Me, Evacuee (Historical Fiction Competition)

It is September 1st 1939 and World War Two has begun.
Jimmie is only ten years old and yet he is thrown into an unexpected situation which forces him to grow up much faster than he should. There is a call for children living in the cities to evacuate to the countryside and soon Jimmie finds himself all alone on a train to Devon and to an unknown world that is very unlike his own. However, when all seems on the upturn everything gets worse, as his father is sent to the battlefield, leaving his elder sister, his mother and her expected baby to abandon their home in Coventry and move to Cornwall. Jimmie finds it hard to keep track of his family's safety and under these hard circumstances he grabs onto the only links he has with home, while making friends with the unlikeliest of people.
Evacuation isn't as Jimmie expected. Will he make it through? Will his friends and family?


6. Settling In

Settling In


                We sat in the armchairs around the fire listening to ‘Children’s hour’. Jimmie had already made his first trip to the outdoor lavatory and he still occasionally shivered at the thought of it. I had been also. It wasn’t as pleasant as one that might be found at home in Manchester, but spiders didn’t scare me that much anymore.

                Me and Jimmie both liked the prospect of listening to children’s hour, as it was something we could relate to home and the voice of Derek McCulloch (Jimmie called him, like most other children, ‘Uncle Mac’) was a familiar and welcome one. I sat on the rug beside the fire, hugging my knees as I listened intently to it, sticking my toes into the rug. We were listening to ‘Just So Stories’. This one was called ‘How the Leopard Got his Spots.’

                Jimmie was curled up sideways in his chair, holding onto a bear which he had wrapped up in his parcel of clothes. He called it Mr Bear and he had had it since he was small. It was a cute bear, although he looked a little worn out after five years of almost constant hugging.

                The story finished and it soon hit six o’clock. Mr Jim walked in and asked us whether children’s hour had yet finished. I explained that it had. Jimmie had fallen asleep upon the settee, Mr Bear, however, remained gripped, tightly in his hand. Mr Jim covered him over with a blanket which had been hung over the back of the chair and switched off the wireless. The fire cast an orange glow throughout the room and Mr Jim drew the curtains closed, retaining the heat in the room.

                He told me that tea was ready and I washed my hands before walking through to the dining room. I was famished. Jimmie had clearly also been since he had only half a sandwich and because of it he seemed as if he might even eat his own hand. But now he was asleep and would have to wait a little longer.

                Mr Jim walked in from the kitchen, carrying two plates of food. It was chicken pie with potatoes and carrots. I thanked him for it and waited politely as Big Jim said a prayer. “So, it looks like it’s just me and you, Tommy,” Mr Jim said, picking up his knife and fork. I nodded and placed a piece of pie in my mouth. It tasted like heaven and I was sure I could have melted in delight.

                “Do you like it?” Mr Jim asked me. I replied with a nod as I had already filled my mouth with more. He laughed. Mr Jim began to ask me about my day and I politely asked about his in return. He told me he had been to the grocers, the butchers, the bakers and the greengrocers, to stock up on food for our arrival. He told me that his shopping trips would be much more frequent as double the people were in the household, two of those being growing boys who would each have hungry mouths.

                “Would you be willing to go shopping for me and Mrs Elsie sometimes, Tommy?” he asked me, replacing his knife and fork upon his plate and sitting back in his chair.

                “Of course, Mr Jim. Whatever you need,” I answered politely, my hands on my knees and my feet sweeping across the floor under the table.

                “There’s a good lad,” Mr Jim said.

                Jimmie walked tiredly through the dining room door, the blanket still wrapped around him and his bear still clutched in his hands. Mr Bear looking tired too. Jimmie yawned.

                “Jimmie, my boy. You’re up,” Mr Jim exclaimed.

                “Not for long,” said Jimmie, almost falling asleep where he stood.

                “Have a nice kip?” Jimmie nodded. “I’m not at all surprised you’re so tired. The two of you have had a long, tiring day,” Mr Jim said, clearing his and my plate away. “Sit down, Little Jim,” he said. “I just go and heat up your food.” Then he disappeared off into the kitchen.

                Jimmie flopped into the chair opposite me. “I’m exhausted,” he muttered, rubbing his eyes.

                I snorted. “You don’t say,” I replied.

                A while later Mr Jim entered and handed Jimmie a plate of food. “When you’ve finished why don’t you go up to bed,” he said to Jimmie, who nodded, too tired to speak, and then asked me to come with him.

                We walked up stairs and down the corridor to the storage cupboard. He took out the put up bed and handed it to me as he got some other things out. He asked whether I was strong enough to carry it to our room. I told him of course I was and hauled it down the corridor. He put it down on the floor and he placed some spare blankets and cushions onto the bed already up. Then, carefully, Mr Jim and me began to build the bed.

                After we had finished Jimmie entered and sat on the solid bed, watching us, bleary eyed. Mr Jim pushed the bed against the right-hand wall, leaving plenty of floor space. He then made the bed and placed another chamber pot beneath this. I offered to sleep in it, though Jimmie seemed to be on a different planet. Mr Jim ushered him to get ready so he could go to bed.

                Mr Jim placed a small table beside my bed and I unpacked the few items I had brought with me into it. My Jim took Jimmie’s clothes and placed them in the top drawer. I placed my clothes in the one below.

                “Go shopping for things tomorrow shall we?” Mr Jim asked us. “Left most of your things at home, didn’t you?”

                It did sound like a good idea, but then it dawned on me. “Mr Jim… I haven’t any money.”

                He chuckled. “Don’t you worry about that. I’ve got you two covered,” he explained tapping his pocket. I thanked him. “You’re welcome,” he replied and told us to get ready for bed. If we needed him, he was in the next room.

                Once I was ready, I blew out the candle beside my bed and snuggled up under the sheets. Jimmie was already asleep. I should have probably thought of home and my mother before drifting off, but they had sent me away, why should I care? I was so exhausted from the day’s events that I dropped off in seconds. One day of evacuation complete.

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