OLD-FASHIONED THEY MAY BE
Short stories, some set in Hertfordshire, England.
Moving and right from the heart.
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“Outside, and run to the fence and back,” said the teacher to her Year Two class of the little school.
The children ran outside and onto the field, and sped as fast as they could go towards the chain-link fence many yards away. They had only run a short distance when suddenly a huge foot landed on the grass beside them, followed almost immediately by another.
They were the feet of a very large giant and the children were extremely frightened. He was so tall that his knees could barely be seen, so high in the sky rose his legs. His body was only just visible, but his head and face were completely out of sight.
“Do not be afraid.”
The children looked about them to see who had spoken. The words echoed around so much it was hard to know from where they came.
“Climb up onto my boots.”
The children scrambled up onto the giant’s boots. The voice, though very loud, had seemed a gentle one and the children no longer had fear of him. The boots were so high to climb, and so very highly polished, that the children found it difficult to scale them. They kept sliding off. But gradually they managed to clamber up, clasping the laces to help them.
Once they were all safely on, the children felt a shudder, and then they were flying through the air. Over the chain-link fence and boundary hedge they went, in one step, and on across fields and woodland, valleys, villages and towns.
Ahead they saw the shining, sparkling blue of the sea. Here the giant had to take a massive leap, and they flew above it at a great speed, feeling the salty spray in their faces.
Now they were stepping through hot, dry sand, and they had to cover their faces with their hands to protect themselves.
Then they went over dark, brown earth and then bright green grass with silver streams and rivers flowing through it.
It became very cold, and the boots trod heavily in thick snow. It was so deep that the children felt the snow brush their cheeks. Some of them climbed into the turn-ups of the giant’s trousers, from where they looked out in safety, as a baby kangaroo might in his mother’s pouch.
It turned warm again, and they saw the woods and valleys and fields. And there, below them, was their own school playing field. The giant’s feet landed softly on the grass and, tired but happy, the children slid down onto the ground.
“Wake up, children!” said the teacher. “My, you are all so tired. You have all been sound asleep. Go outside, and run to the fence and back.”
Could it, then, have all been just a dream?
The children ran outside as fast as they could. They ran onto the grass, and after a short distance they stopped. They looked up into the sky: and all felt very sad - the giant was not there.
After school the children went home.
But in the evening, as they prepared for bedtime and were having their baths, their mothers asked them, “how have you got all this sand in your hair?”
PAUL DOMINIC GRAY 1997 and August 1998