Through the eyes of a child – a short story by Lorraine Ellis (Flo)
Lorraine says that this is a work of fiction, but recalls having a similar perception of things when she was small.
Mr Dickson blew his whistle and hurried over to the boys in the corner of our playground. “Stop that, stop that at once!”
“It was him he started it,” Raymond brushed some muck off his jacket.
“No it was not,” said Mr Dickson.
He was naughty was Raymond Smith, always fighting and things.
Mr Dickson took Raymond by the arm and marched him towards the doors. “Don’t lie to me I saw you, I saw you strike Timothy first.”
I walked away. Timothy was trying not to cry. Strike, I had heard that word last night me Dad had said it to me Mam, something about the men and strike and me Mam’s bottom lip had wobbled just like it always did when she was upset.
I sat in the big school hall we sang Away in a manger but I just opened my mouth a bit, my tongue moving my loose tooth backwards and forwards. I thought about the sherbet suckers I would buy with my fifty pence from the tooth fairy, and the letter I would write to Father Christmas. I wanted a Cindy house and one of the dolls what cry like real babies when you take its dummy out; but most of all I wanted a new bike.
On my way home it happened! My tooth fell out so I wrapped it in my handkerchief and put it in my pocket. I passed the street shop and smiled. I passed the pits where me Dad went and ran all the way to my house. My great Auntie Bertha was sitting on our sofa talking to me Mam. I smiled wanting them to see the big gaping bloody hole in my gum. They didn’t notice at first.
My Great Auntie Bertha clucked from the sofa where she sat with her legs apart and I could see her big white knickers with legs in them which reached her knees.
“Who’s been kissing the boys then,” she said.
Me Mam laughed a little bit and I felt my face going hot and funny even though I hadn’t been kissing the boys, I hate them especially Raymond Smith. Brushing the snow from my coat I hung it on a peg near the door.
Great Auntie Bertha and me Mam were talking and I heard that word again strike.“We did it,” said my great Auntie Bertha, “we tied ourselves to the railings but we got there in the end and so will the men.”
That night before I went to sleep I put my tooth under my pillow but my thoughts of fairyland were clouded with visions of my Great Auntie Bertha tied to the park railings her long white knickers billowing in the breeze, and me Dad and men going around hitting, striking people.
The next morning I placed my hand under my pillow. I couldn’t feel anything so I lifted it up, there was no shiny fifty pence and the tooth was still there!
“She didn’t come,” I said to me Mam wiping away the tears from my cheeks, “the tooth fairy She never came. “.
Me Mam put her hand to her mouth and stared at my father who was usually at the pit at this time.
“Don’t cry pet,” he said. “Maybe they will come tonight, they need teeth you know to build their houses with.”
“But I thought you told me they lived in toadstools.”
Me Dad coughed, “well erm, yes, some of them do,” he said.
I went to my bedroom.
“I’ve got that much on my mind, Mick, I just forgot,” I heard me Mam mutter, “remind me to do it tonight.”
I heard me Mam that night as she crept into my bedroom, felt her hand fumble under my pillow. The next morning the fifty pence was there. On my way to school I bought my sherbet suckers but they didn’t quite taste the same.
Raymond Smith was naughty again today he pulled his tongue out at Miss Sharp when she was writing on the blackboard, he pulled Susan’s hair and I heard him say a bad word.
That Saturday in my best writing I wrote a letter to Father Christmas, it took me a real long time.
Dear Father Christmas cud you please bring me a dolly that cries a Cindy house and a red bike me Mam says I have been very good
Fank you very much. Luv Jenny
I posted the letter the next day on my way to Great Auntie Bertha’s.
Me mam didn’t smile much over the next few weeks and I heard that word again strike, I heard it lots of times. I even heard it on the television during the ‘talking’, when I had to be quiet. Sometimes me Dad would shout. I heard other words too, strange grown up words, and me Dad never went to the pit anymore but Raymond Smith’s Dad did. My uncle Frank did as well I saw my uncle Frank on my way home from Great Auntie Bertha’s I hadn’t seen him for a long time, he never came to our house anymore or to my Great Auntie Bertha’s.
“Hiya, uncle Frank,” I said pleased to see him.
He looked down at me and smiled. “How’s things Jenny?”
I just shrugged my shoulders and walked by his side having great trouble keeping up with him as his long legs strode on the pavement.
“Don’t pick it,” I said in between gasps, “don’t pick it.”
Uncle Frank slowed down a bit “Pick it?” he said wrinkling his brow.
“The scab on your leg uncle Frank don’t pick it and don’t worry about it being black, me elbow went black once when I banged it, me Mam said it was only a bruise and then it went yellow and the next day it went away. But don’t pick it, cos if you do you’ll leave a mark, a sca-“
“Scar,” finished my Uncle Frank. “I reckon I’ll have a few of those before I’m done.”
We walked along my Uncle Frank seemed sort of different, he didn’t try to make me laugh like he usually does he just looked ahead of him and kept shaking his head. Soon we reached the top of my street he patted my arm and went on his way.
Father Christmas came the next night. I woke early the next morning and felt the sack of presents at my feet. I tore the paper off the first present; some coloring books and crayons. In the next one was a skipping rope with red handles. I quickly opened more, a My Little Pony, some story books, a selection box, a pair of pink fluffy rabbit slippers. I picked up the last parcel at the bottom of the sack, this must be my doll. I opened it, pretty paper lay at my feet. Inside the paper was a doll, but it didn’t cry, didn’t even have a dummy it didn’t do anything, its eyes didn’t even close and its hair was sort of painted on. I wanted to cry. I looked around the room there were no more presents, no Cindy house, no shining new red bike.
After dinner me Mam and Dad watched the television and I tried to play with my new doll.
The school Christmas holidays were nearly over and I was playing in the street trying hard to jump over the rope as I held the wooden handles of my new skipping rope. I saw Raymond Smith, he was peddling his new bike up and down on the footpath nearly crashing into Mrs Winterbottom. His bike was gleaming new and red.
“Look what I got for Christmas,” he squealed, “and I got some action men, and ….” and on and on he went, I wasn’t bothered about the other things, just the bike.
It wasn’t fair Raymond Smith was bad, real bad, and I had tried, I’d tried real hard to be good but Father Christmas hadn’t fetched me a blooming bike. I flung my skipping rope down to the ground and stormed into the house. That teatime I wouldn’t eat my meal and I told me Dad to ‘go and get lost’.
On my way to school I kicked over the window cleaner’s bucket and laughed as the suds washed over the black tarmac. When I got to school I scribbled in my sum book and wouldn’t do my work. I pulled my tongue out at Miss Adams and when she saw me I called her a rude word. She sent me to Mr Dickson’s office and I called him a rude word as well. I was real naughty – nearly as naughty as Raymond Smith! Me Mam was called into school I thought she was going to chow at me but she didn’t, she just looked sort of fed up.
I never went to Sunday School, I just hung around the street instead. Then my Great Auntie Bertha saw me as she was leaving our house.
“And what do you think you’re doing?” she asked, “shouldn’t you be at the church?”
“I don’t wanna go.” I replied sulkily
Great Auntie Bertha sighed.
I took her gloved hand and we walked down her path and went into her funny little house. She let me sit in her rocking chair and after I had eaten a bowl of red jelly she asked me what was bothering me. I sniffed and couldn’t hold back my tears whilst I told her of my disappointment and the unfairness of it all, “and worst of all,” I cried, “it’s me Dad!”
“Your Dad? What’s the matter with your daddy then?”
“Well he fights he’s been striking people and he will go to jail where the bad men go.”
“No! Your Dad, well he’s only trying to do what he believes in, and it may be better for you in the end.” She stroked my hair and gently explained why I didn’t get my new bike and why me Dad didn’t go to the pit anymore.
I sat and rocked in her chair and thought about what she’d said.
“So there isn’t a Father Christmas,” I sniffed.
“No love,” smiled great Auntie Bertha.
“And that word strike, Isn’t it funny Auntie how one word can mean two things.”
“Yes it is bairn,” she replied softly.
I walked over to my Great Auntie Bertha and snuggled in her arms. “Auntie,” I said.
“Now will you tell me why you tied yourself to the railings.”
“Well,” chuckled Great Auntie Bertha, “it was all a long, long time ago, and……..”