A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Out of the blue Pauline went on a day trip with Toady Templeman , a reflection of what happened above half a century ago, but in reverse...


I hope you can hear me, Mr Walpole, but I’ve had a message from your lovely wife,” said the blurred but excitingly seductive voice, so close to his ear that he was sure he could feel the warmth of her breath. And maybe that was what it was, or possibly it was what he wanted it to be.

I can hear everything! That’s all I can do, hear and dream, dream and hear. Everything!

She says for me to tell you she won’t be in to visit you today. She says for me to explain that a neighbour is taking her out for the day, to the seaside seeing as the weather has turned so lovely. She says she comes here every day and you don’t so much as show any sign that you know she’s here. I can understand that, can’t you? Coming every day and it being like she’s all on her own even when she’s talking to you? Anyway, it’s that nice man who sometimes waits for her in the visitor’s room when she’s here talking to you, the one who lost his wife a few weeks back...”

Does she come and talk to me? Is that who the voice is, the one who reminds me of things I thought I’d forgotten? My wife … do I have a wife? Of course I do! He’s just a poor boy from a poor family … he’s just a poor boy from a poor family… He’s got a wife…

So if you feel the need of a little conversation, I’m always around, taking your blood pressure, washing your face, even bed-bathing you, and I’ll bet you like that, don’t you Mr Walpole, or shall I call you Bernie, like your lovely wife does? I do hope you can hear me, that you actually know what I’m saying because it makes it quite familiar, talking to you while I wash your intimate manly bits...”

So she’s off on a day trip with Toady while I’m stuck inside my head, listening to words I can barely understand, a poor boy from a poor family… where did I hear that?

Anyway, I’ll be back in a while with my flannel and my soap, so be prepared...”

There was a click as the door to his lonely side ward shut and the nurse, giggling, went to perform her nursey duties for another patient.

And in the silence his inner light came on. The stage was set. The actors ready to play their parts.

He was fourteen. He could remember that as plain as he could remember the words to Bohemian Rhapsody. And the girl from his class in Junior school, though he wasn’t there any longer, being fourteen. and neither was she, she was at the girl’s secondary school, and she was coming to his house to see him. He’d had a new record player for his birthday, which is how come he remembered he was fourteen, and he’d bought a record to go with it, Craig Douglas singing Only Sixteen… he wasn’t anywhere near sixteen, he had to wait two years to be that old, but he felt as if he might be sixteen. He was a teenager of course, and he had feelings, strange feelings, almost overpowering feelings, and his voice had dropped to a manly growl.

And other things had happened to his body. He had the start of a beard. True, only a fine silky start, barely noticeable, but he’d noticed it and dreamed of shaving it off. And the naughty bit in his trousers had started misbehaving for no obvious reason, especially when he thought of the girl coming to play records with him. Pauline Smith. And although she was no Gladys Nugent, Gladys had been stolen from him by Toady, Pauline had filled out a bit, was starting to show signs of actually having a chest and anyway she liked to wear skirts that everyone said were too short to be called decent.

Was there any such thing as a skirt too short to be called decent?

And the door was knocked.

He heard it in his head and he watched as his foruteen year-old self complete with downy whiskers walked to open the door.

Pauline asked me to come, Bernie, said the girl.

The girl, Toady’s girl, standing there in her pretty summer frock and also showing signs of developing a chest. She smiled at him so brightly and her hair, he’d always liked her hair, smelled of flowers and soap and other sweet things he didn’t know anything about.

She said she can’t come. Apparently she’s been asked to go to some concert with Tony Templeman. You know Tony? He reckons he’s my boy friend and he’s got tickets to see the Shadows in the Palace, but my mum won’t let me go, says I’m too young, which makes me hate her and I’d probably go anyway but I can’t stand the Shadows and their silly dance…

He grinned. It is daft, isn’t it? At least, I reckon it is...

He watched himself swallow. A year ago he’d thought himself in love with Gladys and now he knew he wasn’t. Or was he? Maybe Pauline, who had sworn she was coming along to listen to records on his new record player and that she’d never let him down, was going to be snatched from him by Toady Templeman in exactly the same way as Toady had snatched Gladys away from him only last year.

I’ve got a record if you want to give it a spin

That was him and it was true. He did have a record, a single, but only one. His mum was finding money hard to come by even though she’d taken a part-time job in the school kitchen. But records cost, and he was saving up what he earned from his Sunday paper round to buy more soon enough.

She smiled at him.

I’ve got a few with me, and if you like…

If he liked! He was aware that his trouser problem was threatening to return and he blushed. That was a stupid thing to do, blushing like that! But there was nothing he could do about it. The damned thing had a mind of its own!

Come in then! We’ll listen to some if you like…

It sounded as awkward as he felt. But she followed him in and he took her up to his room. Mum wouldn’t like that, a girl in his bedroom, but she was out so it didn’t matter.

Only sixteen, only sixteen, she was too young to fall in love, and he was too young to know…

She smiled at him.

So true, so true, she whispered, and she reached for his hand and squeezed it. And who’s a naughty boy, she breathed, and he knew exactly what she meant.

I don’t think I’m too young to fall in love, she breathed.

It’s time for me to try and wash you, Mr Walpole,” interrupted the nurse. “If you’re a good boy I’ll get it over and done with quickly, but if you’re even the smallest bit naughty it might take, let me see, a little bit longer… you know what I mean?

© Peter Rogerson 01.05.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on May 1, 2018
Last Updated on May 1, 2018
Tags: record player, Shadows, records, adolescence, insecurity, nurse, message


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 79 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..