Ness! Loch and Load (odds are stacked against you)
It does my heart good to see all creatures great and small come home to roost! Jack Horne has entered The First Annual Peggy Dobbs Write-of-Passage contest. Good-Ness gracious! Welcome back Jack!
Not quite sure how much $500 converts to British Sterling, but Jack has submitted a sterling story for our contest which offers the winner not only bragging rights and the likelihood of impressing personages of assorted genders, but $500 USD and a trophy (as yet to be created). If you would like a chance to win, here are the the contest parameters.
SEEING IS BELIEVING
by Jack Horne
“Over there” – Sheila pointed – “it’s Nessie!”
The other elderly people looked across the loch, but clearly saw nothing but rough-looking grey water.
“Well, it’s gone now,” her friend muttered. “Can we get back to the coach? I’m freezing.”
“No, it’s still there,” Sheila said, pointing again for her friend’s benefit. “Can’t you see it, Vi?”
Violet shook her curly head. “I think you had too much wine at lunch, dear,” she said.
“I only had one glass of chardonnay.”
“Or she’s going senile,’ a sour-faced old lady remarked loudly in tones she presumably thought were sotto voce.
‘You’re the senile one,” Sheila scowled. “You don’t even know that your skirt is tucked in your knickers.”
Everyone turned to watch the red-faced woman adjusting her skirt.
Violet sniggered. “Oh, Sheila,” she said. “Trust you.”
“Cataracts,” the plump coach driver said. “My mam had ‘em.” He smiled at Sheila. “Get your eyes checked, love.”
“I don’t even need to wear glasses,” Sheila snapped. “I’d say your eyes need testing, the way you drive.”
She ignored the driver’s indignant reply, and fumbled with her camera. She’d get a picture of it – that would shut them all up!
If a young woman had seen Nessie, they would have believed her, she thought, looking around at the members of the Age Concern group. I’m younger than most of these, anyway. Perhaps I should dye my hair, as my Sarah suggested. It’s nearly as grey as Vi’s. She remembered her daughter’s comment, “Being blonde again would suit you. Maybe you’ll even get a boyfriend, Mum. I swear, it’s not too late.” She shook her head. Silly girl. No one could replace Arthur.
Her camera was ready at last. She looked towards the loch again and she, too, saw just water, the same shade of grey as the sky.
“I saw it,” a thin voice told them.
Sheila turned to see a wizened man, his form bent nearly double.
“You did?” she asked, treating him to a rare flash of her new dentures.
He nodded. “I’ve always been able to see ghosts,” he wheezed.
Sheila’s blue eyes widened. “Ghosts?”
Violet laughed nervously. “Come on, dear,” she said, pulling at Sheila’s sleeve. “Let’s get on the coach.”
Sheila shook her arm free. She studied the old man. “You’re saying Nessie is a ghost?” she asked.
He nodded again.
“What makes you say that?”
“Okay, folks,” the driver said. “Let’s get moving again. What did you all think of Loch Ness? As I said, there’s not much to see, really.”
Sheila ignored the driver and repeated her question.
“It’s the only logical explanation. Some see it, some don’t.” The old man had a coughing fit and had to be helped onto the coach.
“Ladies, please,” the driver was getting impatient.
Sheila and Violet boarded the coach. “It’s your turn to sit by the window,” Sheila said.
She thought over the old man’s comments. She’d chat with him at the next opportunity. It was strange that no one but the two of them had seen Nessie.
She remembered the times she’d seen an elderly lady in her bedroom as a child. She could still vividly remember the woman’s Victorian dress. No one had believed her. Her mother had told her not to be silly, and said that she was making stories up to deliberately frighten her sister.
Sheila still recalled the relief she’d felt when her father’s sister had visited one Christmas and had matter-of-factly asked, “Did you know the girls’ bedroom is haunted? I’ve just seen a woman in Victorian clothes.”
Her childhood memories were abruptly disturbed when someone at the back of the coach called to the driver to stop.
“I think this old man’s just died,” a woman announced breathlessly.
“I’ll call an ambulance,” a man shouted. “Where are we?”
The driver pulled in. “We’re still at Loch Ness,” he said. “Tell them we’re near Urquhart Castle.”
Sheila instinctively knew it was her ally. Sure enough, when she turned to look, she saw the flustered driver checking the wizened old man for a pulse.
Sheila felt tears sting her eyes. She was so disappointed. The old man could have told the others that she wasn’t senile or drunk, and that she didn’t have sight problems. She suddenly realized how selfish she was being. Ashamed, as though everyone on the coach knew her thoughts, she said to Violet, “Poor old chap. He seemed so nice too.”
Violet, too, was crying. She nodded. “It reminds me of how my George went,” she sniffed.
Sheila fought the urge to point out that George had died at the local pub. She patted her friend’s hand.
The ambulance arrived and everyone trooped off the coach. No one seemed interested in the view of the steel grey water, and stood in little groups to discuss the elderly man’s demise, their inquisitive eyes on the paramedics inside the coach.
Sheila and Violet stood apart from the others, looking out over the loch.
Suddenly, Sheila glimpsed a hump emerge from the water. She watched, feeling as though she were literally cemented to the tarmac. This time she didn’t dare to speak. She wasn’t going to make a fool of herself twice – she wasn’t even going to tell Violet.
Violet buttoned her coat. “Aren’t you cold?” she asked. “I’m freezing.”
Sheila didn’t answer. She watched as a dark head broke the surface of the water, and then a long neck followed.
She wondered if she was indeed seeing the ghost of a creature that had lived in the loch thousands of years ago. If only the old man was still alive!
The creature in the loch seemed to be looking directly at her. She wondered if it was seeing two small grey-haired ladies on the shore or some prehistoric creatures that had been there in its day.
A police car arrived. The door opened and a hulking Sergeant climbed out. He just happened to glance at the loch at that moment and shouted, “Look – Nessie!”