By mori saltson
It rained all day Monday and Tuesday. The first day of the summer holiday and it threw it down. I wouldn’t mind but I spent the last week of school fantasising about the first day of the holidays. I was going to ride over to The Frog Pond and look for newts. It’s really called Barley Farm Pond but this spring there was so much frog spawn that when it hatched, the place was covered with tiny, tailed, squirming froglets. They all hopped across the road and cars squashed loads. Me and Pete counted the road kill. There were sixteen. Ultra gross. So instead on Monday I had to do indoor things. Mum doesn’t believe in telly during the day so I had to read. I told her, it’s the nineties. I told her, get with the programme. She asked me what that meant and I had to admit that I didn’t know so she sort of won the argument. I wasn’t as annoyed as I made out, I actually prefer reading to watching telly. But I don’t want mum to know this. On Tuesday it was still raining. I put my wax jacket and outdoor trainers on, stood on the corner by the conker hills where the puddles get really big, and waited for a car to splash me. The first car slowed down thinking it was doing me a favour. I rolled my eyes at the driver. I hid behind one of the trees and when I heard the next car coming I jumped out and got soaked. It was hilarious. Mum didn’t think so. I forgot to take my trainers off and traipsed mud through the house. Wednesday morning broke with sunshine. I like that phrase. How the morning ‘breaks’, like in the hymn. Mum says it’s not a hymn, it’s a Cat Stephen’s song.
So finally I could go outside. But having thought about it for almost ten days now, it had lost some of its excitment. I biked to Pete’s house. Pete lives in a small house with pebbles on the walls, which really hurt if you scrape your skin across them. His younger brother Michael once pushed me against the wall and I had an imprint of those pebbles in my cheek all afternoon. Pete has five brothers. Jesus, I say to him, you’re like the Waltons. Only, they don’t say goodnight to each other like the Walton’s, they call each other bum-breath, and dickhead and scrap all the time. Michael teases Pete and me, says that we’re lovers. I told Michael, you’re too young to know what lovers are. Pete blushes like an apple when he says this. I told Michael, girls and boys can be friends. But Michael just sang, ‘Illie and Peter, sitting in a tree’… So I pushed him over and ran away. Pete wasn’t home, his dad had taken him fishing at the reservoir. I felt angry that he didn’t invite me. I asked his mum, isn’t it illegal to fish at the reservoir? She bounced baby Jason on her hip and said that she didn’t know. I didn’t say goodbye. I picked up my bike and headed back towards home. It wasn’t until I stopped that I realised I was crying. Not proper crying, but angry crying. I wiped my face and slung my bike on the front lawn, which mum hates. Ever since she ran my old bike over I have strict instructions to leave my bike leaning outside the back door. I didn’t want to go inside. I didn’t feel like going to The Frog Pond. So I decided to walk to the Camp.
We used to call it Mein Kampf, which is something Pete once heard on the telly. But when mum heard us saying this she got all angry and explained to me about the Nazi’s and the Holocaust. I suggested to her that maybe I was a bit too young to learn about things like that and she said that everyone should know about the Nazi’s and the Holocaust so that it never happens again. The truth is, there’s a book at school about the Nazi’s and the War, which I once read. But afterwards I had to pretend it was just a story because I didn’t like to think that people were really that awful. I felt all hollow inside that whole day. Like someone had shown me a picture of a dead puppy.
The Camp is just a dip, like a ditch, between two fields out the back of our house. It’s close enough to walk to but far away enough to feel like another country. There are small trees on either side, whose branches meet in the middle, making a kind of tunnel. Like you do with your hands for Oranges and Lemons. We have a wooden bench and old fruit crates to sit on. Apart from that there’s not much there, but sometimes we take things along, like my morse code walkie talkies and Pete’s fishing gear. When I got near I heard voices and could tell instantly that someone was in our Camp. At first, I thought it was Pete; that he’d brought a new friend here. Then I wondered if it were some of the other kids in the village. But they all live at Pete’s end and never come out here because the shop that sells sweets and the bike ramp are all at Pete’s end of the village. Then I realised that the voices were adult and one was laughing, a deep female laugh. As I got closer I could tell that one of them was Max. I felt all dark purple inside. Max was invading mums and now my space. Ever since he came back for the summer he had disrupted our patterns. I said this to mum, she was looking sad in the kitchen one morning and when I asked her if she was okay she erupted like Vesuvius, saying that she had better things to do that clean up after Max. So I told her that even though he disrupted our patterns he probably didn’t mean to. Mum looked at me with the face. It’s the best face ever. It’s as if I’ve just answered the most difficult maths problem and she’s really proud but at the same time sort of unsurprised, as if she knew all along that I am a maths genius. I’m not a maths genius of course. I’m a whole book behind everyone else in my class.
Max had his back to me and was smoking, he passed it to the girl he was with. More like a woman. She was older than Max and had taken her shoes and socks off. She wore lots of bracelets that jangled as she smoked. I knew what it was, it was pot. Mum hates it. Max smokes it all the time and it smells strange, like the hippy shop in town and cat pee and granddads pipe all mixed together. The woman threw her head back and blew out smoke. Just then, Max leaned forwards and kissed her. I stood back. I knew I shouldn’t be watching but this was my Camp. Maybe I should go back then walk towards them singing loudly so they can hear me coming? I carried on watching. The woman dropped the pot cigarette and clutched my brother’s face. Gross, I nearly said it out loud. They were kissing like people in films, as if they were eating really great ice cream or something and making, mmm, noises, just before mum always says, ‘bedtime,’ in this cheery, embarrassed voice. My brother and the woman were now lying on the floor and my brother was putting his hand up the woman’s skirt. Yuck. I covered my eyes and peered through the cracks, like I do when Terminator cuts out his eye. I knew what was happening. My heart was hammering so loud that I thought they might hear it. My brother began jerking, the woman gasped. I turned and ran as fast as I could, my heart a pulse, pulse, pulse in my ears. I raced through the field snatching hands of cow parley as I went. In through the hole in the back hedge. I dropped the parsley as I lunged in through the back door. Mum was sitting at the kitchen table with the radio on, sifting through her boring post. Mum saves up her boring post all week and looks at it in one go. Whatever is it, mum asked. Nothing, I said, just running.