YOU’RE IN MY NOTEBOOK by DAVID EDWARDS
Michael pointed. “Look at that man writing while he’s walking. I have a job writing when I’m sitting down.” A grin spread over his face. “Let’s creep up and shout really loud. Make him jump.”
Alan laughed. “He’s too old to chase us. We can make faces, be rude to him.” A warm glow spread through him as nasty thoughts came into his mind. “Push him as well.” He hop scotched across the paving slabs to show how clever he was.
Michael poked his brother’s arm. “Look! He’s dropped his notebook,” he said. “Let’s get it before he notices.”
“Walk fast, don’t run.” Alan was ten and felt streetwise. Running feet would make the man turn. “He’s limping. I noticed it earlier by the shops.”
Michael tilted his head. “You’ve seen him before?” Then his mouth dropped. “You’re right. At the shops. Outside our house on Tuesday. Walking outside school yesterday.” He took a breath. “His suit looked like one from Oliver Twist on the tele.”
Alan glanced round, then bent and lifted the black notebook. “He’s strange,” he said. “Did you notice how he always looked straight at us?”
Michael nodded his nine year old head as memories came back. “There’s something sinister,” he said. He’d found the word in his library book and liked its sound “What’s he written?”
“Nothing. The book’s empty,” Alan said. He flicked through the lined pages. “But we both saw him writing.” He drew his arm back to throw it over a privet hedge.
“Wait,” his brother said. “Let’s take it back. He might give us a reward.” He rubbed the pocket of his jeans. “Enough to buy some chocolate.”
Alan laughed. “No wonder you’re getting fatter.” He prodded Michael’s stomach. “He’s out of sight. Let’s run to the corner.”
Alan reached the bend in the road nine seconds before his brother. They were doing estimates at school so he’d guessed the time span. “Okay. Who’s going to speak to him?”
“Where is he?” Michael paused and took two gasps of air. “He’s vanished. Must be a ghost.”
The brothers continued towards the park. Alan bent and lifted a twig from the floor. He ran it over the metal fencing with a machine gun rattle. A lady with her brown Labrador walked past tutting at the noise. “They’ve only just painted that fence,” she said. Michael stuck his tongue out. “Oooh!” she exclaimed. “Come, Tootsie. Let’s get away from these horrible boys.”
Alan flicked his stick backwards and forwards between two fence uprights to make more noise. Michael shouted, “Come on Tootsie.” He clung to the fence laughing so much he thought he’d fall over.
Then. “Allan. Over there. By the goal posts.”
Alan dropped the stick and grabbed his brother’s arm. “Let’s get in the park.” He pulled Michael with him and they both ran. As they went through the gates the old man briefly turned his head, before facing the football pitch again and staring as though a match were being played.
Michael pulled his arm free. “Not too fast.” He felt a little nervous.
The grass had been cut and Alan began sneezing like he did at home when Dad mowed the lawn. “Take the book. I need my hanky,” he spluttered.
“Hey, mister,” Michael shouted. He waved the black notebook in the air. We’ve got your…..” He paused, it seemed thicker now. “…book,” he finished.
The man turned to them, and then reached out and took it from Michael’s hand. “This is kind of you,” he said. He passed his left hand across the cover and stroked his index finger down the red binding. “You must be Michael and Alan.”
“How do you know our names?” Alan asked.
“It’s in my book,” he replied. With a flick he opened it and showed both names at the top of a page.
“We couldn’t see any writing when we looked.”
He smiled. “You need to be shown the past and at that time you hadn’t done anything naughty today.” He tilted the book so they could read more.
“You’ve written about me making of fun of that lady.”
“You’ve written about me banging the park railings.” Both boys spoke at the same time.
Michael rubbed his cheek. “How could you write when we had the book?”
The man’s pale blue eyes stared into Michaels for ages and then he spoke again, slightly louder. “The book writes itself. I just help it from time to time.”
“Who….Who are you then?”
Instead of answering, he blinked three times and then turned to another page. Michael blushed as he saw his name underlined at the top. He read. “Stole a Kit Kat bar from paper shop on Thursday.” He looked at his brother. “I didn’t eat it. I threw it in the dustbin. It was a dare.” The words lightened. “I won’t to do it again.”
“You could have taken it back to the shop,” the man said, his voice softer now.
“I was too frightened,” Michael said. He lowered his head as the words vanished.
“And Alan. You put your white mouse in Mrs Williams’ shopping basket” The man almost smiled.
“It was only a joke,” Alan stuttered. I didn’t think she’d scream and faint.” The book was turned towards him, and he could see the writing. “I caught my mouse and took it back to its cage. Next day I helped her with her wheelie bin when I passed her house.”
The words faded away as he spoke but both boys saw many other sentences when the pages were flipped. “This is your conscience,” the man in the dark suit said, nodding at each boy in turn. “You determine what appears in my notebook.” Somehow he seemed to swivel his eyes to focus on each brother at the same time. “You can also make words disappear by doing good deeds and correcting mistakes.”
“Thank you for bringing back my note book. That has cleared most of the pages.” He stretched his arm towards the gates. “The lady you were rude to is outside the park.”
They turned to look as he spoke, “You could apologise to her.”
Alan opened his mouth to speak but the man had gone. A scrap of paper showed the capital letters A and M as it floated to the floor.
The two lads looked at each other sheepishly, not certain what to do. Alan broke the silence. “Who was he? Where’s he gone?” he asked. They turned back to the metal gates.
He glanced at Michael and pointed outside the park, “Let’s go and say hello to Tootsie shall we,” he said and a grin spread across his face.