The Human Touch Chapter Eight ...1
Sammy needed to pee. John had advised him to use the bathroom at the café, and Sammy had made his way there with every intention of emptying his bladder. When he got to the tiny, single cubical toilet, somebody was already in there. The person grunted and Sammy heard a splash and smelled a smell. He washed his hands and left without using the facilities.
Now he needed to pee really bad. His bladder was full, and he had a pain in his stomach from holding it in. He knew that they were hours from home, and he couldn’t hold it for much longer. It was hurting him. The men would often veer off from the group and disappear behind bushes or rocks. He knew what they were doing. It was disgusting. He was just glad that none of them ever tried to touch him after handling their penis, and not washing their hands afterwards.
He needed a toilet and a wash basin and soap. He was agitated and his eyes flickered from side to side in their sockets. His dad was talking to Martin about discipline in the classroom and didn’t notice. They were at the front and John had Carthenage on his lead because there were sheep around.
Sammy was at the back of the men and had been talking to Mr Athersmith. Gordon was telling him about being in the army and Sammy was enjoying the talk with Gordon, until his bladder had felt too full and it was too distracting to listen. Gordon realised that he’d lost the boy’s attention. He knew that sometimes Sammy got overloaded with stimuli and needed to be left alone. He’d said that he was going to catch up with Ian because he wanted to ask him something about his photography group. They were all within forty feet of each other, so he left Sammy to walk on alone.
The men were ahead. He looked behind him and his Mum and Martha were still around the last corner, they hadn’t come into sight yet. Sammy knew that he was going to pee his pants, soon. He had to find some water to wash his hands in so that he could pee. He left the path and disappeared into the slate quarry searching for a rock pool or a small waterfall so that he could relieve himself. If he was quick, he could re-join the group before they noticed he was missing. He knew that he should have told somebody, but he wasn’t going far.
He heard them shouting him, but he didn’t want to be found. He’d be embarrassed to tell them that he needed to relive himself. It was a shameful thing to have to tell somebody. And Ian and the others might not mind, even his dad and the old ladies had done it sometimes, but Sammy couldn’t bring himself to tell anybody that he needed to pee behind a bush. He couldn’t find any water to wash. Touching himself with unwashed hands was unthinkable, but he didn’t have a choice. He decided that if he pulled his pants down and squatted, he wouldn’t have to touch his penis. It was the way to go, but he still wasn’t happy about it. Bathrooming should be kept exclusively to a bathroom.
He climbed high and soon the voices were less audible. He wasn’t worried, he could catch them up. He was going to wet his pants. He had to get his penis out, no matter what. There wasn’t a soul in sight, but he couldn’t just do it there, out in the open. He made for a gorse bush halfway down a shingled scree. And then he was falling. He lost his footing in the loose stones and fell onto his side. He was rolling over and over down the steep mountainside and he was all wet down his leg. He felt himself peeing in his pants, but he couldn’t stop. He stood up. He wasn’t hurt, but he was still peeing. He’d had a very full bladder. He felt it going inside his hiking boot and it squelched when he walked. He looked down at his trousers and they were light blue—and they were partly dark blue. Sammy was ashamed.
Ian turned around to check on the progress of the rest of the group and noticed that Sammy was missing. Martha and Shelly were coming into view. He shouted to the men ahead, and John ran down to him, asking where Sammy was. ‘I don’t know, mate, he was here five minutes ago.’ They called out to him, and Shelly and Martha broke into a run up the mountain.
‘Where’s Sammy?’ Shelly screamed at John as she drew level with the group. She was huffing and gasping for breath, but the rising panic was evident in her voice.
‘Don’t fret, lass,’ Gordon tried to calm her, ‘We’ll find him, he can’t have gone far.’
They shouted for him, but their calls came back to them as echoes on the wind. They scanned the area, far in the distance two people, wearing cagoules, were nothing more than specs on the horizon, neither of them were Sammy. Despite the grazing sheep, John let Carthenage off his lead and told him to go and find Sammy. The dog thought that it was a new game and leaped up at John, barking and grabbing at the lead in his hands. Ian said that his dog was a working dog, and therefore had superior intelligence. He let Ballad off and gave him the same command, but off their leads, both dogs just chased each other across the countryside, glad to be free to run again.
They knew that Sammy hadn’t doubled back towards Shelly and Martha and he hadn’t got ahead of the men in the front. He had to have left the path. The men split into two groups, leaving Martha and Shelly on the path in case Sammy came back looking for them. Ian and Gordon went down the mountain in search of him while John, Martin and Bill broke off to the right, to climb the mountain and search the slate quarries and the fells behind them. One dog went with each group.
Sammy was hot and tired and ashamed. He couldn’t go back to the ramblers with pee stains on his trousers. He didn’t think about the worry that he’d bring his parents. His mind didn’t work that way. His only concern was not to be seen in his shameful state. He decided to go home. He could remember the way into Keswick and then it was only another forty miles to Barrow from there. Every year they had a Keswick to Barrow run, and people did it all in one day. It couldn’t be that hard, and once his pants had dried, he could get out his maps and his compass and navigate his way home.
But he’d strayed a long way from the path. He came to some thick bushes that went far in the direction that he wanted to go. They had thorns and prickles and he had to walk right around them. It took him further into the wilderness of the lonely fell. His legs were aching, and he missed his dog. He wished that Carthenage was with him.
He walked a long way and came to a deep gully. He carried on in the dip of the gully with high mud banks to either side of him. It was all uphill. At the end of it he came to a face of sheer rock. He couldn’t climb it. He’d have to retrace his steps and go right back to the start of the prickly bushes and start again. He looked around him. Sammy was lost. And now he didn’t know which way he had to go to get back down the mountain and into Keswick. Above him was only the mountain and below a deep incline covered in gorse.
There was an overhanging ledge sticking out of the rock. Underneath it was a carpet of thick green grass. It was shaded under the ledge. He climbed beneath it and sat far back into the shade. He was covered from view and it was like being in his own little cave. He took his bottle of water out of his rucksack and had a drink, and then he closed his eyes and thought about being a cave man. He could be a caveman and Carthenage could be a cave dog and they’d hunt dinosaurs and drag cavegirls around by their hair.
It was cool and it was nice. Sammy was hot and tired, his feet ached, and the top of his legs were sore from walking so far in wet trousers. He fell asleep.
They met on the path after an hour. Shelly was weeping and Martha did her best to comfort her. Several walkers had passed them and they’d all promised to keep their eyes open for Sammy. Shelly stopped crying long enough to shout at John. They had an argument in front of everybody and John was seething that Shelly could blame him for this. It wasn’t his fault.
Ian called Keswick Mountain Rescue on his mobile phone. The lady in the control room kept them on the line while she mobilised the unit. Shelly took the phone and gave as many details about Sammy as she thought would help. But she didn’t mention his condition. It was defensive. He was a child, lost and alone. What difference did it make that he was autistic? She felt no need to label her child. She was thorough in her description and in describing what he was wearing. She was doing something constructive to get her son back.
A helicopter circled overhead. It spread out in widening circles from their point of reference in search of Sammy.
Ten men with mountain rescue dogs arrived at the café in two range rovers, and more were going to get there as they could. They separated into groups and spread out over the mountain sending their dogs to search. One man, William Bates, followed the path to find the family and reassure them that everything possible was being done to find their son, and that he was confident that they’d find him very soon. He assured them that men were already searching further down the mountain. He stayed with them, talking to the teams of rescuers on his walkie-talkie.
Johnny peat and his dog, Valour, were searching scrub on the north western face of the fell. They’d been out and hour and a half when the dog found a scent and kept his nose close to the ground as he followed it up the scree bank. He entered a gully and Johnny followed. The bushes either side had been disturbed since the last rainfall. The dog whined and looked at his master for confirmation that he should continue on the new path.
‘Good boy, Valour, go on lad. Find.’
The dog put his nose back to the ground and set off. His pace was rapid, and his nose was sure, Johnny knew the scent was strong.
Sammy woke up and heard a dog barking. He smelled wee and remembered his shame. He was dry, but the top of his legs were burning and sore where they’d chaffed with all the walking that he’d done in wet trousers. He rubbed his eyes and felt a warm snout and hot breath in his face.
‘Get down, Carthenage.’
The dog barked and Sammy opened his eyes and saw that it wasn’t Carthenage, at all, unless Carthenage had suddenly grown up. Sammy didn’t think he’d turned into Rip Van Winkle, but a great big German Shepherd was looking at him. This wasn’t his dog.