Find Me

Lizzi Nunnery It might have been a stone except there was too much warmth in it. And the edges dug too sharp against his thumbs as he pressed away the dirt. And there…. there. As the sycamores of Sudley Field stirred the morning light, he saw it.A glint. A glow — that’s what they said you had to look for, wasn’t it? A deep and warm reflective glow.
 
Alec’s detector wasn’t reliable. He’d found it in Uncle Tony’s abandoned summer house — fixed it up himself through YouTube tutorials and trial and error. It was prone to mis-readings. And an accurate reading usually meant a bottle top or the skeleton of a beer can. Once, he’d found a pair of antique nail clippers blood red with rust. And he’d been happy with that. He’d placed it on his bedroom windowsill with the other finds: the bunch of blackened keys, the compact mirror devoid of glass. His Dad said it all made him shudder, but for Alec is was opposite (for Alec it seemed lots of feelings were opposite). For him the artefacts were a comfort. A warm compulsion.
 
And now this. A coin, worn and bent and bare of inscription. Not Roman or something spectacular like that. Not here. He knew that. He wasn’t stupid. But Victorian maybe? A scrap of buried fortune. He found himself looking around almost in panic — as though the presence of a person would be enough to break the moment, to steal it from him. Even the magpies, perching crookedly, were a threat. The unseen hordes of finches seemed to be screaming it top of their voices: ‘Gold, gold, gold.’
 
His Dad always said not to flash cash. Don’t go acting like a divvy. Like when he’d been sent to the chippy to get the order, except he’d stopped outside to check the change, and Ryan Mackenzie had gone past on his bike and knocked the coins out of his hand. So when Alec got home there were no chips and no money and Dad told him he was a moron and what fourteen year old couldn’t buy a bag of chips, and couldn’t he grow some common sense?
 
He wouldn’t even speak, he decided. He’d place his gleaming find on the kitchen table and watch as his Dad’s eyes lit up. That would be good. That’s what he’d do.
 
It had barely been light when he left that morning. He’d paused in the kitchen doorway, struck by the sight of his father…statue-still, hunched over his papers. Had he moved at all since the night before? Had he been there through the dark, scribbling sums and crossing them out, scribbling them again?
 
Now as Alec crossed the hushed road out of Sudley, the ground seemed to rise to meet him. He pinched his fingers tight around the coin in his pocket, as he bounded over the athletics field, lifting his chin to see all the way down the hill. Beneath him, the rows of trees crowded high above the houses, the heat haze gathering over the imagined forest of the suburbs. He loved the emptiness of these mornings: the freedom to move and to be without questioning looks. Nobody asking ‘What you doing?’ or ‘What you looking for?’; the dog walkers and the joggers keeping their strict distance. He liked the distances. He liked the school being closed — the idea of all those silent spaces empty of threat or complication.
 
He weaved through the familiar grid of terraces, slipped easily down the side alley, nudged the swinging gate into the yard. He’d show him. He’d show that old bastard it wasn’t all a waste. It wasn’t all junk. And looking through the window, sure enough, he was there. Still staring at the numbers, willing them to be what they’re not.
 
Alec paused. Paused long enough for his father to sense him and look up at him with those hard, unseeing eyes. Long enough for the cold of the yard to creep into his skin — like he was soaking up the shadows, his legs suddenly heavy, his hands growing lumpen at his sides. He could hear his Dad’s response already: ‘Of course it’s not. That bit of tin?’ It’d be a joke. But he wouldn’t laugh. Alec ran his fingers over the coin in the dark of his pocket and felt it transformed: the spell broken. It was only another embarrassment. Dull. Misshapen. Worthless.
 
Lizzie Nunnery is an award-winning playwright and songwriter. Her work includes a play with songs Narvik (Box of Tricks National Tour Jan-March 2017, Norwegian Tour with Nordland Teater Autumn 2019; shortlisted for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award; winner, Best New Play, UK Theatre Awards, 2017). Her Horny Handed Tons of Soil (Unity Theatre Liverpool, July 2017, National Tour Spring 2018) was a live poetry and music commission, marking the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Mersey Sound anthology. Find Me was commissioned by Stories of Everyday Phrases.