by Stacey Woodbridge, with commentary from Katie Simpson
Camping sucks. Let no one tell you otherwise. My pumps, once white, are now at the mercy of grass stains. Why Mother Nature? Shoes do not grow on trees. To my surprise, the field where we have set up camp is no good for kicking a ball about. Not that there are any kids to kick a ball about with anyway, other than little Henry. There is no one to grumble at about how boring this place is, only old Lee who always has something to complain about. I overheard the landlord welcoming him back, as though he is a regular visitor of High Farm Caravan Park. Honestly, I would rather not be seen talking to the grump. Within earshot of him, I perch on the ground as his current tale unfolds. It’s about war. It usually is with men of old age. He reminds me of my grandfather, spilling out history lessons when given half the chance.
An aggressive manly cough signifies the start of Lee’s spout; “The year was in fact 1930. I was here, right here, over there in that field. Yes, I was! But this, this was when ole man Steel owned that piece a’ land. He would take no trespassers on his ‘sacred’ grounds. No Sir. He had his own means of keeping the enemy out of his fields. Oh, the people around here knew Steel was to be feared but I say he oughta’ be respected. Did a mighty fine one keeping them scoundrels away. Why should it bother me where he came about that arsenal of his? Bloody well worked it did, Yeah!”
His sincere but poorly spoken story was rather entertaining. I find his passion for these adventures to be thrilling and I almost wish I had such exciting things to talk about back home. I consider writing a short poem, about the adventures I’ve been on, but then remind myself I’m only an inexperienced teenage boy. Boys of my age don’t write poetry unless it’s part of the curriculum. My enthusiasm is soon replaced with utter disregard after what Lee muttered next. The old fool must have been delusional at the time or completely made this up. Not for one minute do I believe he saw a head flying through the air over mad Steel’s farm. This poor guy believes it happened.
I tire of listening to Lee so I take my brother’s football for a little kick about. He’s sat on the grass watching me, wondering why I’ve taken his possession without asking or maybe why he couldn’t join me in a game. Instead he’s chuckling away just watching with his gentle off-blue eyes. I suppose I am trying to impress the rascal with my moves. As I launched the ball high into the air, over the fence it goes to the field adjacent to this one. This image of the ball flying through the sky reminds me of the head that Lee was talking about. I picture someone doing as I had with the ball, kicking the head towards the heavens.
On its return, the ball hits the head of a cow whose face tells me exactly how disgusted it is by my actions. This has me in hysterics more. Even little Henry is still giggling, though he is probably laughing just because I am. Finally, I calm myself seconds before witnessing something peculiar, something uncommon for children to endure on their family vacation. I recall my need for an interesting story to tell and begin to think this one would be perfect. This would be a tale of unbelievable events. Now I regrettably take back my insults to old Mr Lee.
Bowing my head in disbelief, I find myself once again looking down on my once white pumps with green splodges and now blood stains too. I doubt even Mum can fix this pair of whites with all the laundry detergents out there. Well, if I cannot hold Mother Nature responsible this time, then who? Mr Brookes, the irresponsible landowner? Did he fail to check the farm over before purchasing it? Did he not know what lay beneath the ground?