Mark Russell

Ghost Gear

The town’s beach cleaning society meet every Sunday morning at 11.35am. Emma finds this a great relief because though she is passionate about picking up rubbish, she also likes to party. It means she picks up less than the others, but every bit helps, as Donna likes to say. Emma had been a member for six weeks when she decided she knew Donna well enough to ask why the time was so precise. ‘The church service ends at 11 o’clock. That gives Councillor and Mrs Meadows the chance to have a cup of tea and make their way here.’ Emma’s bag of marine debris was heavier than usual. ‘Are they in charge?’ she said. Donna waved to a group of women picking litter further up toward the sea wall. ‘Nobody’s in charge,’ she said, and then laughed a little. Emma stopped at a long, thick fishing line, four floats and a perfectly preserved lobster pot. ‘My god,’ she said. Donna motioned for her to help drag it to a collection point by the slipway. Emma was pale and sweating. She took a can of Lucozade from her backpack and drank. ‘Where did you go last night?’ Donna said. Emma wiped her mouth. ‘The Pink Corvette. Then we ended up at Scissors,’ she said. Donna tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. A tall, wide man appeared from the café on the promenade. He picked up Donna’s bag and put his hand out for Emma’s. ‘This is Kirk,’ Donna said. ‘My husband.’ Emma gave him her bag. He didn’t smile and left without talking. ‘I’ve never been to The Pink Corvette,’ Donna said. ‘Or the other one.’ They made their way up the beach to collect more bags. ‘I’ve never had a hangover, either.’ Donna’s hair had blown forward again. Emma reached out and tucked it behind her ear. ‘I wish he was dead,’ Donna said, taking Emma’s Lucozade and drinking. She wiped her mouth on her sleeve. ‘Every Saturday?’ she said. Emma nodded.

Mark Russell lives in the west of Scotland. His latest collections are Men Who Repeat Themselves (erbacce press) and Come to the River (Beir Bua Press). His poems have appeared recently in The Rialto, Stand, The Manchester Review, and New Writing Scotland.