Andrew Boulton

Keeping

The lighthouse keeper was buried head first in the sand, so at first all Vince could see were his rough black boots.

It didn’t take Vince long to dig him out. The sand was wet, even this far from the shore and, in the way he had to as a boy, he soon found a shell that would work instead of a spade.

Vince held the tiny lighthouse keeper in his hand has he brushed away the stubborn sand. It was inexpertly carved from wood and even less expertly painted. But the yellow coat, faded to English mustard by the salt, and the chipped white beard made it clear enough what the figure was supposed to be.

Back in the lighthouse, where Vince had been squatting since the last fight, the final fight, with his grandfather, he placed the small keeper by the window facing, as duty demanded, out to sea.

When Vince woke up, as usual with the dry burn of bad cider in his throat, he lit his first cigarette and swore his first swear of the day.

The paper of the cigarette clung dryly to his lip and his lighter distractedly puffed up the very last of its fuel.

But when Vince looked up to where he had left the lighthouse keeper it seemed bigger. Not much, but certainly larger. The uneven black buttons, only four from six surviving the weather, were now the size of a baby’s finger print.

Over the next few days, the lighthouse keeper seemed to grow a little more every night. But by now Vince was drinking even cheaper booze and smoking scavenged tobacco and had only been this long without a dose twice in his life.

By the following Monday, a week since he’d found it, the lighthouse keeper was as tall as Vince’s cracked phone. A week later, it was nearly the size of the whiskey bottles sharing the shelf.

But Vince, if not assured in withdrawal, was at least experienced in it, and he maintained the robust sense of logic an unravelling mind demands.

Yet, as Vince woke up each morning to find his skin painful and tight, he also woke up to a taller, fatter lighthouse keeper.

Until, on this morning, Vince opened his eyes to the unbroken ocean. He was not in his bed, he was standing on the window sill, unable to move or to cry out or even to reach for the tobacco he kept in the mitten his grandmother had knitted for him as a boy.

And behind him, in the very edge of Vince’s immovable gaze, he saw a great yellow shape piling Vince’s belongings into a bin bag.

*

Biography

Andrew Boulton is a Creative Advertising lecturer from Nottingham. He is new to the world of short story writing and lives with his wife, 3 year old daughter and a chubby cat.

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