Night Skating by Alyson Rhodes
Me and Joe were inseparable as boys. “You could be twins,” me Mum used to say smiling.
She’d pack us both brown bags filled with squashed sarnies and an apple each, before ushering us out for the day. Watch less, parent less, we’d explore for hours. In old quarries, up meadows and in the bombed out ruins.
Joe’s Mum never packed him a lunch. She struggled to feed the triplets let alone Joe, her eldest child. The triplets had been an “unwanted leaving present from the G. I’s,” I’d heard Mum telling Mrs Jakes, the next door neighbour.
There was no holding Joe back. He climbed, ran, jumped the highest, fastest and furthest of us kids at St Edmunds. He’d have been head boy too or so said popular opinion, if it hadn’t been for his family ‘background.’
It was night-times when we had our greatest adventures. After midnight, while our families slept, we’d climb out of our bedroom windows and meet up by Beckett’s Pond. In summer we’d build a tree house in the woods. But winter was our favourite season, especially when the snow fell.
The first fluttering flakes inspired joy in our hearts. Wearing three jumpers each, wrapped in scarfs and mittened, we’d head for our favourite stretch of the River Ouse.
Strapping on our home made pattens, we’d scratch elaborate mandalas in the ice. The huge river transformed into our exclusive ice road. We’d chase each other’s shadows; flying free. First linking our arms, then breaking apart and gasping for breath as the wind chafed our cheeks. We’d glide past the dark riverside hamlets, laden with smoky roofs, past the drowsing animals and the local cemeteries where the dead slept.
Joe would snow plow to a stop shrieking, “Look at me, George!”
He’d jump, spin and twist in the air before landing, hardly disturbing the top ice layer. He was a lithe Peter Pan. I was dumpy; solid in body and character.
I’d not wanted to go skating that Candle mas, but Joe had pestered me through out the school day. Now I realise my friend had not wanted to be at home while his mum ‘entertained’ her male guests.
“You’ll be there won’t you George?”
I’d nodded my head but I did not say yes, so I hoped it would not count as a proper promise. Me Mum was suspicious and she’d nailed shut my bedroom window. I was too proud to tell Joe this minor but important detail.
The next morning the local constable arrived, knocking at 11am. Mum made him tea and called me down. The PC held out a striped scarf and one fractured patten.That was the day my childhood ended.
by Alyson Rhodes