I don’t reckon the sun’s ever come up quite the same since the day it happened. I’ve been watching it for years now and to me it still don’t look right somehow. Maybe it’s just me thinking it, sending myself doolally after what I’ve done. But I swear every morning it creeps up and it’s looking at me, all knowing like. And when you reckon the sun’s acting like that over you there isn’t a right lot you can do about it, beyond burying yourself away like a mole in the soil.
That’s what I’ve been doing more or less in the score or so years that have gone by since. But however tight I shut them curtains to stop that damn sun lighting me up, it still don’t stop the inside of my head from pounding out the truth. No way it’s ever going to stop harassing me neither, not unless the deaf and dumb lass was to happen right back on my doorstep and give me the chance to tell her that it wasn’t never meant to work out this way.
The deaf and dumb lass went by the name of Mitzi Barker. Her being deaf and dumb, she was the kind of lass you went up the lane with if you didn’t want no-one shouting their gob off about it after. Funny but it’s the small things I recall best about her, like the way her hair reeked of bonfires and how that little old checkered dress of hers rode right up her thigh with no help from me.
After we’d finished our business we’d head over the trout farm and I’d hunker down and poach us up a couple of rainbows for our tea. That Mitzi Barker, she was thin as an ear of barley and I always figured a good nosh-up was the least I could do for her troubles. Sometimes if I was feeling mean I’d slap the backs of her knees with the wet fish just to hear her squeal, seeing as it was damn near the only sound she ever made. Then we’d head over to the dip and get us a nice burn-up going away from the wind and have a few swigs of beer and a puff of baccy out of my bait box. We’d eat the rainbows with our bare hands, riving the pink meat off the backbone till only its inners stayed put. After, maybe we’d get it going again if we were inclined that way.
Them days no-one never called me odd, least never to my face. Far as I could see they had no reason to and if they did I’d most likely have brayed my big fist down on the tops of their heads for finding it. They said even then one day my temper was going to get me in a whole heap of trouble and I guess if them people knew what had become of me they’d be standing in that pub of theirs swigging down their I-told-you-so’s all night long.
The way I see it, things started to go wrong the day I got myself in all sorts of trouble fishing for rainbows on Burgess land. It never crossed my mind them rich folk would give two hoots about nowt but a plaggy bag full of rainbows but then I never had no cause to be well up with what goes on in rich folks’ heads.
Well I don’t mind admitting I headed off into the woods and cooked myself up a champion tea that night. I didn’t hear nowt of it for a couple of days and tell the truth it weren’t nowt to be lingering on my mind any road. Then my old man comes in from work one day too sharp for things to be just so. He plants himself in the middle of the kitchen floor and bawls up a right racket about me being the runt who’s just cost him his job at the animal feeds. Turns out old Burgess had skegged me reeling in them rainbows and figured there’d be no better way of putting me straight than by dumping the old man out of the only job he’s ever had.
The old man never carried enough of a punch to give me no trouble and he knew it, though he fair packed a weight with his gob when he wanted to. He stands there and tells me he never thought he’d see the day when a lad of his was brought up big and soft as a barm dumpling and clever as a clog nail to match. Far as I’m concerned that deserved a fair welly but what with what’s gone on I had to admit I might be in the wrong. So instead of braying him I turned my back and lugged myself right on round to old Roy Barnes’s flophouse and the truth is the old man and me never swapped another word, though it didn’t stop them taunts of his sticking round long past the day they put him six foot under.
I’m no mind doctor so I can’t say for certain if what the old man said to me had anything to do with what happened up the lane that day with Mitzi Barker. The good Lord knows I’ve had enough dark times to try to figure out why it happened but I still can’t say for certain. All I recall is how I’d felt fair gradely when I set out with my rod and my bait box slung over my shoulder and holding that Mitzi Barker’s arm. Them people might have been saying I wasn’t amounting to nowt but times like that it felt like a mighty fine deal to me. I had my vest off so as to show off the extra brawn I got from turning all them vegetables in old Roy Barnes’ allotment and by the way she kept skegging over I reckon it got Mitzi Barker’s attention all right. Only I look back now and I see that damn old sun smiling out of the sky like it knew pretty soon it was going to have one less thickhead to have to worry about shining down upon.
We were way up in a wheat field where the land levelled out and Mitzi Barker was riding me slow and purposeful like she was bossing an old Combine up and down not to miss a strip. I was reckoning on telling her we should maybe make a go of things but when I opened my eyes I saw she was flitting a bluebottle away from her face and not looking down on me in a way I would have hoped, specially with all my working at it. There and then it crossed my mind about all other boys she took up here, and how it might be nowt more than a chore for a slap-up dinner of cooked rainbows, and the thought chilled me up real bad despite the heat.
Well, I clawed her back-end real tight till she started to make that sometime squealing noise, and I reckoned pretty much I’d made the moment pass. After we’d finished and hooked the rainbows I slapped them against her knees awhile till the blood-grease trickled down in her ankle socks. Then we headed down toward the dip and I could tell by the way she was coming over about as bothersome as a horse-fly that it was the dinner she was wanting all right and not so much me.
Came over me to think up new ways of getting her to earn her supper. Now I don’t want it coming over like I was some kind of odd-job, because I hadn’t done half of what other boys my age had got up to with Mitzi Barker or at least told of so. Fact was there wasn’t nowt of mine had gone up Mitzi Barker’s back-end more than a couple of fingers, nowt in her gob neither but my tongue. If Terrence Thorsby was still around now he’d vouch for how I would no more than skim through his books of dirty drawings on account of some of them peculiar predilections. That sort of stuff was not for me all right and I was no way intending to change that with Mitzi Barker or no-one else who’d have me for that matter any time soon.
So we got to the dip and the sun was still skegging up over the fields and I didn’t reckon nowt to it at the time. I was more for fretting about why there was an old Landrover parked up on the ridge. It was way up past where the road had gone to muck and there was no-one bar the trout farm lot had any business in being up this far. Thinking they might have seen me nabbing some of them fish earlier I lobbed that bait box in a patch of nettles and I had to keep hold of Mitzi Barker’s arm hard enough till it welted up just to stop her jumping right in there after it. Times like that I sure was glad she was dumb all right.
Well, there was no-one about and I was all for carrying right on back to that flophouse and making the best of things when curiosity overtook me and I was scrambling up that ridge on my hands and knees for a quick squint.
Mitzi Barker stayed down on the track eyeing up that patch of nettles and it was just as well because what I saw was no sight for a girl of her age, not even one who gave it up as regular as her.
Other side of the ridge there was a lad and a lass giving it up more happy than me and Mitzi Barker had ever done. They were moaning and panting so much it minded me of them nights in lambing season in the Thackerays’ barn. It didn’t do nowt for me did the sight. I seen enough privates in my time to get by without making room for more. Course, it was still a mighty fine sight on account of its unexpectedness and I lay there in the bracken wondering how to make the most of it. In the end I burrowed back down the ridge and brought Mitzi Barker up to have a skeg and she even fetched a quick smile so I reckoned I must have been doing something right.
There was no signs of letting up down below, in fact all the signs was of things getting more frisky, and just as I was about getting fed up something came into my mind that I wish never had.
I was back up that bank quick as an adder and I made it all the way to the back of the Landrover while they were still full involved in their business. Mitzi Barker was just lain there watching me with them big eyes of hers and I was getting them fanciful notions in my head again of her becoming mine for keeps.
Before I’d proper thought things through I was rutting up against the back of that Landrover so hard it was all for branding my backside. Well there was a fair look on Mitzi Barker’s face when I humped that wagon up a good few inches till my arms were burning sharp as the hot metal in my back. Just as I was thinking I had a right to expect her to be well impressed, I saw her gob changed to hanging open like she’d been fish-hooked, and bugger me if that Landrover didn’t start rolling slow enough right off that ridge edge.
It wasn’t till I popped my head down in the bracken and made to skedaddle that I heard the roaring. I’ve heard some roaring in my time but nowt like what was rising up out of that dip that day with the sun looking on. I took a sly skeg over at where the Landrover was rested and I saw the lad and the lass fair croodled up in blood underneath. The lad may have been fairly much obvious a goner right away but the lass was whimpering real soft like and surely not conked quite yet. Came to me it might be easier for all concerned if she was. Then I looked up and saw Mitzi Barker standing on the ridge top black-shaped against the sun and gawping down on me flayed as a lamped-up jack-rabbit. Then she bolted and there didn’t seem no chance of a lump like me ever catching her up but I left them lovers under the Landrover, her still whimpering and all, and it came to me to give it my best shot to get right after her.
Funny, but it’s not the sight of that lass that bothers me most when I’m sending that day back and forth through my stupid old head. The thing that makes me most frantic is what I might’ve done if I’d run fast enough to cop hold of Mitzi Barker one more time up the lane that day. Chances are I’d have wrung her neck quick as one of
old Robinson’s scrawny-arsed chickens and dumped her under that Landrover with them other two. Don’t I just know it and don’t I reckon the sun knows it too.
Well, I spent them next days or weeks fair sweating out my fear. Turns out them Landrover pair had no business being up that lane which was as I suspected. They were the talk of the whole damn village and there were a fair few reckoned they just about got what they deserved for larking about like that.
The lass, she got out alive after a good few hours and wouldn’t you just know it, it was the lad of Burgess passing by who plucked her out. Still, turns out it was just as well far as I’m concerned as she recounted how the thing reared up like an unbroke colt and came down on them all of its own accord. Fair ended any suspicions there might have been over the cause of things, though it still don’t make it no easier when I pass her in the street some days and she’s stuck to the seat of that contraption of hers with her bones skew-iff as the teeth of a rusted old thresher.
As for Mitzi Barker, I never did see her again after that night, not to speak to any road. She was always crossing over or looking away and I couldn’t make no show of chasing her. And she sure as heck never went up that lane again, not with me nor any of them other boys far as I’m aware.
As time went by I long since stopped bothering myself with wringing her neck. All that nagged me was telling her so long as she promised not to say nowt about what she saw, we could still get along right as rain. Could feed her as many rainbows as she wanted and maybe plan for that future somehow, just me and her in that old flophouse of mine. Course, she wouldn't be inclined to say nowt back. But far as I’m concerned that would do just fine, just so long as that damn sun let up long enough for us to see things through.