Jennospot 33 The Makings of a Fine Racing Cart
Peter said 'ee'd 'elp me make Moi cart "Emmeline P". Oi got tergevver some of the makings, and this is 'ow we began; leastways, this is 'ow 'ee tells it:
Jenno reached into the opening of her henhouse and pulled out a plank together with a wooden box containing two pram-axles with wheels, a piece of wood for a steering bar, and a tin of rusty nails.
‘Is it okay?’ she asked anxiously.
‘Help me take it into my aunt's shed and I'll have a look. You go first with the plank— I'll bring the rest. Keep your head down so nobody'll see you.’
Jenno ducked through the wires of the fence and went into in the shed. I followed with the box. I shut the door.
‘S'pose yer aunt foinds me in 'ere?’ asked Jenno anxiously.
‘She'd better not— but relax. She never gets home before seven. She won't be here for over an hour. Let's have a look at what you've got.’
I stood the plank on end next to her. ‘It's a shade on the short side, but then you're not very tall. We can compensate by letting the box overhang at the end.’
I emptied the box and put it down on the floor. ‘Put one knee inside and then lean forward on your hands as though you've got them on a steering bar.’
Jenno did so. The box was long enough to take her lower leg with two or three inches to spare. Jenno looked up at me questioningly.
‘The box is plenty big enough,’ I said, ‘with room for growth. It'll do for a couple of years at least. Get up now and we'll look at the wheels.’
I spun them on their axles. They ran easily and were without buckles.
‘They come off moi old pram,’ explained Jenno. ‘The rest of it got busted when moi dad used it fer cartin' firewood an' then moi stupid bruvver let it roll down the front steps in front of a tractor.’
‘The wheels are okay though,’ I said. ‘You've the makings of a fine racing cart here, but what's this tin of nails for?’
‘Jus' thought they moight be useful fer joinin' the bits tergevver.’
‘Nails are always useful, but not for a cart. We're going to screw it together, or better still, bolt it. Have you got any bolts with their nuts? You know, the kind with heads like mushrooms and a little square underneath. Nails would work loose in no time.’
‘Oh,’ said Jenno. ‘Well— 'ow was Oi ter know?’ she added defensively.
‘How indeed— if nobody told you? Take it easy Jenno. It's not a criticism. I know girls aren't taught practical things. It's a shame.’
Jenno smiled at me. For an instant I thought she was going to hug me. But she quickly recovered her customary coolness.
‘Wot do Oi do first?’ she asked. ‘Oi can't stay long— moi mum'll start wonderin' where Oi am.’
‘Let's do the steering bar first. Then we can better adjust for the total length.’
I took up the piece of wood intended for the steering bar and placed it against one of the axles. It was too long. I made a mark on it to indicate a suitable length.
‘We'll have to saw off three or four inches.’
‘Can Oi do it?’ asked Jenno eagerly.
‘Okay, why not.’
I took up a cross-cut saw and stood behind Jenno to show her how to hold it. She leaned back against me. I could feel her bony warmth through her summer dress.
‘Like this?’ she said.
‘Like that.’ I said. ‘Use the whole length of the saw.’
Jenno sawed off the surplus wood. The cut wasn't very straight but it would do.
I took the saw from her to hang it up on its nail. As I did so, it seemed as though Jenno leaned against me again for a moment. It seemed as though she did it on purpose, but I couldn't be sure.
‘Oi've gotta go now,’ she said. ‘Can we do some more termorrer?’
‘Why not?’ I said.
‘Don't yew tell no-one.’
‘Of course I won't.’
‘See yer then.’
Jenno ducked under the fence wire and disappeared through her henhouse. There was a squawk; a flutter of feathers; a rattle of the door catch; and Jenno was gone. Her warmth remained.
Gang Loyalty Chapter 10