Excerpts from The Seaweed Cage

The Power Place

Excerpt 1

Kevin has this peculiar way of doing things with his eyebrows instead of smiling or laughing. One hitches itself up almost to his hairline, the other plummets onto his eye. Crocheted chains of sandy hairs that march across his face, and loup around it. His face like a piece of paper, scrunched into a ball, slowly expands, flowers, though never reaches its initial creaseless condition. ‘I hear Mutt has dumped Ming into the thorny arms of Jasmine of the Callyman.’

‘I wasn’t aware Jasmine had thorns. I remember Jasmine as a tender plant with a cloying smell.’

‘You obviously haven’t met this one yet, mate. Prickly, tough, tongue like the tawse, reaction like a boxer’s left hook. According to the grapevine and a couple of MPs whose noses are out of joint. You mess with her at your peril. Straight answers to straight questions. No pussyfooting around, doesn’t stand prevarication.’

‘Is this the same Jasmine? The Lifestyle slot is usually pretty laidback, adores the quirky and the unusual for that bulks out the thin into a good story ’

‘Yup, the same Jasmine. Jasmine Stane. I heard she was after Politics but has to content herself with trivia until a certain person moves on. Hence the approach to MCPs on what is on the surface a Lifestyle issue, but I suspect is all about politics. I’d tell Ming to watch his step, mind his approach. On the other hand, you might not want to warn him. The consequences could be interesting.’ Kevin couldn’t fail to notice a look of surprise settle on Brian’s face. ‘Oh, come on, mate. Get real. I suspect you’ve done the calculations too. Know where the best opportunities lie. And given Ming’s former mentor, he’s maybe a thick bastard but some of the tricks of the trade will have rubbed off on him. So I’d say you had your work cut out. Not impossible. Nothing ever is. Just means you can’t let any opportunity, no matter how trivial it appears, pass you by without exploiting it.’

‘Right. Thanks for the tip on Jasmine. I assumed she’d be one of the usual new faces in Lifestyle. Bland. Not worth reading.’

‘Well, believe me, mate, since she joined the paper three, four weeks ago her pieces have been a damn sight more political and hard-hitting than the usual commentators. One to be watched, I reckon.’

‘Thanks. I’ll have a look at what she’s done. Ehm, what you said about Ming’s former mentor. What did you mean?’

Kevin glanced both ways along the corridor. ‘Come on, you must have heard of Ming’s mentor. How he employed Ming is beyond reasoning. A favour, no doubt. Still, as I say, stuff rubs off even on the thickest material.’

 

Power over there

Excerpt 2

Most days Ramsay can be seen shuffling along the sand, dragging not raising his feet clad in green Wellington boots. They leave tracks like the skid of skates, jagged parallel lines along the edge of the high water mark, that mirror the blotchy line of seaweed left by the last tide. The net of bladder wrack with its sacks ripe for popping with a fingernail, like plastic wrapping material, is interwoven with kelp and other leathery fronds and straps, or delicate algae with diaphanous or fernlike contours. Their smell assails his nostrils, clean, tangy, and reminds these are not from earth but from the depths of the sea, imbued with its mystery, its strange attraction. From the tangle of seaweeds, shells and feathers poke out rusty tins, bits of crab, polystyrene cups, a dead sea urchin, drink cans, strands of turquoise and orange fishing nets, plastic packaging from foodstuffs, crumpled cigarette packets, broken plates with Victorian designs, the top from a flask, a canvas shoe, chunks of wood (adorned with limpets and bolts) from old piers, polythene bags, pieces of masts, oars, pallets, branches or roots of trees, twisted and gnarled by time, bleached by salt and sun. A museum that tells a story of our lives and what we discard on beaches. And what we jettison at sea for its swell to hurl back to land like a spat grape pip.

 

Weed of the sea

Excerpt 3

‘So if there’s a dead man in my sitting room, who killed him, and where is he now?’ asks Kat. She gets to her feet and wanders to the window behind the sink, but all she sees is her own reflection interposed between herself and the waning light outside. ‘So a maniac could still be wandering around the garden, lurking in the shrubbery, having a barbecue on the beach, for heaven’s sake.’

‘I rather think the police have thought of that and had a good look around,’ responds her husband who remembers his feeling of the old seadog’s ghost on the prowl outside. Fanciful, or prompted by an actual presence? No. Jess would have alerted him to an unknown person in the garden. He decides not to mention it. No point in further upsetting Kat.

‘Ah, Mrs Dunn,’ says a voice. Four pair of eyes swivel towards the speaker. A man stands in the doorway, brown leather jacket stretched over a pink shirt over a beer belly that bulges over the belt of his jeans. The bottom of the legs fray over boots with pointed toes and look suspiciously like cowboy boots. At the other end brown hair shot with grey flops over a face tanned and creased like an old shoe, a stalk of reed suctioned onto the inside of his mouth droops over his full lower lip.

Kat takes in every detail. She doesn’t appreciate the gear. Thinks if this man has the nerve, the audacity to insist on questioning her, then the least he could have done was wear clothes appropriate to the occasion. She stands, and moves towards him. ‘I am Kat Dunn. How do you do. And you are?’

 

From land

Excerpt 4

‘She liked the product angle too. Thinks she might fly up to Barragh, do a piece on the company, interview the management, the staff. Human interest with a modern lifestyle angle. With a fistful of politics thrown in.’

‘You certainly seem to have given her ideas to think about.’

‘Said we should meet up again. That I should contact her with other suggestions for articles.’

Oh!’

‘Always good to have a tame journalist in tow.’

‘Can’t say I know of many who fit that description. Maybe tame in terms of their willingness to tow the line of their media owners, but never tame when it comes to their victims.’

‘You can’t handle them properly, that’s why. Remind me to send you on the next media handling course that’s offered.’

Brian clenches his fists, his fingernails incising half moons across his palms. ‘I left a pile of messages on your desk.’

‘Ming sighs. ‘No rest for the…no rest for us hard-working MCPs.’ He bounces through the doorway to his office, then turns. ‘Anything of interest in my absence?’

‘Endless speculation about Wilkie Smart’s death.’

‘What’s being said?’

‘That he was having an affair with Bluebell.’

‘Don’t know what sane men see in the fat cow.’

‘You mean—?’

‘Anything else?’

‘Vague, muttered-under-breath speculation.’

‘Goes without saying. That’s the norm.’

‘Not so sure, this time.’

‘What d’you mean? What’s being said?’ Ming’s bounce is suddenly taut. His look of amiable bonhomie has disappeared with the flick of a conjurer’s wand, replaced by a bland mask beneath which anxious concern squints.

‘Mutterings. About dirty tricks.’

Ming’s forced laugh sounds more like a growl. ‘Dirty tricks! Huh! Wish the folks who uttered that would input the same amount of imagination into the formulation of Party policy. We’d make better headway if they did.’

‘In my humble opinion the problem there is—’

‘Your opinion doesn’t matter, Brian.’

‘Apologies. I thought this was a democratic Party.’

Endless sea

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