The Crossed Pistols Inn, Glastonbury. Loosely based on ‘The Riflemans Inn’ 🙂
After the late night out on the town, Kallis awoke with a small but definite hangover. Rolling over, she checked the clock; it was just after nine. Kallis headed down to the kitchen and put the kettle on, drinking orange juice straight from the carton she located in the fridge.
‘Kallis!’ Her mother appeared, clutching her dressing gown around her. ‘For heavens sake, how many times have I told you NOT to drink from the carton?! SOOO unhygienic.’
‘Sorry, Mum. I’ve got the kettle on though.’
Her mother sat down at the table. ‘Mmm, well, did you have a nice night out with Melanie? Where did you go?’
‘Oh, um, well, Mel cooked me the usual pasta and then we just went to a few bars.’ Kallis filled two cups with the boiling water and dunked two teabags in them.
‘I didn’t fancy a club or anything. It was just nice to see Mel again and catch up on all the news and gossip.’
‘What are your plans now, sweetheart? Are you going to be applying for some more jobs?’
‘Yes, of course Mum, but not just yet. I’m ok for money you know; I’ve been sensible.’
Her mother looked at her closely. ‘Well, Kallis, sweetheart, I’m sure you have but you must start thinking about what you are going to do. I’m sure you don’t want to stay here in Newport – not after the excitement of London?’
Kallis added milk to the tea. ‘Mum, I know I’m changing the subject here but, well, I’ve been thinking lately about when we used to live in Cairo. Do you ever hear from ….Shamiela?’
Her mother continued to stir her tea. She was silent for so long Kallis was afraid she had upset her. ‘Mum, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have mentioned her.’
‘No, no, it`s ok, you took me by surprise that’s all. You’ve never really asked me anything about her or our old life in Cairo. Actually I DO hear from Shamiela: not very often and not for a few years but, yes, she’s ok, remarried and to a guy with lots of money from the sounds of it. They’ve got an apartment in Zamalek and a farm outside the city as well. All very nice from the sounds of it. She has a son too. I’m happy for her. She actually was pregnant when – well, when your Dad was still alive but she miscarried. So, – Charlotte sat back in the chair and pushed her hair back from her face – ‘I AM glad she has a son. I think he’s called Yusef. He’d be in his twenties now.’
‘Mum, I’d like to go and see her. And him. Visit Cairo again. Do you think she would want to see me?’
‘Well, Kallis, you ARE full of surprises this morning. Um, yes, Shamiela would welcome you, I am sure, she was always very respectful to me and adored you. I can give you an address but I don’t have any phone numbers, I’m afraid.’
Her mother was rummaging in the kitchen drawer. Yes, here it is – the last letter I had. Let me see, dated some 3 years ago. Sent with an Eid card.’
Eid was the celebration at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims don’t eat or drink from sun up to sun down.
Kallis took the letter from her mother and read:
I so hope this finds you happy and well, and your beautiful daughter, Kallis. Maybe Allah has blessed your life with a new husband and more beautiful children. I hope with all my heart it is so.
My husband is a kind man and I can ask for no more. Our son Yusef is a fine and strong man, I hope soon he will take a wife and we will be blessed with grandchildren.
I send this to you with love to let you know I still hold you both dear in my heart at this happy time of festivities, when the end of our long fast is here. Think of me and remember us when you see the new moon of Islam shine bright in the night sky.
Praise be to Allah,
Shamiela El Khallil
There was an address at the bottom of the card.
Kallis was sitting on the bus, talking to Mel on her mobile phone. ‘So, I booked the plane ticket and I’m off! Going to Glastonbury tonight, staying at ‘The Traveller’s’, then straight to Bristol airport in the morning and it’s a direct flight through to Cairo.’
‘Ok, let me get this straight.’ Mel sighed. ‘You are flying off with no idea if this woman will want to see you and no idea where you will be staying when you get there….’
‘No, no,’ Kallis interrupted her, ‘I‘ll go the Marriott hotel.They’re sure to have a room and if not I can always find another hotel. Its only for a few days, Mel, I bought an open-ended ticket so I can fly back when I want, as long as there is a seat on the flight. It’s what I want -and need- right now. If Shamiela doesn’t want to see me or I can’t find her, I shall just enjoy Cairo. Have a look around, reminisce, soak up the atmosphere.’
‘Well, mate, take care, won’t you, and ring me when you get there and if you want me to pick you up from Bristol, I will, no problem. Wish I was going with you!’
‘Thanks, Mel, and don’t worry. Speak soon.’
Kallis rang off and watched the countryside passing. She was remembering that she had travelled this way before and still had no answer as to how. Kallis felt excited and scared all at the same time. She was going to be in Glastonbury again this afternoon: a chance to look for Dave, then a taxi to Bristol airport early in the morning. Kallis checked her small bag again. She had a few things borrowed from Melanie, and a few bits and pieces, clothes and toiletries purloined from her mother. Her ticket had been purchased over the internet and she need only to show her passport at the airport. Kallis tucked her feet up underneath her and put her head down on her knees. She wondered where to go first to look for Dave, maybe the local bars and cafes. Anyway, it would be fun to have a look around the town of Glastonbury.
The Badger Line bus pulled into the side of the road by the town hall and Kallis thanked the driver as she alighted. ‘The Traveller’s’ was clearly visible across the road next to ‘The George & Pilgrims’. The town was colourful, with lots of red and yellow flowers in hanging baskets and big planters. Kallis walked over to the guest house and checked in at the friendly reception desk. It was a basic and cheap but cheerful sort of place. You shared the bedroom with 3 others (same sex!) and the toilets and showers were down the end of a long dark hallway. Kallis had a quick wash and packed her things into a locker and headed off into the town. It was after one o’clock and Kallis thought she’d try a café first for some lunch. There was a friendly-looking one at the bottom end of the town advertising vegetarian food on a chalk board outside. Kallis went in and sat at a table in one of the large bay windows. Soon a waitress appeared, a pretty black girl with baby dreads and a big smile.
‘Hi there, what can I get you?’
Kallis ordered the veggie lasagne and a cup of camomile tea.
‘Excuse me,’ Kallis asked her as she came back with the food, ‘but is there a really local pub here, the sort of place where the barman knows everybody? I’m looking for a friend and have no idea where he might drink really.’
‘Well, – the waitress scratched her cheek thoughtfully with her pencil – ‘depends on what sort of person your friend is. If he’s a local-lived-here-all-his-life kind of chap then he might hang out in ‘The Bull’; on the other hand if he’s a traveller type or living the ‘alternative’ type lifestyle you could always try the ‘The Crossed Pistols’.
Kallis laughed. ‘Yeah, I guess you could say he fits into the latter category! Thanks a lot; I’ll try later. Which end of town is it?’
‘OK, walk to the top of the High Street and turn right along Chilkwell Street and keep going. It’s a bit of a walk but you can’t miss it’.
Kallis finished her lunch and then spent a happy afternoon perusing the shops in the High Street. Kallis looked at all the crystals, Indian beads, candles, and toe bells, went into a shop for witches and looked at scrying mirrors, cauldrons and do-it-yourself spell packs; she bought a ‘Big Issue’ from a friendly chap in a bobble hat, lingered in a beautiful shop that had a tinkling fountain inside and crystals set into the floor, bought some chocolate from the organic and health food shop, watched as a half naked guy sat by the pinnacle busking with a home-made didgeridoo, and peered into the dark doorway of a shop offering to pierce or tattoo any part of your body. Such was the range of things to buy and do in Glastonbury. After a while she headed up to the top end of the town and turned into Chilkwell Street. After about ten minutes’ walking she spotted ‘The Crossed Pistols’.
The pub was quite empty as Kallis walked in. A juke box blinked coloured lights in the corner of the room and a large fireplace was filled with pine cones in the absence of a fire. It appeared to be a very old building, with large wooden beams and a flag-stone floor. The tables were made from roughly hewn wood. Kallis walked across to the bar.
Nobody seemed to be about.
‘Hello? Are you open?’ Kallis sat down at the bar. Upstairs she heard a door slam and the thump of footsteps coming downstairs.
‘Awright? Sorry, didn’t hear ‘e come in. As ‘e can see, we’m a bit quiet s’addernoon, thought I might get me bit of a nap!’ The barman was a young chap, probably in his early twenties. He was tall and skinny and was sporting a demi Mohican hair style. ‘What’ll I get you?’
‘Mmm,’ -Kallis wasn’t sure what to have- ‘what’s the local drink here? Cider, isn’t it? Perhaps I should try that.’
‘Here’. The barman pulled her a little bit in a glass, ‘Try it first. Not to everyone’s liking’.
Kallis took a sip.
‘Oh. Not sure’. Kallis pulled a face. ‘Maybe I could mix it with lemonade?’
‘Nah. Try it with Vimto. That’s a popular mix ‘ere’.
‘O.K. Cider and Vimto it is’, said Kallis, bravely.
‘So, where you from, then?’ The youth looked Kallis up and down with an appreciative eye. ‘Not local?’
‘No. Brought up over in South Wales but, well, currently travelling, I suppose you could say!’ Actually, this wasn’t really true, as Kallis still had her flat in London, but she felt brave and adventurous and, well, she was off travelling, wasn’t she?
‘Actually, I’m trying to get in contact with a friend. I wondered if he ever came in here. He’s called Dave and he travels around, doing odd carpentry jobs. He’s kind of tall and skinny with reddish hair’
‘Ahhh…’ The barman scratched at his stubbly chin. ‘You could ask could Acker out the back. ‘e sometimes ‘as someone help him with the chicken sheds.’
‘Oh, great, is he out there now?’
‘Most likely, yes. Hang on. I’ll give him a shout.’ The barman went through to a back room and bellowed, ‘Acker!!!’
‘Some pretty young thing ‘ere to see thee.’
‘Hoo, hoo, my lucky day, eh?’ Acker appeared, rubbing his large red hands on a rather grubby looking towel. He was at least sixty but hard to tell really, his face friendly and ruddy cheeked, well weathered. He was wearing a string vest over a large beer belly and his trousers appeared to be held up with a bit of binder twine.
‘So, my young’un, you buying ould Acker a drink, then?’
‘Ah, yes, what would you like?’
‘Pint ‘o zider, me dear, if ‘ee don’t mind’.
The barman winked at Kallis as he pulled the pint for Acker.
‘So. What can oi do for YOU, me pretty maid?’ enquired Acker as sipped from his pint.
‘Well.’ Kallis was all smiles. ‘I’m looking for a chap called Dave. Does carpentry and odd jobs and I wondered if you might know him’.
‘Well, now me dear, does this Dave ‘appen to ‘ave a rabbit with ‘im by any chance?’
‘Yes! Yes!’ Kallis was excited now. ‘That’s him!!!’ Have you seen him lately? Do you know where he is?’
‘Well, as it ‘appens, he were here a few days ago. Left a bag here as well, if oi remember rightly. Think ee’s gorn out Dunstan’s farm to do work there this week.’
‘Oh, that’s great. Thank you. He’ll be coming back here, will he? Can I leave a note for him here with you?’ Kallis looked from Acker to the barman.
‘Sure, no problem.’
‘Thing is, me dear,’ Acker continued, ‘this bag he left isn’t his. Said a friend had gorn off and left it with him. Would ‘n ‘appen to be yours now, would it?’
Kallis couldn’t believe her luck. ‘It might well be, yes, can I see it?’
Acker nodded at the barman, who disappeared upstairs. There was the sound of something large being moved, a crash and then he appeared again. It was Kallis’s rucksack.
‘Oh, it’s mine alright. Thank you SO much! What luck to find this pub and you guys. This is just brilliant.’
‘At your service, me dear’. Acker bowed dramatically and returned to his pint.
Kallis took out a notepad and a pen and scribbled out a note for Dave.
I came back to Glastonbury to try and find you. Have been over in S.Wales and how I got there is a story I cannot possibly write down- it’s really crazy stuff! But please believe I didn’t mean to go off and leave you like that. Anyway, thanks so much for leaving my bag here for me. I am off to Egypt (yes, really!) tomorrow (Friday) morning, but should be back in a week or less. I will come back to this pub so please leave me a note here or a message where I can find you. I would really like to see you again and tell you all about my adventures.
Love to you and the rabbit,