International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Lifestory
only time for a raid was a Sunday morning with the vicar in church
with his family. The five of us, indistinguishable scruffy knights
on rattletrap bicycles, descended on the vicarage garden. Then
we hid behind the old shed that bordered the lane at the back
of the garden to count the shiny jewels we had gathered in the
grass beneath ancient chestnuts with rusting leaves.
best," Nick announced, holding up a fine conker.
"Not as big as this one," Rick replied, a huge specimen practically
filling his palm.
"You know? You can eat them," Des said thoughtfully.
"Can, so. My granny roasts chestnuts."
"But theyre not the same."
"Bet you a million, billion quid you can eat them."
With odds like those, there was nothing for it but to light a small
fire with the last of Nicks precious matches, and the air was
soon filled with the reek of scorching conkers.
"Ugh. Horrible," Des yelped.
"You wanted to eat them," Rick retorted, spitting out yellow
chestnut. "Now you owe me a million, billon quid."
Unfortunately, all the precautions that good scouts should take had
been ignored. Dry grass around the shed crackled with a life of its
own and flames licked at the tarred boards of the shed.
The bet was forgotten. Pockets bulging with precious cargo, we spilled
out into the lane where our bikes had been left, with whisps of smoke
rising into the still morning.
"Ummm. Were telling on you."
The worst thing that could have happened, worse than the vicar or the
village bobby, worse than one of our Dads, was two girls from school
stood over our bikes, staring at the thickening pall.
"Ummm. We seen you," Cath accused. Deb nodded vigorously.
Brushing past, the five of us leaped onto our steeds and made for the
hills, or rather, the old air raid shelter in the park.
On Monday PC Headley addressed afternoon assembly, helmet under one
arm, asking if anyone knew what happened down Vicarage Lane on Sunday,
and hinting at a reward for information leading to the capture of the
"Youre going to jail like your Dad," Deb hissed at Chris.
"Were telling Miss what you done."
Complex negotiations took place over the coming days, with fraught meetings
in the playground where none of us had the heart to play the conkers
we had gathered.
"Youre going to be our slaves," Cath announced, brutally
cutting short a summit conference, ending a week of offers and counter-offers.
So we became unwilling slaves. Rick professed undying love for the Osmonds.
Pocket money became a thing of the past. Chris had to fix Caths
Barbie-pink bike and ride it round the village. The strain told on Marcus
after he had to give up his army hat, succumbing to mumps that lasted
past Christmas. Bursting with furious indignation, but unable to tell
the world that Deb had made him do it for fear of the retribution that
would fall on us all, Nick was slippered by Miss for letting the air
out of her bike tyres.
Then the torture was cranked up to a whole new level.
"We want to see your bums and pee-pees," Cath said with awful
finality. "You first," she ordered.
Des looked sideways at the rest of us, huddled behind the PE hut, before
"Ew. I thought they were bigger than that," Deb said, then
the two of them dissolved into cackles that were repeated with each
of us in turn. Marcus burst into tears and ran away, so the girls went
to tell the nicotine-starved teacher on playground duty that some boys
behind the hut were doing something disgusting. This time, it was the
slipper for all of us.
It came to a sudden end as the 11-plus sent us on separate ways.
The five of us were spread across three different schools grammar,
secondary and Naval boarding while Deb and Cath went to the good
girls school. Overnight they changed shape, bulging in new places
and far too grown-up to acknowledge grubby village boys. There were
no complaints from us, but we never could understand how they could
go to a school for good girls.
© Quentin Bates November 2006
Quentin is studying for a Masters in Creative Writing at the University
all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy
- no liability accepted by hackwriters.com or affiliates.