2 Aug


caravan site photo: revamping caravan grandchildrenandcaravan023_zps99537d08.jpg

“Come on, David,” urged Paula, looking at the lad who seemed to be more confused than anything.

“I don’t understand what’s going on,” he muttered. “Everything’s gone wrong…”

“It’s dad,” Paula told him, “he opens his mouth before putting his brain into gear. It’s what he’s always done, and it’s about time he realised he’s not going to get away with his ill-conceived ideas any more.”

“Let me tell you about someone…” called Mr Potts, near desperation in his voice, “about an old friend of mine from way back, who thought he knew everything but actually didn’t, and the bit he didn’t know killed him…”

“Another one of you moral tales, dad,” sighed Paula as her father drew up to them.

“Tell us yer story, yer ponce!” called the annoyed voice from a nearby caravan.

“And you can shut up!” growled the aggrieved father.

“Shouldn’t be so god-damned noisy at this hour, then,” sulked the voice.

“It’s no good, dad. You’re always doing it – jumping to conclusions. All David and I wanted in the night was a private chat, and you had to jump in at the deep end! David hadn’t gone to my bed, I’d gone to his. We were both dressed in our night things… it was all perfectly decent…”

“You call that scrap of a nightie being dressed and decent, do you?”

“Yes I do. I wear less when I’m at the swimming baths, for goodness’ sake! But that’s not the point. The actual point is you blamed David without thinking. Your innocent little Paula wouldn’t have done anything as rash as climbing into bed with a boy, yet I had. Quite clearly and obviously I had, but in your head it must have been the boy. So you had to go berserk at David who didn’t know what was going on and hardly knew I was there!”

“That man I knew way back,” interrupted Mr Potts, “the one who was famous for reckoning he knew everything. He’d heard somewhere that they were withdrawing rail services from his village and going to turn the track into a public footpath and bridleway. And that sliver of knowledge became part of the everything he knew, and he decided, one day, to go for a walk along that footpath. It might have crossed his mind that they should have taken the rails up before letting folks walk along it, but it didn’t. It might even have occurred to him that there’s always a timetable for such things as discontinuing services and he ought to check up, but it didn’t. He knew with an absolute certainty that the lines had been closed, and that was that.”

“So he got mowed down because the line was closing the next day?” suggested Paula.

“That’s about what happened,” nodded her father. “He read something, gave it a little twist in his mind so that it became all wrong, and believed his own version. And he went for a walk in the country, and was killed. Stone dead. And the story, young lady, is perfectly true. I swear it!”

“What’s that got to do with me?” asked Paula.

“It hasn’t. It’s got to do with me,” sighed Mr Potts, “and I’m sorry I was such an arse in the night.”

“Really?” asked Paula.

“I am. And tell me: did your mother really call me a bully?”

“She did and you were, dad, and probably didn’t realise it. But you’d get an idea in your head and she had to agree even if she hated it. You could shout quite a lot, you know. And you did make her cry…”

“I never did!”

“Did you never wonder what she was doing when she locked herself in her room after you’d had one of your rows? She was crying all right, dad, even when you were supposed to be mollycoddling her because she was ill, she went on her own to weep because of something you’d said or something you’d expected her to do.”

“Come back to the caravan and we’ll sort things out,” begged Mr Potts. “Both of you,” he added.

“And if we do, dad, what will you expect?”

“Reason to prevail, of course.”

“Whose reason? Mine? David’s? Or yours?”

“As the adult here, the one with experience…”

“I see, dad. The same mantra. You know best because you’re older and wiser and have more experience of life. So when we thrash this thing out, whatever it may be, it’ll end with you carrying the day and us two having to tow the line?”

“You’re young, darling … I can’t have you sleeping with any old boy who chances your way…”

David shook his head in disbelief, but was wise enough to remain silent.

“You’re using sleeping with as a euphemism for shagging, I expect,” muttered Paula. “As if that’s all we want to do… Well, I might be on the pill – that was partly mum’s idea, by the way – but I’m not doing that with anyone!”

“It’s my job to protect you…” sighed her father.

“You mean, you feel you ought to keep the big secret for as long as you can, dad!”

“The big secret? What big secret?”.

“What you and mum got up to nine months before I was born. You want me to bask in a sea of ignorance even though it’s impossible for me to get pregnant!”

“You mean improbable,” muttered her father.

“Very, very, very improbable. Especially seeing that I’m still a virgin despite what your generation thinks of the morals of the here and now.”

“It’s more than about … sex,” sighed Mr Potts. “It’s about setting up a home with the right person, of staying with that right person through thick and thin…”

“Mum said she only stayed with you because of me,” interrupted Paula. “She said had I not been born she would have been off years ago!”

“She said … she never did!”

“She did, dad: more than once. It made me feel guilty knowing I was the cause of her unhappiness.”

“But we … this can’t be true … we were always very happy!”

“No, dad. You were. You with your long salutary tales we were meant to learn from, you were happy, I’m sure of that. But there’s more than you in the world, dad. A lot more.”

He turned away, slowly, thoughtfully, then walked back to the caravan. The two teenagers stared after him.

“He’s crying,” whispered David.

©Peter Rogerson 01.08.14


2 Responses to “HOME TRUTHS”

  1. pambrittain August 2, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

    That’s so sad and totally unexpected.

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