Julia Storer

CLAIRE HAMILTON — CREATIVE WRITINGThe pen is mightier than the sword

The Secret
by Brenda Edwards

    ‘Those bloody kids again. What are they up to this time?’ Concealed behind his nets William watched anxiously as his tormentors huddled together in Bev’s front garden. William just knew he was to be the target of their plot for they were casting surreptitious glances in the direction of his house. ‘Why me?’ He couldn’t understand why he should have been singled out for such treatment. ‘Do they think I’m easy prey because I’m getting on or because I live alone? Well, I’ll only take so much.’
    Some decision had been made and Dane, the smallest of the three, was pulled to his feet. He was propelled out onto the pavement and halfway across the road by Dexter his older brother. It was obvious to William that Dane did not relish his assignment, but nor was he brave enough to disobey Dexter, who although only eleven years old was an intimidating presence. William saw Dane turn in one last appeal to his brother, but was shown a pair of fists. The boy fixed his eyes on William’s front door and charged. There was a rattle of the letter box, a soft plop and then Dane scuttled back to the safety of Bev’s garden. Now he swaggered and was treated as a hero. Dexter playfully thumped him on his back while Bev performed a victory war dance. Then they crouched down and waited for William’s response.
    ‘Well they can wait all day,’ thought William, ‘they’ll not get any reaction from me.’ Cautiously he went into the hall and looked at the bloodied remains of three mice lying on the doormat. He wanted to fling open the door and shout and rage at these wretched children who were making his life a misery. But he knew that with the long summer holiday ahead, he would only stir up more trouble for himself. He gathered up the little corpses and went out into the back garden to dispose of them.
    Janice, the mother of Dane and Dexter was in her jungle of a garden hanging yet more bedding on the line. It was, William knew, a never-ending chore for her. She looked up and smiled wanly at William, then registered his expression.
    ‘Oh no, is it my kids again? What is it this time?’
    ‘Janice, it was only Tuesday I spoke to you about your boys’ behaviour. I thought you were going to sort them out.’
    ‘I did, I told them off about that bit of mud over your washing.’
    ‘No, Janice, it wasn’t a bit of mud. I had to wash everything again. Have you made it clear that they are to leave me alone?’
    ‘Well, I did tell them. Dane listened, but Dexter don’t do nothing I say. So what’ve the little buggers done now?’
    William showed her the mice. ‘Through the letterbox,’ he said briefly. Then he dumped the bodies in the bin. He should have told her to take responsibility for her sons, to discipline them, but he knew that Janice was incapable of exerting any influence over them. Barely thirty, she seemed to William to be overwhelmed by life and by the effort of single-handedly trying to raise her boys. He suspected that already she was wary and perhaps even a little scared of Dexter.
    Then in a rare show of spirit Janice said, ‘I bet that Bev had something to do with it, so don’t go putting all the blame on my boys. They get caught, but she puts them up to it. That girl’s trouble. You should talk to her dad instead of dissing my boys. Why don’t you go and see him? No, I thought not, because it’s easier to pick on them.’ Her outburst over Janice subsided into her usual apathy.
    Privately William had to acknowledge there was some truth in what Janice said. Bev’s father was confrontational and prone to outbreaks of violence, a man to avoid. On the other hand, William had never actually caught Bev red- handed. He felt a sneaking sympathy for Janice.
    ‘Look, Janice, I’m really at the end of my tether. This has gone on long enough. I just want you to be firm with them, OK?’ He went back indoors, knowing that whatever Janice said to her sons his persecution was bound to continue.

‘I should have shopped earlier,’ William thought as he navigated his trolley through the crowded aisles of the supermarket. It was not an ideal time, but his larder was bare, so he would just have to battle his way round. Several times he had to leave the trolley to reach a shelf. Eventually with the trolley bulging he headed for a checkout and the inevitable long wait. At last he started to unload his goods onto the belt.
    ‘No, that’s not mine,’ he said as the assistant scanned a hair colouring kit, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know how that got there.’  The assistant put the kit to one side.
    ‘Don’t worry, these things happen,’ she said with a smile. ‘I’ll do the refund at the end.’ A few more items, then in quick succession William found a lady’s shaver, some facial wipes, a pair of fishnet tights and a packet of Tampax. By now the assistant’s smile had disappeared and she was clearly becoming irritated. William was totally flustered. He wondered if he had somehow got the wrong trolley, but everything else in it was his. He was aware that the young couple behind him were not even trying to hide their amusement. He couldn’t wait to get out of the store. He felt embarrassed and somewhat humiliated. As he loaded the shopping into his car a familiar voice said, ‘I had a great laugh in there helping you with your shopping, made you look a right fool.’ Bev, the source of his discomfort grinned insolently then darted away through the car park.

There was that sound again, a soft swishing which William couldn’t identify. He got out of bed and went to the window which overlooked his back garden and cried out in despair. Down in the garden Dexter stopped knocking the heads off the flowers and looked up. He held the thin cane in a mock salute, then after a final swipe at the flowers clambered back into his own garden.

Later that day, William wandered disconsolately towards town. He wasn’t sure what he should do next. Complaining to Janice was pointless, and William really didn’t want to face Bev’s father. Ahead of him he could see Dexter walking alone. Frustration welled up and William decided that he would confront the boy. Dexter had taken a path between two shops. It was a blind alley where the local hoodies gathered. Carefully stepping over takeaway cartons and discarded cans, William followed Dexter. To his relief, nobody else was in sight. The boy had stopped and was now lighting a cigarette.
    ‘Just the lad I want to see.’
    Dexter jumped. A look of surprise was swiftly replaced by bravado.
    ‘Oh it’s you.’ He looked at William’s angry face. ‘Ooh granddad, you’re scaring me.’
    ‘Am I, Dexter? I didn’t think anybody scared you.’
    ‘So what are you going to do? Lay a finger on me and I’ll have the law on you.’
    Suddenly William felt calm and in control.
    ‘No, Dexter, I won’t be giving you that satisfaction. I just want you and your gang to leave me alone. Oh, and I want to ask you something.’
    ‘Yes right. Come on, move out my way.’ He tried to pass, but William blocked his escape route.
    ‘What should I do, Dexter, with a secret I know about a yob, who imagines he’s a real hard man?’
    ‘What you on about?’
    ‘Well, Dexter, what would Bev and his other friends think if I told them that their tough guy leader, eleven years old, still wets his bed at night?’
    He had the gratification of seeing the boy’s face crumple. He felt no guilt for the implied threat.
    ‘You wouldn’t.’ Dexter’s eyes were pleading.
    ‘Watch me, Dexter, just watch me.’ William turned and walked away.

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