|He was ten when it happened, and I was nine and Harry was three.
Running out into the street after Rufus, he was hit by nothing more
than a silent gliding milk-float. His head cracked down against the
pavement edge. A fleck of blood rose up between his lips. His legs
shook briefly, one heel rattling like a drumstick against the side
of the float. And then he died.
My brother, clever, understanding older brother. My best friend and biggest pest of course sometimes. The sharer of my secrets, the buffer between me and Harry. Dead.
The milkman I remember was in tears, smashed bottles at his feet, milk running in the gutter. I had hold of Harry's hand. Rufus, all concerned, was still prancing about.
Four days later, the funeral. A pair of black cars, men in black suits, flowers and wreaths, the vicar. Harry and I were there. Uncle Stan said we should stay home. Auntie Marge said we should go. So we went.
It was a morning funeral. The grass in the cemetery was still wet with dew. The vicar spoke and the coffin was lowered on ropes into the ground. I remember then a train went by - invisibly in the cutting - the hiss and the rattle of it, steam rising.
Who else was there besides us and Uncle Stan and Auntie Marge? The vicar, I've mentioned him. The undertaker's men. The grave diggers waiting at a distance. A neighbour, a friend of Auntie Marge's, had come I think, and the woman who ran the Cubs. The milkman too, perhaps. Somebody from school.
And it was cold, I remember that, the low November sunlight glittering on the wet headstones. There was the sound of traffic from the road, the rumble of the presses in the nearby Creda factory.
It was Harry who saw him first. He grabbed my sleeve but said nothing. I looked... and there was Tom. He had his hands in his pockets, his jacket collar up. His hair was uncombed, as wild as ever. And he was leaning against a tree.