This would make an arresting opening scene of a movie, I thought, on my way to Heathrow to drop off my rental before crossing the channel for an assignment.  I had a little time to spare so exited the motorway, backtracking to her.  You never know when or where opportunity might present, and my luck was in often enough in those days.

Adapted to Britain’s wet weather, I parked in the emergency lane, indicator flashing.  Minolta always ready, roughly counting cash I carried, I knew I could change at the airport.  Her face lined, perfect, perfect, hair dark grey, silver jewels of fine misty rain set in, adorning it, lowering cloud shielding shrieking jets from our sight, I approached, smiling, choosing words, the right tone, body language.

She sat, silent, upright on a rug spread over the grass with her few possessions exposed, lorries slamming by on an overpass, tyre whine like a tomcat fight.  Asking how I might help, aware of time’s ruthlessness, I started recording even as I sought permission.  Those who record cannot intervene; those who intervene cannot record.  A pro, I sometimes disliked my voyeuristic self but honoured and respected timing.

Her face trickling with that rain, she looked like a gypsy beggar, her story an oral jigsaw of staccato bursts, dark eyes furious, nostrils flared, while I moved about her, sometimes for Dutch angle shots, murmuring encouragement.  This fallen woman daft with rage who could have spilled from a grimoire’s page presented a magnificent study.  I figured a man’s involvement.  No.  Two men, one her lover, the other a stranger, both hokey.  I would have given her angel’s wings if magic power were mine, capturing her lift-off from below.

One man, not her husband, was a betrayer, a breaker of promises, of hearts.  She had clung to belief in him because she had no-one else.  He said he would meet her.  Here?  By the motorway?  I asked.  She reacted with an expression I nailed shifting to the side and behind, her face turned, that said I was a fool.  From her havering I deducted the other man was a lorry driver who picked her up expecting payment for the ride with her body.  The shots I took of her contempt for him were gold.

I left, thanking her, pinpricks of rain her diamond tiara, my Drum ready-rubbed tobacco stashed somewhere on her, most of my cash in her bra, I think, wishing her better luck after she refused my quasi-earnest offer of a lift with a disdainful look I also shot and used, but thinking we make our own luck, elated with this impromptu plein air freelancing.  When triggered, earthy odours rain releases from soil and vegetation mixed with diesel and industrial fumes permeating my hippocampus, urge me to review my portfolio of these grainy treasures.  I now believe we each deserve precious luck on our fraught journeys.

Meet the Author!

Ian C Smith’s work has been published in BBC Radio 4 Sounds, The Dalhousie Review, Gargoyle, Ginosko Literary Journal, Griffith Review, Southword, The Stony Thursday Book, & Two Thirds North.  His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide).  He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island.


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