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    Mawgrim
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Travelling On - 9. The End of the Journey

It was hard to believe how different his life was now. Six months had passed since Shrovetide. When Craig had sent the email tendering his resignation - with slightly shaking hands - James had been there to support him. He’d also provided a strong cup of coffee to help him get over the shock of actually doing it.

The reply he’d received had been a very standard, ‘thanks for all you’ve done and wishing you well in your future career.’ Its impersonal nature had made him even more glad he’d finally decided to move on to a cinema-free life.

For that final month he’d just drifted along. He still cared and it wasn’t in his nature to do a sloppy job. Most of the managers at his cinemas had said they didn’t blame him at all. Some expressed concern at the standard of engineer who would be his replacement. Phil Myers took him out for a celebratory drink at the local pub.

The last week had reminded him of end of term at school, when you don’t really do very much. He didn’t have an official leaving do; getting everyone together from all over the country would be ‘too disruptive to our schedule’ as Nick said. But Emlyn, Tariq and Mike had met him at a site which wasn’t too far out for any of them and taken him for coffee and cake in one of the foyer coffee shops.

‘I can’t believe you’re actually going,’ Mike said, more than a few times.

‘Lucky bastard.’ Emlyn had decided to hang on and get his full retirement package. He’d said he was going to be as much of a thorn in the department’s side as he could, so maybe they’d pay him off to get rid of him earlier.

‘Might be handing mine in soon,’ Tariq said. He’d applied for an engineer’s job with an independent cinema chain and was about to have his second interview.

‘Let’s hope so.’

They’d all agreed to keep in contact, although Craig knew they probably wouldn’t. He’d no longer have anything in common with them any more. When he finally handed back his car, tools and phone, he felt a deep sense of relief, rather than regret.

He’d moved to James’s place a week later, piling all his stuff into the capacious boot of the three year old Nissan Qashqai he’d bought, Jerry’s cat basket strapped into the front seat. Madge had waved them off, promising to keep an eye on the house and whoever moved in.

Now it was almost the end of August. As he walked through the wood, a few leaves fluttered down. Before, he’d regarded leaves as annoying debris making pavements slippery. Now he appreciated their beauty as sunlight filtered through the thick canopy and those already fallen added to the soft carpet underfoot. This was the hill he’d struggled up on his first visit. Now he was ten pounds lighter and a lot fitter, he didn’t even get out of breath.

‘Hello,’ he called out as he neared the first cabin; the original one. He didn’t want to walk in on the guests unannounced. You never knew what they might be up to.

The young woman - Phoebe - stood up from her chair on the verandah. ‘That was quick,’ she said.

‘Well, I wasn’t busy and I thought you’d appreciate having the problem sorted.’

It was a quick job. The grub screw on the toilet flush handle had worked loose. Once he’d fixed it he went back outside. ‘All flushing again. Any other problems while I’m here?’

‘No, that’s lovely. Thanks.’

The young couple sat with their chilled white wine, watching the sun slowly sink over fields of golden stubble, now the wheat had been harvested. Archie’s herd of pedigree Friesians grazed on the pasture.

‘It’s so peaceful here,’ Phoebe said. ‘You’re so lucky to have this all year round.’

He smiled. ‘I know. It’s a beautiful part of the country.’ On the road, all seasons were much the same; the only difference being whether you switched on the air conditioning or the heating. ‘Well, have a good break and remember, just call if you need anything else.’

He strode back down towards the cottage. James had made salads earlier and would be ready to grill their steaks on the barbecue. Who knows where Jerry was. Once summer had arrived he sometimes disappeared for days at a time, often coming back with dead creatures as a present.

The cottage nestled in its valley, surrounded by a tapestry of differing shades of green. No smoke from the chimneys; it had been too hot to run the stove for the past few weeks. That wasn’t a problem since they’d installed an electric immersion heater in the tank for the warmer months.

He went round to the back of the house. The patio was mostly finished and the grass had been recently mowed. The garden needed planning and planting, but there was plenty of time to do all that. There was no rush, out here.

James looked up, smiling. ‘That was quick.’

‘It didn’t take much to fix.’

‘Grab yourself a beer and I’ll start cooking the steaks. How was work this afternoon?’

‘It’s been busy.’ Craig had found a part-time job at a local lawnmower shop two months previously. Some of the ride-on lawnmowers were closer to the size of small tractors, but then people tended to have large gardens round here. He was enjoying learning the ins and outs of their maintenance and repair.

He sat back in the recliner, watching condensation run down the outside of the bottle. ‘If someone had told me a year ago I’d be in love, living in the country and enjoying life without cinema, I’d have thought they were crazy. And it was all down to chance.’

The steaks sizzled, sending up a fragrant smoke. James looked up. ‘Maybe. Or perhaps it was fate giving you the nudge you needed.’

‘Well, whatever the reason, Im very glad it happened. Meeting you. All this.’ He gestured around the garden with his bottle.

‘And so am I. You know, earlier on today I was reminded of a story I heard, back when I was still slogging my guts out for someone else’s benefit.’

‘Oh yes?’ Craig had learned by now James had the sort of mind that remembered all sorts of snippets and every now and then, he’d dredge one up.

‘There was this beautiful island in the Caribbean with a very exclusive holiday resort. A couple of the guests took a stroll from their luxury accommodation down to the local harbour and saw some fishermen unloading their boats, which were only around half full. One of the tourists asked the locals how long it had taken them to catch their fish.

‘“Not long,” said one of the fishermen. The tourist asked why they hadn’t stayed out longer to catch more and the fisherman explained they had what they needed to feed their families.

‘“So, what do you do the rest of the time?”

‘The fishermen looked at each other and smiled. “We play with our kids and take siestas with our wives. In the evening we visit friends, have a few drinks, sing and dance. We have a full life.”

‘The tourists seemed puzzled by that. “But if you caught more fish, you could start selling some of what you catch. You could buy more boats until you owned a whole fleet, instead of just one. Eventually you’d have so many boats and catch so many fish, you could negotiate directly with the processing plant. You’d become rich and be able to move to whatever city you wanted. Then you could invest all that money and get even more wealthy.

‘“And how long would that take?” asked one of the fishermen.

‘The tourist shrugged. “Maybe fifteen, twenty years. Then, when you’d made your fortune you could afford holidays in a place like this. Maybe even take early retirement to spend more time with your families.”

‘The fishermen laughed with each other as if he’d just made a huge joke. Then one of them said, “With all due respect, sir, that’s what we’re already doing. Why waste fifteen or twenty years when we have it all right now?”’

Craig smiled. ‘I like that.’

James flipped the steaks over. ‘The moral of the story is to know what you want in life. And to be content with just enough.’

‘I know what I want in life.’ Craig put his bottle down and walked over to James, putting his arms around his waist. ‘You. This life. This place.’

James nestled against him. ‘I’ve never been so happy. So, what do you want to do this evening?’

‘I thought we could just sit out here, eat, drink, maybe even sing and dance a bit while the sun sinks over our wood. Sounds good to you?’

‘It sounds perfect.’ He served up the steaks onto two plates. ‘And then, to bed.’ He flashed Craig that irresistible smile and his blue eyes twinkled.

Craig sat back and took another swig of beer. Whoever said there was no such thing as a Hollywood ending?

Thank you for following this story. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing. I'd really appreciate it if you left a recommendation and/or review.

Copyright © 2021 Mawgrim; All Rights Reserved.
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"Roll the credits!"

Oh, there's only one - thanks Mawgrim for an entertaining and realistic story.

:thankyou:

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Thanks for sharing this with us, it home in so many spots, time was the relationship betwixt work and employee was so much different, valued and appreciated

The reply he’d received had been a very standard, ‘thanks for all you’ve done and wishing you well in your future career.’ Its impersonal nature had made him even more glad he’d finally decided to move on to a cinema-free life.

 

He strode back down towards the cottage. James had made salads earlier and would be ready to grill their steaks on the barbecue. Who knows where Jerry was. Once summer had arrived he sometimes disappeared for days at a time, often coming back with dead creatures as a present.

 

Jerry most likely would agree with the fishermen

‘“And how long would that take?” asked one of the fishermen.

‘The tourist shrugged. “Maybe fifteen, twenty years. Then, when you’d made your fortune you could afford holidays in a place like this. Maybe even take early retirement to spend more time with your families.”

‘The fishermen laughed with each other as if he’d just made a huge joke. Then one of them said, “With all due respect, sir, that’s what we’re already doing. Why waste fifteen or twenty years when we have it all right now?”’

Never forget, you can have all the wealth and more, if that's what you strive for, but with all that largess there's one thing you will never be able to afford or buy...more time with those you love and care for!!!

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3 hours ago, mrbossmant said:

I would not mind revisiting these two in the future and can't wait to see what you think of next. 

Couple of new stories in the pipeline, one a supernatural mystery, the other a fantasy story I wrote a while ago, but I’m re-editing and updating. Plus I’ll be submitting a couple to the next anthology.

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Thank you Mawgrim, absolutely loved this. Read the original anthology story and was so glad you continued and wrote this wonderful continuation of Craig and James's story. Would love to maybe have another glimpse of  these lives in the future. 

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Definitely would like more of Craig and James' story some day!

Can't wait for more tales from your fertile imagination....

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