Reading Time: 2 minutes
Let me set the scene:
It is a cold Winter's day
and I am homesick.
I have only seven years
and my red knees are frozen -
sticking out, knobbly,
from under short grey trousers.
Out of the scullery door
I can see the field
and hear, in it, the slow chugging
of the school generator.
The light bulb swinging
and slightly dimming
between each generated chug.
The smell of gaberdine
rain-macs hung up to dry,
And above the macs
are cauliflowers hanging
"to improve their flavour":
It is a sickening combination!
Shortly - because it is Sunday -
we will have to wash and change
into our cassocks and ruffles,
then file solemnly, in pairs,
along the pathway to the
adjoining village church.
Michael, a village boy,
fourteen of thereabouts,
will stand at the very back
pumping the bellows up and down
feeding the organ's greedy pipes.
Before I move towards the front
I can see Michael and as usual
he catches my eye and smiles.
A crooked missing-teeth smile,
but friendly all the same.
He alone isn't at all phased
by us Choristers being 'toffs'.
I smile right back and then
I move up front and wait
for the grumpy headmaster's baton
to command my soprano notes.
Every Sunday is the same -
save for the next in line
when Michael is replaced
by a wheezing farmer of
great age it seemed to me.
At Choir practice on Monday
evening the headmaster imparts
the news that tomorrow
we will be "doing a funeral".
I am afraid of coffins,
and refuse. Result - six strokes
of his stinging cane
and sent to bed in disgrace.
After the funeral other boys
relate that Michael was killed
when he played in the field
with his father's shotgun.
I cried that Michael was gone,
foreseeing loneliness and...
no more smiles at Evensong.

© Allen Ansell 2022