Jennospot 21 Birfday
The day after termorrer, it’s Peter St John’s birfday, and then comes mine, but moi birfday don’t really count, ‘cos it’s the first of April, an’ people only make fun of it. Peter don’t much loike people makin’ a fuss neither when it’s ‘is birfday, least of all ‘is ‘oly aunt, an’ Oi reckon as ‘ow Oi c’n understand, ‘im bein’ an orphan an all. Any’ow, as it’s kinda birfday toime, Oi reckoned as ‘ow Oi’d give yew a bit about birfdays this toime round. ‘Ope yew loike it:
My aunt had wanted me to run several errands for her. This made me the last to arrive at Dummy's birthday party in the school shelter.
Everyone was sitting stiffly around the table. Nobody was speaking.
I went straight up to Mr Pearce. He was wearing a much worn dark suit that was too tight round the waist and under the arms. He seemed ill at ease.
‘Happy birthday, Daniel,’ I said.
‘Arrgh, thank'ee kindly,’ he replied. He showed his misshapen teeth through a matted beard in what was more a grimace than a smile.
‘What's the matter Daniel? Aren't they looking after you properly?’
‘Reckon as 'ow it's more'n a little whiles since ol' Dan'l 'ad a party fer 'is birthday. Reckon as 'ow 'ee's roight thankful. There be a fine cake with candles wot Miss Winnifred gave and Miss Molly's biscuits an' all.’
‘You could look a bit happier about it,’ I said.
‘Reckon ol' Dan'l's leavin' Widdlington afore soon. 'Ee'll be roight sad ter be leavin' 'is friends.’
‘You're not leaving today at any rate, and you're not in the lockup,’ said Molly.
‘So cheer up,’ said Winnifred.
‘Have some beer,’ said Miss Hangar.
‘Don't moind if'n Oi do,’ said Daniel.
‘Everyone's saying it was Daniel who sabotaged the survey of the allotments,’ said Leta.
‘But it wasn't him!’ exclaimed Winnifred. ‘And Mr Trundle knows it.’
‘Unfortunately, people will gossip,’ said Miss Hangar.
‘We know it wasn't you, Daniel,’ I said. ‘And we're going to prove it absolutely, so that it doesn't depend just on the word of Winnifred. We've already got some clues.’
‘That's right,’ said
. ‘But we need you to help us.’ Roy
Dummy looked bewildered. ‘Clues?’ he said. ‘'Ow can ol' Daniel 'elp when the Parish is puttin' 'im off'n the allotments and sendin' 'im into a home?’
‘It hasn't happened yet,’ said
‘And we're going to make sure it doesn't happen,’ said Molly. ‘Miss Hangar's going to help us.’
‘Of course she's going to help us,’ said Jenno in her best BBC voice, ‘Aren't you Miss Hangar?’
‘I, er—’ said Miss Hangar.
‘She's on the Parish Council,’ I said. ‘And she and Mr Trundle will tell the others what the truth is. Won't you Miss Hangar?’
‘I er— that is— yes. I'll certainly tell them the truth about the pegs when I know myself what the truth is.’
‘See Daniel?’ said
. ‘But there are some things we need to know. And only you can tell us.’ Roy
‘Ar—?’ questioned Daniel.
‘For instance,’ I said. ‘Did you buy those
boots you promised yourself for your birthday?’ Wellington
‘Mr Hibberd were roight put out when ol' Dan'l asked 'im. 'Ee din't roightly know 'ow ter come out wi' it. It's the war, 'ee said. Anything wot were rubber was next ter impossible ter come by. 'Ee said as 'ow 'ee'd be roight pleased ter favour me, but that it weren't fer termorrer nor the day after. When 'ee 'ad some
in 'ee'd be rememberin' a pair fer ol' Dan'l.’ Wellingtons
‘You didn't buy any then?’ asked
‘Arrgh— just so.’
‘You don't possess any other rubber boots?’ asked Jenno primly.
‘Where would ol' Dan'l be finding a shillin' or two fer rubber boots wot 'ee don't roightly need?’ replied Daniel.
‘The footprints aren't Daniel's,’ said
‘I never thought they were,’ said Winnifred.
‘Me neither,’ said Katy.
‘You are going to help then, Miss Hangar?’ said Jenno.
‘Yes Jenno, er— Jean,’ said Miss Hangar. ‘I'll do what I can; but you know, there's really very little I can do now concerning the allotments. The project is already approved and far advanced.
‘As for The Old Vicarage, it's a decision for the Church and the vicar. Any interference by the school would only arouse resentment. But I can certainly help Mr Pearce to learn to read and write. That way he could become independent of support from the Parish.’
‘And not go into a home!’ exclaimed Molly. She stuffed her knuckles into her mouth and looked horrified towards Daniel.
‘Don't ye be a-fazed none, Miss Molly,’ said Daniel gently. ‘Ol' Dan'l baint be deaf; 'ee knows roight well wot people say. 'Ee bain't be such a dummy as 'ow they think.’
An embarrassed silence fell. It was broken by Winnifred:
‘I think it's about time we lit the candles. Who's got some matches?’
‘I'll ask my mum,’ said Leta. ‘Wait a tic and I'll nip indoors and get some.’ She ran into the school caretaker's house and emerged a moment later rattling a box of matches.
‘We didn't know how many candles to put on, but in any case, Hibberd's store only had one box—it's the war you know—so we put them all on. There are twenty.’
‘Heh, heh,’ chuckled Daniel. ‘Roight kind ye be. Arrgh— but two-and-a-half boxes 'uld 'ave been more loike.’
‘Blow them all out in one go and you can make a wish,’ said Katy.
Daniel took a deep breath and blew. Twenty tiny flames disappeared to be replaced by twenty slender columns of smoke.
‘Make a wish,’ cried everyone.
‘But don't tell anyone until it comes true,’ cautioned Jenno.
Daniel shut his eyes; held them screwed tight and then opened them again.
‘Have you made a wish?’ asked Molly.
‘Aye,’ said Daniel.
‘And so have I,’ said Molly.
("Gang Petition" Chapter 7 – Amazon Kindle)