The lighthouse keeper has been spying on us because he has nothing better to do. He balances on rocks wet as seal backs, his trousers lined from knee to ankle, and we think maybe this time he’ll fall and the rocks will mash him like too-soft pasta. He doesn’t though. He won’t. Preachy Mabel, who walks her yapping dogs on the footpath and wears hats with more than one bobble, says we mustn’t call out to him; he’s not bothering you, she says. But he is fucking bothering us.
This time of year, we come here before home, when it’s dark enough that people walk about as if any unlit ground could turn to sea. We bundle vinegary parcels of chips into our coats, leaving warm stomachs and dead cold tops of our legs, and share them out with cider. There’s salt up our nose and bubbles in our chest and we are brimming. We’re thinking what else is tonight for; what else are we in for. And we know he’s there too. We recognise the glow of him, like a cigarette but brighter, wider, not the colour of burning. Leery, we call him. Can’t stop getting up his telescope. Looking over. Leery, obsessive loser. Can’t he just bloody look out to sea like he’s supposed to?
The rustling of waves where wall meets beach sounds like pissing. All of us, even the girls, give it a go, matching the water piss for piss. We’ve bundled our clothes from the waist up, feet wide apart and leaning, some of us over the railing and clutching back at metal. It’s late, midnight black, and we can hear each other giggling and see each other’s gloom. Then comes the eye of a torch. One of us shrieks, and we think, him, he’s somewhere close, and we roll our clothes back on fast.
What else does he see? Does he know our names? Our street? He never speaks; we have never seen the smallest movement of his lips. He raises the telescope, he changes where he stands. He is as steady as the rocks while the wind shunts us about.
That’s not it. That’s not all. We have been planting fireworks in the deserted beach and practicing holding a flame between our hands, like a secret from the wind, and knowing which way to leg it as sand booms and flies. The lighthouse keeper watches from a distance and reminds us of our parents, who’d only say how stupid we’ve been. Who’d know then where we’ve been being stupid and would want to know everything. Twice now someone’s gone home early, and it’s his leering that does it. The sense of being monitored.
So we are going to do more than yell at him. He doesn’t care about our shouting; nobody does, but him least. Well, we don’t care about his stupid lighthouse, what’s left of it. It’s gone. A crumbled, pathetic baby tooth where the shore used to be. He drowned. He should’ve stayed drowned. And we know where he keeps his telescope: propped in the crease of grey chopped-away rock. We’ve been watching too, haven’t we. We’re going to come back every morning before school until we get there first. Then we’ll take a hammer to the glass and the gold metal. We’ll bury the pieces all over the beach. Let him watch.
Eilise Norris writes flash fiction, poetry and short stories. She works in publishing by day and lives above a pub the rest of the time. Her recent fiction has appeared in Milk Candy Review and the 2019 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology. Twitter: @eilisecnorris.