Look­ing Ahead

Let's Talk - - SHORT STORY - by Sally Pear­son

When I was 16 years old I bumped into God – quite lit­er­ally as it hap­pens. He was walk­ing along the pave­ment mind­ing his own busi­ness and I was on the pave­ment too, go­ing much too fast on my bike.

I didn’t know he was God at the time, of course, if I had I might not have run him over. But who knows? I was try­ing to get away from the Craw­ford broth­ers at the time, so I might have been pre­pared to do any­thing.

“Why didn’t you look where you were go­ing?” he asked, as he picked him­self up.

He didn’t look hurt which sur­prised me a bit as I’d hit him quite hard. Any­way I wasn’t pre­pared to hang about. The Craw­ford broth­ers seemed to have dis­ap­peared for now but I wasn’t tak­ing any chances.

“You’ll fall off,” he called as I cy­cled away, and I laughed be­cause I was pretty good on my bike. I’d done a few runs for the Craw­fords over the last cou­ple of years and I needed to be fast if I wasn’t go­ing to at­tract too much at­ten­tion.

I fell off. I don’t know how it hap­pened.

“Told you so.” He’d caught up with me.

“I can’t see,” I said de­fen­sively. “My glasses got bro­ken when I bumped into you. It’s all your fault. You were in the way.”

“On the pave­ment?” he queried. He was a mild-man­nered sort of man, in­signif­i­cant in a pair of old cor­duroy trousers and one of those brown­ish cardi­gans with the leather but­tons that old men al­ways wear – though come to think of it, he wasn’t ac­tu­ally old. He wasn’t re­ally any sort of age at all. He just was.

“I’ll be see­ing you,” he called, as I walked away from him push­ing my bike. I doubted it.

A cou­ple of po­lice­men were walk­ing in front of me and I hoped they wouldn’t look too closely at me and won­der why I wasn’t at school. You of­ten saw po­lice in this part of town look­ing for drugs. I won­dered if they ever found any. They’d cer­tainly never stopped the Craw­fords, who al­ways came in on the Lon­don train. Even if they did they wouldn’t find any­thing be­cause the Craw­fords al­ways passed the stuff to me as soon as they got off. I’d stand there at the gate wait­ing for them ev­ery time and we had this funny sort of ar­range­ment where I’d run over to them all ea­ger-like, call­ing out things like “Un­cle Ray, Un­cle George – it’s great to see you again. Mum’s got the ket­tle on.” They aren’t my un­cles, of course, and nei­ther of them is called Ray or George. Mum cer­tainly wouldn’t be hang­ing out any flags for peo­ple like the Craw­fords but they thought our lit­tle act helped al­lay sus­pi­cion.

The man in the news­pa­per kiosk was cer­tainly fooled. “Wait­ing for your un­cles again are you?” he’d asked the other day. “You’re a good lad.”

I can’t re­mem­ber now how I got mixed up with the Craw­fords in the first place. Now that I’m 16 they’ve started say­ing things about how there will be a place for me higher up in their firm when I leave school. This morn­ing I told them I want out. They didn’t like it. That’s why I’m run­ning away.

When I got home I went straight to bed. I was scared to go out again in case I hap­pened to meet the Craw­fords. I’d never told them where I lived but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t find out some­how. And be­sides – I had a ter­ri­ble headache. I might have hit my head when I bumped into that man, though ev­ery­thing seemed a bit of a jum­ble now.

He was there when I woke up, sit­ting in the lit­tle arm­chair by the side of my bed. Some­how I wasn’t sur­prised, al­though that might have been be­cause I as­sumed I was in a dream.

“You re­ally aren’t look­ing where you’re go­ing are you,” he said gen­tly. For a mo­ment I won­dered if he was my dad. I’d never met my dad. When I fan­ta­sised about him I usu­ally imag­ined some­one a bit tougher, but there was some­thing about this man that made me think he re­ally cared.

“I told you,” I said an­grily. “My glasses broke.” I pointed to them at the side of my bed. The lenses are re­ally thick and I can’t see any­thing but a blur with­out them. Mum says I must get my aw­ful eye­sight from my dad be­cause it doesn’t come from her. Per­haps next time I think about what my dad looks like I’d bet­ter start imag­in­ing some­one

with glasses.

“I don’t mean your eyes,” the man said. “I mean the di­rec­tion you’re headed. It will all lead to trou­ble in the end you know. Big trou­ble.”

I didn’t ask how he knew. I was still as­sum­ing that I was in a dream, so I de­cided to be com­pletely hon­est. If you can’t be hon­est in a dream when can you be?

“I know,” I said. “But I’m stuck. It seemed like a good idea at the time. They said I’d earn some pocket money. Mum can’t af­ford to give me pocket money.”

“What would your mum say?” he asked. “If she knew. Or has she al­ready guessed?”

I closed my eyes and leaned back on my pil­low. I hated to think of up­set­ting Mum.

“I think she has,” I said mis­er­ably. “She’s been to the coun­cil to see if we can change our flat. She wants us to move some­where else.”

“Where?” he asked. He looked in­ter­ested. It had been a long time since any­one other than Mum had been in­ter­ested in what I said, and Mum was al­ways so busy.

“She says any­where will do,”

I told him. “But there’s never any­where avail­able. Ev­ery­one is try­ing to get out of this town too.” “Oh,” he said. “That’s a shame.” I won­dered what it would be like to live some­where else, a place where I could start all over again.

I liked the sea. Most nights I went to sleep imag­in­ing it all but ev­ery morn­ing when I woke up I’d re­alise all over again that it wouldn’t ever hap­pen. It was all so hope­less.

“Don’t give up, Jay,” said the man. “I know it’s hard but good things are just around the cor­ner.”

“How do you know my name?” I asked sharply. I was sure I hadn’t told him.

“I know lots of things,” he said. “I can help you if you’ll let me. Just prom­ise me you’ll try look­ing where you’re go­ing, start to look ahead.”

“How can I?” I asked him. I’d started to trust him but now I won­dered why. Af­ter all he was just some stupid man I’d bumped into. “My glasses are bro­ken. I told you. If you were so clever you’d mend them for me.”

“Why?” he asked mildly, rais­ing one eye­brow. “You don’t need them any longer.”

I looked around the room at all the things I’d never been able to see be­fore. He was right. But how had he known?

No one knew for cer­tain why my eye­sight had sud­denly got bet­ter. The doc­tor at the hos­pi­tal said per­haps it was the bump on the head. Mum said it was just one of those things.

“You see, Jay,” she smiled, giv­ing me a hug. “Some­times good things hap­pen too.”

She didn’t be­lieve me about the man in the cardi­gan. When I said I thought he was God she just laughed. It was a nice idea she said. I never told her about the Craw­fords, al­though I heard that they got ar­rested get­ting off the train the week af­ter. I wasn’t there to meet them that time and they had all the stuff on them.

I heard that some­one had tipped the po­lice off. It wasn’t me, al­though I was ter­ri­fied they might think so. They’re in­side now though and I never did tell them where I live. Even if I had it wouldn’t mat­ter re­ally be­cause I don’t live there any longer. I live by the sea.

Mum got the let­ter from the coun­cil the day af­ter I bumped into God. “You’ll never guess,” she shouted. “We’re mov­ing.”

I was up­stairs in the bath­room brush­ing my teeth at the time. She’d kept me off school be­cause of my bump on the head. “Can’t have you go­ing around imag­in­ing peo­ple all day,” she said.

My bike had a wob­bly wheel but I man­aged to get it mended. I wish that I could meet God again al­though if I did I’d be care­ful not to run him over. If I met him again I could tell him that I’m tak­ing his ad­vice. It doesn’t mat­ter too much though. I ex­pect he al­ready knows.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.