Someone has spilt their drink and the wasp can’t help itself. It crawls down the overturned pint glass and settles at the bottom. I don’t know if I should let it suck every last dreg till it curls up dead or if I should just put it out of its misery right now.
Kate walks up between the Ship Inn and the Crab Shack. The tide is in. Sat on the jetty, my toes are almost in the water. A group of dogs are playing at the shoreline like a bunch of little kids.
All I can think of is the wasp at the bottom of his glass.
The benches outside the Ship are rammed with people and pints. I swat away another wasp when Kate gets close, so it doesn’t fall into the overturned pint glass also. Kate has to turn sideways to get past a group of rugby boys. She sits down, legs dangling over the jetty, and hands me a pint of scrumpy.
She says, – One drink, babes. You can have one drink and no more. Please only have one drink.
The wasp climbs up the side of the knocked-over glass. It falls down and ends up on its back. It manages to buzz until it is the right way round again. I say, – One drink.
I look down at the beach in front of The Ship. The last Atlantic storm has brought a barrier of wooden flotsam down the Teign to where the water meets the sand. The current is still strong. If anyone fell off the jetty then the people above the shoreline would have to watch them sink.
– I’m only saying it cos I love you, Kate says. – Babes, we all love you. Even Millie. We always will. But you have to stop drinking so much.
Past the Crab Shack is a hundred-yard row of balconied beach apartments. Each balcony is full of people smoking and chatting and laughing. If you look away from the wasp and your sister and look at their happy faces then you can forget who you are for a moment.
Kate leans back and swats a wasp. – God, these bloody things. They can’t leave the drink alone. They’re mad for it. And as soon as they’re in they never get out.
You can see Millie leaning over one of the balconies. Enjoying a cigarette. Inhaling then laughing out smoke when someone says something clever. She spots me and stops smiling. The colour drains from her face from the hairline down. Everyone around her is too busy chatting and laughing to notice.
You’re going to kill it. You’re going to kill this wasp then push yourself off the side.
I put my hand in the overturned pint glass. The wasp crawls onto my palm. It knows what is coming, it can sense it.
– What are you doing? Kate says. – Put it down.
And the wasp takes its chance. It stings me on the heart line and flies away. – One drink, I say. – I promise it will be my last.