“And here he comes now, dribbling up the pitch from the right wing. He swerves deftly past Nobby Stiles into the penalty area, shoots with his left foot and sends the ball hurtling straight past Gordon Banks’s outstretched hand. It slams into the back of the net. And YESSS! World champion, Alfie Perkins, scores once again! A brilliant goal!”
After racing around in circles for thirty seconds whilst punching the air in victory, I delve into the undergrowth to retrieve my battered ball from behind two slightly wonky sticks I have strategically planted for goalposts at the far end of our back garden.
“Owww!” I pull back my hand in horror and carefully inspect the small four-day-old scab on my forearm, only to find it has been partly torn off by a thorny rose branch.
“Oh Bugger!” I had been guarding that preciously until it was ready to pick and it was almost there. Almost but not quite.
Forgetting all about my ball, I sink to the ground by the goalpost to further examine the damage. I frown when I discover that although the dried-up brown scab is still firmly attached at one end, the biggest part of it is now loose, revealing bright pink new skin below. If I pull the whole thing off now, I know from experience it will hurt more than I want it to and possibly bleed again. Carefully easing my fingernail under the loose end, I hold my breath and slowly lever it up. There is a moment or two of exquisite, pleasurable pain as I wiggle the scab up and down. I fiddle with the other end but it still hurts too much there, so I concentrate on the loose part and attempt to pry it up a bit more and twist it around. I manage to swivel it from side to side, but then yank too quickly and yelp as the whole thing comes off in one big piece. I can never quite decide if I want to laugh, cry or do both at the same time when that happens. Right now I screw my face up whilst enjoying the bitter-sweet sensation it leaves behind. Anyway, after I have finished pressing down on my arm to stop the pain, I squeeze the area around the scratch until three tiny pinpricks of blood appear and grin to myself. Fantastic! That means there will be another one to look forward to in a couple of days.
Feeling self satisfied and content with life, I lean back against the goalpost, close my eyes and wonder whether to go round to see if my best mate Gary Peters has finished his tea yet. He lives next door but one to us, at Number Thirty-Four. The summer evening sun feels lovely and warm on my cheeks and right now, school feels a zillion light years away. It is Friday night at last, and so I am allowed to stay outside for ages.
I realize I can hear the unmistakeable noise of a grasshopper rubbing its legs together close to my right ear, and spot one balancing precariously on a leaf only about twelve inches away from my nose. Wow! What brilliant luck! I have never seen such a big ‘un in all my life, it’s gi-normous! I have just got to show this one to the gang. My inner voice suddenly pipes up again,
“Alfie Perkins, the world’s greatest and most intrepid explorer discovers a completely new, never-seen-before breed of grasshopper. Easy does it, Alfie, don’t scare him away now!”
Silently and ever so slowly, I gently approach my hands ready to cup them around it, but before I can pounce there’s a whistling, and an old man comes walking up the alley, brushes past the hedge and my prey vanishes into thin air,
“Oh Bugger!” I scowl and stamp my foot, “Ooh, hang on a sec, that’s that Weirdy Old Fogey from over at Number Seventy-Three!”
Me and my mates think he is the spitting image of Doctor Who. They have both got exactly the same wild, spiky grey hair that stands out in all directions. It looks like they have just had an electric shock or something. And there is definitely something very odd about him, I can tell you. Bert Williams lives next door to him and says when he is in bed he can hear strange voices talking in a weird foreign language coming from his house. And Georgie Davis told us that the other night he saw a green mist coming out of his chimney when he was going home from the park, then there was a kind of humming noise and the mist turned purple. Then he said it just shot back down his chimney. Just like that! He was terrified, he was. He thinks he’s an alien. I am not too sure if I believe in U.F.O.’s and stuff like Georgie does, but still, you never know, do you...?
Me, I think he might be a spy, or even a secret agent. My hero is James Bond. I want to be a secret agent like him when I am bigger. That, or a footballer for Manchester United... or maybe an astronaut... Although my dad tells me I should be a plumber like him, “Job for life” he says. Hmmmphh...
The never-seen-before grasshopper now totally forgotten, I decide to hone my secret agent skills by tailing Weirdy Old Fogey and quickly duck down behind Mrs Jackson’s dustbin in case he looks back. Phew, he has not noticed me! Weirdy Old Fogey suddenly swings a left turn down the narrow ginnel by the side of Mrs Wilson’s house. He must be heading down to the locks by the canal. My mum says I am not allowed to go down there by myself, but this is far too important a chance to miss. I can already see the headlines in the paper, “Boy catches spy single-handed” and I creep out from my hiding place and dash to the corner. I try to run furtively like they do on the telly and pull up my collar around my ears. Or he could be a bank robber and I am a cop stalking him. I pull out my imaginary radio and inform my partner back at the station of my plan, remembering to say “Over and out” at the end, of course.
By the time I peep around the corner at the far end of the ginnel I am too late. There is nobody in sight. The lane is deserted,
“Oh Bugger! But never fear I am not foiled, for I am the invincible Secret Agent Perkins!”
I look all around me in despair and wonder what to do next. I don’t know this part of town very well. None of us in our gang do, as we all live on the streets up towards the east-end of town. We normally like to hang out around the kid’s park or near Jimmy Burton’s dad’s sweetshop. Sometimes he gives us freebies which is great. Black Jacks are my favourite. I love the way the liquorice makes your teeth go all black like a monster’s. I wish my dad owned a sweetshop like Jimmy’s dad, then I could have as many Black Jacks as I wanted.
I have got goose pimples on my arms right now and my mouth has gone all dry, but I try to be brave like James Bond and brush my fear away. I rack my brains to try and guess what he would do if he were here with me now. I do know he would not be stumped by the disappearance of his foe, that is for sure. Narrowing my eyes against the sun which is getting very low now, I squint down towards the canal at the bottom of Lodge Mill lane. There are no proper buildings on either side of the road. It leads to the locks, past the overgrown site of an old derelict mill on one side and a fenced-off overgrown plot of spare land littered with a dozen or so empty barrels, a heap of dead branches and two rusting old car skeletons on the other. I am about to turn back and head for home when I spy a small group of allotments each with a little ramshackle wooden shed, over to the left near the water, and I have my answer. Yes, that’s it! Weirdy Old Fogey must be hiding in one of those sheds. Maybe he is meeting another spy? Or could it be that one of the sheds is not really a shed but is actually a Tardis, and he really is Doctor Who after all?
“This is surely and most definitely a matter for Secret Agent Perkins to investigate!”
As soon as I reach the first shed, I hear a low, raspy sing-song voice coming from further on, only it does not sound like a spy’s voice. It sounds gentle and kind of crooning somehow. Pausing to check my disguise is still in place, I make sure my shirt collar is still standing up around my ears and take a secretive look from side to side without moving my head. That is what James Bond does when he is checking to see if anybody is following him. I see nobody, I hear nobody. The coast is clear.
I dodge around the back of shed Number Two and follow the noise to the third. The home-made wooden door of this one hangs down at a crooked angle because of a missing hinge at the bottom and there is a gap at the top. I press my ear to the door then punch the air with delight. Yes, this is definitely where the voice is coming from. Trying to get even closer so as to listen better I stumble, knocking over a higgledy-piggledy pile of plant pots in my haste, and freeze in fear as they tumble to the ground. I feel sure I am about to have a heart attack just like my old granddad did. That is what can happen to you if you have ‘a terrible fright’ or ‘a terrible shock’. He dropped dead of one a year ago, did my granddad Johnson. He was my mum’s dad. My mum said it was because he had ‘a terrible shock’ when he saw Spot get run over by the milkman’s van right in front of his eyes. She was his Jack Russell terrier and had one brown eye and one green eye.
I hear a shuffling noise from inside the shed. There is no time to hide! No time to run! The wooden door creaks open and, just like that, I find myself face to face with Weirdy Old Fogey. What is he going to do to me? I am petrified and can feel my mouth has dropped wide open.
It takes me a second or two before I notice he is cradling a huge, furry, snowy-white rabbit with long floppy ears in his arms. Inside the shed it is dark and spooky and I can see large square shaped shadows although I can’t make out what they are. I can hear something rustling about in there too.
As my eyes become accustomed to the gloom, my fear slowly turns to awe when I see behind him a whole row of hutches, each one with a rabbit inside. When I grow up, I want to be a vet. I love rabbits; they are my favourite animal. Weirdy Old Fogey just stands there staring down at me whilst stroking his rabbit behind his ears,
“What do ye want Laddy?”
“Cor, he’s gorgeous! Can I stroke ‘im?” I blurt out, totally forgetting all about me being a secret agent and him a spy. Weirdy Old Fogey’s wrinkled face breaks into a toothless smile, but it is a kindly smile and his faded blue eyes twinkle from underneath bushy, grey eyebrows.
“Course ye can Laddy. His name’s Flopsy. Do ye want to come and meet the others?”
I grin widely and step right in.
Author Notes: I would really appreciate any feedback on this