It’s 1954. Simon, aged eight, stands on the front door step of his house, about to walk to school. His mother, Rachel, holds a large glass jar of brown and white peppermint sweets. On the jar there’s a picture of a grinning boy, his cheeks bulging with sweets. Rachel takes a mint from the jar, unwraps the cellophane wrapper, and pops it into Simon’s mouth saying, It’ll keep you warm on the way to school. They both laugh at this nonsense, but – in a sense – it does just that: her love keeps him warm.
Though Simon’s journey to and from school follows the same route his behaviour alters. On one day he walks calmly along the pavement beside the main road as black cars gently trundle by. On another day he sprints downhill. On another he hops or limps on his left leg or perhaps on his right. He wonders if anyone ever notices his performances.
It’s the afternoon and he’s on his way home from school. The sun shines. Birds sing. He enters a small wood, unseen from the main road; it’s hilly with big humps and dips amidst the trees, bushes and undergrowth. It’s a place where kids play, racing their pushbikes, pretending they are riding motorbikes and roaring until they have sore throats. Simon happily ambles along one of the paths, looking at the trees and abundant snowdrops.
He looks up. Stops.
A man blocks his way. The man grins. He’s neither old nor young – just scary and silent. The man comes forward. Simon spins away to run back the way he’s come. Too slow. The man grabs him. Simon is on his back. The man kneels on him. Simon wants to scream but can’t; he’s frozen with fear and crippled by the pain in his chest. The man’s face is so close Simon can see nothing except this huge white face filling the world. There’s no noise except the man’s breath; no smell apart from the stench of his breath. The man, still kneeling on Simon’s chest, starts to undo his flies. Simon wets himself.
The man shifts his weight and shouts, Disgusting!
In that fleeting moment, Simon somehow slithers out from under the man and runs faster than he has ever run before. He realises that the man isn’t following; he’s just laughing and shouting, I’ll be waiting. I’ll get yer.
Simon sits next to his mother on a sofa while two uniformed policemen sit opposite them on another sofa.
Rachel has her arm around her son who is still weeping.
He unsuccessfully tries to describe the man. The police badger him. Rachel sends them packing. He knows he’s not really understood anything they’ve been saying.
After the policemen have gone Simon turns to his mother. Mum, why are they hunting a privet hedge? he sobs.
It’s not privet, love, it’s …. It’s pervert. Rachel weeps, clutching him tight to her.
I hope you enjoyed this story. Remember, I publish a new story every Sunday.
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© Phil Cosker 2020
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.