zingmagazine10 autumn 1999







about zing


alexis vaillant
love for sale
lutwidge finch a novel: chapter 5
evil camouflage


The distilled essence of last year's harvest marked an invisible boundary crossed. His body unwound, relaxing a tension he had not even been aware of. It was at moments like these he thought, one must be insane to live in the city.

"How far be you going?" the old man asked.

"Little Dipping."

"Ah, you'll find what you're looking for there, sir."

"Will I?" He downed the cider more quickly than he would have liked, seeing the station master raise his flag, returned the cup and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. "What am I looking for, though?"

"Don't matter," the peasant said. "Whatever you are in search of, you will find it when you reach your destination."

The train was moving now. The drink, and the odd view Finch had, his head still stuck out, while the platform seemed to be physically transforming itself into a memory, the real life old man becoming a character to be savored in recollection, lent a giddy, mystical import to their exchange.

"But Little Dipping's just a stopping place," Lutwidge called. "i don't know my destination, really."

The whistle blew, obliterating whatever response the man might have given before turning.

Finch pulled his head in just as a solid branch flew by and almost decapitated him. Near miss, he thought. They make their cider potent in these parts. He sat back down, feeling his head to make sure it was still there. Wonder what the codger meant? Find what? Love? Well I've found that already. He probably thought I was off fox hunting, or in search of a good horse. He was suddenly aware of a stranger in the compartment, which had been empty since Bull Rushes. The occupant of the seat catty-corner to his own was an unexpectedly small boy, eight or nine years old, his feet dangling high above the floor. He wore a uniform of some sort but not from any school Finch knew. His hair was glossy and cut round, the thick fringe ending just above dark and shiny brown eyes. He regarded Lutwidge with hostility.

"First Class?"

"What?" Finch asked.

"You know this is the First Class compartment?"

"Yes," Finch said. "I know."