My name is Lenny and I love walking to work. It makes me happy. I am twenty-two years old but when I walk to work people laugh at me. When I watch cartoons on the TV, I laugh because its funny but they laugh at me and shout at me saying I am stupid. Mum says I should ignore them but they make me feel sad. I try to be nice and smile but the kids run up and try to trip me and hit me and say bad words. They throw things at me. If you do not believe me, look at the scar near my eye. See it? That was done by a stone the size of my fist. My face got all hurtful and my eye went dark with blood. I cried and ran away. The big policeman came and let me ride in his car and asked lots of hard questions and said he would tell the mums and dads of the kids not to throw stones. They still did and Mum said a rude word about them and said their mums and dads gave lots of presents to bad kids and none to good kids.I walk to my work at the mushroom factory in Cable Street. I enjoy my work. Mr Armitage is the boss. He tells me to stand by the conveyor belt and pick out the brown and black mushrooms as they go past. These are bad. He says I am the best mushroom sorter he as ever seen and always gives me and the others a smile when he says that. Mr Armitage is nice. He says I am money in the bank. The others laugh and look sad when he says that to them. When I am picking out the bad mushrooms, I like that I can add and think about how many mushrooms I am sorting. And how many my friends are sorting. The small numbers make patterns in my head and I use them to count big things like where the stars are and how small things can get.I go and see Mike my friend on Saturday. I met him on the internet. I have lots of friends on the internet and we talk about numbers and what you do with them. Mum will not let me see the friends I make chatting. She says they may be bad and want me to take my trousers down and I must only allow Doctors do that when she is with me.That is silly. Mike has said he is not interested in my trousers and says I am the best in the world at looking at shapes and breaking them up into many small boxes, and adding them up to say how big or small things are. The words he writes are too hard for me to understand but he is showing me lots of new ways of playing with the numbers in my head. He says I can look at any figures and get answers quicker then a machine. Mike says he going to help me get work going to the moon. I have money for a train ticket and he says he will meet me at the station. And has asked me have I told my mum about meeting him.He says I can still walk to work but I will miss counting the mushrooms. If I tell the kids that say bad things to me that I am going to walk to the moon they may be nice to me. I will tell them when I walk home tonight. And I can tell my mum my big surprise. I bet she will be happy.’
Alice was a good girl. All the boys said so. She said it was the practice.
She was especially good to the big bad boys, taking them in hand. When she spanked them, they said they deserved it and never complained.
When taking her particulars down, the policemen agreed that Alice was very, very good.
What flowers should I order?’ said Harry struggling to stand as his legs trembled and the pain in his chest got worse.
‘Well what does she like’ said Kali the care assistant, trying to look interested as she wiped the dust around his room.
Harry, thought for a moment, then smiled and said ‘Roses’.
The blitz was still bad but Harry ran through the streets to Rose’s house. He was being sent up to York tomorrow for training and then being shipped out to the Far East. As he neared the house she was waiting for him.
‘Hurry up, mum will be back from the factory in an hour or so,’ said Rose in a strange nervous tone.
Shutting the door behind her, she kissed him and pulled him upstairs to her room. In one sweep her dress was off and she stood naked.
Harry stunned, said, ‘No, it’s not right’.
Rose just put her fingers to his lips and said, ‘you could be dead before I see you next and I don’t want regrets and might have been’.
Throwing back the bed covers the sheet was covered in the petals of a red rose.
In the morning, Harry’s son came to lay out the old demob suit that he had always kept just in case. Thanking him, he stayed with his thoughts. His wife, now long since buried, had always known she was second fiddle. Thank God, she saw me as a good man and knew that love comes in many forms. Our Mark was never left bitter.
Seeing his father crying Mark said, ‘Dad you know that mam, would be OK with this’.
‘I know but-,’
‘No not for me to know.’ Mark quickly got busy and distracted his father with shaving and dressing.
Harry got the letter while on service about Rose and his baby and wrote back but was captured by the Japs, When he got back he only found bombed houses and half- remembered names. After a while he got on with his life. Then one morning a knock at the door and a Hello dad,’ from a dapper grey haired man.
‘Pardon, I ain’t lost me marbles yet, you’re no son of mine.’
George just smiled and said ‘Rose begs to differ.’
At the church, Harry’s younger son walked him down the aisle as they waited for his older son to push Rose down to meet them. Meeting eyes, they both knew it was right and Harry bent down to whisper, ‘I told you I’d come back.’
Out in the straits, ships sail on in grey smoke: some with decks empty, some with men checking ropes, and one with a milling crowd taking their last glimpses. Each passing bow wave, rolling over a grey sea flecked with white, sighs on pebbles ,stretched out to muddy patches of harsh grass held back by a rock wall. Overhead, a seagull screeches, falling behind me towards the wooden framed house, where a lit window beckons in the early morning gloom. Five ships have drawn by and away since I rose to sit in the cold wind and remember a child not of mine, but one I loved. As always too soon he becomes a man, losing all innocence except hope. On birthday mornings. I would wake him with a tray made of sea-shore wood piled with a plate of scrambled eggs and the tea in a cracked bull mug. On a full moon, laughing together, it would be thrown high over the beach into the sea. In the mornings, alone on the shore, I would search for another year or to learn if the sea called. When he stirred, I would straighten the eiderdown and then sit on the nearby bench, moving aside his clothes. Sitting up, he would smile and reach for the tray. He always ate quickly before slowly sipping his tea, in silence. When ready we talked according to the mood of the sea: slow some days, others with stories taller then a mast. All the time I ignored the paintings and drawings; some of sailors weeping, others of ships, some with oars, some with sails, breaking apart in wild waves, and others of women like bleached bones on the beach looking out to sea. Some were by him but most were by the others who had rested here. Once they told my future but it was my past that betrayed. A husband dead, a sister dust – both mere words – when once one a chesty laugh and the smell of wood smoke and the other a giggle over secrets and gossip. And I had no child to comfort me. I prayed to the Gods, bled the Bull, and threw doves to the wind. Then on the day of storms, the sea gave me a son, his skin water soft and his breath of mist. I asked not the price. Then when my skin grew to wood bark, my teeth fall as autumn seeds and breasts became bloated baskets, the sea came for me. And my grandchildren found only the sea-spray of a hot summer’s day. Since then, many have seen my eyes and felt my embrace and learnt that no lamp window waits. Yet I keep some safe for women wearing the water of a child. Those children find me. At last the sun breaks away clouds and the light in my window dims. The cup with bull fresh and bold is taken out of my coat and I throw it up and over muddy grass and the sighing pebbles. It soars over the sea that is turning blue and falls towards the distant ships ready for its return.