Thursday, November 25, 2010

Summer: 1980

The boy looked at his feet. They were small, covered in grubby canvas. But good shoes for climbing and jumping, and that’s what counted. Wiping the last of the sherbet from his small bow-shaped mouth he stood up. His tongue wiggled a loose tooth as he considered the choices: He could spend some time in the old weeping willow near in the garden, or find a jar, catch some insects.

In the end, he chose the tree. They called it the Donkey Tree- the neighbourhood kids- for the horizontal trunk that curved towards the ground before arching its back into the sky, making a perfect saddle, but he preferred the other, higher branches. He’d used some of the supple ones to make bows before, stripping them of leaves and stringing them with cord. On those days, he was maybe a knight, crouching behind the bow window of a castle, or perhaps a Red Indian, whose killing-skills were brutal, both in hunting food and defending the tepee.

But today he just sat swinging his feet, looking up through the branches at the anvil clouds which spun and rolled into noses, ears and grasping hands, or the fanciful horns of a winged dragon. The sun, when it made an appearance, was overly bright, making tears form in the corners of his eyes as it blazed through the fresh green leaves. He looked at his hands, where he’d just developed some callouses on the palms from swinging like Johnny Weissmuller through the trees on ropes which had been strung there for as long as he could remember. The trick was to avoid losing your grip and tumbling into the nettle patch or the ruined walls of a decorative fountain hidden by the blackberry bushes.

The wind breathed on him, cool and noisy, it hissed through the leaves and sounded a little like waves breaking on rocks in the distance. Under the tree he’d left his bike, an old hand-me-down from his brother with straight handlebars. It was scuffed on the saddle and tyres from too many failed wheelies and ramps off kerbs, but still good, despite him having to use his heels to get it to stop. Who wanted to stop, anyway, when the breeze filled out your parka and chilled your brow as you free-wheeled down to the main road?

It was just today. He lost track of the days of the week during the holidays, and didn’t mind that feeling at all. He’d have a few more weeks of setting up his soldiers under the flowerbeds and amongst the rockery, or kicking a ball with as many kids as happened to be around on the field. He’d walk for hours in the countryside, building dams in streams with rotten logs and rocks, or leapfrogging past the cow dung and rabbit droppings. He’d jump electric fences that penned sheep, and hold buttercups under his friend’s chins to see if they liked butter- your chin turned yellow if you did. He’d get stung by nettles, and cure the rash with dock leaves. He’d have swordfights with the cow parsley in the lanes, and find interesting bits of nature to distract him- an injured crow, or an abandoned blackbird’s nest. Sometimes the sun would shine for days, and the soil would start to crack, until a sudden thunderstorm would cleave the sky apart and send down heavy pellets of rain. He’d pretend, then, not to fear being blasted with lightning, or that the puddles would never stop forming in the gutters until the whole world was flooded, but as quickly as it came, the storm would recede, leaving steaming wet tar with rainbows of oil, and worms curling on the soft grass.

It was summer, and time had stopped.


  1. Mad, mad Andre.... And I like checking out your etchings. ok, photos...

  2. Nicely done Scott. I think you should definitely give that novel a shot ;).

    I used to love building dams in streams. I would always run back the next day wondering if it was still there.

  3. Thanks, Craig- I suspect whole my damming abilities have diverted entire shipping routes by now- must go back and check...
    - wow- two friends whose opinions I respect saying cool things. *happy*


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