Nowhere Lane. Chapter One

Preface

This is my apology for a proper author’s preface.  A few weeks ago I posted the final chapter of a short novel which was a writing experiment.  It proved to be quite popular, I think (thank you to all my new followers) but I hesitate to impose a new book on my long-suffering readers, so I rely on you to tell me honestly if a second serial is a good idea.

‘Nowhere Lane’ is somewhat of a contrast to my previous attempt, and it is different, too, in that a synopsis has lurked on my hard drive for a year or so.   There are elements, even whole passages here that are pre-planned, but the hard writing still has to be done, which will offer plenty of opportunities for trouble!

Oh, and one more thing.  The subject matter could best be described as ‘edgy’ and the work may contain parts that will be rather more explicit than you are accustomed to reading in this blog.  Please let me know your margins, and tell me if I offend.

So, here goes!

 

Chapter One.  To Begin at the Very Beginning…

The Honorable Mary Brocklehurst was a delicate child, with the pale beauty and graceful carriage of a swan.  Beneath her silkily groomed and bobbed sable hair was a fashionably long, arched neck, the consequence of elegant bone structure that could only be acquired by centuries of refinement.  Her eyes were a misted blue, her chin narrow but determined, her breasts small and her hips a gynaecologist’s nightmare, but in the terms of her time, she was desirable.  Coiffured and self-assured, the picture she presented to her mirror as her final wedding dress adjustments were made was one of classic perfection.  She was to be an autumn bride, a spectral wisp amongst leaves of amber and red, prepared like a white ghost to stand before the altar beside a peer of the realm who was to be her husband, with an earl to give her away.

The dress was her mother’s decision.  Lady Hortense Brocklehurst had steered her daughter through her debutante season.  She had impeccable taste.  The contemporary dropped-waist style suited Mary’s wand-like figure, but with a hemline that must be modest.  Although Mary was a determined flapper, and her groom no less dedicated to nineteen twenties society living, their union would be a dignified, stately affair befitting two titled families.  Money was marrying money; the dress must observe and reflect great British traditions.  Her father, Viscount Brocklehurst of Saul demanded it; a guest list of a thousand expected it, and the mother could be confident the daughter would deliver.

Mary was not vain.  Growing up in a large household with two brothers, educated in one of the country’s best boarding schools, finished in a prestigious college in Berne, she carried self-image as her due and did not dwell upon her own reflection once the women who were helping her had withdrawn.  She stripped the expensive silk from her body with practised ease, then throwing on a housecoat as she withdrew to her bedroom, she gave the tassel of the servants’ bell an impatient tug.

“Yes, Miss?”  Florence had taken almost ten minutes to appear.  Mary glared at her.

“I’m simply gasping for a drink.  Would you bring me a decanter of dry sherry, Flo?  Oh, and have you seen this month’s Cinemagazine?  I distinctly remember leaving it here, on the table?”

“No Miss.  Although…”  Florence bit her lip.

“Well?”

“I shouldn’t tell tales, Miss, but I think I saw your magazine in Master Clive’s room this morning.”  Florence gave her mistress a knowing look.  “I’ll bring your tray, Miss.”

For all the promise of her upcoming nuptials, Mary was in a sombre mood.  She often found herself tasked with filling long hours when no-one called upon her, and the sun stubbornly refused to set.  Her parents were dutiful rather than attentive.  Her husband-to-be visited in his Prince Henry motor perhaps twice a week, and there were always parties. For the stultifying social deprivation in between, although Mummy would not have approved, alcohol was one valuable adjunct.  Reading magazines was another.  This afternoon, thanks, she was sure, to her younger brother Clive’s kleptomania, she lacked the latter.  Not that there was a dearth of periodicals she could read, but the particular one she wanted to read was in Clive’s possession.

For an hour she wandered about her room with a sherry glass never far from her hand.  She rehearsed dance steps, hummed the tunes of evening to herself, sighed at the window and fussed with the pile of journals on her table; she flicked through pages, scanned sketches.  It was a lubricious hour, and the lubricant did nothing to mollify her temper:  she wanted her favourite journal; it was not here, where it should be.

At last, when the resources in the decanter were well reduced, her irritation with her brother reached heights that could be contained no more.  Clive might bring the magazine back, at his own convenience, but she wanted it now.  Riding upon the thundercloud of her anger and slightly aided by a breeze of imbibed alcohol, she floated along the length of carpeted landing that separated the family bedrooms to her brother’s door.  The carpet was to blame – her bare feet were to blame.  Clive did not hear her approach.  He did not even hear her as she gently opened the door.  And then it was too late.

“Oh, no!  Oh, my gracious heavens, what are you doing?”  Mary exclaimed.

Clive was lying on his bed, face down.  Mary’s magazine was propped open on his pillow at a page featuring a photo-print of a contemporary film star, Pola Negri.  Clive’s body was caught in rhythmical movement.  It froze.  Clive froze.  Clive emitted a squeal like a startled pig.

“Get out, Sis!”  He spluttered, reaching for modesty in the form of a bed sheet that was rucked at the bottom of his bed and exposing, in doing so, rather more of himself than he would have liked.

Mary chuckled.  “Oh, vile!  Just vile!  Whatever is that?”  In truth, the best all-girls’ school education had instilled a certain amount of worldliness in Mary.  As pure a virgin as she might have been, she knew very well what ‘that’ was, even if she had only seen artists’ impressions of a rampant example until now, but she was of a mood to play the outraged innocent.  “For goodness sake, worm, will you please stop rubbing yourself?”

“I’m not,”  Clive muttered.

“Yes you are!  It’s utterly disgusting!  Especially over pictures of that woman, you ghastly little monster.  She’s scarcely a model of propriety, is she?  And that’s my magazine!  How on earth can you get yourself so – so excited about that?”

“Well I think she’s awfully attractive, if you must make a thing out of it.  Don’t you have the manners to knock?  Leave me alone.”  Humiliated, Clive made a further attempt at reaching the bed sheet, turning the other way this time, so he presented his sister with a glimpse of his buttock cheeks to feast her eyes upon.  He did look surprisingly muscular for such a little wimp, Mary acknowledged to herself; that backside would probably appear quite wholesome to a less jaundiced eye.  The sheet retrieved and his respectability restored, Clive managed to muster up some bravado.  “We all do it, us chaps.  The dorm’s positively heaving some nights.”

A fit of giggling caused by Clive’s turn of phrase required determined suppression. “That is not an excuse!”

“It is mine.”

“Don’t be so silly!  Awful things happen to you if you do that …that sort of thing.”  Mary’s initial outrage gone, curiosity took its place.  For all the new freedoms the nineteen twenties bestowed upon women, a girl of her background was still presumed to be sexually naïve until after her marriage.  Yet she had certain feelings, and some qualms – her intended husband was neither gentle nor patient.  She dared not ask about such issues in the stilted drawing-room world her parents inhabited.  She was not immune – nor, apparently, was Clive.

“That’s utter rubbish, Mare, it really is!  Just because you haven’t…”

“Don’t you DARE!”  Mary interrupted him hotly.  A rush of beetroot red flew to her cheeks, an anger that made her head threaten to spin.  “I will not discuss my…my private affairs…with you!”

“You could always leave – now.  And if you’re so repulsed you could take your eyes off it, couldn’t you?  But you don’t want to, do you – leave, I mean?”

Mary began to wish she had taken breakfast that morning.  Suddenly unsafe on her feet, she sat heavily beside her brother on his bed.  She held out a demanding hand.  “Give me back my magazine and I’ll go.”

Clive closed the book and passed it to her.  “There!”

Yet she did not leave.  Why?  Did her dizziness prevent her?  Was it the alcohol that whispered in her ear, spoke to her of forbidden, unmentioned things?  She slurred:  “You don’t know what to do – with a girl, if you’re…you know…with them.  Do you?”

The Honorable Clive leered, yet it was not quite a leer.  It might even have been a confident smile.  “Suppose that I do know?”

“Don’t you practice your cheap seductive moves on me!  How could you know!  You’ve never done it, and don’t pretend…oh, gosh, not Janine Parker?  Did you do it with Janine Parker?”

“A chap should never tell, but since you ask, in her father’s hay barn; last month, when I came back from school.  You would have been busy waltzing around the Court of St. James’s at the time.”  Clive added, acidly.

“Oh, that must have been awful for her!”

“I think she rather enjoyed it, actually.  Frightfully amused!”

“What did you do?”

“How do you mean?”

“Did you put your hand on her knee or something?”

“Oh much, much more than that.”  Clive looked at his sister carefully.  “You don’t know anything about what happens, do you?  I think that must be really dreadful.  I mean, you getting married and all that…”

“I most certainly do! I don’t choose to speak of it, that’s all.”

“All right then.  What will you do together, you and your chap?  Tell me.”

“I choose not to.”  Mary knew her face was giving her the lie.  She was deeply confused, as she had always been, about what would ensue when the wedding was over and she was left alone with her bridegroom.  Worse, she was fairly sure he would be equally clueless.  He was clumsy, rather bumbling in the simplest tasks.  She had no expectation that a bed would make a difference.  The secrets and covert meanings, the knowing looks and sotto voce comments of her friends seemed to allude to some mystical act, but what the nature of ‘it’ finally was remained shrouded in innuendo.

At some stage her housecoat had slipped aside enough to expose some thigh.  To her horror she felt Clive’s hand there, stroking her skin.  She recoiled.

“Now Sis, don’t be such a prude!”  Clive rebuked her.  “You need to have a modicum of experience, don’t you?  If I do this” – he allowed his hand to slip a little higher; “Not me, of course, but imagine I’m a chap doing it.  Imagine I’m St. John, if you like – don’t you get a bit of a rush?  Sensations, you know?”

“Sinjon.”  Mary corrected him, aware she was shivering and unsure why.  “It’s pronounced ‘Sinjon’”

She felt a kind of eagerness that was new to her.  Was this what Clive described as a ‘bit of a rush’?  St. John’s hand had never strayed higher than her knee.

Clive’s voice was gently persuasive; his lips crept closer to her ear.  “And then if a chap – if St. John – should do a little bit of this, don’t that make you wonder what will happen next?”  His hand began exploring places nowhere near her knee.

“Oh golly!”  Mary said, with rather more of a gasp than she would have liked.  “Remove your hand, you little reptile!”

Clive neither answered nor obeyed,  She knew, of course, she should push the hand away, but alcohol had made her bold, and her brother seemed so very knowing, so very self-assured.  Instead…

“Well?”  She asked tentatively.

“Well what?”

“I suppose you’re going to insist upon showing me – what happens next, I mean?”

 

© Frederick Anderson 2018.  All rights reserved. Each chapter of this book is a work of fiction.  All names, characters, businesses, organisations, places and events in the story or stories are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, places or events is entirely coincidental.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content

 

 

 

A Place that was Ours: Chapter Three. A Beautiful Game

Bill Shankly

Bill Shankly, one of the great football managers, once said that some people regarded football as a matter of life or death.  He expressed his deep disappointment with their attitude, adding:   “I can assure you football is much, much more important than that.”

If, like me, you were a kid growing up in our town of Casterley in the nineteen-eighties, you cared a lot about sport.   If you didn’t there were very few places you could put yourself on a weekend without risk of being battered by a ball, whether hard or soft.   You learned quickly if you were good at sports, without having to resort to self-criticism: others told you readily enough.  If you were good you played, if you were bad you watched.

Cricket?  That was the nobs’ game,  played on an immaculately manicured pitch behind their big semi-detached houses on the hill, and Casterley being a northern town, played mostly in the rain.   To join the cricket club, all you had to do was knock on the pavilion door (it was a shed, really, though adorned with some beautifully painted signs) and show interest.  Then they’d look at you to see if you were wearing whites, ask where you lived, and put you to work cleaning kit.

Football was a lot more democratic.  Jack Masters, who was the physical education teacher at our school, also coached Casterley Town Juniors, and he didn’t mind what you wore or where you lived as long as you could play.  There may not have been any match fixtures in summer, but that didn’t stop Jack.   He held his ‘training’ sessions or Five-a-Side games at the Club ground from May to August, when anyone who was interested came along.

Sun or rain, on ground that was iron hard or quagmire soft, I unfailingly turned up for those Saturday afternoons with however much kit I could afford, and Jack would be there.  Tall, broad shouldered,  his black curly hair an unkempt mop, always with a football under his right arm and a crutch under his left elbow, he never smiled.  He got angry, he got tired, he shouted and he cursed, but anyone who loved their football loved Jack.  So, an hour after parting from Sue, that was where Jonna and I could be found.  We joined a score of other lads on the Town’s pitch, all eager to benefit from Jack’s pearls of wisdom.

I confess even in those days I got a little buzz from the experience of walking out between the football ground’s spectator stands.  They were rickety and they were bare of paint, but they were our club’s stands, and just being there was enough to make my chest swell with pride.  Sue’s elder brother Dave and her classroom distraction Jess Abbott had already arrived, along with several others of our friends, John Hargreave excepted.  Jonna commented:  “No stickability, that lad.”  referring to Greavesies’ decIared interest at a few sessions earlier in the year.

I felt that was a little unfair.  “I think he tried.  Jazzer was picking on ‘im, a bit, wasn’t he?”

“Why, that makes ‘im a bit o’ a Jessie, then, don’t it?  Silly bugger should pick back.  All he’d ’ave to do to crush Jazzer is sit on ‘im.  ”

It was true; Jess Abbott always looked underfed to me.  “I see Sarah’s here again.”  I nodded towards the East Stand, where Sarah Coldbatch and a couple of her mates had set up camp.  “Reckon she’s after you, Jonna!”

Jonna shuddered.  “Nah!   Affer you, more like.  Oh, I forgot!  You’re spoken fer, aren’t yer?”

 

Jack had spotted us.  “Where’ve you been?  Get over here, Chas; five-a-side – you’re playing!  John Sutley, you work with Mark Higgins on those short passes, lad; I want to see you keeping your heads up, both of you!  I’ll put you on for the second half, all right?”

As a match it was unremarkable.  I scored three before the sides changed ends, and missed two more.  Jack pulled me off at half-time to give Jonna and Mark Phelps a game.

As he passed me, Jonna nodded towards a tall figure engaged in conversation with Jack.  “He’d be worth robbing.”

I had noticed the man earlier, a portly, middle-aged figure with thin hair and the cleanest, sleekest suede jacket I had ever seen.  He was a stranger, and strangers, coat notwithstanding, always aroused suspicion amongst us lads.  He was also clearly packing a well-stuffed wallet, something he would need to protect if he planned upon leaving Casterley with it still in his possession.

Jack called me over.   “Chas, this is Allen Ranton.”

Ranton grinned at me so broadly his mouth nearly reached his ears.  “Hello, Chas.  You got two good goals today, didn’t you?”

When he spoke he leaned over me (I had a bit of growing still to do) so his face was just inches from my own.  Since I’d scored three times, I wondered which goal he considered to be of less merit.  “There was no-one stopping me.”  I said.

Ranton appeared to consider this for a moment.  “You step into your tackles a bit, don’t you?”

“I know which of us has got the ball.”  I said.

Ranton nodded.  Then he asked: “How old are you?”

I told him I was nearly fifteen.  “Dangerous age, eh?”

And that was it.  He turned to address our coach:  “Well, Jack…”

“Aye.”   Jack seemed ready to resume the conversation I had interrupted, so I turned away.  “Hang on, Chas.   I need to show you what to practice.  Come here.”

Our beautifully upholstered visitor backed off so Jack could set me up for some sprints.   “Here to the corner marker, all right?  Then back to here.  Standing start and as fast as you can.”

I enjoyed running when I was fourteen, not merely for the rush of wind to my face, but for the science I was just beginning to learn:  to reach for each stride, use the spring of my feet, to command legs which were no longer just a windmill of motion below me, but instruments of power.  So I ran.    I was still practising when the call came up for a return Five-a-Side match, mixing up the teams to make things more equal.  Without effect – my team still won.

Only at tea time as Jonna and I were leaving did we notice that Ranton had gone.

“Opportunity missed there, I reckon.”  Jonna commented.  “Us could have boned and rolled him properly, ah’m thinkin’.”

Jonna was fond of inflammatory comments.  “You’ll get yourself in trouble saying things like that, young Sutley!”  I warned him.

Jonna laughed:  “Get us in trouble, aren’t y’sayin’?  D’yer think I’d leave you out o’ it, man?”

I cocked a lip back at him.  “When did he leave?”

“Just a bit after Jack put yer on those sprints, I think.  A bit weird, like.  He watched you down the field a couple o’ times – d’er think he fancied you?”

“Dunno.  I’m pretty, there’s no denying that.”

When I got home there was tea on the table, and Ma and Da’ were pretending they were friends.  After the events of a week that had shaken my world it seemed like the tremors had ceased.  On Sunday I helped Da’ resurrect our kitchen worktop with a new leg, a process which stretched his temper, and expanded my swearword vocabulary.   Us kids, we were resilient enough; it was easy to forget, to pretend we had forgotten, to believe in everything returning to normal.  Normal service is resumed; isn’t that how we say it?  After all, I had only one version of ‘normal’ to draw upon, then.  I had much to learn.

With the turn of the summer, I turned fifteen.  My Da’ gave me another bike for my birthday, which wasn’t exactly new, but it had twelve gears, so I thought it was really special.

“Good bike, that, lad.  Keep it in our shed when yer not usin’ it.  Don’t want t’get it stole.”

I had a bike again!  It was my getaway vehicle, a further means to outwit and outdistance Trevor Bull, who had a score to settle with me ever since I worsted him that afternoon on the Addisons Estate.  What was more, a bike meant freedom.  It was a ticket to faraway places, to the homes of friends whose good fortune was not to be domiciled amidst the maze of Casterley’s squalid streets.   August was a month of distractions, when the open road, with Sue cycling beside me if her parents allowed, first introduced the conflicting loyalties that would dog our teenage years.   Those stamping grounds of our childhood, the riverside haunt beside the old jetty, the playground on Bread Street, the town park, became neglected as our friendships drifted: not apart, not yet, but falling into imperfect orbit.  The unquestioning cohesion of childhood was no more.

Summer became Autumn.   With September the football season began, and the hallowed turf of our home ground, though scarcely worthy of worship, drew its congregation nonetheless.  Every home game, a masochistic gaggle of five hundred or so faithful supporters watched as it was churned to mud beneath a motley assortment of boots.  Rain or shine we came, our hopeful eyes devouring a succession of ritual humiliations, because Casterley Town Football Club was not from the top drawer, but rather from the bargain bucket.  Our centre half was forty-four years old, and nobody knew the goal-keeper’s age, or why he kept turning up.  If he dived to make a save the move was greeted by ironic applause, because he spent the majority of his time watching the ball go past him.

We turned up, and we cheered.  We cursed, threatened, or derided the visiting teams, and we went home in a sort of ritual depression.

“We’ll be going down this year, certain.”

“We’ve got Radley North End next week.  They’ll slaughter us!”

Was it that other Liverpool hero John Toshack who likened a football team to a piano, because it took eight men to carry it and three who could play?  ‘Town’ in my growing years not only lacked piano players, it had nobody strong enough to lift the piano.

Football was surely more vital than life itself to me, then  Jonna and I, we spent long hours watching, discussing, arguing about the ‘beautiful game’.  I would have given much for a father who would stand beside his son on the terraces, but my Da’ didn’t share my enthusiasm.  “Ah’ve no time for it, lad.  No time and no munny.”

Instead, my father was given to following the horses, which rarely had the courtesy to compensate him for his interest.  I knew better than to suggest that Casterley Town’s very reasonable gate prices offered a cheaper Saturday afternoon than those he spent in the Bookmakers.  Our relationship was never that close.

Did I really know him at all?

Throughout the summer he worked away from home, returning only at weekends.  Then, one Friday night in late November his supper stayed on the stove.  I remember that night; I remember my Ma moving like a ghost through the house, tidying, dusting, adjusting; going to the window to gaze out, unfocussed, at the darkness.  I remember the silence.

When Saturday morning was well advanced with still no word of my father, my Ma put on her outdoor coat and set off for the ‘phone box at the top of the street.  She was not gone for long.  I watched her return past our window, her face set in stone.  I met her in the hall as she closed the front door on the outer world, and I saw the tears come.   I had never seen my Ma cry like that, or had to listen to her sobs as she told me my father would never live with us again, and it was a surprise to me – a shock.  Where was he?

“Never you bloody mind!  Listen you!  If he comes back here again, you don’t let him in, you hear?”

“Ma, he’s got a key!”

“I’m changing the bloody locks!  You don’t let that fornicating bloody bastard in here, in my house, wi’ my things…”

Did I lament the loss of a father and a friend?  No, not as I thought I should.  Not immediately.  I blamed him.  He shouldn’t have left us.  He shouldn’t have caused my mother pain; but I was more confused than angry – I didn’t understand why he had chosen the woman in whose house he had stayed on weekdays over us.  We were his family, Ma and me.  It made no sense.

From that sad weekend, the bedrock of family was irrevocably lost to me.  Everything changed.

My mother took a job minding the phones for a local taxi company, which meant I got my own house key. I was to tell nobody she was working, because she was being paid ‘on the knock’ and if ‘Social’ found out she would lose her benefits.  The work kept her late some evenings, so I found myself learning to cook, and taking some share of household chores.  I minded neither of those things, quite enjoying the sense of responsibility they gave me.   And if Christmas that year brought less of the plunder I was accustomed to expect, well, I was prepared to be forgiving in a cause.  The one thing I could not forgive was my inclusion in that most onerous of lists, the recipients of free school meals.

The content of the meals was unchanged.  I was fed neither differently, nor less.  My social status, however, nose-dived.  In those days, ‘benefits’ kids had no cloak of anonymity, and the Monday register lit us up like beacons for the whole class to see.  Those whose parents paid for their meals began to subtly distance themselves – the more worthy and wealthy gave me looks that suggested I might have lice, and even my friends could be caught occasionally pretending they would rather be talking to someone else.  Of all the things I have never forgiven my father for, stiff as the competition was, that was the most heinous.

I was only saved from total ostracism by football.   In January, Jack Masters made it clear he wanted me to play for the school team as a forward, or striker.  The mob of kids who gave me the silent treatment every other day of the week dropped their animosity if I played well in school matches and cheered me instead.  I think I dealt with their duplicity amicably enough, although my last year at school was also the year I lost many of my friends.   The orbit had finally decayed, and a lot of my belief was falling to earth.

My last year?  Yes, I was determined that was how it would be.  I wanted to leave school in the summer of ’86.  If I was good at football I was talentless in most other subjects and realistic enough to know it.

Sue tried to change my mind.  “You could do a sports degree, couldn’t you?  Physical Education?  You’d be excellent!”

But no; I had been poor too long.  I needed work, I needed to have money to spend, and to get out into the world.  More than anything, I had a point or two to prove.  And a tiny fire in my stomach told me my course must be different.  When I said this to Sue she flicked her hair back from her face, smiled sadly, and patted my hand.

“Then all you have to do is find out what that course is, yeah?  Shouldn’t be hard.  Eventually you’ve got to get to a place where you can see everything clearly, though.  You won’t be happy until you do.  That might take longer.”

“A place that’s mine.”

“If you like.”

Sometimes it was difficult to acknowledge that Sue, with all her maturity of wisdom, was actually younger than me, but at the time of this conversation she had passed her fifteenth birthday too.  The grown-up world loomed large for both of us.  For her, it meant study, university and a life given to a career.  For me…?

I was still thinking about Sue’s words on a Sunday in March, when I heard that ‘Spirit of Lübeck’, a four-masted schooner, had docked in Bedeport for fitting out before she joined in the Tall Ships Race later in the year.   Had I some vague idea of joining the crew of one of those impressive vessels?  I don’t know.  Anyway, under rain-laden skies I decided to take my bike and ride down to Bedeport to see her.  It was a journey I would do alone, because Jonna did not possess a bike that could be trusted over distance, and Sue’s parents would forbid her going on such an adventure.

The rain began when I was still some miles from the port, and it got very heavy, very quickly.  In water-saturated sweater and jeans I had no choice but to keep going.  The road that followed the river from Casterley down to the coast was an old one, always busy with heavy traffic which churned the surface water into a mist.  Unthinking, teeth firmly clenched, I kept my rhythm.   The rain became a curtain through which vehicle after vehicle dashed down upon me, headlights blazing.  I did not see the one that hit me:  I just felt the sideways blow.

My eyes opened first.  I spent a few moments wondering why I was looking at a white ceiling.   Then everything fell quite rapidly into place, as I recognised I was in a hospital, and the pain in my side told me why.

“Hello, lad.”  He wore a police uniform.  He was sitting beside my gurney.  “We have to find out who you are…”

A nice man, I thought, a man with an open face, a family man of a nature that would make him a better father than mine.  I couldn’t be in trouble, not from a man like that. Maybe he had rescued me from whatever it was that had brought me there.  I told him who I was.

He mulled my name over to himself:  “Charles, eh, lad?  Chas.”

“What happened?” I asked him; because at that point, I really didn’t know.

The nice man smiled generously.  “You came off your bike, lad.  Got knocked off it, likely.  No lights?”

“Am I bad?”

“Hurt, you mean?  No, no.  You’ll be all right.  A cracked rib or two, most likely.   It was no weather to be riding without lights, Chas.  Where did you get that bike?”

I frowned.  My memory still wasn’t perfect.  “My Da gave it me.”

“Did he now?  Well, we’ll be wanting to talk to your Dad then, Chas.   Because that bike…”  The nice man drew breath, whistling as he sucked the air between pursed lips; “That bike has an identity stamp on it, you see.  It was reported stolen last August.”

 

© Frederick Anderson 2017.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content