They were abandoned with empty drinks bottles, crisp packets, sweet wrappers, food cartons and plastic bags on scrubland by the A3. Two items with stories to tell yet only they knew the true one.
The imagination has many stories to tell, open ended tales, guesswork and sheer lies lurk there and the reader soaks it all up and lets them marinate, the meat of the words and the bones of a former life.
The L Plate now discarded in an act of triumph over an examiners worst, was a celebratory ripping off of the vehicle and a toss to the wind, the chance to drive those lessons to the wall, metaphorically, one would hope. Yet maybe it was an act of despair in failure, an announcement that never again would the learner put him or herself through this. It was over. The shame, the jibes of friends who have passed beyond the barrier, of a re-take, of confidence and self esteem falling to its lowest was all too much.
Then again perhaps it was a kindly meant gesture, the promise of lessons unasked for and left like an unwanted gift on the roadside.
Or…..it was never fixed correctly to the vehicle in the first place and it just blew away in a gust of wind while the car kangarooed from some roadside curb.
The L Plate is a reminder that all through life we are learners. Lessons are sometimes easy but the best ones are hard, uncomfortable, teeth gritting. And stories always remain with new adventures, new things to learn. We may discard the L Plate but we will soon acquire a new one.
The flipper – now there really is a story! Antonio Mason was the son of an Englishman but his mother was Italian. In his early years Antonio and his family lived along the Amalfi Coast where his father worked as part of a team of Oceanographers from a university in London. Before he could walk Antonio could swim, his older brother Paolo too. His mother was proud of her ‘two little fishes’. Then when Antonio was about four the family moved back to London. They all missed the sea but the two boys kept up their swimming and later joined a swimming club. As they grew they began winning medals and cups for the club and themselves. On reaching teenage years Paolo discovered girls and lost interest in swimming at competition level. Antonio’s mother put all her hopes in him and saw an Olympic swimmer in the making. Antonio, though, had other ideas. He wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and this he eventually did.
Years later Antonio and his father were on an expedition together in the arctic. And this is where you, dear reader, have a choice. There are three potential endings to this story. Which one will you choose? Here they are:
Ending One Antonio was nearing the end of his dive when suddenly there was a problem. His safety line became caught on something far down in the ocean. He tugged but was unable to free himself. He pulled the line to indicate there was a problem and waited, still trying to free himself but to no avail. The air in his tank was diminishing and he began to panic. He thought about Lulu, the girl he was going home to marry. Just a week or so, just a week or so……
Above Antonio’s father and a colleague prepared to go down to rescue him. They had to break a larger hole in the ice. Snow was a blizzard. Conditions were hazardous. By the time the two men found Antonio it was too late. The lack of air and the cold had got to him and he had died.
The body was flown home and Antonio’s mother, who was utterly devastated, told her husband to throw away all Antonio’s underwater equipment. She couldn’t bear to have it in the house. Antonio’s father did as he was told but kept back one flipper, a sentimental reminder of the child he has lost. Some months later Antonio’s mother found the flipper. Upset, she took it with her as she drove out of London. She was distressed and didn’t know what to do. Her head was filled with memories of Antonio as a boy in Italy, swimming for his club, the lovely man he had grown into. As she drove back towards home along the A3 she suddenly pulled over, rolled down the passenger window and threw the flipper out as far as she could. It landed in the scrub. She rewound the window and drove home, her heart aching with sadness.
Ending Two The expedition to the arctic was successful but for once all Antonio could think about was Lulu – the girl he was due to marry a week later. On his return his friends and his brother Paolo arranged a stag night at a club in the Surrey countryside. It was a reckless evening with a stripper (French Maid) and lots of drinking. In fact at one point Antonio passed out. On the journey home he was vaguely aware of movement through darkness. Later he was removed from the car and he thought he was home. He smiled lopsidedly and tried to focus. Someone was taking off his jacket and other clothes. Maybe he’d thrown up over them! He went into a sort of doze. When he came to he was chained to some wooden fencing by the side of the road in nothing but his pants and flippers. It was growing light, chilly and cars were passing making his head ache. Antonio heard a car stop, raised his head and saw a Police car and officers getting out.
Eventually he was freed but as he clumsily flapped his way to the Police car one of the flippers came off. Antonio looked behind but he was too tired and hung over to protest. He left and the flipper remained at the roadside.
Ending Three Antonio’s mind was not on the job. Before coming to the arctic he’d become suspicious that his girlfriend, Lulu, was having an affair with his brother who was married to a nice girl called Alice. They’d not long ago had a baby boy. Antonio had said nothing to anyone but his head was all over the place, so much so that his father was worried. It was risky having someone on the team whose mind wasn’t alert. One mistake could cost a life. In the end Antonio’s father ordered him to leave and sort himself out. When the next helicopter arrived with supplies Antonio was on it for the return flight.
As he entered his flat Antonio heard laughter coming from the bedroom. He opened the door and there was Lulu on the bed starkers and Paolo standing at the side wearing nothing but a snorkel and flippers. The surprise on the faces of the two would always stay with him. Antonio’s anger overflowed. He punched Paolo on the chin sending him reeling into the chest of drawers before sliding to the floor.
‘Get out,’ Antonio shouted at Lulu, ‘Get out and don’t come back.’ He threw some clothes at her and she scrambled off the bed.
Paolo got to his feet with difficulty, treading on the flippers and continually losing his balance. In another situation the sight would have been funny. Paolo pulled off the snorkel and took a deep breath.
‘It was just a bit of fun.’ Paolo said.
‘Fun? Fun? You call this fun?’
‘Well it was before you came in.’
Antonio grabbed his brother by the arm and pulled him towards the door. Lulu was in the hall struggling into jeans as the two bundled out from the bedroom.
‘You cheating pair of lowlifes.’
‘What about my things?’ whinged Lulu.
‘I’ll find them a decent home. Now go. And you,’ he prodded a finger at Paolo, ‘go back to your wife.’
Antonio opened the front door and pushed the pair of them out. Paolo’s foot caught in the door as Antonio tried to close it. A flipper was stuck in the gap. As Paolo wrenched it free the flipper came off and Paolo fell backwards. Antonio slammed the door. He found some black sacks and put all Lulu’s belongings into them. As he tied the bags he saw the flipper still on the hall floor. He picked it up and stuffed it in the best he could.
He’d intended to take the bags to a charity shop but in his anger he threw them on to some wasteland on the A3. The bags rolled down the hill but not before the flipper came loose in the force of the landing and detached itself from the bag. Antonio didn’t notice as he drove away. He was still fuming and feeling betrayed by two people he loved.
Which ending did you pick? Which one did you like the best? Maybe you have an ending of your own. Stories wait there for the inventing. Invent one!
Please share your thoughts/alternative ending!