The Noogan

Somewhere in Britain’s ancient and mystical landscape, there
lies a village. A place that has witnessed ages come and go. Its
stories are many. Most forgotten, some buried. And at least one
is hidden.

1939 three children were evacuated to a country village in
the south west of England. The idyllic yet antiquated village of
Abbeyton Lacey. By the end of the following summer, pretty-faced
Rosey Larchwood had disappeared. One foggy night she ran off and
was never found again.
In the summer of 1976 a schoolboy found a dilapidated diary
hidden in an overgrown garden.
But only now, many years later, the time has finally come for
him to tell of what he had discovered. The tale of those three
evacuees, consequentially of his own childhood and the dark side
of a village called Abbeyton Lacey.


4. One Morning


It was the first week during our summer holidays and early one morning I set off walking to the Weaver brothers house. My brother, Jonathan had still been in bed when I’d left our house. A fortunate arrangement as we didn’t share anything very well, including the friends in the lane. If my brother had knocked on the Weaver brothers house first that morning, it would have meant me not coming along. Being the younger brother is sometimes like that. Of all days, on this day, perhaps I wish it had been my brother leaving the house first. How things might have been different. Christian and Matty Weaver lived at the other end of our lane.  A lane of recently built houses, small, box-like and nudging rather ungracefully into the rural perimeters of Abbeyton Lacey. Christian was the older of the two and the eldest out of the four of us. Unlike his brother, Christian was with dark wavy hair and well defined pointy nose. They were his signature features really. That and his overbite which made him look sort of keen and inquisitive like a stoat. Under his shiny tousled mop looked out two dark blue eyes that could wring in twinkling amusement or be overshadowed by a frowning brow when his authority was challenged. Matty was quite a contrast to his brother having straight sandy coloured hair. The only similarity between the two was that their hair was permitted to grow a little long. But unlike his brother, it hung in pudding bowl blandness. This continued on with his pale sapid complexion which remained unblessed by the summer sun. Small eyes that hid from the world like tiny pale clams were set in a round and rather flat face. His eyes were blue aswell, but paler, only reaching the chroma of an over-washed office workshirt. With a button nose and a line for a mouth, it was hard to say what his signature features were. Even his smile revealed a row of unnaturally small teeth that expressed little more than roused excitement. During the summer months we all lost our milk white faces for a more sunkissed one. Christian’s would always turn the colour of seasoned beechwood. Unlike my brother and I, who swapped pale complexions for Rosie flashes and the eruptions of tiny freckles wherever the sun had washed our bodies. Our hair, dark as damp earth throughout winter, would lighten to the colour of a harvest mouse by the final months of summer, only to have it cropped off every year before school’s return.

Up the side of the Weaver’s house I went. A side entrance they had, built into the rising land adjacent. There, a dim brick passageway lead to their front door enclosed in shadow. It was always damp and the bricks were cold to the touch, already growing green in spite of the fact all the houses here had been built fairly recently. Then I was at their door, and a feint aroma of their home was already detectable. I don't know about you, but I was never one to ring the bell or knock the door of other people’s houses readily. You never know what mood you have caught them in. But at the Weaver's house it was their mum who always answered the door. Their dad lived somewhere else. I never knew the full story there. That morning, as most mornings, she opened the door dressed in a gown and slippers. A cigarette in her mouth, she offered a listless smile and then left the door open for me to enter while she disappeared back inside. I had the impression that she could answer that door a hundred times a day and each time in the same manner as the first. I walked in to find the brothers spread out on the carpet eating cereal and watching t.v, still in their pajamas. Golden Nuggets they had for their cereal. I’d often wish finding Golden Nuggets in our kitchen cupboard at home. But asking our mum was like poking a cantankerous dog with a stick.

 “They're too bloody expensive for you bloody kids! God if we don’t spend enough money in this house wasted on rubbish like that,” came the oft rankled reply. I seldom understood her point then, but well understood not to poke a cantankerous dog. So it was wheatobix in our house. Always Wheatobix. Oddly Wheatobix  smelt just like the brewery at the back of Lacey high street which lead me to believe that behind those brewery gates, it was packets of wheatobix that they were shaking into large containers to brew beer. The Weavers house had a smell. Every house has a particular smell. Don’t you think? The owners of homes are never aware of their personal identifying smell. Only visitors can experience that pertinent pong when entering through the door. The Weaver’s smelt of a combination between a hamster cage, warm milk and cigarette smoke. It was not a bad smell though. In fact I didn’t mind it. Unlike the house of my other friend, Rory Lay. That house smelt rather odd and made me feel strangely ashamed when entering. It was a combination of several odours. One was not too dissimilar to the air let out of an old  wet inner-tube and the other was like yesterday’s fried dinner. Rory Lay’s mum was a kindly lady but it was his dad who I felt was a strange fellow. The two of them always looked like a wrong match to me. Physically he looked normal enough and had an uncanny resemblance to the face on the 'Daddy’s Sauce' bottle, causing me to secretly wonder if it really was him. But with his scratchy voice and excitable manner that man always made me feel uncomfortable. His mum  was a very short woman, shaped like a light bulb and waddled as she walked. But in contrast to her husband, you sensed she was kind, caring and down to earth. I would dread calling round for Rory. Especially If he wasn’t there and his dad answered the door. He would insist I should come in and wait, telling me Rory would be back any moment, which he seldom was. A considerate offering you may feel. Meanwhile, as I would sit awkwardly on that vinyl sofa, he’d sit opposite looking over at me like a chameleon anticipating a snack. At times he’d talk to me in fast, rapid-firing words with occasional bursts of high pitched laughter. I’d pretend to understand while silently curse Rory’s dragging absence. Children read adults better than adults remember.

So that morning at the Weavers house, when the cartoons had finished and the brothers had finally gotten dressed, we decided to go wandering over the fields, which was our usual plan of adventure. The way out from our lane to the countryside was through the marshes. They ran from the back of our house and stretched on for several miles. Over the wire fence we climbed and made our way out. The marshes were quite dried up in those months, though we still needed to be a bit careful and step from one tuffet to the next, like stepping stones.

   During the tail end of last winter, one rather grey and misty evening Jonathan was not careful. His foot went down in the bog, followed by his leg. The next thing, he was up to his waist with both legs under. Tears running down his face, he wailed and pleaded that I should go and get our dad. But we were on the far side of the marshes when it happened and I thought he might go under while I was gone. I think he considered the fact he might too. The more he thrashed, the more it seemed he would sink down further. To be honest, we had always been told not to cross the marshes. In fact a policeman had even come to our school assembly to warn children all about the dangers of this place and the railway lines. But those warnings of being in trouble with the police only served to make us avoid getting help. So we had to sort it out. Christian suggested Jonathan try stay still and lay forward. A task which he followed with terrified and gradual uncertainty. My poor brother. He looked quite without dignity as we all pulled his arms until he eventually came out like a newborn calf. Except he was covered in the stink of stagnant bog. I remember how it was difficult to tell what clothes he was wearing as they were all pasted in an umber sludge that smelled not unlike those public toilets in Spain, I remember from a family holiday. Even my brother’s face and hair were daubed with it, masking all but the whites of his  eyes, teeth and pink gums. Once  freed, his grizzling dissipated and he suddenly turned bothered and furious, which he seemed to vent mostly on me. I thought he was going to be quietly thankful on the walk home. But there you go. His Wellingtons are still under there somewhere. Rather than go home like that, facing our mothers ferocious interrogations and our father banning us from going out ever again, he reluctantly had to rinse each of his clothes off in the icey waters of the river. Under darkening grey skies and air that bit with coldness, he undressed and tentatively stepped into the flow to wash it off. Then he stiffly pulled each sodden item back on until finally we all began trudging uncomfortably towards home. I remember us crossing those misty marshes, expelling cloudy breath as we went, my brother’s fringe hanging limp with river water as he shuffled in wet socks and wincing with the cold, occasionally loosing his footing. In an effort to stay warm, he walked with arms embraced around himself inside his clothes. That sodden and now overstretched jumper that he wore  looked more like it belonged to our father as it hung down to his knees. Those marshes had a smell. It was of dankness, was the opposite of freshness and always seemed to suggest a deadness to me.

 So that summers morning as my foot squelched between tuffet, a little of its deadness was awoken, lingering to see who has come this way. And where I trod, It made me wonder about what other things had been lost below over the years other than Jonathan’s Wellingtons. We continued on and I looked on the tuffets of reedgrass. They sparkled with the morning due. As do little spiders webs which cling to them everywhere. I wondered often about a spiders patience. A nights tedious work of web spinning ruined at every sunrise. Matty always liked to point out the occasional little red insects that you would find on the reed ends. ’Bloodsuckers,‘ he would warn fearfully and I‘d navigate cautiously around the misrepresented little fellows. 

Not more than half a mile from the fence, we suddenly heard someone shout out to us. But I knew who it was before I turned my head. My brother was a spec of a stripy t-shirt climbing the fence and then running towards us.

“Hang on!,” shouted his tiny voice from afar. You'd never think he had nearly disappeared in that bog the way he ran carelessly towards us that morning. No one else knew about that episode except us four. And between him and I it has never been mentioned since. Though, I must say I was sometimes tempted to during those times when he would try to exclude me from the gang. When he saw us waiting for him, he stopped running and assumed a casual walk towards us. “Wait for us,” he said again as he eventually joined us, a piece of his half eaten toast smeared with Marmite still in his hand. He was acting. I could see it. He was aware of my eyes and avoided them. There was a moment of anticipation between him and I. An opportunity for words to be said. He was the outsider now. Then, while he regained his breath, he casually offered me the half eaten toast. I knew only too well the outcome if that had been me joining the group. 

“No thanks,” I said casually, shaking my head.

“I'll 'ave it,” said Matty .“‘Ere are. I'll ave it,” he repeated and then snatched it like a starving street kid, grinning and  eating with his mouth open, as if to show he could. I saw Christian glance at his brother and then appeared distracted by nothing in particular. At that moment I was becoming aware of my foot getting cold and wet. 

“Sod it,” I cursed as I saw it was sinking into a boggy clod. With a little wrenching though it came out with a 'schluck' kind of sound, but the sudden release threw me off balance and I was forced to sit. Down I went, now feeling the spread of damp where I sat. It amused Matty the most and he laughed his long wailing laugh not unlike a child’s wailing cry. He continued this with his mouthful while I inspected the daubing. Getting annoyed would only make him laugh more and anyway now he was choking on his half chewed toast. I felt wonderfully appeased at this sight. We all then turned to watch him  for a moment, first laughing at his coughing and lurching sounds, then, quietly fascinated by his sudden fit of convulsions and ever growing desperation to expel the blockage in his throat. Within a few seconds, Matty’s whole pretence had been abandoned for somewhat strange and embarrassing behaviour and an air of concern began to grow amongst us, overtaking our amusement. Then, just as his brother stepped forward towards him, he managed to recover himself, ejecting out some half chewed piece of toast. We could laugh now, which we all did as if exorcising and awkward situation. Laughing at the way he had suddenly behaved. He stood up straight and with heaving body, his watery eyes glanced back at us uneasily and looked away again.

“Fak sake!,” he announced, looking in a different direction and then turned towards us snorting one of those deep nasal snorts and then forcefully expelled a gob out to the side.

By the time we reached the river's edge, all of us had our legs soaked by the long dewy grass and I with one bog stained foot and bum. There was a big tree here which arced right over at a narrow point in the river. It intertwined with another arcing tree from the opposite bank which had fallen into it long ago and served as a means for us to cross the river. So one after the other we began to climb and shuffle along. When it was my turn, up I went, carefully  holding on to the trunk as I edged out over the river. Slowly as our combined weight grew upon the leaning tree, it sank further towards the rushing waters below and then would rise back up each time one of us released weight, sliding off on the other side. It was like riding some huge animal. I found my self astride the great trunk, trying to manoeuvre those upright branches  out of my way as I shuffled and edged forward. It was the poke of Matty’s finger in my back which dauntingly reminded me he was right behind.

“C'mon faaack sake,” he whined and my senses regrettably turned towards his impatience and my ability. For a moment I looked below us. The water was fast and swirling, pale and cloudy, not revealing its true depth. But in spite of his harrying, I stuck to my cautious shuffle. I may have been the youngest, I thought, but I was not falling in first.“C'mn on!..,” he repeated. Well, then the fun just dissipated out of it and I wished that he had been the one in front. Matty, being the older one could probably do it easier than I and he let me know that with his huffing and cursing. They were all older of course and my brother would often tell me for this reason they were his friends and not mine. I had to move on quicker I felt, but you can't lose your grip- no, not for all the huffing and swearing behind you. Just look for each good place to hold on to and not consider what is below. Eventually I was past the middle and the end in sight. I'd made it, and  could finally jump to the bank. I had thought Matty was right behind but he was, as it turned out still in the middle of the trunk, hardly moving. I could see he was considering that torrent below too.

“C‘mon Matty,” said Christian encouragingly. “Just heave yourself along, you'll be alright.” Matty was just sat there in the middle of the trunk like a morose old chimpanzee. But slowly  with some more encouragement from his brother, he then began to respond. Disgruntled and sort of stiff bodied as Matty was, I could see him full of relief when he finally jumped down from the tree to the bank, trying to subdue a creeping smile. 

Here on the other side, we were in a great long paddock. Only two horses had it to themselves to keep those pastures shorn. At its edge was a wire fence and on the other side beyond, an embankment with a railway track at its top following the valley. Before leaving the river bank, I went to have a go at washing the bog off of my plimsoles and  cut-offs. Jonathan noticed what I was doing. “Just as well take them off and wash ’em in the river,” he offered with a seemingly understanding note .“No one's around here. You’re quite safe. That's what I did.” he suggested. I supposed he was right and saying nothing, I tentatively took them off. Though, it was always worthwhile to be a little suspicious when he was  being a considerate brother. The water’s edge was brisk and cold as it ran over my bare feet making me take a sudden breath. Then, just as I was reduced to underpants, wringing my cut-offs out, I heard a familiar sound that made me regret to have taken them off. An approaching train rang out its 'weh! Wah!' horn and I realised that I now had a desperate bid to get my damp jeans back on before it came by. If you've ever tried, damp jeans are a bugger to get on in a hurry. Worse was that my considerate brother had begun waving cordially at the approaching train. The others, seeing the fun, had now joined in and suddenly it was too late. The train was here and I had only gotten my jeans up as far as my ankles. Good God, it was a passenger train too and going painfully slow. I could see passengers waving back and laughing. What must they  have thought? 

The new day is pure like a page awaiting the story and above, the morning sky, vast chalky blue foreverness, awaiting the entrance of its central player. The sun hadn’t been up for long and so there was still a bit of a chill in the air. I could feel it was going to be one of those warm summers days. On we went, making our way further along the paddock looking for some kind of an access-way under the railway embankment in order to cross to the other side. But after ten minutes of walking with nothing insight, we began to consider going over the fence and climb the grassy ungrazed embankment to cross the railway track.  Jonathan was against the plan and kept reminding us about railway police. But eventually we climbed the fence and began scrambling up towards the track. “Train's coming!. Train's coming!,” shouted my brother suddenly. But after scattering back down the embankment and listening, it became clear there wasn’t one coming at all. So again we went up the embankment and made a dash for it across the line, climbing the second fence and stumbling to the other side. Here we found  another long field of short grass, rimmed by tall conifers fringing a dark woods and a distant farmhouse. There were cows here, gathered in the far corner of the field. Or were they bulls? They seemed to have noticed our arrival and were now moving towards us.“God, look. They've got horns!,” exclaimed my brother.

“Farck. They 'ave en all,” added a worried Matty.

“They might just think that we're bringing their feed,” suggested Christian and for a second we hesitated what to do. But he then abandoned his rational offering, conceding with the words “Lets get out of 'ere!” We were all increasingly getting worried as that herd started rumbling towards us. Matty began to climb back up the embankment from where we had come.“No!,” shouted his brother. “This way !”  The rest of us had already begun to run alongside the railway fencing. Christian and Jonathan soon sprinted off ahead, leaving me worried that I would soon be left behind. We were running and running over the lumpy field and looking behind at those horned beasts. They seemed to be getting closer. A five bar gate was not too far away but I noticed Matty was falling behind even me.

“Don't leave me. Fark!.Wankers. Don’t leave me!,” he shouted while his legs and arms flailed about as he ran. Eventually Christian stopped at the old iron five-bar gate, calling him on.

“C'mon! You'll make it,” he assured his brother as I arrived and climbed over. A moment later Matty slammed into the gate and scrambled over like a cat out of a bath. But once all of us were over, we gasped and groaned in relief, laughing in between each heaving  breath. A moment or two more and the whole herd swarmed up against the gate.  Eyeballs of marbled marooness bulged in our direction as they searched us out expectantly through the bars. I saw now that they were cows,with shrunken pink udders beneath, but all the same, I was scared enough. 

“They’re cows,” I breathed. 

“Yeah,look!,” said Matty. “They’re only bloody cows you twats!”

“With big horns,” I added.

“Get back in there then,”suggested Christian. Matty hesitated. “Fark off,” he replied.“You get in there,” taking a step away from the gate. The next field up was a kind of meadow covered with buttercups and as we continued walking up that way, we could eventually see there was an old red brick tunnel or archway which went under the railway line. It was for the cattle I suppose. On looking closer as we approached, words or initials  scratched into bricks here and there became noticeable too. Some, you could see were new, done recently as they stood out in orange against the old mauve brick. There were many messages ‘KINGSFORD BOYS ARE SPACKERS’, ‘STOWE BOYS RULE’ which reminded me that if we had lived around here we would have been going to Stowe school. I'd heard all sorts of things about that school. It was supposed to be very strict. You got the cane. And there were always those stories about fights between their school and ours. I had this rather intimidating image about that school. Drafty stone corridors that smelled of industrial disinfectant, bellowing old-walrus schoolmasters and vindictive schoolboys. I’m not even sure where it was. We approached that strange place and along with the writing on the bricks throughout the archway it felt like we were entering a rather uninviting lair. It was dark and damp with fern growing from the brickwork. Against the wall, under the doc leaves, nettles and long grass were some broken bottles. Perhaps this was where those from Stowe school met up. I could see some other older messages as we stepped under into its echoic interior. It was dull and scratched into the brickwork.The handwriting was neat though, almost like printed letters. ‘R.L LOVES T.G’ and another one on the brick below. ‘CATHY 4 ?’ with it left as a question mark, just as some girls would write on their book or bag at school. Another said ‘VACCIES GO HOME’.

“Look!,” said Jonathan. “Up there”, pointing up at some other dull scratched words.“It says ‘Jonathan’ and the date. Can you see? 1873. See? I am older than you after all,” said Jonathan with a smirk.





Just a little down the lane from the meadow, we could see that the hedges ended and there was a new and dusty road leading to a building site. So we left the archway and It was to there that we ambled towards. When we arrived, the building site was deserted being a Saturday and half built houses stood abandoned. Window frames were propped up by planks awaiting bricks to be filled in around them. I didn’t much like the colour of the houses there. With buff yellow bricks, the whole place was a beige colour and made me feel a bit apathetic and empty inside. Who'd want to live here?, I thought. The rusty old scaffold poles were caked in solidified cement and jutted out of buildings here and there while piles of building materials, clumps of gone-off concrete, orange sand, pallets of stacked breezeblock and brick, sat awaiting Monday. Nevertheless, curiosity had us poking around investigating each newly built room expecting to discover something left behind. But they were all the same. Empty with nothing but a scattering of saw dust over chipboard floors and that dry limey cement odour. We all wandered in this door and out of that until, losing each other to different rooms and houses as if it were a maze. Soon enough, my curiosity had separated me and I was alone in one particular house. There was a closed door at the end of a bare corridor. I made my way to it. Gently I turned the new brass handle and peered inside. A bare and empty room. Just a plain concrete floor and a plain brick fireplace at one end. With a few steps, I entered, heading towards the window.  Suddenly, a voice boomed out.

“OI!!” it thundered “What are you doin!?!” Well, bloody hell, It made me nearly jump out of my skin and I automatically lurched back towards the door. But then, amongst my initial fright, I began to realise it had come from the fireplace and  I knew that disguised voice. It then dawned on me with some relief and some shame that It was of course Christians voice. He was up on the roof talking down the chimney stack.“I'm watchin’ you Micky,” his voice rumbled again in mock seriousness and then I heard his familiar chuckle amplified in an echo. “Did I make you jump?,” came his now familiar voice down the chimney and he laughed again. I was relieved, but I could hardly speak to get a reply out. My heart was still thumping away in my chest.

“No, git,” eventually came my bothered denial sending it back up the empty fireplace. My eyes checked around to see if any of the others had witnessed my embarrassing reaction. Jonathan was outside on the scaffold of another house throwing stuff. I could see him through the glassless window trying to get bits of rubble into the cement mixer below. Then as I left the building Matty surprised me with a piece of something rough and wooly, pushing it into my face.

“Ffweerrr,” was the sound he made as if it was in someway a dirty joke. It was wooly and scratchy.

“Get lost!,” I shouted, spitting it from my mouth and pushed him away. I could feel the stuff irritating my cheek with a hot and prickly sensation.“This stuff bloody itches. Don't you know? Its not funny,” I said, irritated at his grinning. 

“ Matty..,” came Christians' disappointed voice from the scaffold above. “Not that stuff.”

“What’s 'e done?,” came Jonathan’s voice, still preoccupied with getting the stones to land in the mixer.

“Din't know. Did I?..,” retorted a defensive Matty, tossing it away and trying to wipe his hands on things. “Made yer jump though. Divn't I?”, he added with an excited sneer showing his babysized teeth.

“No,” I replied, irritated with my itching face.

“Got one!,” shouted Jonathan as something clanked inside the cement mixer. Then there was a crashing sound. It was Matty.   He ‘d pushed over a drum of water. It gushed out sparkling in the early sun across the bland beige and stony  surface of that place. For a moment I watched the water flow and how it vibrantly sought out a way forward. Tiny rivulets searched ever more desperately across the ground as if for its true home. Eventually though of course, it just ran out of life and faded into damp earth. There was an odd moment of emptiness which followed. We all seemed to have suddenly lost interest in that place or perhaps just wondering why we were there. 

“Lets go,” murmured Christian finally.

“Yea, lets get out of here,” added Jonathan looking over at Matty. 

There was a time before, I remember when we came to a building site like this one. Matty found some little brass cartridges about in the dirt. Hilti-gun cartridges they were called and the workmen apparently use them to fire nails into the wall. Matty and I couldn't wait to let one off and he soon found a brick. I didn’t know quite what to expect as he placed it there on the block, ready to strike. But he faffed around, looking away and wincing while blindly whacking everything except the cartridge. It was Christian who interrupted, pushing Matty aside, insisting he would do it instead. Matty put on a show. Ranted and complained of course, saying that it wasn't fair, that it was he who had found the cartridges and all that. Anyway, it ended with us crouching  behind Christian as he struck it square on. There was a loud crack then a slight whiff of smoke, just like a sparkler smells and then, as Christian turned around holding his hand up to his face, we saw something had gone wrong. Quite a shock to see his right eyelid looking like liver pate’. He was, I remember, quite calm about it though.“Don't worry, I’m alright,” he said quite dismissively. Nasty. It could have ripped into his eye just the same. That’s what I thought had happened at first. Now he has a little scar there which you can only see when he looks down.

Just before we leave this building site on this morning, we come across a stack of three polystyrene blocks. Each one was about the size of  a school dinner table and about a foot thick. Clambering over them, we then took to throwing them about, feigning super strength. Its bizarre how light they are for their size and that entertained us for a while.  It was me who had the idea to use them for rafts “Do you reckon we could float on them?” I had asked. 

Matty added enthusiastically “Yea! Let’s take 'em down on the river.”

“Bagsy me and Jonathan on this one,” said Christian and they then took possession of the  largest one. So we set about knicking them out of that site. Although now Jonathan was somewhat uncomfortable with the idea, complaining that we’d get caught and it would be my fault if we did as it was my stupid idea. But anyway, off we went dragging and pulling them out of that building-site and on down towards the lane where we had come. I suppose some busybody could have easily seen and reported us. In the opposite direction I could see the lane got busier with houses. A few big older ones here and there poked out between oak trees. Then, where the trees ended, newer, smaller houses, then another new housing estate began with a new black tarmac addition to the road and recently buzzcut hedgerows.'So that must lead to Stowe', I thought as we left the building site, heading back to the river.

“Someone's watching us!” murmured Jonathan.

“No they're not,” I replied automatically, preoccupied with trying to carry our new raft.

“They are,” he insisted desperately. “That car pulling out of the estate up the road there ...Its just sitting there and the people in it are watching us.” I looked and saw there was indeed a car there. A dark brown long bonneted type like a Capri or something.“See? Tossbag?,” he added with increasing concern.

“Farkin' are,” confirmed Matty in a panicky voice.

“Let’s jus' keep goin',” said Christian . “I'll say,...” he began, while setting up an excuse “...that these blocks, they're me Dads ...and I'm collecting them for him.”

“Yea, let’s say that,” agreed Matty readying himself and we all continued on, walking with the huge polystyrene blocks as smartly and officially as we could. The car meanwhile, remained in the same place.

“Stop looking behind you all the time you idiot!,” a stressed Jonathan seethed at me while shaking his head incredulously. “He‘ll bloody come down here then when he keeps seeing your stupid little face keep looking back like a spaz.”

“Piss off,” was all I could return while encumbered. Our reaching the gate to where the archway was, seemed to take forever. But just as we did reached that gate, I could then see the indicator of the car start to flash. “Shit!, He's coming down here!,” I said, hastening our progress.

“You twat! I told you!,” I heard Jonathan complaining.

“You're a tw..!,” but my reply was abandoned as our quick march turned to panic. As quickly as we could, we flung our rafts over into the meadow and began scrambling over the five-bar gate. In the meadow, Jonathan and Christian  grappled to pick up their raft and headed for the archway, followed by Matty and I with the other. At that moment the car slowed up by the gate just as we were nearing the archway

“Oi!!” came a rather severe call from the car window. “What you nippers doin’ with those?,” the gruff voice demanded.

“They're ours!,” shouted back Christian without looking behind in a feeble attempt to send him away.

“Yea!”,joined in a bolstered Matty. And then when we were under the archway he shouted out “So piss off!,” sniggering excitedly. His voice under the archway echoed his words, amplifying what I immediately wanted to stifle. A feeling of dread and regret began emanating from the back of my head as I felt Matty's words dragging us all into trouble. 

“Shut up Matty!,” I pleaded desperately, wanting to push him away from us. Christian and Jonathan were also muttering curses at Matty until Christian soon manoeuvred his raft so he could thump Matty on the arm.

“Shut up! What ya do that for!?,” he demanded to Matty talking through clenched teeth. But the thump as anything else, seemed to have no effect on Matty when he was in this excited manner. Our quarrelling was soon interrupted though, by the sound of a car door slamming shut and suspending us in a moment of dread. And then I could feel my heart sinking further when there was a rattle from the five-bar gate.

“Fuck! He's coming,” said an anxious Jonathan and we all continued to shuffle on as quickly as possible. It was the sound of a that five-bar gate being rapidly scaled by a large, seemingly furious adult that caused us to  stare at eachother for a second and confirm sheer panic.

“Fark'n 'ell! Scarper!,” shouted Matty, dropping his end of the raft to run.

“Leg it!,” followed Christian and discarding the rafts, we all ran in a panic out to the other side of the archway, across the field and on towards the wooded river. To our left, a sudden outburst of frantic thumping on the ground gave us another scare. We  had startled those grazing horses. They turned tail, galloping off so fast it looked as if they might fall over themselves in a fatal tumble. But our only concern in that moment was to run from our pursuer. Over towards the trees we went, looking for a place to hide. It was suddenly apparent to me that each one of us was now on his own as Matty, Christian and Jonathan  disappeared into the undergrowth of ferns, bramble and young hazel. Then, all fell silent. I anticipated the dreaded and imminent arrival some angry bloke storming towards us. What were we going to do? There was only the river behind us. But at least I thought I had  found a good place to hide myself. The ferns having grown big and wide made it possible for me to get underneath, covering me like great overlapping wings of green.  No one could see me in this place and the floor was a russet carpet. Soft and spongy like sawdust, it kept my movements muted. From this new refuge of mine, I silently looked out. It was a forest of green stems under a canopy of lucid emerald and I was enveloped in it’s subtle aromas of damp woody decay mixed with dewy freshness like sweet cucumber or cut grass.  It was a strange yet calming feeling there. Comfortable, knowing that you are hidden from the world and an enchanting desire, an invitation to let go and sleep. Resting my head on my hands, my eyes closed easily. In the tranquil silence, my mind turned to something that stirred me from my creeping slumber. Adders. When people talked of adders, I'd often heard it said that they were to be found amongst the bracken. Now all my eyes did was search for the curling and sliding of the black and white zig zag. Meanwhile there didn’t seem to be any sounds emerging from the archway. Very gradually I took a  peep out from my green underworld. I couldn’t see anyone. Then slowly as expectancy turned to just waiting in silence, I began to hear the tell tale signs of nearby movements. One by one, we emerged from our hiding places. Christian first, with  a click of a twig under foot, revealed he was crouching  within a large moss covered tree trunk. It was half uprooted creating a small crater underneath where its roots had been. He peered cautiously over broad ferns towards the archway. Then I saw Jonathan behind another tree further off, surprised he had gotten that far. We made eye contact and it made us smile to discover where each of us had been hiding. Matty though ,remained elusive for a while longer. But then, there he was, legs all wet. He had been in the river crouching in the reeds. 

“Is he still there?,” he whispered with eyes searching frantically about the place. The rafts were still there, where we had dropped them and so, tentatively after a further cautious moment, we left the cover of the trees and moved back towards them. But it was Matty and then Jonathan that kept hindering our approach, startling the rest with the words- ‘Some one's there!,’ claiming they could see someone lingering in the shadow of the archway. Twice we retreated, scampering back like frightened rabbits. But there was no one there. Aswell, I could see that the car by the gate on the other side had now gone. Funny though. Those two had me looking intensely towards the archway and I really thought I saw someone too. Sat down they were, as if waiting by the archway to meet someone else. But it wasn't a man. Looked younger. Then as we got closer, it seemed to have been just the long grass and shadow on the embankment.






 So we retrieved those rafts and carried them down to the river’s edge. By now, the sun was climbing high and we didn‘t have much hesitation stepping into the clear running water letting it‘s cold touch invade our shoes and toes. As soon as we introduced the rafts to the river, the current lifted and took them immediately. Next we tentatively lay our weight aboard, amazed at there resolve to insist on floating. And before you knew it we were off and a race had begun. Jonathan and Christian on one, Matty and I behind on the other. We were actually floating out onto the river, apprehensively trusting these polystyrene lumps to take our bodies as we left the safety of the riverbank. Out further we went, out towards the deep and dark middle of hidden depths and I suddenly felt a new and rather unpleasant feeling. It was the feeling of possible regret following a perhaps foolish and impetuous launch for the unknown. A moment of uncertainty and self blaming lingered while clinging unsteadily to our raft until we began entering under the green shade of each tree that we passed. Then the regret began to fade. First was a weeping willow, her crown drooping down like wet hair in the water. We reached out to touch as we drifted by and I could feel her feathery leaves. But doing that seemed to pull us right under her grasp and she caressed us roughly as we went, nearly nudging me off. Then we were passing shiny leaved Elders and after, onto a dappled canopy of lime green as we came under lean hazel trees. From both banks they stretched out as if to join hands. Catkins were everywhere wobbling about just like the lamb tales we had been taught to call them at infant school. We brushed them as we went, bringing a scattering about our raft and on the water. How strange it seemed to be here. Who sees this view.. at this time of day? This place? If we had not have been here this morning, who would know this moment? Most people would just be watching the morning television or still asleep now, while this place, this moment was here, all missed. All the while then, we were silently gliding under a fluttering tunnel of ethereal green light with bright morning sun occasionally glinting overhead, sparkling and winking on the rippling surface. About us was the smell of river water if you know that smell, of damp moss, earthy banks, moist fern and the green leaf. Looking ahead on the water I could see the last of morning mist still lingering. On we went and every now and then we picked up speed as our raft bobbled back and fourth on the gurgling ripples and we laughed in the excitement of it all, while crouching down and holding on as best we could. Ahead we could see Christian and Jonathan in the same situation and that made me laugh too. Soon enough we were passing under the leaning tree bridge that we had climbed over earlier. And then it was gone, disappearing behind us into the kaleidoscope of emerald.  A little further now and the river was beginning to widen and the trees starting to separate. Our raft began to quicken, so once again we had to crouch down to stay on. We were approaching the shallows and underneath, our raft rumbled on shale until it caught and jolted.  We both stepped into the coldness , pushing it off out. It was quite a nice feeling in the rushing water, though I was glad I wore my plimsoles that day. Matty had got his old school shoes on and I wondered if his mum would give him an ear bashing when she saw him come home. But somehow I could not imagine his mum getting angry about anything. Just with cigarette in mouth, opening the door and walking back inside. Gradually, it was apparent that we were falling behind now. Their calls of laughter and splashing has disappeared around a bend. A while passed as we drifted back into deep waters without hearing any more from the other two. Our surroundings were changing. We were reaching a wide and slow part where the banks climbed high above us. Into a woods we passed. Tall dense holly trees and giant oaks kept us in shadow. Dark and deep, the river grew, its course wound this way, then that, each curve ahead hidden by the steep earthy riverbank. We sluggishly followed its way until our raft seemed to have come to a stop  lingering towards the corner of a broad bow. Indeed the moving current had abandoned us, sidelining our raft to this quiet depth where dust and leaves and other floating things gathered on the surface, unable to be swept along further. Some of it, I supposed must have begun its journey way back. Perhaps that grey tennis ball, floating in the dust began its journey in a different town miles from here. What was it's story?, I wondered. How far had it bobbed and been carried along until it had ended up caught here. And all that was caught here, the leaves, twigs and debris, was repeating. I saw how it was all in a never escaping circle. Just moving painfully slowly, eventually drawing nearer to the rushing water in an attempt to join the flow again. But when the big chance came, it was only to be swirled back again, rejoining the back of the slow moving circle. All caught in a kind of never ending repetition, unable to ever escape. Along the river I'd often seen the way that happened and It made me wonder about things. When it came the  turn of the tennis ball, despite my expectations, it again failed to break free. This silly scene bothered me enough so that with a stick, I had to hook that bloody ball out and send it on its way. At least something would be free to continue the journey it had started, or so I thought to myself naively. The riverbank here was high and arced over us as we barely drifted under its dank shadow. At close quarters I could smell its earthy presence and touch the damp and gnarled mossy tree roots which hung, dangled and twisted, exposed by the gape of this huge mouth-like cavern.

“I'm not getting in to push it,” declared Matty all of a sudden. Then I noticed he seemed rather quiet while peering over the edge into the dark waters below. I  knew what he was thinking. He was thinking about Old Archie cruising around underneath somewhere. He had heard those stories too.

“What's that?!,” he kept whispering every now and then while pointing below. Soon enough, he had us both going. I was looking down their trying to see something too, peering into the darkness, wondering if I had just seen a dark shape below, fear beginning to paralyse me. But then, something happened to me. A spontaneous decision. Perhaps I couldn’t stand the suspense or of our not moving, unable to depend on Matty. I like to think it was wanting to defy Matty. Before he got another word out I untied my plimsoles, then I took off my t-shirt, leaving them on our raft, and plunged in. The river water enveloped my body completely up to my armpits as  I immediately clung to the raft wondering about what I had just done. Couldn’t touch the bottom still, but could feel it colder around my feet. Immediately then, I was kicking to propel us along. All I could  think about though was a pike or something uglier circling around my legs, looking for an opportunity to get a bite. River rats, eels, all coming from their hideaways. Kick harder! I told myself. Then, of course, there was everything alive on this still water's surface. All kinds of insects, floating, glistening and approaching my body. All straggling for something to hold onto. A bee or perhaps a hornet’s misfortunate drop into the water which desperately grabs anything to save itself. So in a bit of a panic, I tried to survey about me everything that was floating. God, I wish I'd thought of this before I jumped in, I chastised. Every little tickle on my body was like tiny legs and had me madly splashing it away. Matty thought it was all so funny. But, you know here’s a thing. Actually, the longer I was in the water, the panic began to deflate and I was starting to feel rather at home here. My calmer mind was telling me it was actually quite alright and Matty’s insistence that there could be something down there was not affecting me as much. I was beginning to feel part of the river myself. Part of this earthy and amphibious smell. I could see  everything from this water level of life.  And as we moved along this subterranean place that looked like an entrance to the underworld, a tiny hole in the bank caught my attention. My curiosity was moving me towards it. Matty saw it too. 

“That'll be full of baby adders. Watch out, they might all come out and drop into the water.” At that, I stopped, hesitating for a moment with that image in my head. But, my senses were changing and I was growing more in the mind to disregard Matty's warnings. The curiosity of exploring and being in this seldom seen place was more alluring, more real and true than any voices of caution. Pulling myself a little out of the water with a twisting tree root that hung to my grasp I could rise high enough to be at eye level with the hole. Then with a little effort and delicate manipulation of my wet feet and toes around knotty roots, I was able to climb up a little more. As I moved my eye closer  I could hear Matty’s words becoming more urgent from behind.

“I know what it is. Its a rat hole. It'll be full of rats and they'll jump out on you. Watch out!” I looked over at him and hesitated again. “Seriously..Trust me. Its rats,” he added while I lingered on his words .“I'm movin' away...Don't want those rats jumpin’ on this raft,” he said and then pushed the raft away from the bank, while I clung on to the tree root. I have come to think that people who say 'seriously' or 'trust me,' should mostly be ignored. It’s nearly always used to have things their way in the guise of knowing better. But in those days as a child it was more difficult to know who to ignore. As it happened on this day, I decided to turn to the hole anyway and tried to look inside. It was all dark of course but there was a feint smell. A smell that reminded me of a hamster cage. I wondered then, if Matty would think it smelt familiar. My mind reluctantly considered if it really could be rats. Then I put my ear to it. 

“Rats 'll get ye!” Matty insisted from the safety of his raft and repeated his words again when I put my ear closer. I could hear something. There was a muffled sound of chirping. A birds nest. But in a hole in the bank? Back into the water I slid, swam over to the raft and then pulled myself aboard. As I re-tied my plimsoles back on, I could sense Matty was curious.“What’s in vere ? What did you 'ear?,” he asked enthusiastically, all traces of his authoritative foreboding forgotten. But strangely I didn't feel annoyed with Matty’s attempt to dissuade and scare me. It was not working anymore because fascination and awe of this place was drawing my attention and feelings. All else seemed like wrapping paper.

“Birds. Little birds. Chicks,” I replied as we slowly drifted on away from the bank. But then just before we were gone Matty nudged me excitedly pointing back to the hole.

“Look!” he whispered. Then I caught sight of something magical. A flash of shimmering turquoise and flaming orange had swooped down to the tree roots where I had been holding onto. For a moment it perched there like a visiting heavenly creature and mesmerised, I watched until it disappeared into that hole. 'A Kingfisher', we both whispered. It was the home of the most stunning of birds and that was the first time I ever saw one. 

Eventually, the high riverbank took a less winding path and we were moving along an avenue of trees. Large old oaks leaned into the bank wearing  smocks of ivy while their lofty umbrella of formal green rustled and whooshed gently above. Silver birch too, escaping the dark ivy clinging at its base, grew tall and slender to the height above where their silver trunk transformed into a spray of crown leaves speckling everything overhead with effervescent green and yellow. Then after a while of silently floating, those trees and the ascending embankment of stone and grassy knolls were gradually replaced by the appearance of people’s back gardens which sloped down  to the rivers edge. Then the bittersweet smell of someone burning leaves was drifting in the air. Each garden was separated by a  descending panel fence. And as our polystyrene raft drifted on, the hidden back of each house was revealed to us. Each back garden was terraced. The first was unkempt with long and clumpy grass, as if it held no interest for the owner. The second had each terrace with nothing but lawn. It was here where the smoke was coming from. A pile of dead leaves had been dumped on a small bonfire and left to smoulder away beside the river bank.  As we passed the third garden, we saw it was occupied by two middle aged people. There was this woman on a wooden lounger. She lifted her gaze from her magazine and looked down at the sight of two young boys floating past her garden. With her hand held as a peak, I could see she was incensed at the sight the intrusion she was witnessing below. She then got up  and stood with the other hand on her hip.

“Your'e not allowed down here,” came her scratchy, irritated voice. “Hey! This is private you know!,” she crowed.  Then, using the magazine in her hand like a flag, began ushering us away. Her husband was in the background. But he seemed not the slightest bit bothered like her. She had no doubt been boiling away since Jonathan and Christian passed this way. Perhaps one of them had said something back to her.“All these bloody kids,” I heard her say to her husband.“Ever since they started that housing estate..,” she continued. “I knew we would get this sort of thing happening around here.” I could hear her wittering away while he pottered in the flower bed. Then standing up and straightening his back he finally took a look at us floating by. And as I anticipated some brusque lecture, I caught the  mood on his face. It was not at all like his wife's. In fact he was looking like what we were doing was rather fun. And for a moment it was as if he imagined for all the world he would join in in the adventure too. But then a reality jolt reminded him of all our places in this scene. He was someone who owned that house, that garden on the river where pottering around in it was his place. And with that, turned silently back to his flower bed. Matty whispered sullenly not to look at them while paddling with his hand and encouraged me to help.  But, to be honest, now I was feeling a bit annoyed at that woman. After all, she didn't own the river. Did she? I couldn't believe that. With her eyes in a Gestapo-like gaze, she escorted us from her sight. But then, just before we finally disappeared from her fence, I decided to repay her disapproving stare with my two fingers. 

“Ooh! Did you see that Richard?!,” she gasped. “Disrespectful little imp. We should..,” but her voice faded away as we drifted on and I imagined Richards face  perhaps smiling quietly to himself. We left those houses behind and soon after, the current began to pick up speed. All the way, the river had been getting steadily bigger and wider and now we were passing alongside a pathway that accompanied the river. Occasionally the odd dog walker or rattling cyclist looked over at us as they went by. I could hear passing traffic and noise in the distance .Then I saw we were approaching a tunnel where the road passed over the river. Under we went, steering into one of the three tall archways and entering into the red-bricked dimness. Noises became distorted and louder. Running, trickling sounds were all around us in the darkness while the exit ahead seemed too far, beaming like a bright window. A beacon wriggling its daylight towards us. Halfway through, we began to whistle and shout out football slogans under there, listening to our amplified voices boom. “Come on you reds, come on you reds..!” we chanted, part for fun and part an attempt to dismiss our growing fear in that strange darkness. But it was the sudden interruption of a heavy lorry overhead, its thundering passage brought us to cower down immediately as if the bridge were going to collapse. Makes you wonder what the blitz must have been like during the war. My nan can’t even stand the thunderstorms to this day and my aunty Bea, well she apparently takes to the cupboard under the stairs on such occasions. Coming out the other side into the sunlight was a relief. But I tell you what. I soon began to notice things seemed to be getting uglier around here. And the water... It was becoming murkier too. There were stinging nettles and brambles engulfing the banks now. And they were accompanied by the sight of discarded rubbish. A red can here, a polythene bag there, a piece of rusty corrugated iron, a glinting corona bottle in the mud. The trees were not with us anymore either. They’d  all gone now. There to the right,like the skeletal remains of some past event, the rusty legs of a shopping trolley poked up out of the water. A little further and it seemed we had come to an end where the river was sent into giant concrete flumes barred with rusty iron grids. The flumes in turn ran under an approaching roadway and as far as I could make out, another unfinished building development. It was a bit difficult to leave the river, fenced in by stinging nettles and brambles. At the top there was a rusty wire-link fence with concrete posts. Part of it was collapsed laying in nettles, presumably caused by the holey sofa bed that had somehow been lugged over onto the embankment. Through the opaque shallows I could see the odd shard of broken glass lurking, which made me glad we had worn something on our feet. Laying the raft over the nettles, like a plank was our solution and we could nearly get out without being stung. Matty and I tentatively stepped and scrambled, trying to avoid the slightest touch from nettles against bare legs. And then with a few more steps we were out. The raft that had carried us here now lay on the embankment and to be honest I  didn't at all feel right about leaving our raft behind to join the other rubbish too.

“Give us a hand?” I said, trying to carefully drag it with us. But Matty looked at me with a puzzled sneer as if I were too young and naive. But then again, I didn't want to lug it up the embankment. It would  only mean I was going to get my legs stung on the nettles. Over by the building site I could see Jonathan and Christian’s raft and soon enough we found them flogging their damp socks against a lamp post.

“Oi!” shouted Matty. They saw us and grinned.

“Hey losers!” they chanted. Jonathan had already found another cement mixer to use as target practice.

“Where’s your raft?” shouted Christian while pulling on one of his navy blue socks. I noticed theirs over by some concrete blocks“

By the river,”I replied while taking off my plymsoles and pouring out the river water.

“Should dump it on the building site here,” he responded in a quieter voice while continuing with his laces.

“What the fack for?,”said Matty.

“Cos maybe,...” began Christian growing bothered, “...we could come back here another day and take them again. The builders on this site don’t have any, so they don’t use 'em. Do they? Can’t take 'em home with us.”

“They wont be here when we come again,” Jonathan returned, shaking his head. Christian grew ruffled.

“Well they wont fuckin’ be there if we leave 'em on the riverbank! Will they?,” he exploded  staring this time directly at Jonathan, while crimping his mouth aggressively. Here was Christian getting nasty when anyone began questioning his explications. After this he usually began kicking and booting whoever was arguing with him.

“Yeh. I know,” replied Jonathan in exasperated fashion. “Better here..That’s what I said when we brought ours here. Just, don't reckon they'll still be here next time,” he added, trying to pacify Christian. The two of them were evenly matched for size, but so far, Jonathan had usually always backed down or gone off in a huff and walked home alone.

“Well,anyway,” Christian responded after a moment, tossing a stone towards the cement mixer “You two can leave your raft there. I don’t care. Your raft.Innit?”

Matty’s response was to begin ambling in a direction away from the river to show he had no intention of getting it.

“No one saw us,” came his voice and he picked up a stone to join in with Jonathan’s target practice. “In't vat right Mickey? No one saw us, did vey?”

“No,..” I answered and I shook my head briefly  “ But..” and then my voice faded. Actually I really didn't want to leave it there. That final part of the river where it was all dirty had made me feel disappointed. Ashamed almost. As if that woman shooing us away from her garden was perhaps right.“I'm going back to get it,” I muttered mostly to myself. No one said anything and I headed back towards the river. When I got there I knew it was going to be a bit difficult on my own without slipping into the stinging nettles. I contemplated turning back again. It wouldn't matter. After all I was the youngest and admittedly I changed directions at least two times in the course of my path back to the river. I would try first. Carefully,I began to edge my way down the bank. On the other side of the river, I noticed an old woman. She was standing watching me while her dog, on the end of its lead sniffed around. If you've ever noticed, when someone is holding a dog on a lead, they seem to think that they can stare at people without feeling embarrassed. 'I'm not staring at you' they'd probably say. 'I'm busy doing something. I'm holding this lead.' So she watched me all the while as I clambered down and then began the task to maneuver the raft up.“Bloody hell,” I cursed. It wasn’t  easy as my wet plymsole slipped towards the stinging nettles.

“Oi Spacker!,” said a familiar voice nearby and I looked up to see Jonathan peering over the edge of the bank. “Here, I'll grab this end,” he said in a rather serious tone, not wanting to demonstrate anymore  brotherly love than absolutely necessary. We then began to maneuver it up over the bank. This was followed by our carrying it together in a rather awkward silence. A silence that soon amused me.

“Thanks,” I said mischievously breaking the silence while looking at the back of his head and smiling somewhat self-satisfied.

“Thanks?,” he responded, peering backwards over the broad raft towards me. The look on his face was as if he had just sampled a teaspoonful of manure.“Don't thank me,” he said aghast “I'm not your friend,” and looked off in another direction.“Don't want your spaky ugly face looking at me as if we're friends or something,” he muttered and kept up the disagreeable look. But I was on to him and this now seemed a hilarious act to me until I could feel a snigger rising inside me. It escaped with a stifled burst. Immediately his head whipped round towards me suspiciously to see what I was laughing at. He soon realized it was about this expression he was showing, this façade of loathing to counter the the fact he had come over especially to help me. The longer he held his disgusted expression, the more I began to giggle at it until I could see the signs of his face going too. First the eyes, then the mouth until he had to  turn away just as a smile broke out. He fought it as best as he could, trying to reinstall his manner several times.

“Don't know what you're laughing at, you Dillon,” he protested defiantly while looking in another direction, trying to regain his stern face and shaking his head.“Don't want to be seen with you,” he reaffirmed, secretly fighting his smile. But the more he tried,the more I laughed until eventually he dropped the raft abruptly .“Here. You can carry your spazzy raft on your own now,” he said firmly but his expression soon broke every time his eyes glanced at mine until unable to respond with anything but a creeping smile.“Bollocks. You. You're a spac,” he muttered, looking away, hiding his unwanted smile.  Tears of laughter now streamed from my eyes and no more breath could I expel as I watched him walk off shaking his head each time he heard my laughter. “Don't know what you're laughing at”, his voice came back.

So there they are. Two polystyrene blocks taken from one building sight and put at another. I don't suppose any of those builders scratched there heads for too long about it on Monday. We got a drink of water from the tap over by some barrels.  The other two had already gotten a drink, so they waited and scuffed around. When we rejoined them, it turned out that Christian had found something. A box of McVities chocolate digestives that had been left between a stack of bricks by some workman. They had been opened already,so Christian chucked the first two biscuits away to be safe and that left us three each. Devouring the first three, Matty then picked up one of the biscuits Christian had tossed on the dirt.

“Matty,” Christian groaned.

“What?,” he replied, blowing the sand off of it and pretending he hadn’t done anything unusual.

“Chuck it, you yard pig..” But by then Matty had taken a bite and with his mouthful replied.

“Nuffin' wrong wiv it.” I suppose it was fortunate that Christian had found those biscuits and not Matty. There would have been a scuffle to get one and they all would have gotten broken. So while we each ate our biscuits, we began recounting our best moments down river. And while we relived the mornings events, we set off along the road paying little attention to where exactly we were wandering. Apparently Christian and Jonathan did pass that woman in the garden who had shoo'd Matty and I away. Christian and Jonathan had apparently ignored her comments by drumming on the raft and singing “...Where did you get that hat?,where did you get that hat?..”




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