Login   Sign Up 


Perception and the Beholder`s Eye

by BryanW 

Posted: 18 June 2017
Word Count: 990
Summary: For Challenge 645. A bit autobiographical, this one.

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

Picture this …     

                    it’s the late1950’s … 

                                                           … we are in Liverpool, perceived by many subjects of the new Queen to be the greatest port in the greatest empire the world will ever see.

        Prime Minister Harold Macmillan has suggested to the country's citizens that they've never had it so good. Both the hoola hoop and Elvis Presley are stirring  the pelvises of Britain’s youth who, as ever, pay little attention to the visions of politicians. In the nation's front rooms sofas and armchairs no longer face family-photo covered mantle-pieces but now and forever  turn towards the new 15 or 17 inch screens that take those very families to places beyond this house, beyond this road, beyond this town. The world is changing.

                  …   a young seagull, perched atop one of those twin Liver Birds that grace Liverpool’s Royal Liver Building, gives out a look-what-I-can-do keeee-a keeee-a, aimed at his tethered birdy companions, unfurls his wings and, old enough to be certain in the ways of the wind, he glides elegantly away. He’s  already learned the lore of the seagull - of a gull's proprietary rights over all that he beholds. He wheels down towards the bustling Pier Head, where commuters and shoppers scuttle noisily across the huge and creaky metal gangplanks of the ferry-boat focusing on the day to come in the offices or their shopping-lists.. Seeing nothing special for him here, he senses the air, shifts the angle of his wings and up, up he soars to reach the thermals of a perfect and cloudless day in late August. Now he glides, majestic and free, over an unruffled, twinkling River Mersey. A nautical mile later, on the promenade of New Brighton, he dives down to snatch a soggy Farleys Rusk from the fingers of an open-mouthed child in a battered Silver Cross that’s been stained by the milk and vomit of several iterations of her Merseysider siblings. Now a pensioner, that little girl does not know from where her terror of birds came.

The bird follows the great concrete 1930’s hey-day sea wall. He spots two small human figures, two ten-year old boys, one fair-haired, one dark-haired, spreadeagled upon an unbuilt-upon patch of land - the former garden of what had been a sea-front house, until a navigationally-challenged Dornier crew, a dozen years earlier, thinking they had reached the great Albert Docks of Liverpool, released their bombs. Now it is just a scrubby maze of broken walls and rotting door frames. No source of nourishment here. The gull registers his disappointment by defecating and, with an a flap, he’s away.

The subsequent splat and consequent sprinkle of moisture over the two boys’ faces leads them into yet another painful wave of laughter in a morning that has been filled with heave after heave of such laughter. 

The fair-haired boy sits up, grabs his home-made bamboo bow, expertly places an arrow - one with a bright red rubber sucker as its arrowhead - onto the string, and fires upwards towards the increasingly distant gull. “Missed the cotton-pickin' varment darn it!” he shouts, affecting the words and accent of a Saturday-morning cinema hero. The dark-haired boy places his shorter, but similarly shaped, projectile into the barrel of his plastic Winchester Repeater and he fires. That, too, fails to break the rules of gravity. It rises about ten feet into the air, wobbles, turns tail and drops straight down onto the red-haired boy’s forehead where, for a few moments, it sticks. The boys roll and squirm and raise their scabbed and grimy knees in the agony of yet more laughter. 

Eventually their convulsions fade and stop. The world becomes quiet. The fair boy, lying on his back, closes his eyes. He knows this day will soon end and in less than a week he’ll be starting his new school. But it is here, just here, in this moment, next to these scorched and broken walls that have been the Alamo, that have been the place where Custer stood his last, where entire divisions of Hitler’s storm troopers have been wiped out, where these two friends have sat and gazed at ships of all shapes and sizes entering and leaving this vast and wonderful estuary, trailing thin lines of blue-grey smoke, and where they have watched snogging and groping teenagers and felt strange new feelings surge through their own 10-year-old bodies. Here they have lit up both Woodbines and Craven-A’s that they have managed to buy singly from a compliant shopkeeper. And it is here, yes here, amongst the brash magenta and pink fireweed and the vulgar yellow dandelions, amongst the tough clumps of uncared for grass and the debris of a conflict he can only imagine through the pages of Hotspur and The Rover, that he feels at one with the generous pulsing heart of a world that he sees now as truly his.

They boys stand and look around. They look at the shimmering sea with its open horizon that stretches out beyond the estuary, beyond this little world that is all they know, all that they have known. They look at the high broken wall that they have dared each other to walk along in the knowledge that a fall would certainly mean a trip to the hospital, or, as they would often tell each other, the crematorium further up the road. They look at each other. And they know that this friendship is unique and that it will stay with them throughout the years to come, whatever happens.  

“Let’s go and explore.”

“I know a place we’ve never been before.”

The fair-haired boy pulls up his long grey socks, straightens the green Wolf Cub flashes his mum has sown on his knicker-elastic garters, and becomes Cochise, warrior chief of the Apaches. The dark-haired one, picking up his trusty Winchester, becomes Zorro, champion of the dispossessed.

Together, for the last time, though they don’t know it, they head off.

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

TassieDevil at 10:28 on 18 June 2017  Report this post
Thanks Bryan,yes
A lavish helping of nostalgia reminds me of the good times long past when innocence wasn't lost. Watching the news today makes me want to return to bygone times (although I might perhaps draw the line at Liverpool)wink You've captured the era delicately and completely with emotive images...
Both the hoola hoop and Elvis Presley are stirring  the pelvises of Britain’s youth
I remember collecting the tin foil from discarded Craven A and Ardath cig packets for some childhood reason, blissfully ignorant of H&S concerns.
A perfect ending.to your snippet of halcyon days. Remember Jodi Mitchell -you don't know what you've got till it's gone?

Bazz at 14:49 on 18 June 2017  Report this post
An extraorinarily vivid and detailed piece, Bryan, you really capture a strong sense of time and place, as well as the nostalgia and yearning of youth. Many great lines here, and I love the switch of perspectives, and the contrast between them.

he dives down to snatch a soggy Farleys Rusk from the fingers of an open-mouthed child in a battered Silver Cross that’s been stained by the milk and vomit of several iterations of her Merseysider siblings.

Think a comma here would help, otherwise pretty much a perfect piece :)

Now a pensioner, that little girl does not know from where her terror of birds came.

This is a great touch. As is the line Alan quoted, he's right about emotive images, this is full of them, they come across richly.

BryanW at 17:37 on 19 June 2017  Report this post
Thank you both for your very positive comments.  

Cliff Hanger at 17:27 on 23 June 2017  Report this post
The first line put the Blondie song into my head. I think you could use that in a way to make a repeating refrain throughout and break up a bit of the detail.  Love how you follow the seagull. A very poignant and mysterious ending that left me wanting to know more. Very effective piece.


scriever at 01:06 on 26 June 2017  Report this post
Just lovely, Bryan. The transition from the seagull to the two boys is masterful, and the poignancy of the piece really shines through. A wonderful slice of life. 

To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .