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Rebecca's short stories

A Shining Boy

Culworth. Culworth, it said on the piece of paper Auntie Jessie had given him. It had got messy because she’d pushed it into the paper bag holding his cheese sandwiches, and cheese sandwiches with marge made for a mess. For the umpteenth time he took it out to memorise it all over again. It was vital to remember Culworth because that was where he had to get off.
     He shivered at the thought of missing the station and going heaven knew where and being lost somewhere in England; an abandoned boy with no home. He wished his Mam was with him, but, as Auntie Jessie told him repeatedly, his Mam was too poorly to live any more and she’d gone to heaven. He looked out of the window at the sky, they said you went there when you died and always pointed upwards, but he still couldn’t see her, his Mam whom he’d loved.
     If she hadn’t died so suddenly he’d have been at school, and it being the middle of the morning he’d be doing arithmetic and he loved arithmetic. It was the best subject in all the day. But no he was on a train for the first time ever. He’d watched them rattling over the bridge at the end of their street all noise and steam and hooting, making a great fuss as though they had no time to stop. This one had better stop or else. . . . . .
     Auntie Jessie had given instructions that when he got to Culworth he’d to wave the snow white hanky she’d given him out of the window, because that was the signal. He’d no idea about how long he’d been on the train. She said it would be three hours to Culworth, had he been on the train half an hour or ten minutes, or an hour, he hadn’t the foggiest.
     He did know he felt hungry, and he fancied his sandwich. But when he looked at his hands they were too dirty to hold a sandwich. It had all come off the carriage window frame where he’d gripped it in his fear. So he wet his fingers and rubbed them clean with the snow white hanky but then it wasn’t snow white any more.
     Panic set in. What would this new Auntie and Uncle think of him waving with a dirty hanky? He’d been told to make a good impression, polite, clean, speak when spoken to, no running. His new Auntie had no children so she didn’t know about boys so he had to try really hard else she’d send him to an orphanage, and he knew all about them. He’d been threatened by his Auntie Jessie about going to an orphanage for most of his life. Which wasn’t long but there’d been plenty of time to frighten the living daylights out of him.
     But his new Uncle and Auntie couldn’t make life any worse than it was with Auntie Jessie, that was certain. She shrieked and complained at him all day long. He ate too much. He got too dirty. He wouldn’t stop growing, always needing a bigger pair of shoes. He made too much noise. He didn’t deserve her. Tears came close to welling up in his eyes.
     Thing was when he got to Culworth would she be there, this new Auntie? Had she got the letter saying he was coming? Had Auntie Jessie explained in it that his Mam was Uncle Alfred’s sister? If she hadn’t got it, then an orphanage would be the next stop for Vincent Edward Jones.

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