From behind, a cheerful voice said, “’Course. I said I would, didn’t I?”
“I thought you were going to be dragged off shopping.”
“Nah, made a bit of a fuss. Mum chucked me out. So, Peter me lad, it’s you and me.”
The boy turned to greet his friend. John lived a few doors down from him and they had grown up together. People in the street saw it as a strange alliance as the boys were like chalk and cheese, both physically and in temperament. His friend was short and dark with a mercurial nature, subject to whims and flights of fancy. His attention span was short and he got bored easily which often led him into trouble as his need for thrills caused conflict with the elders. Peter, on the other hand was tall and willowy, prone to deep thought and consideration. He was a shy boy and considered by some to be easily led, but he had a sharp mind and inquisitive nature.
“Not caught anything then?” his friend asked surveying the now empty jam jar.
“I had a crested, just let it go.”
“Have you had a go for Billy?”
“No not yet.”
Billy was a fish, a bullhead, commonly known as a millers thumb. He inhabited a half-submerged rusty oil drum that lay on its side further downstream, here the brook flowed through a small coppice. As bullheads go he was big, at least the size of the boy’s hand and though often seen, was elusive, as the water was deeper there and once the bottom was disturbed, clouds of silt would obscure the view.
“Still, there’s plenty of time.”
The boys grinned. Today was the first day of the school holidays and the immediate future held six glorious weeks of climbing trees, hunting, fishing and exploring. New worlds would be discovered and the prospect was mouth-watering.
The next few hours were spent engrossed in the world of water. Taking turns, they pushed and prodded the fishing net through lily beds and rushes. Many fish were caught, including – to both boys delight – a small jack pike weighing around 1lb. By the middle of the afternoon they had wandered about half a mile upstream and had come to the spot where the blackthorn embraced the old bridge. Climbing out of the water, the boys scrambled through the thick thorns and holly roots before emerging, scratched and torn under the dark recesses of the bridge. Sitting on the moss covered stones they each produced packs of sandwiches and bottled water from their jacket pockets.
“This bridge is creepy.” His friend muttered, chewing on ham and tomato.
“Yeah it’s brill.” Peter answered also chewing on his lunch.
“It’s supposed to be haunted. Tommy Greenway says that a long time ago some kids disappeared from somewhere around here.”
Peter shrugged. He too had heard the story, but was unimpressed.
“Tommy Greenway’s a girlie. He’s scared of his own shadow.”