Emo High Quality XXX

Bobby's good fortune during summer vacation continues.

'Hmm.' He set the parcel down on the rustic wooden stool on which he had been sitting, and slowly unwrapped it. 'Well, there's more than enough here for all three of us,' he said. 'Your mother has been very generous.' And he handed a cake to Charlie and another to me. Then he took one of the two remaining cakes, broke it in half, and wafted one half under his nose. 'Oh, yes,' he said. 'Oh, yes. That brings back the memories. Here's to Halloween ... and to all the poor lost souls.'

The poor lost souls. I had heard my Uncle Fred say something like that. 'Who lost the souls?' I asked Shadrach.

'A good question. And out of the mouths of babes,' he said -- which didn't really answer my question. And then Shadrach seemed to look at something a long way away. For perhaps half a minute, maybe more, he said nothing; he just kept staring into the distance. And then, when he finally looked at us again, he seemed surprised to see that Charlie and I were there. 'What?' he said. 'What?'

I thought that he meant what was my question. 'Who lost the souls?' I said.

Shadrach frowned and shook his head. 'I just seen Old Tucker,' he said. 'Or ... I dunno ... perhaps it was just a dream.'

But he still didn't answer my question. He still didn't say who had lost the souls. I thought that perhaps he didn't know who had lost the souls.

'We should go home now,' I said.

Shadrach nodded. 'Yes. Yes, I think it must have been a dream. I think I must have dozed off. It happens sometimes. Don't know why.' And then he looked at the two halves of the soul cake he was holding. 'And please tell your mother: Thank you very kindly. For the soul cakes. Yes. Thank you.'

When we got home, I passed on Shadrach's thanks. I also told Mother about him going to sleep in the middle of talking to us. 'He didn't even close his eyes,' I said.

My mother frowned but nodded. 'He might have been over-doing things a bit,' she said. 'Trying to do too much. I might say something to Mrs May when I go up to the big house.'

The following summer -- or maybe it was the summer after that -- Charlie and I spent quite a bit of time following Shadrach around. He let us help him round up the sheep when it was time for shearing. And he let us help with various odd jobs in the woods. And several times he just went to sleep in the middle of talking to us. When he woke up again, he always seemed just a little bit surprised that we were there. 'What?' he would say in a startled way. It became a sort of a joke between the three of us. What?

And then one day, towards the end of summer, Shadrach didn't just stop in mid-sentence; he fell over. He was right in the middle of telling us how to do something -- I can't remember exactly what -- and he suddenly collapsed onto the ground. At first I thought that he had died. He just collapsed the way a rabbit collapsed when Uncle Fred shot one. But then I noticed that Shadrach's hands and feet were moving. I thought that this was probably a good sign. Perhaps he wasn't dead after all. I certainly hoped that he wasn't dead.

Charlie and I didn't know what to do. 'I think we should go and tell someone,' I said. But then Shadrach sort of 'woke up' -- and he seemed really confused. 'What?' he said.

After a minute or so, Shadrach got himself up into a sort of sitting position with his hands on his knees. 'Oh, bugger,' he muttered.

'Are you all right, Shadrach?' I asked.

'I will be,' he said. 'It just happens. Don't know why.' And then he said: 'Did the hunt just come through? The Master? The fox? The hounds?'

'No,' I said.

'No fox?'

'No.'

'No,' Shadrach echoed. 'No. It must have just been a dream. It's hard to tell ... sometimes.'

After that, Shadrach just sat there in silence for another couple of minutes, and then he said: 'I think that might be enough for today. You lads run along. I think I need to go and have a sleep.'

The following year, I won a scholarship to Eastwoods.

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