his body would now be decorating farmers’ fields, just like those random advertising boards.
During its life the café they sat in had, at some point, been a caravan; one of those static, residential types that housed holidaying families. Memories of childish chatter and the salty, seaside smell made redundant by the desire for foreign travel and the sizzling smell of reheated grease.
Thumbing a used local paper, he thought about asking if she came here often, but decided wisely against it. So far on their terse journey, they had at least managed to exchange names, hers being Frankie.
“Short for?” he’d enquired.
“Frankie,” she replied.
“Where are we heading?”
“Does it really matter?” She curtly responded. “I’d say you look like you need to be anywhere, apart from where you are now.”
The tear in the knee of his suit trousers, and the ache in his back confirmed her assumption.
Cold, early morning sunshine slid in between the cracks in the caravan’s ill-fitting door and illuminated the stubborn dandelions outside that, despite the incessant traffic, turned the central reservation beautifully golden yellow.
“Resilient, aren’t they?”
Frankie stopped mopping up the breakfast juices. “What are?”
“And beautiful. Well, in their own way.”
She ignored him.
“Not in a conventional way like roses or lilies…”
Agitated: “What the hell are you on about?” she responded, using the denim cuff to wipe her mouth
A welcome blast of fresh spring morning air announced the arrival of the café’s next customer, and cut through the dense, stale tang, breaking his gaze.
“Sorry,” he turned to Frankie. “What were you saying?”
“I was asking what you’re on about – roses, lilies, beautiful, what the bloody hell was it about?”
“Dandelions?” she repeated.
“Yes, dandelions.” He returned to the mass of exposed weeds being pummelled by the surging traffic.
Frankie, not quite sure who, what, or for that matter why she had picked up this dishevelled Blues Brothers reject, was puzzled.
“Dandelions? What the hell have dandelions got to do with the situation you’re in?”
Tenderly, he felt at the rising bruises around his eyes. “Why d’you never answer your phone?”
Unbalanced, her guard momentarily slipped: “What?”
“Your phone. You say I’m in a situation, and I may well be, but someone who doesn’t answer their constantly vibrating phone must also be running from something?”
“It’s no wonder you’ve got them bruises, keep it out,” she snapped.
“Their roots go down deep; they pop up everywhere and anywhere; we used to think as kids that if you touched the stem you’d pee the bed that night.”
Smirking, she followed his gaze through the tired grey lace curtain, the grimy window, toward the discarded beauty of the golden dandelions.
“These,” he nodded towards the field of unrelenting, cheerful weeds, “will be here next year, the year after and the ones after that, overlooked, under valued, and, like most of us, just clinging on.”
Outside, a breeze, determined to see the cigarette unlit, forced him to cling to his crumpled trilby. Morning rush hour was in full procession, both carriages an industrious mosaic of cars, trucks, vans, all carrying people from and to places they needed to be.
“You getting in?” Frankie gestured towards the truck, her slim face camouflaged by a windswept tangle of brunette hair.
“No.” Plucking a dandelion from a crack in the concrete, he shouted above the snarling traffic. “I’ve decided there’s things, people, I need to face; I’m not running anymore.”
Frankie looked anxiously at the screen of her vibrating phone.
Threading the enduring dandelion through his buttonhole, “Answer it, what have you got to lose?” he called. “Maybe its time to make a stand, to stop running and put down some roots.”
Chris Clark’s scooter is heading for hibernation.