The Boy in the Field
The red bricked house was shaped like an upside down capital L . The brown front door opened straight into a small kitchen with three large windows that always seemed filled with daylight. The house was part of an old army housing complex most were built from wood. There were four bedrooms and all the ceilings had wooden rafters. There were two fields close to the house, one at the side and one at the front. Both fields were roughly 5 acres in size and both lay idle. The grass was short and clumpy. From the side window of the Kitchen you could see the bypass. There was a manmade footpath leading across the field to a four feet high grey wire fence stretching the width of the field. A small section of the fence had been trampled down low enough to step over and cross the bypass. This was the short cut to the shops on the housing estate about half a mile away. The main rout to the bypass was though a dark copse, the path never saw much light and it was often muddy. Children from nearby houses thought this route was scary.
It was mid summer during school holidays, the 10yr old boy was already anxious at the thought of beginning secondary school in September. His family were poor despite both parents being in work. The boy’s 15yr old sister was his pretend mother for the holidays. She was kind and caring and often allowed the boy more freedom to wander but not out of sight of course.
There were no glamourous trips abroad just the occasional trip to the seaside organised by a local working mens club. The boy recalled a trip to Margate the year before. He loved the train journey despite the hot sun burning through the window. He remembered the hot sand and how quickly he slowed down because of the stifling heat. The boredom was broken when the boy decided to wander off the beach (forgetting to inform his mother) crossing a busy road and walking into an arcade. The bells, whistles, jingling noises of the slot machines bewildered him. The flashing lights made him feel like he was somewhere exciting. He noticed a woman his mother’s age playing bingo so he naturally sat next to her. The woman smiled and showed him how to play and paid the 10p fee for him. He won a frying pan, smiled at the woman who patted his head as she smiled back, he felt safe and warm as he left the arcade.. The boy rushed back to the beach and thought of his mother smiling at the gift he was about to present. He was horrified to find that his mother was in tears being calmed by friends as a policeman was taking notes. The boy ran to his mother and asked her why she was upset. She blew flames from her nostrils asking the boy where he had been, he told his tale of bingo and presented the frying pan to his mother who found it hard to continue her anger at his wanderlust. The first time his Mother used the frying pan the handle was too near the gas flame on the cooker and it melted. The black smoked impressed the boy in between coughs and he quietly laughed as his mother threw it outside and poured water on it. The boy waved goodbye to the pan it as it disappeared into the dustbin. There was no trip to the beach this summer, the boys mother was pregnant.
It was 10 am, the sun was signalling its intention to hang out all day. The boy usually occupied himself playing football for hours using two old thick gate posts where a farm gate used to be as a goal. But today was just too hot to run around pretending he was the star player scoring all the goals. He walked out of the house looked up at the clear blue sky, scratched his head. He looked directly at the sun into a black a void. He liked the weird dark shapes he saw when he turned his eyes away from the Sun. He climbed the fence into the field opposite the front door (there was no back door) and walked towards the tall hedge to see if he could spot any birds nests. He liked to count them and try and name the nesting birds.
There was a gap in the hedge, so he wandered into the hole and found an old rusty brown oil drum lying on its side. He pushed it gently with his right foot it rolled over with ease, so he stood it up and peered into the hole where the cap used to be. The drum was empty. He lay it back on its side rolled it into the open space and jumped on top, it rocked gently so he quickly shifted his feet to maintain his balance. He slowly moved forwards, his arms stretched like wings and managed to stay on for fifteen rolls before falling off. He jumped back on and tried again and managed twenty rolls. The boy was excited by this new adventure and he imagined Barrel rolling was an Olympic event and was determined to be the first British boy to win Gold. He practiced all day and managed a high of 100 rolls before being called in for his tea. The boy spent the entire summer practicing on the oil drum he even named it oily and talked to it like it was a pet. By the end of the summer the boy could stay on the drum for the entire length of the field and back to the house. He stopped counting at 300 rolls, he no longer needed the numbers, he was timing the journey on a watch he got for his birthday. Twenty minutes! Twenty minutes!! He couldn’t wait to boast of his feat at his new school.
The boy found many more ways to occupy himself and was proud that everything he created was free. That boy was me.
© JMcN 2019