IN THE WOODS

It’s more quiet when it snows. My wellies make a grunch-grunch sound as I walk. A rook scraws, and then another. Rooks sound nasty and it makes me feel funny when I hear them. I see them in my head as little old black men in cloaks, with big black hooknoses, red eyes and little pointy teeth. I stop and write my name in a drift. I use my stick that I sometimes use as a gun. Be... Eye... Ell... Ell... Why... A few weeks ago I carved a snake into my stick with my penknife. The snake twists all the way up, its forky tongue hissing up to the fat bit at the top. The fat bit fits into my shoulder when my stick is a gun. Chris has real guns... I like it when we go ratting. That rat we found in a corn bin the other week was as big as a cat. I’ve dreamt about it a few times since. Me holding the torch as we look down, its eyes red in the torchlight, hissing and scrattling as it tries to climb up the shiny corn bin but can’t, Chris firing pellet after pellet into it, and still it keeps trying to climb. Sometimes we find rats that have taken the blue bait. They’re easy to kill. They move like they’re drunk, all slow and stumbly... I feel a bit sorry for the small ones though. The old ones don’t matter... Once, me and Carl saw a load of them eating grain off the barn floor. We went to fetch Chris and he got his shotgun out. It’s a twelve-bore and makes a massive bang when it goes off. Chris shot under the barn door at them. There were big ones and little ones. After both barrels went off most of them were dead. The ones that weren’t we stamped on... I look up at my climbing tree. It looks too icy to climb today. A woodpigeon clapflaps through the branches so I shoot it with my stick gun. Carl said there’s no such word as clapflaps. I told him I know, but I like to make up words that sound like what something does. The farm gate skranks when you shut it. Piglets snork when they feed off their mum. My trumps sometimes floof. Carl calls them SBDs when they come out like that. SBD stands for Silent But Deadly, but I like floof better... When I get to the den, the corrugated sheet is invisible under the snow. A bird has hopped over it because I can see its footprints. I put my hand into the snow and it sinks up to my coat sleeve. It must have been a small bird like a sparrow or a robin or a chaffinch, not a bigger bird like a blackbird or a thrush or a starling. I look at my wellie prints in the snow behind me. It’s funny seeing where you’ve been. I look at each footmark and try and remember being there and how I felt, but I can’t. I see if it works to think about what I was thinking when I got here. I say floof out loud but I still can’t remember how I felt. At school Mr Dilks said that everything always goes forward, never back, and this is how the universe works... I sit in the den for a bit because the roof has kept the snow out. I have a log for a settee. It feels cold on my bum but I stay sitting... One of my favourite films is The Time Machine and sometimes I play that I’m George. I pretend to twist the dial on my time machine and go back in time to where I was walking up to the den. I watch myself walking, and thinking about floof. If I could really go back in time I’d change some things. Like that time at the bus stop when Grant Cooper moshed up that cake I’d made at school, digging his hands into it and licking them, going OOOOOH OOOOOH, then saying only bummers made cakes. If I could go back in time I’d put rat poison in it so he’d die... A real time machine would be brill. Every time something went wrong you could go back and change it into something good. In the film though, George finds monsters. I know real monsters didn’t exist back in olden times, unless of course you count dinosaurs. Stegosaurus. Brontosaurus. Diplodocus. Tyrannosaurus. Brachiosaurus. Iguanodon. Triceratops... In the film, the Morlocks keep the humans happy by feeding them fruit so they never have to do work, but the bad thing is that the Morlocks eat the humans, so even though everything seemed good, things were actually very bad... I get out of the den and go over to the fly-tip. I like the fly-tip because if you dig around in it you sometimes find things. My stick is good for digging things up. It’s not as easy today though because the ground is stiff. Last week I found a nudie book. There were some pictures of girls holding their fannies open so you could see right inside them. Me and Carl looked at the pictures, and he kept pretending to kiss where their holes were. It made me feel sick but Carl said in real life that’s what you have to do. I told him he was being stupid, but Carl said his brother had told him, so it was true... My stick gets stuck underneath something so I push then pull my stick to one side, lifting the ground up. There is a bent old tin that says Oxo, and an old bottle with bumpy glass writing on it... As...mo...deus...Elix...ir... The bottle is green and has something dark in the bottom of it. There is a rubbery stopper that I twist then pull out. The dark stuff is sticky-stiff in the bottom of the bottle. I know it’s dangerous to drink old medicines so I put my nose over the opening and sniff it instead. The bottle smells like burning. I pretend there’s a genie in it and I make a wish for a time machine. A rook scraws. It seems dark, so I go home.

 

12. You’re playing war

10. That first summer on the farm

 
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