The Scab on his Left Knee

We’d bunked off school that afternoon. Me and Pauline were lying in the tall grass. Henry was sitting away, with his back to us. For ages I looked, at his dark hair, deep black, almost purple, like a crow, and the whiteness of his neck, like ice-cold milk. His head was down, and he was picking at the scab on his left knee, pulling bits off and eating them. I could see the contours and the colour of his back where the shirt was stretched tight across it. The sun was high, and I was holding onto Pauline, and hoping that she would understand.

We stayed like that for a long time, not moving, until the sun had shifted in the sky. Henry seemed to have got further away. And everything was quiet, apart from the occasional bird calling out to announce its presence. I couldn’t even hear Pauline breathing, but I could feel her chest rising and falling. She looked at me, and moved some hair away from my eyes. Then she kissed me, and I returned the kiss. It felt good, and I got hard, and pressed myself against her. But that’s all we did. She didn’t ask for more. She knew then who it was all meant for, and perhaps she’d known all along. I put my head against her chest, and she stroked my hair. My head was full, and I felt drowsy.

We came apart. Henry stood and faced us. He was very serious.

Pauline looked at me, and she didn’t smile, but I knew that she would keep my secret. She grabbed my hand, and she squeezed, and that gesture told me all I needed to know.

Henry looked older, if that’s possible in such a small space of time. I wondered what he’d been thinking about, and I was about to ask him—I thought that he might tell us, because there was a quiet truthfulness in that field, that afternoon. But I was too late: his face changed back to the way it had been earlier, before we got to the field, and he said, ‘Come on, let’s go and get some chips.’

© Barry Lee Thompson and ‘Stories, by Barry Lee Thompson’, 2013.

3 thoughts on “The Scab on his Left Knee

  1. Something was there and I had trouble putting my finger on it until I looked at the tags for this story.

    I appreciate the way that you give the reader credit, let them sort the subtext(s) themselves. It’s not easy to do, but when it’s done skillfully it can be quite effective.


    1. Thanks for reading, Anthony. And I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Just before publishing this piece, I wondered about the ambiguity, and decided to add more detail into the boy’s gazing at Henry at the beginning (his back through the shirt). It’s a bit like seasoning a dish, isn’t it?

      I’ve re-read your comment a few times, and I’m not sure, but perhaps I was a little bit light with one of the ingredients, for you. (Maybe the tags could be considered part of the story, like an accompanying illustration, or the cover of a book. I don’t know. What do you think?)

      This is good feedback: it’s got me thinking. Thanks for the follow. Now I’m following your blog. Best wishes.


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