Nature Boy: Chapter Four

Nature Boy: Chapter Four

A Chapter by spence
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In which we meet Paul's family and consider the implications of magically repaired eyesight and future meetings with a Druid.

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 Now that Paul was out of the woodland and back in the ordinary world he was overwhelmed with the urgency to be home and face whatever it was he had to face.

He plodded up a line of carefully lain stone slabs that acted as a staircase from the wood to Wytchthorne Village, taking in the panorama of distance while sucking on his inhaler. Were he not so mesmerised at the quality of his vision he might have been surprised that he hadn’t had a full blown asthma attack because of the stress his mind and body had endured.

Paul had never been as frightened in his life, yet now he was elated to have discovered that there was much more to the world than what people can usually see. Combined with the months of upheaval at home, his grandfather’s illness and the hostility he’d encountered at his first ever school it was a lot to take in for a person used to a far more peaceful existence.

At that precise moment however his priorities involved getting home to let his parents know he was alive and well. Now that the strenuous drama was over he was beginning to feel lethargic and quite desperate to rest, but he spurred himself on until he surmounted the stone staircase and stood level with the back gardens of Woodland Terrace.

Paul stumbled toward the central gap, a curved archway that led to a tunnel to the other side of the long terrace. From there he began heading north to the very top of the street where the former ‘bed and breakfast’ guest house he now lived in was situated. There was no activity outside the large dwelling; no police cars within the walled drive lighting the street shades of blue and red, no parents frantically walking to and from the old reception entrance, now the front door, and the dry stone wall looking for their only child.

There was certainly no posse of locals wandering about with police and their sniffer dogs in the desperate search for a missing child.

‘A search that was destined to bring a community together’

Quite the contrary- the street was as deserted as it usually was in this village of sleepy old timers. In fact the most spectacular thing about the whole scene was that he could actually see what wasn’t happening! Maybe he would have ran home had he the energy, but instead continued his steady progress while checking out the damage to his person and clothing by means of the yellow lamppost lights that lined the pavement.

A brief self-inspection revealed the tear in his trousers that in turn revealed his grazed knee. His hands were dirty and scratched and his blazer tattered, clicked and covered in vegetation. An occasional tinkling sound from his satchel suggested that he might need a new flask for the sugary tea he liked to drink with lunch.

All such concerns left his thoughts however when Paul heard the familiar roar of an engine coming from across the road. He smiled expectantly into the alleyway through the terrace on the opposite side of the street, but then cringed as his Grandfather emerged from the darkness on his three-wheel mobility scooter at a ridiculously high speed.

The wiry framed man tried to turn the flamboyantly decorated vehicle a sharp left onto the pavement before Paul even had time to yell for him not to. As the scooter tipped sideways Paul’s Granddad lurched from the open topped frame and tumbled into the road.

‘Granddad! Are you okay Granddad?’ Paul shouted, half running, half limping toward the fallen man.

After a succession of rolls, accompanied by the crashing cacophony of the flame emblazoned mobility vehicle against the concrete path, Granddad landed upright on the white line that separated the road to equal sides.

Paul approached from behind his father’s father and saw that his shoulders were moving up and down violently below the flat cap he always wore. For a horrible moment Paul thought the old man was crying from his injuries.

‘Granddad!’ he said sympathetically as he leant to help him up, but then took a step back in wonderment when he saw that his Granddad was in fact laughing helplessly at his predicament.

‘That’s all I need was for you to see!’ he eventually commented on seeing his grandson, ‘where the bloody hell did you come from?’

‘I… er. I fell asleep in the woods on the way home from school Granddad. Mam and Dad are going to be dead worried.’

Granddad laughed again on hearing this, his huge moustache seemed to bristle from his top lip to the sideburns they grew to.

‘You fell asleep? What- and you’ve just got back now?’

Paul nodded as he held the old man by the arm in a vein attempt to help the sixty six year old man to his feet.

 ‘Oh! Just leave me here Paul- I’ll get up eventually!’ Granddad chuckled, the smell of scrumpy cider pungent on his breath.

‘Where’ve you been Granddad?’ Paul asked, although he already knew the answer.

‘I’ve been down the Horse’s Head haven’t I? I can’t take my beer since the op, but at least I don’t go falling asleep in the woods. Whatever is the matter with you Geordies? You can’t even talk proper’

Paul raised an eyebrow and looked down at the drunken man cynically,

‘Oo- ar old timer!’ he said in a perfect imitation of the West Country lilt, a mischievous smile creeping onto his lips as he did so.

Granddad held the lapels of his tweed jacket in a stance of mock defiance,

‘Wey aye bonny lad!’ he taunted in a terribly bad north eastern accent that set Paul off laughing.

Paul hadn’t known any of his Grandparent’s very well until recently. Granddad Henry was his Dad’s Dad and his Mum’s parents lived in Goa, India and only visited England once every year or so. Paul and his parents rarely visited Devon before Granddad became poorly and Granny Lizzie died when he was seven so he didn’t have many memories of her other than that she was an extremely hard working and happy plump woman with a shrill voice that made Paul giggle when he was younger. For these reasons Paul was awfully glad that he and his Granddad got along so well, although he thought it was a bit of a shame that it took such trauma to bring them together.

‘We’d better get you home Granddad,’ Paul said in encouragement.

‘Ar, I suppose you’re right young ‘un. I can’t be lying around here all night- come on then- help me up!’

Paul took his Granddads weight on his shoulder and allowed himself to be used as leverage until the old man found his feet. He then escorted granddad to a garden wall and set about righting the scooter.

The sleek silver paint job and the orange and red flame sticker were scuffed and scraped along one side, but the engine seemed to be in working order.

‘Why does this thing go so fast again?’ Paul asked as his Granddad re-took his seat.

‘Oh, that was Granny Lizzie when it was hers before she died, bless her- crazy old bat loved to dabble in mechanics and made this thing go a lot faster than it ought to. It does twenty mile an hour downhill, ‘bout fifteen on the flat!’ Granddad bragged.

Paul smiled at a mental image of Granny Lizzie as an unhinged mechanic working feverishly on the engine until he noticed that his Granddad was staring at him with great interest.

‘Here Paul- didn’t you used to wear glasses?’

………………………………

From the second he walked into the former guest house Paul expected to be smothered with frantic questions with regard to his whereabouts, so he was surprised to find his parents sat in the bungalow adjacent to the two storey building and reception. They were seated on the sofa together listening to pan pipe music while they busied themselves in separate activities.

Dad was busy on his laptop completing the assignment he’d been working on for days and Mum was knitting yet another woollen item of clothing for the benefit of some hapless victim. The victim could have been anyone.

The calming ambience of the living space was broken when Paul dramatically announced his long awaited return.

‘I’m so sorry that I worried you- I fell asleep in the woods on the way home from school,’

‘Silly bugger was sober anawl!’ Granddad added with a happy slur as Paul helped him into the bungalow door.

Paul’s Mum looked up from her knitting- a confused frown etched across her brow,

‘Fell asleep in the… I thought you were upstairs next door. Weren’t you in your room?’

Paul visibly sagged, his mood somewhere between despair and relief to know that his absence had gone unnoticed.

‘I… I thought you’d be frantic with worry,’ he said weakly.

‘I might have been if I’d noticed son,’ his Mam laughed.

‘You’re a teenager now you see- we expect you to disappear every so often. It’s only natural and it means we get some peace after all these years,’ Dad quipped from behind the laptop that shook with his laughter.

‘He just picked me up out of the road,’ Granddad interjected as he staggered toward the rocking chair that was older than he was.

‘He’s a good lad is our Paul,’ Granddad commented once he’d become seated then promptly fell asleep.

‘Granddad came off his scooter ‘cos he was going too fast,’ Paul said in the hope of evoking a reaction.

Mum glanced up again and did a double take.

‘Paul! What the hell have you been up to? Your uniform’s a right state. You look like you’ve been dragged through a whinny bush backwards!’

Paul wanted to tell her that, that’s pretty much what had happened, but knew that telling the truth in this instance may well see him thrown in the ‘loony bin’.

‘I fell down a d… ditch cos I couldn’t see where I was going. I fell in three times actually.’

Dad laughed again as he typed,

‘That’s known as a hat trick!’ he said.

‘Pack it in man Richard- have you seen the bloody state of him?’

Richard offered a cursory glance around the laptop and then went back to his typing,

‘I’m not surprised you fell in the ditch three times, it’s lucky you found your way home- you’re half blind without your glasses,’ he said casually as he clacked away at the keys.

Mum looked again at the ragged, mud smeared specimen before her and shook her head dismayingly,

‘What a mess you are Paul. And what on earth happened to your glasses?’

 ……………………………………….

When Paul awoke in his bed the next morning he ached from head to toe. Every muscle felt as if it had been given a vigorous workout routine to complete while his tired mind was a confused babble of memory and possibility.

He crept from the covers and made his way to the curtains. There was only one way to confirm whether or not it had all been a dream. Bright light flooded into his face as he pulled the drapes apart, but once his eyes had adjusted he could see, to his utter delight, all the way across the street then up and down its entire length.

Paul sat back on his bed, opened his bedside cabinet drawer and put on his spare glasses. He was amazed and elated to find that everything looked blurred through the thick lenses, much as the world had looked without them the previous morning. Then, miraculously, his room came back into focus as his renewed vision adjusted to the eye glasses. Paul took them off and could see, put them on again and could see. He did this several times before he was convinced the effect would not fade.

He remembered then that he had not made an account of the weird and wonderful day before and pulled his diary from the same drawer that housed his spectacles. The diary was actually more of a scrapbook, A4 in paper size and wrapped in metallic red paper. There were no dates to keep to; when one book was filled another replaced it, the continuity not dependent on the year.

Paul had meticulously maintained the story of his life since he was five years old; each diary containing not only a written report of daily events, but photographs from trips and activities he’d been involved with, recipes for everything from Coleslaw to Christmas cakes for the community kitchen, art and craft designs for the community shop, gardening tips and harvest times for the community allotment, stories, as well as personal artwork, stories and poetry and plans for research and learning as part of his now defunct home education program.

The happenings within this scrapbook were the least interesting of the eight he had kept a log of his experiences. Almost everything to date described adversity and difficulties that meant Paul’s life was no longer anywhere near as exciting or interesting as it had once been, but that, he hoped, was set to change.

 Paul wrote down all that had happened on September 9th, from waking through an entire day of mishaps and adventures then beginning the account of the 10th with the confirmation that it had not been a dream.

He was overjoyed that his sight was still improved to say the least and could barely contain his excitement as he left his room, descended the two fights of stairs, passed through the old reception on his way to the bungalow next door. Granddad Henry and Granny Lizzie had lived in the spacious bungalow for many years as owners of the bed and breakfast so even though the rooms of larger part of the building was free for use it still seemed the most natural place for the family to convene.

Of the four double rooms in the two storey guest house, the two on the lower floor were in use as bedrooms, for Paul and his parent’s respectively, and the two on the upper floor as a study cum library and the other as a gymnasium. The six single rooms, three up, three down, were stood vacant and the upper floor shower room was scarcely ever used.

It seemed a waste of a building, but Paul hoped that one day, (perhaps when granddad was completely recovered from the brain tumour that almost killed him and his Dad had finished his Masters’ degree in Archaeology the following year), he and his family would use the space to create a community centre of their own.

Unfortunately ‘next September’ seemed a lot more than a year away and Paul knew how much work would be needed to raise money to begin such a project, but he did what he could to work towards his distant dream of reclaiming something of his old life from this new one. With this aim in mind Paul’s weekends in Devon thus far had been spent making soaps and candles, bead jewellery and wicker baskets, picture frames, scented pillows and more besides in between helping his parent’s care for Granddad.

The community project in Newcastle raised part of its running costs through selling the crafted wares of the people in the area so he saw no reason why the same would not be possible on a smaller scale. If local people were involved it might even help with his popularity at school, or at least prevent him being bullied.

This reminded him of the lie he’d told his parents about falling asleep in the woods on his way home from school rather than during.

 ‘I spent a lot of my childhood playing in and around Wytchy Woods,’ Dad had bragged the night before, ‘what made you want to walk home? Not like you.’

‘I fancied the walk Dad- thought it might help my asthma after being stuck in a stuffy classroom all day. Besides, it’s good to know the area isn’t it?’

Paul had never had reason to lie before he started High School but now it seemed to him that the very act of participation made deceit and treachery necessary for survival. Still he had told the truth in that he went to the woods after he’d finished school and falling asleep until night time. He simply left out the parts about leaving school two and a half hours early due to the bullies wanting to hurt him, somehow becoming part of another reality being chased by monsters and then being saved and having his poor eyesight cured by a Druid who claimed to have lived in Roman times.

He was sure there were far worse reasons to lie and far worse lies to tell so it was for the ‘greater good’ that Paul carried on disguising the truth by wearing his spare glasses at home, although he was rather excited at the prospect of no longer needing them during school hours.

………………………………………….

The weekend after that was the same as usual with the Nicholson family. Work and worries were forgotten so that they could enjoy one another’s company without distraction. Paul’s Saturday afternoon consisted of traditional bread-making with his Dad while his Mum prepared a pasta meal to accompany it. Granddad mostly slept in his rocking chair, occasionally waking to comment on the day’s sports activity that was playing out on the television by his side.

Paul grinned happily as he kneaded the dough and having taken his glasses off while he baked, watched the horse racing from the kitchen area. He had no interest in the sport, but the fact that he could make out every detail on the screen fascinated and delighted him. The bungalow was of an open plan design and it was a considerable distance from the old fashioned stove where Paul worked to where the television blared.

Even looking through the large windows to the street out front or through the patio doors to the extensive back garden was no challenge to Paul’s revitalised vision. He could literally see for miles.

Granddad mumbled and snored throughout the afternoon until the football scores were read out at 5 p.m. The old man sat forward then, fully alert and grumbling and swearing that his team had lost again. Thankfully their meal was ready by this time and the four sat on all sides of the dining table by the kitchenette to fill their hungry bellies.

‘You’re drinking too much Dad,’ Paul’s Dad scolded his Dad when he produced a bottle of homebrew beer from the airing cupboard.

‘It’s one ale Richard and I’ll only have three or four in the Horse tonight. It’s not going to kill me is it? Besides I don’t want Paul picking me up off the road again!’

Granddad winked at Paul as he plonked the bottle on the table and took his seat. Dad sighed and changed the subject.

‘So Paul- how was your first week at school?’

Paul swallowed a forkful of pasta and sauce as he considered what to say.

‘It was okay,’ he said unconvincingly, an uncertainty that his mother picked up on immediately.

‘I want you to tell us if anything is wrong Paul. School is a lot different to what you’re used to,’ she began to say before her husband interrupted.

‘Don’t worry so much Angie- I’m sure Paul would tell us if anything was going on, wouldn’t you son?’

Paul nodded that he would, but kept his gaze fixed to his plate as he ate.

‘Shut up Richard!’ Mum hissed to her husband, who in turn rolled his eyes despairingly at his wife. Then she placed a hand gently onto Paul’s forearm and urged,

‘Are you absolutely certain that everything’s okay Paul? I’m sorry for going on, but I know you’re different to other kids so I worry that they’ll pick on you.’

Paul stopped chewing, mildly offended at being considered an outcast ‘because of what had happened to him’ but tried to be understanding when he looked to his Mum’s big dewy eyes. It was obvious that even the thought of him being hurt in any way would drive her to tears so Paul did all he could to persuade her that he was fine.

‘A couple of lads laughed at my accent a couple of days ago, but I just ignored them,’ he said nonchalantly, using reverse psychology as best he could in convincing her that he could deal with any problems that came his way.

‘Did they say anything else? Did anything else happen?’ she asked, suddenly flustered that her fears might be real.

‘No Mam- n… nothing else has h… happened.’

‘Then why are you nervous? You only stutter when you’re nervous.’

‘Perhaps he doesn’t like being interrogated?’ Granddad suggested from across the table, to Paul’s immense relief.

His Mum calmed on hearing this. She was going to give up her pursuit, but sought a guarantee that Paul would be honest before she did so.

‘Promise to tell me if anything else happens, Paul. I know we’re really busy with work and studying and Granddad, but you’re well-being is more important to us than anything else.’

Paul nodded again, but this was evidently not good enough for Mum.

‘Promise me!’ she demanded

‘I promise- alright, I promise!’ Paul told her more defensively than he’d intended.

‘Lay off the lad now eh Angie? Let him have his dinner in peace!’

Mum gave Dad a harsh glare, which he ignored to say optimistically,

‘School’s aren’t all that bad anyway. I remember, before I started there how everyone used to say that the older kids flushed new beginners’ heads down the toilet, like it was an initiation or something. I was petrified at the time, but I’m 40 years old now and I’m still waiting for it to happen!’



© 2012 spence


Author's Note

spence
Are the characters likable or even believable? I should point out that in north east England, (Scotland and Ireland too) we say 'Mam', while people from everywhere else say 'Mum'! Hence the change from dialogue to prose.

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Added on January 6, 2012
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Author

spence
spence

Grimsby, United Kingdom



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Just returning to WritersCafe after a couple of years in the wilderness of life. I'm a 40 year old (until December 2013, at least) father of two, former youth and community worker, sometime socio-pol.. more..

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