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Terry Collett Nov 2016
I threw Dancer's ball
and he ran off to fetch it,
when Auntie's friend's
daughter, Elsie, stood

on the grass the other
side of the parade ground
watching me, arms folded.
Dancer ran back with his ball.

What you doing? Elsie said.
Throwing Dancer's ball, I said,
why did you want to play too?
She stared at me: play at what?

She said. Play with the ball; we
could play catch, I said. With
that wet ball where the dog's
wet mouth has dribbled on it,

she said, pulling a face. Dancer
held the ball in his mouth looking
at me, waiting for me to take it
and throw it again. Elsie crossed

the parade ground(the soldiers
were elsewhere) and stood in
front of me. I’m going to school
after the holiday, she said, I am 5

and Mum said it times for me
to go. I stared at her. Dancer
dropped his ball looking at us.
Where about is the school? I said.

Aldershot of course, she said.
I’ll miss seeing you about, I said.
She said nothing at first, but
looked at Dancer, then she said:

he'll miss you when you go back
home to London; expect your
auntie will too, but I won't though,
she said, looking at me. I nodded

my head, and picked up Dancer's
ball and threw it over into the grass.
She stared at me and sighed: I will
miss you, she said to me, I lied.
Terry Collett Sep 2016
Go sit outside
in the sun,
Auntie said,
don't be stuck inside
on a day like this.

So I went outside
and sat
on the black
iron steps
leading down
the stairs
from the balcony.

Dancer Auntie's dog
sat beside me
his chin
on my shoulder
wetting my shirt.

The parade grounds
were on my right,
were barking orders
to soldiers marching below.

I stared at them:
heads turned,
arms straight as irons.

Then Elsie,
Auntie's friend's daughter,
came up the stairs,
one foot at a time,
her small hand
gripping the black
iron rail coming up.

I watched her
stepping towards me,
her head downwards.

Dancer growled;
I said,
raising a finger.

He groaned,
watching as the girl paused.

She looked at me:
why is he here?
She said,
pointing at the dog.

He's protecting me,
I said.

From me?
She said.

Guess so,
I said.

Send him away,
she said.

Dancer groaned;
go lie down Dancer,
I said.

He got up
and walked along
the black iron balcony,
and sat
by the back door.

Elsie eyed me,
then walked up
the remaining steps:
Mum said
I had come
play with you,
Elsie said,
looking down at me
as I sat.

Do you want to?
I said.

If I have to,
she said,
sitting down
beside me
on the step.

If I don't
I'll get a slap,
she added,
looking at me.

What you want
to play?
I asked.

She looked out
at the soldiers
marching below:
what is there
to play?
Have you dolls?

No no dolls,
I replied,
we can ball
if you like.

She pulled
a face:
boring ball games,
she said.

I can get one
of my toy guns
and we can play
cowboys and cowgirls,
I said.

Boring boys' game,
she replied.

What do you
want to play?
I asked.

We could play
hide and seek,
she said,
you hide
and I won't seek you.

I looked at her
5 year old face
with my 4 year old eyes.

Let's ask Auntie
for some milk
and biscuit,
I said,
and listen to the radio.

She nodded
her head
and we got up
and she said:
let's go.
Terry Collett Aug 2016
Auntie's friend
gave me
a cheese sandwich

I sat on
an old settee with it

her daughter Elsie
sat at the other end
of the settee
as far from me
as she could get
nibbling at a sandwich

why are you sitting
so far way from Benny?
her mum said

don't want
to sit next to him
Elsie said

you'll sit near Benny
and like it
her mum said

Elsie shifted
nearer to me
with a ******* lemons
sort of face
and nibbled her sandwich
not looking at me

her mum walked back
to the kitchen where
she was talking
to my aunt

what sort of sandwich
have you got?
I asked

she said coldly

but what
is in it?
I said

corned beef
she said

do you like corned beef?
I said

why do you
talk to me
you're worse
than Billy the bird
she said

I like talking to you
I said

I don't like you
talking to me
she said

I ate my sandwich
in silence
for a few moments

what year
were you born?
I said
after swallowing
a bit of sandwich

she said
that is why
I am 5

I nodded
and looked at her
I was born in 1947
in London
I said

that is why
you are 4
she said

she nibbled
more sandwich
Mum said
kids from London
got fleas
she said
a few minutes after

I haven't
I said

you smell of dog
she said

just then Elise’s mum
came in and slapped
Elise’s leg
with her hand
don't be horrible to Benny
I heard you

I nibbled my sandwich

say sorry
her mum said angrily

Elsie looked at her shoes
and mumbled a sorry

her mum walked back
to the kitchen

Elsie rubbed her leg
with her small hand
and looked at the sandwich
in her other hand

didn't mean it
Elsie said
her leg getting red.
Terry Collett Jul 2016
Auntie took me
to the large hut
where the wives of soldiers
met for tea and a chat
(or gossip)

there was ******* stove
in the center of the room
and a big urn
over in the small kitchen
where women were serving
cups of tea and cakes or biscuits

there was a lot of noise
and voices and baby's crying
and a few kids like me
under 5 or 5 years old

there's Milly
Auntie said

so we went over
to where Milly was sitting
with her little daughter Elsie

Auntie and Milly
started talking
and I sat next to Auntie
and Elsie sat
the other side
of her mum Milly
staring at me

why don't you two
go and get a lemonade
or orange juice and biscuits
Milly said

Elsie pulled a face
not with him
she said

don't be daft
Benny's a good boy
now do as you are told
and go get some
drinks and biscuits
Milly said firmly

I looked at Auntie
then at Elsie

all right
Elsie said glumly
and we went across the room
to where women
where serving

yes dearies
the woman said
what can I get you?

I want an orange juice
and biscuit please
Elsie said
you'll have to ask
for yourself
she said to me moodily

the woman got
a small beaker of orange juice
and a biscuit tin
of broken biscuits
and Elsie helped herself
staring at me

I asked the woman
for some lemonade
and a biscuit
and while she
was getting it for me
I said to Elsie
you can around
to my auntie's place
and we can play
with my toy soldiers

she sipped her orange juice
looking at me

the woman gave me
a beaker of lemonade
and I took
a few broken biscuits
in my other hand
and stood looking at Elsie

I don't want to play
with toy soldiers
I'm a girl
girls' play with dolls
and skip
not play with boy's toys
and she walked off
back to where Auntie
and Milly sat talking
and sat down

I stood watching her
I can come and play
with your toys
I said

she frowned at me
boys don't play
with girl's toys
she said
and my doll
doesn't like you

Elsie don't be so horrible
Milly said
if Benny wants to come
and play he will
or you'll get a slap

Elsie frowned
and looked at the floor
she was no more friendlier
than she was before.
Terry Collett Jun 2016
We stood,
Auntie's dog Dancer and me,
on the black metal balcony
looking at the soldiers
marching on the parade ground
over the way;
sergeants bellowing
at marching feet
and turned heads.

Dancer wined.

I stared.

Elsie walked past
on edge of the parade ground
looking at the soldiers;
her small face unsmiling,
her eyes peering.

Slowly she climbed
the black metal stairs
up to the balcony.

Dancer turned and growled;
I stood watching her climb.

She was Auntie's friend Milly's
5 year old daughter,
a bit older than I was.

She stood on the top step
and stared at us both:
will he bite?
She said.

No he won't bite,
he just growls,
I said.

She walked towards us gingerly,
her eyes glaring at Dancer,
who looked away
and watched
the soldiers again
through the bars of the balcony.

She stood next to me:
Mum said I can play with you
if I want to,
Elsie said,
but not to get into mischief,
her voice was moany.

I never get into mischief,
I said.

Elsie stared at me.

Mum said you climbed
under one of those gates
back there with your dog,
and was climbing a window
looking at soldiers
in a classroom,
Elsie said
matter of factly.

Who told you?
I said.

said she heard it
from a sergeant, but never
told your auntie
in case you got into trouble,
Elsie said,
her eyes studying me.

O, yes I remember that,
I said;
what shall we play?

She looked at the balcony,
then the dog, then at me.

Why didn't you tell your auntie?
She said.

Don't like worrying people,
I said.

She looked down
at the parade ground:
the soldiers were falling out
and walking off.

What do you want to play?
I said.

Not sure I want to play
with boys who get
into mischief,
she said,
then she walked away
and down the stairs.

I played
with the dog Dancer
Terry Collett Jun 2016
How do you stop
seeing me?
I ask her,
cigarette by my side,
looking out
the window.

She's dressing,
doing up her suspenders.

Don't want to,
she says, her fingers
moving with straps,
looking at me,
but if your wife
found out, Jack,
it'd be hell on earth.

I inhale, look at
the street across the way.

Traffic is busy
in the street below.

When I saw her yesterday
she asked me:
did I know whom
you might be seeing,
Mags says.

What did you say?
I ask, turning around,
taking in her dark eyes,
the white earrings
she's just put back in.

Said you wouldn't
do such, she says,
stopping her fingers
moving with the straps.

Did she believe you?
I ask.

No, said she thought
you were seeing someone.

I look at her
black bra and *******,
the white suspenders
holding stockings.

Does she suspect who?
I ask.

That ***** at work,
the skinny **** one
with blonde hair,
Mags says.

You know what
she'd say, no way Mister.

Instead it's me,
Mags says,
her sister.
Terry Collett May 2016
I sat on the top step
of the black
metal staircase
leading up to Auntie's
second floor flat

Auntie's black dog
had its chin
over my shoulder
looking down the stairs

it was a warm morning
soldiers were marching
on parade on
the drilling square
to my right

the sound of voices
and marching feet
hung on the morning air

Elsie Auntie's friend
Milly's five year old daughter
began walking up
the stairs one step at a time
holding on
to the black metal rails
which held up
the banister rail
with her small hand

I watched her
walk up slowly
she looked at each step
as she came

Dancer softly growled
she looked up at us

what do you want?
I said

she looked at me pouting
got to ask your auntie
about borrowing some sugar
my mum said
Elsie said
as she reached
the third step
from the top
is your auntie in?

sure she is
I said
did you want me
to ask her?

Elsie reached the top landing
of the staircase
and looked along
where Auntie lived
no I can ask her
Mum said I was to ask
Elsie said
don't need
a 4 year old
to ask for me
she said

I said and watched  
as she walked along
to Auntie's door
and knocked on the wood
with her small fist

I got up and walked
to where she stood

Dancer just sat
on the step and looked at us

I waited to next to her
waiting for Auntie
to come to the door

where is she?
Elsie said moodily

knock again
I said

she knocked again
then the door opened
and Auntie stood there
and stared at me
o Elsie
what can I do for you?

Elsie looked up at Auntie
and said
Mum said to ask
for some sugar
as she wants to make a cake
but hasn't got enough
and I am to ask
if you have any spare
Elsie said

sure I have
Auntie said
and went inside

we stood
on the landing waiting
didn't need you
to stand next to me
she said glaring at me

just making sure
you got an answer
I said

she looked at me
with her dark eyes

Auntie came to the door
with some sugar
wrapped in a brown
paper bag
be careful Elsie
should be enough there
Auntie said

Elsie took the brown bag
and said
thank you for the sugar
and walked along
the landing to the stairs
then holding the bag
with one hand
she held each rail
and she went down
with the other hand holding

I walked along to the top
and looked down
and said
you want to come out
and play later

she looked back up at me
why would I?
she said
and walked on down
and off the bottom step
and began to walked away
then she stopped
and looked up and said
must ask Mum first
see what she says

I thought I almost saw
a smile lingering there
but she walked on
and it had gone.
Terry Collett Apr 2016
Auntie took me to the hut
where the wives of army men
could meet and talk
and drink tea and eat
home-baked cakes or buns

it was quite crowded
with wives and their kids
and she saw Milly
and her daughter Elsie
and walked over to them
where they were sitting

here sit here next to me
I'll get you a tea and cake
Milly said

o thank you
Auntie said
Benny you go with Milly
and she'll get you something

so I walked with Milly
and she got me a beaker
of orange juice
and I took a cake
and she got Auntie's stuff
and we walked back

Elsie was sitting
the other side of Auntie
and stared at me
as I approached

move up Elsie
Milly said
let Benny sit down
next to his auntie

Elsie pulled a face
and moved along a seat
unhappily and sat
staring at me

I wanted to sit there
she said

it's my auntie
I said

she's my Mum's friend
and my friend
Elsie said
you're not

I sat in-between
Auntie and Elsie
she pouted and glared
with her little eyes

I'm 5 and the oldest of us
so I should sit
where I want to
she muttered

I sipped my orange juice
didn't you bring your doll?
I asked her

no it wanted to sleep
and its too noisy in here
she said

maybe I can see your doll
at sometime?
I said

no it doesn't like you
she said

I nibbled my cake
did you want some
of my cake?
I asked her
looking at her

not if you've touched it
she said

Milly moved a hand across
and slapped Elsie's leg
don't be so horrible to Benny
she said
sorry about her Benny
she's got a mood on her
Milly said
and sat back
and talked to Auntie again

Elsie pouted harder
and stared at
her reddening leg
your fault
she whispered
rubbing the redness

want to look out the window
at the parade ground
and look at the soldiers
marching by
I said

she sighed softly
suppose can
she said

we got off the chairs
and walked through
the crowded room
and across to a window
at the other end
and climbed on chairs
to look out

she held my hand
to steady herself
then let it go
and we stared out
at the ground
and at soldiers marching by

I thought I saw
a tear in her
5 year old eye.
Terry Collett Mar 2016
Auntie took me
to Milly's place
across the parade ground

Milly let us in
and Milly said
to her daughter Elsie
show Benny
the blue budgie

Elsie looked at me
sternly and unsmiling
budgie wants to sleep
Elsie said

budgies don't sleep
in the day
Milly said
show Benny
the bird

Elsie sighed
and walked
to the other room
where a birdcage
was hooked up
to a metal stand

I saw the blue budgie
on a perch

that's the bird
Elsie said glumly
looking at me

what's it's name?
I asked

why'd you
want to know?
She said

so I can talk to it
I said

talk to a bird?
She said mockingly
boys don't talk
to birds

I studied the blue budgie
hello blue bird
I said

the budgie chirped
and flapped its wings

it's name's not blue bird
Elsie said

what's it's name then?
I said

not telling you
she said
and walked off

is it Elsie too?
I said

she turned
and gazed at me
no it's a boy bird
boy birds aren't called
girl names
she said

Milly came in the room
to fetch a couple of plates
are you talking to Billy?
She asked me

I said
he chirped at me

Milly smiled
that's good
she said

Elsie glared at me
as her mother
walked back
out the room

hello Billy
I said to the budgie
the bird chirped again

Elsie stood next to me
and stared at the budgie
perhaps he likes you
she said
I don't know why

I looked at the budgie
I like you
I said quietly

Elsie stared at me
do you?
She said

I nodded

I don't know why
she added
and walked away

nor do I
my voice
uttered softly to Billy

Elsie had gone
and the bird
flapped its wings
and flew across the cage
to the other side

I did like her
I didn't lie.
Terry Collett Feb 2016
I walked Auntie's dog Dancer
across by the parade grounds
while Auntie did the washing
in the copper

the dog kept near me
as we walked
looking back at me
to make sure I hadn't got behind

we saw Auntie's friend Milly
with her 5 year old daughter Elsie

Dancer stopped and wagged its tail
and licked Milly's hand
and Elsie glared at me

hello Benny
Milly said

I said

say hello to Benny Elsie
Milly said

Elsie stared at her mother
then at me
hello to Benny Elsie
she said stiffly

no you bad girl
say it properly
or I'll slap your backside
Milly said

hello Benny
Elsie said grumpily

hello Elsie
I said politely
as Auntie said I should

what's your auntie doing?
Milly said

she's doing the washing
I said

o I see
well do you want
to come to our place
and have a glass of milk
and a biscuit?
she said

Dancer too?
I said

yes Dancer too
she said

Elsie pulled a face
and we walked back
to Milly's place
the other side
of the parade ground
and we went up
some black metal stairs
and into her flat

Milly went off
to the kitchen
with Dancer following  
to get him
a bowl of water
and us some
milk and biscuits

how are you?
I said to Elsie

she stared at me
like I was a bad smell
then said
hope you
don't stay long
I want to play
with my dolls
and don't want you
playing with them
boys don't play with dolls

I looked at her
trying to see
if there was a little bit
of a smile
but there wasn't
just her small lips
shut tight
and her eyes
looking at me

just come for milk
and biscuits
I said

Elsie put her hands
behind her back
and walked off
and sat on
a battered looking sofa

Milly brought us
milk and biscuits
and said to me
sit on the sofa
next to Elsie
and I'll go get
my cup of tea

off she went
and I sat next to Elsie
and she moved
along a bit
from me
and sipped her milk
and clutched her biscuits
in case Dancer came
and ate them
(which he would)

Milly came back
and sat down
in an old chair opposite
near the fireplace
with her cup of tea
well aren't
you two a pair
just like brother
and sister
Milly said smiling

don't want him
as a brother
Elsie said glumly

that's not nice Elsie
what's got into you
Milly said

Dancer came in
and sat opposite me
and wagged his tail
and looked at me
for a biscuit

I broke off a bit
and gave him some
and he took it gently
and it was gone
in the blink of an eye

then looked at Elsie
his head to one side
gazing at her

she broke off a bit
and gave it to me
to give to Dancer
and he took it gently
and then walked off
and sat down
by the fireplace

good dog
Elsie said

Milly talked
about her and Auntie
and about her husband
in Germany
and my uncle
in Korea

I sat a bit nearer
to Elsie as Milly talked
and Elsie looked at me
dark eyed and moody.
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