The Inkspots, a local writing group will be sending us stories and poems on a regular basis. To whet your appetites here are some of their writings about scarecrows………………………………
Winner of Inkspot’s Scarecrow Short Story/Poetry competition
by Collin Hilliam
Only my brother, of all the people I know, claims to have no internal narrative, the ongoing account of your thinking and doing which little children will often vocalise, as in “Now I’m spitting on the cat. Tinker runs away upstairs, so I’m off after her. Now Mummy’s calling me, sounding cross, so I’m hiding under the bed.”
My own narrative often wanders off message:watching a newsflash, I’ll findmyself lost in the past, a commonplace of ageing, but I find I’m often re-running tableaux from past times, trying to set them right, to minimise conflicts, to initiate happy endings, to somehow soften the implacable history.
One such narrative that often recurs features the scarecrow I knew in my childhood, a fellow schoolboy I remember as Tom. Now I have little sense of smell, but even I knew that he stank. His face and hands were grey and scabby, his clothes were past repair, hanging off him. He had no money for school dinners, nor the bureaucratic imprimatur to get them free:he scavenged and stole around the school, effectively unchallenged because he had the loudest and vilest tongue imaginable and because no member of staff would touch him, nor even speak of him, let alone to him, if they could help.
I found him harmless. He never attacked nor threatened me, nor anyone else that I could see, so I largely ignored him. There were better things to worry about, like the brothers Alfie and Ernie, bigger boys both, who liked to round up us littlies with privet switches, in order to confine us for our break or lunchtime within little pens they built of broken bricks on the wasteland backing our playground. “Belsens” they called them, as in”Let’s build a Belsen camp. ” They were tolerably clean, tolerably dressed and so passed under the radar of the school staff;certainly, those on playground duty studiously ignored their industrial-scale bullying. After all, they did it on the wasteland, not in the schoolyard.
But Tom the scarecrow was in another league. Like Hitler, or the war itself, he was an affliction we all had to bear. No-one ever thought to wonder why he wore rags, why he raged and cursed so vilely, why he stole food every day. He was a little imp of Satan, sent to torment theschool and its staff.
He simply vanished one day, his passing unacknowledged. It was only much later that I found out his background, his alchoholc and promiscuous mother, the home without heat nor food nor light, the procession of drunken, violent boyfriends he had to avoid.