1. THE TENT

1. THE TENT

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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Two teenage boys in the fifties, away from home for the first time, camping.

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It was a nondescript sort of day and Taylor didn’t know why he was there, weary to the bone and taking absolutely no notice of anything but the way he wanted to pitch their tiny pre-war tent and lie down out of the scorching sun..

He supposed he might blame Ricky, who was his best friend and who came from the posh end of town, or if not the posh end, nearer to it than he did, living with his widowed mum in their post-war council house, almost new back then, but by no means posh.

They were both fifteen and it had been Ricky’s idea.

We could cycle it,” he had said confidently, “you’ve got a bike and, well, I’ve got my new Raleigh.”

That was Ricky all over, establishing the superiority of his new bicycle by naming it, because that gave it the kind of kudos his own machine would never have. Not that his was all that bad, but the idea of riding the eighty miles or so to the coast in a single day had seemed a bit daunting until he had girded his mental loins and decided to do it.

And, truth to tell, it had been the most uncomfortable day of his life until he had summoned every ounce of reserve that his teenage body possessed and gone out in front, leaving the Raleigh with its extra gears and polished saddle almost a mile behind, and struggling.

There was nothing like being in front to make him want to stay there, and afternoon was drawing towards evening when he wearily coasted into the fishing village they had chosen as their holiday destination, leaning his bike against a lamp-post and then leaning himself against a shop wall. And waiting for Ricky, who came along a good five minutes later.

I ought to have one of those notices they put on new cars,” he had puffed, “you know, Running in, Please Pass...”

As if a new bike needed to be run in like cars back then did!

Maybe next week when we go home you’ll be able to show me what she can do,” he had said, approaching sarcastically, but Ricky was his best friend and friendship was a boat he didn’t want to rock, at least not when it was Ricky who owned the tent.

Let’s find the camp site,” said Ricky, changing the subject.

I can see the sign,” pointed Taylor, “look, down there, a bit crooked as if it had been shot at by one of Hitler’s cronies.”

The war had been over for several years by then, but an eyesore like a partly dislodged sign was easily attributed to a past enemy. It takes time for all misconceptions to be erased from the human psyche.

The two boys wearily mounted their bicycles and made for the camp site where their fee was gratefully pocketed by a rather grubby, ill-shaven individual who pointed to a corner of his field and told them that the hedge was made for them to piss in, “but don’t let the ladies see, or else...”

Your number twos can be stored up until you get to a public bog,” he added.

Where do we store them?” asked Ricky, suddenly a picture of unbelievable innocence.

Yer bowel, lad, and I’ll have no lip from you or you’ll be off with my boot up your pants!” snarled Mr Grossman.

He’s well named,” grunted Ricky as they started to erect a pre-war tent that had been daubed with brown camouflage paint during the conflict, hopefully hiding it from any passing Messerschmidt with bullets to spare.

A gross man indeed,” confirmed Taylor.

There were already two or three other tents there, none of them elaborate affairs, but the corner they’d had allocated to them was far enough from its neighbours for strangers hopefully not to worry them.

Once the tent was erected and seemed reasonably stable the two boys climbed into it and Taylor tied the ribbons that substituted for door catches.

Cosy,” he murmured.

Just the place if one of us makes friends with a local bird,” grinned Ricky, and Taylor smirked back at him.

The planning discussions for this adventure had included the possibility of liaisons with free and hopefully attractive young lasses in their own age-bracket.

We’ll have to take it in turns,” Ricky had said.

Of course,” agreed Taylor, “the tent’s barely big enough for two, and four would be more than a crowd!”

Cosy, though,” sniggered Ricky.

I’ve brought my mum’s old camera,” said Taylor, “it’s got one film in it. That’s twelve photos, and I’m going to use one of them to take a snap of our tent now that it’s set up.”

I haven’t got a camera,” sighed Ricky, “I never thought...”

Never mind! I can have copies made of any you like. Come on, let’s get out of the tent and you stand by the entrance there like King Kong surveying his domain, and I’ll take a picture and try not to spoil it by shaking with laughter when you pose!”

I tell you what,” said Taylor, “let’s see if we can get someone to take the picture for us, then we’ll both be in it.”

Was it fate or fortune, wondered Taylor later, but as they looked around hoping to find someone to help them out when a girl emerged from one of the other tents.

I’ll ask her,” suggested Ricky, and he called out to her, putting on what he thought was his most sophisticated voice, “I say, hey there, I wonder, would you mind?”

The girl turned round to face them, and Taylor found himself being smitten by female beauty for the first time in his life. She was, to his eyes, perfect, he’d never dreamed that any human being could be so absolutely stunning, and without thinking, without letting his mind be occupied by anything more than the girl, he found himself subconsciously pointing his mother’s camera at her and snapping a single picture. It was an impulse driven by the tiny tennis outfit she was wearing, the way her hair caught every wisp of breeze, the smile that lit the universe when she saw them.

Who? Me?” she asked, and her voice was perfection.

Would you mind?” asked Ricky, and Taylor found himself automatically winding the film on to its second exposure.

I suppose so,” she said, frowning, and then she smiled at Taylor as she took the camera from him. “I’m off for a few games,” she added, holding a racquet aloft for them to see, “before we go home later this evening,” she added as if that was explanation enough.

And it was. Taylor heard the words go home. Ricky smirked and posed, and then the moment was over. The picture was taken. In the kind of instant that should last for ever.

And the girl in her tiny tennis outfit ran off, hair cascading around her and waving he racquet as if to say goodbye, fellas, it’s been good to know you…

© Peter Rogerson 04.08.19



© 2019 Peter Rogerson


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Added on August 4, 2019
Last Updated on August 4, 2019
Tags: camping, tent, camera, girl, photograph


Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
I am 77 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..

Writing