Wednesday, 4 April 2012


As he worked the crop King slipped five or six courgettes into his pockets. Des, the old man in charge of the operation, didn’t mind. He even threw in a cauliflower for good measure.

After the truck had dropped them off in the dusty yard, the sun beating down, Des lit another Player’s and King waited until no-one was looking.

The coast was clear. He grabbed the sack of unsold bread and buns dumped behind the baker’s.

King was near on seven foot and had thin white hair like an albino. He marched down the lane with the sack of bread, courgettes sticking out of his pockets. This bold initiative meant that food was, pretty much, free.

Sometimes King stole a ready-cooked chicken from the corner shop where the staff were none too clever. The only thing he regularly bought was Douwe Egbert’s After Dinner Coffee and crystals of brown sugar.

The trees were in full leaf and the sky was a perfect blue. King left the lane and stepped onto the track. He put the sack down and wiped his forehead. He looked back the way he’d come and waited. Hoisting the sack again, he followed the path that bordered the lake. He slowed his pace and started to look about him.

He could smell the water in the lake.

In many ways, he’d tell people, his was an idyllic life. He whistled a tune one summer’s evening drunk to hell, I lay there nearly lifeless…

It was an idyllic life. The trees looked so big and green. Work was plentiful and food was free for the taking but there wasn’t any money of course. Every penny earned had to be saved.

The lake, although popular with the Canada geese and even a grebe, wasn’t real. Gravel extraction had created a vast pit that was now filled with green-brown water. Until recently, the lake had been used for water-skiing. A pine-clad clubhouse had been built on the far shore. One night it had burned, but the walls remained and provided King with an easy supply of kindling.

King rounded the clubhouse and the bender came into view: a pod of blue and red canvas supported by hazel poles. The white ash of the fire-pit still smoked and the horse stood sleeping, its nose inches from the pink salt brick that it had forgotten to lick. ‘Scramble!’ King called and the horse jolted awake. 

By September, King planned to put a wagon behind the horse. Hazel poles and tarpaulins were alright in the summer and, at a pinch, would probably be okay for the winter.

King wanted better things. He wanted a wagon, and, most of all, he wanted to travel: to put the old man and the town with all of its bad scenes far, far behind him - move on to something new.

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