The Rye Man

The Rye Man by David Park Page B

Book: The Rye Man by David Park Read Free Book Online
Authors: David Park
heaviness of his black winter shoes, it felt as if his feet had sprouted wings, like he was walking on air. It was difficult to resist the impulse to run but that would have to wait until he was on his own. Mr Dawson parcelled his old shoes in the green box. On Monday the tissue would wrap an apple he took to school and later the box would be used to store the newest recruits to his model army. On their way out his mother would give him the pennies from her change to drop into the collecting box held by the lifesize model of a boy with callipers on his legs, the boy with blue eyes and pleading face who stood sentinel in the shop doorway.
    It had begun with shoes. It must have been the lightness of his step that carried him further that day. It was May and the lanes were white with cow parsley in the verges and hawthorn blossom in the hedgerows. White like a wedding cake. He was often alone as a boy but rarely lonely, and that Saturday he knew no other restriction but the extent of his own impulse, and on this day it carried him outside the normal parameters of his play. There was a feeling, a scent of summer which gave him a sense of freedom, a desire for newness in his wanderings and so he followed the stream, its soft voice where it lisped and splashed over stones his only companion. Followed it as it dawdled and curved round the reeded banks and pock-marked edges where cows had stood to drink. Clouds of midges trembled and sometimes a dragonfly skimmed its surface. He dropped a peeled stick into the water and followed its voyage but soon its pace was too slow and boredom made him leave it becalmed in still water. For a second he thought of stepping on stones along its shallow stretch but remembered his sandals and could not risk the telltale white marks.
    Across the fields now which were new to him, and then he saw the copse. It was almost circular in shape, clumped on a slightly raised plateau, its circumference bound by a moat of bushes and a yellow flame of gorse so bright it hurt his eyes. With little effort his imagination fashioned it into a fort, a walled castle which invited exploration and so he followed the narrow path which wound its way into its heart. It was darker now and the dappled light filtering through the meshed vault of branches reminded him of the way light seeped through the coloured glass of church windows on Sunday morning. A secret world of sky and shadows, and he knew from the start that it would be a special place. He touched the trees as he walked, as if by touching them he gave them names and claimed them for his own.
    To his disappointment he broke into a clearing where the blackened bones of a fire showed that someone else knew this place, but he told himself that it had been a tramp, or travelling person who was long gone and would never return. He pushed his way through brambles which plucked at his jumper, holding his hands high in the air as if wading through water, and made his way to the other side where it broke open revealing the world below. He climbed a tree, the one he was to climb again and again, then made his way along a knotted branch which jutted out into space, sitting astride it and shuffling his way forwards until he reached a point where he could peer through the veil of leaf and see the countryside spread out before him. See, without being seen, the house below while all about him the trees rustled and breathed gently.
    A house with a red door and a blue slate roof. A curl of smoke. A yard with a stretch of flapping washing held aloft by an angled wooden pole; a piled store of peat; a stone barn to the side of the house. He saw her too, working a hoe in the vegetable patch with its ridged rows, stooping from time to time to pick out a stone or weed. Her hair was pinned up and sometimes she stopped to push a fallen wisp of hair from her eyes. Her name was Maguire – he had been in McMinn’s fruit shop one day when she had placed a box of lettuce on the counter and

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