The Big One
West Coast Eisteddfod Short Story Competition 2014
The Big One
His mouth was dry with anticipation.
His palms were covered in sweat.
He was not sure if it was the intense heat of San Francisco in July, or the prospect for him that this was a crucial life changing moment.
What if his first love, Sally Twp was no longer that sweet innocent girl, that he had declared his undying love for 40 years ago, when he was just ten years of age.
People change once they leave Wales he thought.
Twm was a Neath boy back then, knee high to a grasshopper, when he had stolen that first ever kiss from his Sally.
They had been out sliding down the disused coal tips together and they were blacker than the darkest night. They both knew they would be in trouble when they got home, but they had enjoyed a complete Summer’s day in the innocent company of one another and a kiss just seemed to be the perfect way to round it off. For the rest of that long and unusually hot Spring , then Summer of 1976, they had spent the six week school holidays together playing swallows and amazons , picking native wild flowers and sending Pooh sticks down the River Neath, as they idled those splendid care free days away.
Where had those innocent times gone….? Twm mused, as his adult world had been tainted by redundancy, divorce and house repossession.
But in a World devoid of light , he had chanced upon the Americymru website and re-established contact with his first love Sally, after nearly four decades when her parents had left the Principality in search of a better life in the ‘Golden State’.
By e-mail and forum, he had become reacquainted with Sally when he spotted her photograph icon.
He was astonished how little she had changed, given the length of time that had passed.
She looked as if she had worn much better than him- although most women do mature better than men- she looked as if she hadn’t aged a bit nor had a single grey hair on her head.
He assumed it was down to the effects of the Californian sun on her skin, whilst all he had was rain, osteoporosis and rheumatism to look forward to - if he stayed in the wet windy Valley climate.
True,- he would miss the four seasons- but hey he could always watch Frankie Valli in Vegas!!!.
As he passed the shops, busily opening up in the picturesque Harbor Way, his nostrils caught a familiar smell on the sea breeze.
Home-made bread from one of the little bakeries on the seafront, overlooking the glistening blue waters of San Francisco Bay.
He knew he only had to round this corner to the pre-arranged meeting place and his life could change forever. His mind raced .
What about the possibility she might not show?
Surely not-the Sally he knew.
The Sally he remembered would never let him down.
She wouldn’t ‘stand up’ a man who had flown ten hours , one third the way across the entire World would she? For the first time in a week, a dark doubt began to creep into his spirit like an evil shadow.
As he rounded the corner of the Harbour-side market, he could hear the voice of Bill Withers inside his head singing about San Francisco Bay and Soul Shadows.
Was his lack of confidence borne out of his recent separation?
His initial pause was met by a reassuring pat on the breast of his jacket pocket, onto the small red diary bearing the impressed date 1976 in gold letters.
It had originally belonged to his brother and was a free gift with the former War Comic ‘The Victor’.
It had been a lucky charm to Twm over the years and went everywhere with him being kept as close to his heart as possible.
Inside it was a pressed flower- a sweet narcissus emblem -the National flower of Wales handed to him by his childhood beau just before their first kiss.
He took it as a sign from the Welsh God (or Barry John as Twm preferred to call him colloquially), that his fate was entwined with that of Sally , as most of the other members of that progressive website ‘Americymru’ save as to its creative genius Ceri ‘Edison’ Shaw were represented by photograph ‘daffodil heads’.
Most preferred anonymity, but some were just technophobic and unable to ‘upload’ an image shot to their profile page.
In a way this was fortunate for Twm, as in amongst the cyber ‘flower patch’, Twm had spotted the beautiful face of Sally.
It was unmistakeable- a face he had seen on many occasions in his dreams and occasionally when he had been ‘on the job’ with his ex- missus.
Twm could remember in fine detail every one of her laughter lines, the way her cleft pallet curled slightly like Elvis Presley in the film ‘Blue Hawaii’ when she greeted him.
They say love is blind and beauty only skin deep but to Twm , on Earth Sally had no equal- his vision of her loveliness could not be stained- his fantasy version of his first love could not be spoiled in his mind’s eye. Another few steps and his ‘Aphrodite’ would be revealed in all her true glory.
He was however, astounded to see that the 2014 version of little Sally Twp was no longer that he had worshipped from afar.
She was no longer little or Twp.
She had more ‘Chins’ than the San Francisco Chinatown Directory.
It was almost as if she had been assimilated into another person.
A thin woman trying to get out of a fat suit.
“ Hi Y’all you look great….just as I remembered you!” replied Sally plus two.
The sound seemed to be trapped in the echo of her vibrating five jowls.
Like Jabba the Hutt with a turkey wattle.
Twm was horrified and at that moment would have preferred a version of distorted reality that Sally was being eaten by the ‘Blob’ from Outer Space in a 1950’s Californian film flick.
“ Sally…you look….. Gorge- us….truly …American…!” was all Twm could manage to spout.
“ Come and sit beside me on this bench!” requested Sally patting the wooden bench already bowing from her body mass.
Twm’s body had benefitted from his recent divorce, in that he had lost over four stone and had been working out in the gym as he was now ‘back on the market’ again.
He was used to bench presses of a different kind.
Not to invade her personal space, he sat away from Sally towards the other end of the bench.
“ What’s the matter ?” asked Sally “ The Twm Sion Catty I remember wasn’t shy…you haven’t still got a chip on your shoulder over me leaving you behind in the Old Country?”
“ I told you before that was my parents decision not mine…I hope you can forgive me? “ asked Sally sensing that something had changed in her relationship with Twm.
As she asked the question , she put her full weight on her side of the bench tilting it into the air sending Twm tumbling towards her landing in her cushioned ‘bouncy castle’ side .
“ I don’t have a chip on my shoulder…. but you do have a couple stored in your neck fold!” replied Twm looking closer at the supersize model.
“ Wrong fold !” said Twm as Sally tried in vain to reach the ‘fries’.
It was not in her psyche to waste food.
Twm looked deeply into the eyes of Sally as she munched on the chipsticks -like a cow chewing the cud. He could see staring back at him those same beautiful brown eyes that had appeared in his dreams over the last few decades.
It was hard though to concentrate on her eyes, as her jowl and chins were working harder than the silent wheels of the former Neath colliery.
“ So are you and ‘Cheese Burger Sally here an item?” interrupted a Mexican sounding American voice.
Twm turned towards the sound .
Like St Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane to deny the accusation three times.
“ No…No ..No…we are just good friends!” Twm replied somewhat ashamed to be sitting on the same bench as the ‘Incredible Bulk’.
“ But…stuttered Sally…I thought you declared you undying love for me on Americymru…I have the posting saved close to my heart!” .
Sally reached into her blouse passed more rolls than the Harbor Way bakery had in stock.
She produced a single sheet of paper partly soaked in sweat but was also stained in hamburger grease.
“ I thought you e-mailed to say we would be married one day ?” sobbed the shocked Sally .
“ Well your photo on Americymru is very misleading…back home in Wales …we have Trading Standards Departments checking out for misrepresentations like this and programmes like X-Ray and the Ferret!” said Twm.
The Mexican Viv Zapata was embarrassed by the argument he so innocently started.
“ Sally is our best customer …. - a lovely woman …. I accept she is larger than life but compared to most American women she is only a medium….show him your tent-tag Sal!” suggested Viv.
Sally’s face dropped and a Mexican wave of chins followed it towards the floor.
Her beautiful eyes welled up and suddenly burst into tears.
Twm suddenly felt a different kind of shame.
He had made a woman cry.
He put his arm around as much of Sally as he could manage and tried to comfort her.
“ I had big plans to show you around my adopted city….and now they are in ruins !” she sobbed.
“ Sally…you must admit it is a big shock for you to see me after all these years..it will take time for us to be reacquainted again…we are different people to those ghostly children we back were then in the ‘Summer of Love’” replied Twm feeling guilty.
Finally, Twm could stand her crying no longer.
“ Look… I kept this…!” he said reaching into his diary withdrawing a yellow flower that had kept neatly dried and pressed for over 40 years.
“ The daffodil.. not only the National symbol of Wales but a symbol of my love for Little Sally Twp!” said Twm trying to comfort Sally.
“ Little Sally Twp no longer exists!” said Sally.
“ But there is a lot more of me to love!” she said cheering up.
“ Every heard the American expression of ‘ Don’t start pushin’ till you find yourself a cushion?” asked Sally.
“ Sorry …that one passed me by!” replied Twm.
“ Never mind…we’ll take it slowly then!” said Sally throwing her huge arms around Twm’s neck .
“ I’m loving it!” she said in tune with the McDonalds jingle, as both of her bingo wings slapped Twm in the face simultaneously.
Twm’s only thoughts were that of oxygen and self preservation.
Gasping for air, he broke the flabby stranglehold as the USA equivalent of Shirley Crabtree mercifully released her grip.
She began kissing Twm all over in relief.
Twm’s face went red but Viv Zapata could not make out if the cause was embarrassment or a stubble rash reaction.
She then stood and dragged Twm with her, as if sucked into her orbit and began cracking the sidewalk of Harbor Way as she went.
Viv Zapata stood there in astonishment.
He had never seen Sally so happy even in ‘happy hour’ eating a half dozen happy meals.
He wondered whether he should have warned Twm about her dark secret.
“ Oh well !” sighed Viv.
“ He will find out soon enough!” he said making his way towards the Golden M.
The taxi stopped at Pier 39 on the San Francisco sea front. Sally paid the driver and struggled her way out of the exit doors.
She said proudly in a Shirley Bassey voice ‘This is My Town!” to Twm.
As Twm made his way towards the boardwalk , Sally grabbed him by the arm.
“ Sorry Twm…I can’t take you on there … I am banned!” said Sally.
Twm assumed because it was a somewhat rickety structure there may be a weight limit. He didn’t want to end up underneath to the strains of a Bruce Willis song.
“ I can’t go to the Forrest Gump Bubba Shrimp themed restaurant- I’m the only person ever to be barred- they held an all you can eat night and I almost bankrupted the place single handed!” sighed Sally.
“ But there are plenty of other places we can eat here!” she said …” But first some exercise - I want to take on one of the famous ‘Green Line’ San Francisco cable cars as Sally stopped traffic as she waddled across three lanes of traffic.
Most drivers didn’t realise she was ‘jaywalking’- an offence in America-they thought she was a comedy roundabout for the tourists.
As they got on the conductor-less carriage- the rest of the passengers sat wide eyed or chose to get off. As the trolley-car car bumped its way up ‘Rue De Clint Eastwood’ – the flattest street in the City Sally turned to her Welsh boyfriend and sighed seductively.
“ A street car named desire?” she said to Twm.
Most of the passengers struggled to keep their lunches down.
A fact that angered Twm – suddenly the Californian World he had longed for – seemed so superficial- full of ‘Shallow Hals’ – people who could not see past Sally’s size.
Some were genuine however- because they had missed their stop .
But others were hung up on the brainwashing of the fashion world that for a girl to be attractive she had to be a size zero.
As the Streetcar made its way through the lower streets – Sally pointed out the sights to her tourist Taffy.
“ There is Wendy’s Homebake where I get my first breakfast of the day …there is McDonalds where I get my brunch…KFC where I get my dinner…Pizza Hut where I get my Dea…!” said Sally.
“ Dea…what’s Dea?” asked Twm confused.
“ In America we like to have a meal between Dinner and Tea…..don’t you have it back home in the Old Country?” questioned Sally.
“ No… I Dea..in Wales we only have two meals a day … fags for breakfast and Rhymney Brewery beer for Supper…unless the food banks are open that is…we have precious little disposable income after you take out the fuel hikes and the cost of Rugby International tickets! “ said Twm.
The car rumbled on, as it passed 608 Bush Street which had a plaque proudly displaying the fact Treasure Island writer , Robert Louis Stevenson had lodged there.
Sally didn’t care. She was too busy looking at the mouth watering treats on display in the Oriental shop windows of San Francisco’s China Town.
Twm was starting to feel ‘Kidnapped’ himself as his new companion turned ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ as they drive past food stores to the cries of “ Don’t you just love Chinese food?”
“ 20 Number 6 tipped for me!” said smoker Twm.
As the incline increased on the Rue De Karl Malden , the Trolley bus started to spark from the rear as the weight of the Californian Welsh girl took its toll.
As it reached Rue De Michael Douglas, it was positively on fire as the metal wheels threatened to buckle. Luckily for Sally & Twm they had reached their destination.
They stood above the most beautiful setting in San Francisco- that of the flowered zig- zag hill shown in most Hollywood movies- Lombard Street.
Twm on descending from the trolley reached in to take the hand of his beau. The remainder of the passengers were certain they heard the Trolley Bus actually let out a gasp. Twm decided to show that he was true Welsh romantic and plucked a flower from the beautiful display on show. He didn’t have a romantic bone in his body but he still had a few romantic muscles left. Sally was shocked.
“ Is that for me?” she blubbered.
Twm went down on one knee. He didn’t care anymore about her body weight. He was more interested in the way to her enlarged heart ….oh and of course the small matter of a Green Card and US citizen-ship . If she would agree to marry him -he might get a Kevin Spacey welcome to the USA from the Passport Border Control Guards.
“ Sally, will you marry me?” asked the Welshman.
It was more than Sally could take.It was either the shock of the proposal or the fact she hadn’t eaten for two hours but whatever the cause….Sally fainted. The Californian public love a good Hollywood ending but they didn’t get it as Sally was on a roll. Down the zigzag of Lombard Street that is…like a demented rolling Weeble crushing everything in her unconscious path. Schoolchildren leapt out of the way of certain death, as Sally thundered down the street picking up speed and litter as she went. Twm tried to run after her, chest wheezing like an accordion as he frantically leapt the flowered covered hedges like a grand National Horse in an effort to stop his love from hitting San Francisco Bay. He knew with her ‘dinghy like inflatable qualities and inevitable offshore rip tide she would be near Alcatraz Island Penitentiary in minutes. He had lost his Sally forty years ago.. he did not intend losing her again.
Twm dived like Sam Warburton after his bit of ‘crumpet’ but only succeeded in slowing down the human ball as it hit the Main Street. Luckily, for Sally she hit a passing Greyhound Coach with her face. The passengers and shop owners thought it was the Big One- the promised Californian Earthquake – the successor to the 1906 disaster caused by the Pacific and North American land masses colliding under one another. This time it was not San Andreas fault but Twm’s.
There was a different kind of plate techtonics at work .The years of overeating and the American ‘dream’ lifestyle caused by inactivity and food advertising 24/7 had taken its toll on poor Sally. Even her right leg weighed more than Toby Faletau. Twm reached the unconscious figure and immediately tried to check if there was a pulse. His hand disappeared and his watch came off and was lost in a sea of flab. He put his ear to her chest and could hear a heart beating. It reminded him of the end scene of the Peter Jackson film ‘King Kong’.
His love was still alive!
He placed the Lombard Street flowers in the hair of his child of the sixties and Sally came round and smiled at him. Twm burst into tears for the first time since he witnessed a different Grand Slam in 2008. As Sally came around the bus cheered loudly and applauded spontaneously in a way only Americans can at a tickertape parade. Sally’s ticker was okay as she looked up longingly at the blurred face of Twm.
“ Yes …Brad Pitt I will marry you!” she said through her concussion.
“ But first if we are to be married I must tell you about my past!”
“ I have spent a five stretch in San Quentin when I accidently killed by first husband whilst on a drinking binge!” said Sally.
Twm’s eyes widened he knew in America it was ‘three strikes and out’. In Neath- the Colliery was even more militant.
“ How did it happen?” asked Twm.
“ I had been on a bender and rolled over in our bed and crushed the poor man….he suffocated….but at least he went in his sleep…!” said Sally.
“ I was charged with homicider!” she continued.
There was a minutes silence while Twm absorbed the full extent of the news. Sally was worried that her necessary confession had lost her love for the second time. Suddenly, Twm burst into life.
“ Separate beds it is then!” said the pragmatic Twm.
It didn’t matter to him that his future wife wasn’t skinny…he didn’t care …she was beautiful… he already knew she had a face that could stop traffic . Twm had lost his heart in San Francisco.
updated by @philip-evans: 02/12/16 11:58:55PM