Here is a look at a bit of what will be my best selling book. This is page 17 at the moment. I hope you like it, and that I have injected just the right amount of pathos to have you sobbing into your morning cup of coffee. I am about six years old at the time of this event. There is a black and white picture of the lodge house and the iron gates I mention in the text, to the left of this page.
ELBOWS OFF THE TABLE
My mum is coming. She is coming to get me at the weekend. They just told me. Will it be forever? Will I have to come back here? I have to be on my best behaviour for the rest of the week, or they will tell her not to come. I am excited. How many days is it till Saturday? What day is it today? Tuesday. How many days is that? Wednesday one. Thursday two. Friday three. Saturday four. No count Tuesday as well. It's not long is it?
The days drag. I am on my guard at all times. Nothing must go wrong. My work must be done properly. When I make my bed the hospital corners are the best I have ever got them. Shoe polishing. Scrubbing the floor. Washing up. All these things are very important.
It is Saturday. I am scrubbed and in my best clothes. I have got a new belt. Red and white stripes with a silver buckle. I am going to show it to my mum when she comes. I have done a drawing for her. It is her and me at our new house. With a garden. It is the best drawing I have done.
Sitting on the wooden bench in the gate house waiting room with my small suitcase beside me. It is not just a visit. I am going out with my mum. I am going to sleep at her house. Only tonight they said. I have to come back tomorrow. Try not to think about tomorrow. My feet do not reach the floor and I swing my legs. Not long to wait now. She will soon be here. George the lodge keeper can see the bus stop from his desk by the front window. He will tell me when he sees her approaching the gate.
I press one of the latches on my case and it springs open. It won't close now. Panic. Then click, it is closed again.
The back of my knees hurt, from the swinging. I get off the bench and look at the table with all the boxes of board games on it. Snakes and ladders. Ludo. Checkers. Draughts. Housey Housey. There are a few dog eared comic books and annuals. Flick through a few pages. Try to read a few words, The. And. It. Him. Her.
George smiles at me through the hatch in the wall as I search his face for the umpteenth time. Looking for a clue. Is she here yet? He shakes his head. Not yet.
I take a book, climb back onto the bench, and look at pictures. But my mind is not on the book. Why is she late? Is she late? Swinging my legs again. My new belt with the buckle. We all got new belts. All the boys. Some of them have got three colours. I only have two colours on mine. Red and white. I would have liked blue on it too. Waiting.
I slide along the bench on my bottom. The bench is shiny. Polished. I slide back again. Waiting. George? He shakes his head again. The window. By standing on the bench and pressing my cheek tight up against the glass I can just about see the edge of the big iron gate. The glass is cold. George? No not yet. He smiles a sad smile. Waiting. One of my shoe laces is undone. I try to tie it back up. I can't tie a bow yet. Tuck it inside my shoe. Waiting.
She didn't come. George says the traffic was probably very bad today. I have to take my little case and go back to the house. It is a long walk, and I keep looking back to the gates. Hoping.
I don't really want to unpack my case. Mum is bound to come tomorrow. But they make me unpack, and I have to put everything back in my cupboard. Tidily. They tell me off for crying. Cry baby bunting. Maybe I wasn't as well behaved as I thought.
Mum didn't come the next day either. Or the next weekend. Or the weekend after that. She must be very busy.
George is kind. He has a pointed nose, and big curly hair, and sometimes glasses. When he sees tears he wipes them off with his big white hankie and gives me a hug. He can fold his hankie into a mouse shape and make it jump up his arm. We play snakes and ladders sometimes. He knows magic things too, and he has got a big tin under his desk with sweets in. Sometimes he lets me have two. George has got a wooden leg. He left his real one in a ditch somewhere in Germany. He lets me kick it and we both laugh. She will come though. Soon. I just have to be patient. I don't mind waiting.