Image by Vestry House Museum
Today they sent all the grown-ups away. No outcry from them or yells of Not Fair! I watched them pack a few bits and bobs (for what I don’t know) and they quietly boarded the boats. Some cried. And I wondered could it be guilt that silenced them when we imposed our sentence? Could it be some selfish sorrow or the emergence of a long forgotten conscience perhaps? But I’ve always been led by example and I copied their silence in this for nothing could excuse all they had inflicted on us, not even a sorry. Maybe they were just plain shocked.
I got my bucket and spade and ran to the shore to watch the last of them leave. Mr Roche was there with his wife and it was hard to feel any pity for him in particular. I just couldn’t do it. I picked up a pebble and threw it at him. I missed by miles but nobody noticed. My sister turned to me then and said, “All will be great now. Wait and see!” I sat down on the beach and dug a hole deeper than I was ever allowed before and I looked up now and then to watch the grown-ups, sailing away, growing smaller, down to our size, then smaller still.
We would rule ourselves, care for ourselves, and gorge on chocolate and stay up late and play football on the streets under the stars, safely. No more homework, no more toothpaste, no more orthopaedic insoles. We’d have televisions in our bedrooms and have them up loud. Music would blare. We could pick our noses if we liked. We could eat it.
Dots on the horizon and no sign of land for them, never, but children laughing and singing all around me on the beach. It seemed just. Some kids had filled huge shopping trolleys with sweets and were dishing out soft jellies to all the toddlers. A chorus of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes swelled then, directed at all the little boats dropping below the horizon with yesterday’s sun. Jeering, sneering and cheering.
I dug deeper and deeper deciding to stop only when told. Who would dare? And with the last boat gone, secretly, secretly, I thought, (“They were once us.”)
But then my sister handed me a giant size bottle of cola and things were just perfect again.