‘I smile. Her warmth is contagious.’
Extract taken from Fin & Rye & Firefies
By Harry Cook
Published by Black and White Publishing
I wander down the street, the sky the colour of honey and the trees full of acorns. I have to hand it to Lochport; the town itself is pretty cute. I stroll into the centre, which takes about five minutes from our place, and find it full of maple and oak trees, rustic old buildings with shop signs like ‘Smith’s Candies’ and ‘McElroy’s Fish & Chippie’ and a wooden dock that looks like it’s from the set of JAWS. A bright yellow bike with a pink seat leans against the window of McElroy’s. It has a scribbled sign that reads ‘Free to a good home’ followed by another sign underneath that reads: ‘Just kidding. $50. Pay within for the key.’ The bike’s wheels are locked with a chain. I have a small wad of savings, $150 to be precise, from my job at a coffee store back in Pittford, and I figure a bike of this kind – especially that pink seat – is a sensational investment. I open the door and let myself in, a bell jingling somewhere out back. The smell of fish overpowers me like a chemical attack.
‘Hello?’ I say, calling into the abyss. ‘I . . . I’d like to buy the bike.’
A rummaging noise comes from behind the plastic curtain and a woman wearing a yellow rain mac, high-top wellies and a fisherman’s hat comes out to greet me; she’s plump with big kind eyes and a button nose.
‘Sorry, love. We just got a new delivery in and my hearing ain’t what it used to be. You been waiting long? What can I get for ya?’
I smile. Her warmth is contagious.
‘I was . . . I’m new here,’ I say. ‘I was actually hoping to buy that bike out front?’
‘Oh that?’ she says. ‘Oh, take it. You’d be doing me a favour! My daughter, Poppy, she put that fifty-dollar sign out front under mine. She calls herself a “hustler”.’
The door behind me swings open and cool air tickles the back of my neck.
‘Speak of the devil. We were just discussing your hustling skills, darling.’
Poppy, dark hair with piercing green eyes, leans over the counter next to me and gives her mother a kiss on the cheek.
‘Poppy McElroy,’ she says, offering me her hand to shake. I can’t help but notice that it’s emblazoned with a ring on nearly every finger.
‘Fin Whittle,’ I reply.
‘And I’m Isla,’ Poppy’s mother says, walking around to the front of the counter with a key on a pompom fob. ‘They call me a local treasure.’
‘Yeah, right. I take it you didn’t get the fifty dollars for my bike?’ Poppy asks, a crease in her forehead the size of the Grand Canyon.
‘Mr Whittle here is kindly giving your old bike a new home,’ Isla says with a grin as we follow her out on to the street. ‘I refuse to take money from a new neighbour,’ she continues, unlocking the bike and presenting it to me like it’s a showroom-fresh Mercedes S Class.
‘Thank you so much,’ I say, glancing at Poppy who rolls her eyes and gives me the hint of a smile.
The three of us stand silently for a moment, the only noise coming from the splash of the ocean against the dock just across the street.
‘I see Rye still hasn’t caught anything,’ Poppy says, giving a nod to where a guy roughly my age is sitting on an upturned bucket with a fishing rod bobbing up and down in the grey sea. Next to him squats an English Bulldog, drool pooling under its cheeks.
‘Not a thing,’ Isla says with a giggle. ‘Your friend’s a terrible fisherman.’ And with that she heads back into the store to serve a customer.
Poppy turns to look me up and down.
‘Fin, was it?’
‘Cool name,’ Poppy says, flashing me a grin which just as suddenly fades as something behind me catches her eye.
I follow her gaze across to the wharf.
Two guys and two girls are now standing a little way off from Poppy’s friend Rye and laughing. At first I pay no attention to anything other than the adorable English Bulldog, but then I hear the word.
Fin & Rye & Firefies by Harry Cook is published by Black and White Publishing, priced £7.99.