Wednesday, 13 August 2008
We walked all around the estate, John and I, when we were kids. John reckoned he was the cock of the six streets we lived in and he’d strut, chest exhaled, as we killed time over the summer.
We didn’t realise it then, but going to school was the only thing that really ‘happened’ to us. Everything in between was just time-wasting. The pattern continued once we left school and found work.
The summer boredom was punctuated by strong memories though. Fights, bike accidents, football injuries, kissing (maybe groping too); all are still clear to me.
Often, John and I took our bikes out along the path of the old railway line. The tracks had been lifted some twenty years ago and the council had turned it into a pleasant place to walk or ride bikes.
The track went for miles in each direction, and we’d never made it to one end of either. The time I’m recalling now was no exception. It was a warm day and John got bored halfway along and wanted to turn back. I suggested we cut off into the field and test our mountain bikes on the undulations of the ploughed soil. This appealed to John.
We were tired and sweating through the effort after just a few minutes so we put down our bikes and looked for somewhere shady to sit. Skirting the hedgerows we aimed for the few trees at the corner of the field. Once there we were amazed to see a collection of metal objects, rusting in the shade. It seems like little to get excited about, looking back on it, but for us this was a find!
A strange little scrap heap was being built in this random corner of countryside and, as we picked through it, looking for anything we could steal, we scarcely thought about who had gathered this junk together, or why.
I was rifling through a basket of tins and pans when John tapped my arm. He had gone quite silent and put his finger to his lips. I listened and immediately picked out the unmistakable sound of deep breathing.
John shuffled forwards on his knees and inspected a rusting piece of corrugated iron. He beckoned me to help him and we slowly tipped back the iron sheet like it was a great door to a rotting mausoleum.
Behind the brown and grey curtain, in a small hollow smoothed into the soil, lay a man, and as the sunlight flooded across his face he opened his eyes and smiled a miserable smile.