Looking for Allyce Beasley
By Paul Evans
Marcus Crozier stood with a list in the quiet house. A jacket insulated him against the cold. Daylight angled unenthusiastically through splayed curtains, meagrely illuminating an upwelling of agitated dust: the dead skin of a dead man.
Lips pursed within an orderly goatee, his eyes scanned the handwritten paper before descending on the furthest bedside table. With uncomfortable impatience he navigated the bedroom and picked up the framed wedding picture.
Two pairs of time-frozen eyes smiled through him at a phantasmal photographer. A bell-bottomed sailor and a retro-trendy bride radiated joy, encased behind silver framed glass. Marcus had never met Lisa’s mother June, but immediately recognised the resemblance, mainly in the eyes and nose. He absently wondered how long after the image had been captured that the marriage had been consummated.
The photo was removed from its long term home to a stout cardboard box in accordance with Lisa’s list. Glancing at his watch, Marcus gauged that his wife should soon be landing in LAX to begin the process of repatriating her deceased father, Frank.
Exhaling a visible breath of dutiful boredom, he resumed the tying of loose ends.
Madras, India. 1995
As part of his standard first-day-alongside routine, Petty Officer Frank ‘Dicky’ Davis had remained onboard HMS Sheffield after shore leave had been piped to oversee the construction of the flight deck awning. Frank showered and changed into civilian clothes to rendezvous with his mess mates.
“I wouldn’t bother mate; it stinks,” broadcast the ship’s Missile Director, Dave Cunningham, on behalf of the returning multitude. “We’re going to smash in some beers onboard and put a video on.”
With resigned incredulity Frank returned to his six-berth cabin. Unlocking his waist-high personal locker he extracted a pristine packet of cigarettes from its duty free carton, wedged a folded bundle of fragrant, colourful currency into his jeans, and disembarked to see for himself.
The familiarity of the airlock door was juxtaposed with that of the view beyond. He emerged from the frigate’s air conditioned interior to the anticipated sensory overload. The ubiquitous soundtrack of road traffic horns accompanied a kaleidoscope of vibrant colour. Motionless alien flora took root among crumbling constructs of British legacy. Damp heat invaded his lungs as pores began undoing the benefit of his recent immersion.
At forty-nine this was Frank’s last Royal Navy deployment. Accustomed as he was to foreign ports, the feeling of displacement never abated; a perpetual stranger in a strange land. Traversing the gangway, he lit a cigarette and headed toward the makeshift security barrier at the end of the jetty. Behind the cordon was the usual entrepreneurial congregation where he could buy a telephone card. Frank had had no contact with June since Bahrain after conducting UN sanctioned embargo operations. The letters he had just received were three weeks old; he would phone home and buy a present for little Lisa.
Returning downstairs, Marcus checked on his four year old daughter, Rose, who was occupying herself with dolls at the kitchenette dining table. He registered the brownish yellow nicotine residue throughout the house with distaste. The property would have to sell cheaper as seen; he lacked the time or inclination to redecorate.
Whilst Frank had eventually fallen to sudden pneumonia, it had been his losing battle with lung cancer and inexplicable journey to America that had undoubtedly weakened him. Marcus failed to understand how Frank’s generation were oblivious of the health implications of smoking. Maybe they understood subliminally, but discounted it versus short-term benefit.
Marcus withdrew his mobile telephone to cancel the satellite TV subscription. He raised the omni-directional microwave transmitter to his ear. The closest telephone network base station was two miles away, and demanded the phone increase its power by a factor of eighty to effectively penetrate woodland, walls and brain.
Valuables collected, he took the first bin-liner into the living room and started bagged the detritus of life. Labelled video cassettes were cast down. He skimmed the neat handwriting, not unlike Lisa’s: ‘Moonlighting’.
Plymouth, England. 1986
Four years after abandoning ship due to Argentinean bombs, Frank sat with June having just returned from a four month counter narcotics deployment. June – strong, independent June – coped with their separation well, at the expense of an uncomfortable forty-eight hours after his homecoming.
They sat quietly, selecting the second series of ‘Moonlighting’ from the four available television channels.
June broke the ice:
“He’s good isn’t he? What’s his name?”
Frank referenced the Radio Times.
“Bruce Willis. Hmm. He’ll do alright for himself. No doubt he’ll spend the rest of his career making romantic comedies.”
“Wasn’t Cybill Shepherd in Taxi Driver?”
“She’ll never be short of a few bob; it’s that receptionist – what’s her name? Agnes – she’s the one who’ll probably never work again.”
June chuckled. “You’ll have to make sure she’s okay before you die.”
Frank visibly stiffened at the reminder of his mortality. June squeezed his hand.
“Do you think the world really is getting safer because of Glasnost and Perestroika?”
“Maybe it’s nearly safe enough to start planning a family.”
At home, little Rosie Crozier took the carved wooden elephant – which she had rescued from her Grandad’s house – to her bedroom. Told to position it facing the door, she lowered herself to its eye level to appreciate the elephant’s view.
She picked it up and put it on her window sill.
It wanted to see the world.