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September 2017, vol 13 no 3

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Mark Gilbert


Following my brother-in-law we turn a corner into a new field . . . of some kind of crop or bureaucratic non-crop . . . anonymous shoots arranged in tidy rows . . . and what a sight — a quad bike plonked in the middle of the hedgerow — snagged half way up the hedge, balanced on two wheels like an exhausted bumblebee caught in a spider’s web . . . its petrol engine still buzzing . . . and the driver, a teenage boy standing there next to the wreckage of metal wrapped in plastic and rubber . . . hands stuffed into the pockets of his dungarees, squinting through a fringe of sun-bleached hair, so glad to see us, explaining he’d been waiting twenty minutes since the prang and was about to give up and go home to get some help — fidgeting and apologetic — as if it were our hedge — and so glad to see us — telling us he didn’t know how he did it . . . he’d managed that corner many times before — a genuine boy of Kent or Kentish boy, whichever it is — whichever side of the River Medway we are on — the geography of the waterways of my home county has never been particularly good — I never picked it up when I was at school just a few miles from here wearing that silly navy blue and black uniform — all chalk and talk — perhaps he borrowed the quad bike while his dad was taking a break from shepherding — the three males manage to grapple and steer the beast free of the hedgerow’s thorny embrace — no damage apparently, just more scratches — and after many rosy-cheeked “thank you”s the kid climbs onto the awkward brute and squirts away down a straight dust track towards another horizon, leaving behind a pleasing put-put-put-put-put sound and a trail of wispy smoke. What a nice lad, I am thinking as the smoke dissipates, and so polite, unlike most teenagers of today.

my sister told me
my nephew came home
with a lovebite