Matty and Tonka
The Ghost of Jimmy Brown
I walked for sometime along the River Ouse bank, not making for anywhere in particular but just a stroll. I had called on my friends to come out and play, but they were unable to for one reason or another. I was thinking of the things I liked and didn’t like. One thing I do have a pet hate for, and that is stinging nettles. They always seemed to cluster thickly along the river banks, most probably due to the wet from the river. Swiping the tops of them with my newly cut willow stick, I felt in total command and called out ‘‘hate, hate.’’
Bows and arrows cut from a willow tree I always found to be the best, my friends found the same. Talking of bows and arrows there is a willow tree close to my home. To reach it you have to walk over the Norman Bridge not far from our house. You go past the Woolpack pub then down the steps to the river where you could only turn right. You can’t turn left because the bank is impassable due to ‘Diggers quick sand.’
They call it ‘Diggers quick sand’ but it’s mud mixed with sand. They say that many a small boy had been sucked into the mud and never seen again at this spot. And! You keep sinking and sinking never ever reaching the bottom. I know this to be true because I’ve heard grown ups talk about it. And! They say that a new boy at our school, Jimmy Brown, had disappeared in that quicksand of mud. Also someone found his school cap near there, they knew it was his because it had his name inside.
You can’t help but think of Jimmy Brown as you creep along the bank towards the old boat house and towards the willow tree. I saw his ghost one evening I was down there late on my own. I don’t kid you I was scared. I was hiding behind a bush there on the bank. Hiding because someone was coming over the bridge, and they may have seen me and reported me to my mum. Anyway, something stepped out from the next bush along, it looked human then again it looked all grey like. I called out in fear. ‘’Is that you Jimmy Brown?’’
I still trembled with fear, not wanting an answer yet wanting to know if I was seeing things, or was it just my head playing tricks on me? My skinny little legs were shaking. My nose started to itch but I daren’t move to scratch it.
As I was wearing my old short brown trouser my legs were bare, and which ever way I moved I was stung by nettles. It was intolerable the pain. The red soar areas already had the white bumps from the nettles which now covered both legs. If I moved to scratch, the thing in front might leap on to me? Possibly tear at my throat.
The figure, which I thought was Jimmy Brown, outstretched his hand, as if in friendly gesture. He smiled, took off the hat he was wearing and slowly bowed his head. He stood upright again to give a little wave and then disappeared. I was really shook up I can tell you. I ran all the way home to tell my mum but she thought it was rubbish. She sent me to bed then for telling lies. I know what’s true and what’s not true though I can tell you. And, she threatened to tell my Dad when he comes home from the war.
I miss my dad terribly. He wouldn’t be afraid of the ghost. He isn’t afraid of anything, my dad. Although I have many friends, and mum, I feel very lonely at times without him. We used to go for long rides in old Skippers punt, Skipper was a friend of dad’s. I tried to Cox the rowboat one day but ran us into the bank.
Anyway, dad isn’t here and I’m by myself and frightened.
That’s not the end of all that, I went back the next day to the spot where Jimmy Brown’s ghost had been standing, and I found a school cap on the floor. I’ve still got that cap even today. And, it’s the same as our uniform.
And that’s not the end of that because the name inside says ..Jimmy Brown.
There is a lot of talk about Jimmy Brown amongst the grownups. They say he looked after his sick mother who was crippled. He used to go to Bob Bells shop to do all the shopping as well. When this was done he used to cook the meals. Now he’s gone, dead in that quicksand of mud.
The boat house, which is falling to bits I might add, is that bad you can see right through it. It’s made of slats which have all broken up and never been repaired. There is an old rowboat inside which also has holes in it, also it’s nearly submerged out of sight. The boathouse belongs to the Old Bridge Hotel. The hotel lies on the site of the old castle hill. If you go to the remains of the old castle you can find lot’s of treasure? Old arrows, spears and even an Old Saxon bow have been dug up. And at one time I was told there was a Knights skeleton with all its armour found at the castle site.
I have a special place in the old castle, it’s hidden away from sight, and nobody knows how to get there if I didn’t show them.
I found this special place by accident. I fell down a hole and onto some ancient stone steps. I was hanging on to a branch I caught hold of as I was sliding down, and stuck there for sometime before I couldn’t hold on anymore and slid all the way to the bottom of the pit. When I looked up I was surrounded by these ancient stone figures looking at me straight in the eye. I think they were Gods of some kind which the people worshiped or something like that.
My back was hurt bad I can tell you, it was because of the bouncing down those stone steps that done it I know. I tried to move but couldn’t. I was worried that my mum would want to know where I am, and I couldn’t tell her.
In the pit there was a robin chirping away and fluttering every where. He seemed to be doing all this chirping like mad as if trying to help, and I knew this because he was getting closer and closer to me. As I lay there he landed on my knee, and I never moved because not to frighten him away.
Later I heard my mum say to Mrs KiIby who lives next door to us say there had been a robin sounding crazy and flying everywhere in the kitchen. Every time she let it out, back in it came still chirping madly. Mum said she thought the bird was trying to lead her somewhere but put that idea to rest. In the end she said it flew out towards the old castle. She further said she thought she heard a pellet gun go off and she was sure saw the bird fall to the ground. And further to that the bird still tried to crawl towards the old castle. I cried for hours when I heard that I can tell you.
I still lay in the same spot. Would my mum ever find me? It was getting dark and I worried more I can tell you. The stone figures that surrounded me seemed to be moving. They were moving inch by inch. I screamed out over and over again.
These figures just got to me with their arms stretching out when there appeared a smoky grey figure on top of the steps. There was Jimmy Brown, just like he was at the bank. ‘’Help me Jimmy help me’’ I cried out.
Just like at the bank, he smiled, took off his hat and slowly bowed, then gave a little wave before disappearing. I never saw him again.
I was determined to go and see Jimmy Browns mum. I wanted to tell her how much her boy had helped me. I knew she would be on her own as her husband had been killed in the first war.
I had heard grownup’s say she had no friends. I also heard the only man in her life was her husband. I don’t know what that all means?
After all that I managed to get up and out of that hole, which I couldn’t do before Jimmy Brown came. And I thank Jimmy Brown and the robin for that. When I got home I told my mum all that had happened. Believe me when I tell you this, she started to cry. ‘’That poor little robin,’’ she said. ‘’It was trying to tell me where you were.’’ She stopped again, took out a handkerchief to dry her eyes. ‘’And I sent it away she said.’’ I went to where mum thought it had landed; sure enough it lay there dead. I dug a hole over the castle hills towards the far end where the fire trees were. I said a little prayer for it and was sure this was the area where it came from.
I knew the pellet gun was belonging to Billy Jackson. I knocked on his door and asked him to bring his gun out and go to the river to play. He brought it out showing off as he new nobody else had one. In fact I also didn’t know of anyone who had one.
Now Billy Jackson isn’t one to mess with. He’s taller than me and older. I didn’t give a dam. I was at an advantage as he had come to the door with no shoes on. ‘’Let’s have a go with you’re gun Billy.’’ He handed it to me with a sickly grin. A cocky grin I might add here.
‘’Very nice gun this is Billy.’’ Grabbing hold of the gun, I wrenched it from his grip and threw it straight in to the river as far as I could. ‘’That’s for the robin you killed with your stinking gun.’’ His face dropped. ‘’That little robin was my best friend’’ I said in a raging voice and my shaking fist just one inch from his face..
I thought he would turn around and beat me up or something very bad. More still, I thought he might tell his dad who I new to be a policeman. I just couldn’t believe it when he ran off home to tell his mum. It was extra funny watching him run home with no shoes on.
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