top of page

Rebecca's short stories

A Shining Boy

     The train stopped but it wasn’t Culworth, and a man got in. He’d a big handle bar moustache and a thick overcoat on and a scarf and a hat and big leather gloves. Vincent studied his clothes and realised that never in all his years had he ever been warm enough in, but this man surely was.
     ‘Excuse me, sir, do you have the time?
     ’‘Half past ten.
     ’‘Thank you.’ Vincent did a calculation in his head. If it was half past ten then there was another hour and a half before Culworth. He gazed out of the window and to his amazement saw some cows in a field. Dozens of them! Black and white just like in that book at school! But these were real cows, eating grass and walking about. He tried counting them but there were too many. Where had all the houses gone? There weren’t any. Well, just a few but not houses like he knew, these stood by themselves, what about all the others that should be joined on to them in a row. Where had all the smoke gone? The factories, the shops? This was all fields just like in that book at school. It dawned on him that this, then, was the countryside and he’d thought when he saw the pictures that it was all pretend, but it wasn’t. It was for real! And trees! Beautiful huge big trees with the start of new leaves just peeping. So this then was what they called Spring.
     If Culworth was like this. . . . .his mind raced at the prospect. Something within him responded joyously, and he knew this was where he belonged. In the countryside.
     His Mam would have loved this. She'd always yearned for fresh air when her breathing was bad, “just a breath of fresh air” she used to whisper. She’d get plenty here. His heart almost tore out of his chest at the thought of her never getting the chance to breath easily and Auntie Jessie saying she couldn’t keep him any more and he’d have to go.
     There’d never been a dad. Other children had dads but not Vincent, but his Mam had a wedding ring on her finger, a cheap thing that looked to Vincent like a curtain ring but he never said, so there must have been a dad sometime but he was never mentioned.
     ‘Excuse me, sir, what is the time now please?'
     ’Eleven fifteen. Where are you getting off?'
     ’I’ll tell you when we’re nearly there, don’t worry. You’re young to travel on your own.'
     ’Got no Mam and no Dad so now I’m going to live with someone else.'
     ’I see. I think you’re very brave to get on a train by yourself. Do you feel brave?’
     Vincent studied this question and decided to answer truthfully. ‘No, I’m scared to bits.’
     ‘I see. I’ve got some chocolate in my case. Has that paper bag you’re clutching got sandwiches in it?'
     ’Vincent nodded.
     ‘Well, you eat those and then you can finish off with some of my chocolate. How’s that for an idea?'
     Vincent almost died of joy. Chocolate! He wondered what it tasted like. ‘Thank you very much, sir, I’ll do that.'
     Vincent ate his sandwiches, made a bit of a mess and his hands were crumby and he longed for a drink when he’d finished the sandwich, which was dry and unpleasant, just like all Auntie Jessie’s food. But needs must. . . .the gentleman got the chocolate bar out of his case and gave it to him. Dairy Milk, it said. Dairy Milk. He didn’t know whether to eat it or not, there was so much of it.
     ‘Unwrap one end of it and eat a few squares. Don’t eat it all at once or you could be sick.’ He smiled in such a kindly way that, encouraged, Vincent burst into activity, ripping off the paper and cramming two squares into his mouth all at once. Was he in paradise then? He’d never tasted such wonderful stuff in all his life, and that was ten years. All those years without chocolate. What he’d missed!
     ‘Who is meeting you at Culworth?’
     ‘My new Auntie and Uncle.’
     ‘I know some people in Culworth, what are their names?’
     ‘Well, Culworth is the station I’ve to get off at but they don’t live there, they live in Turnham something or other.’
     ‘Turnham Malpas. Yes, I know that village. You’re a lucky boy and the school is lovely too. Have you been to school?
     ’Vincent felt quite indignant, him asking that. ‘Of course, I’m ten and top of my class.’
     The gentleman smiled gently and Vincent felt foolish. ‘Been going since I was five and I can read and do arithmetic and things.’
     ‘Of course, if you’re ten. Do you know their names? These people who are expecting you?’
     ‘Nellie and Alfred Jones.’
     ‘I see. They’ll be pleased to have such a bright boy to look after.’



bottom of page