He carried me all by himself. But he wasn't strong. This was a symptom of his disorder, a weakness of the muscles. It has a name that I can't think of now, but I'll look it up if I get the chance. It meant that the walk half killed him. So when we got back to the caravan he had to spent the rest of the day in bed.
Here are the three things I remember most clearly from when Simon carried me:
1/ The way my chin banged against his shoulder as he walked. I worried that I was hurting him, but I was too wrapped up in my own pain to say anything.
2/ So I kissed his shoulder better, in the way that when you're little you believe this actually works. I don't think he noticed though, because my chin was banging against him with every step, and when I kissed him, my teeth banged instead, which, if anything, probably hurt more.
3/ Shhh, shhh. It'll be okay. That's what he said as he placed me down outside our caravan, before running in to get Mum. I might not have been clear enough -- Simon really wasn't strong. Carrying me like that was the hardest thing he'd ever done, but still he tried to reassure me. Shhh, shhh. It'll be okay. He sounded so grown-up, so gentle and certain. For the first time in my life it truly felt like I had a big brother. In the few short seconds whilst I waited for Mum to come out, as I cradled my knee, stared at the dirt and grit in the skin, convinced myself I could see the bone, in those few short seconds -- I felt totally safe.
Mum cleaned and dressed the wound, then she shouted at me for putting Simon in such a horrible position. Dad shouted at me too. At one point they were both shouting together, so that I wasn't even sure who to look at. This was the way it worked. Even though my brother was three years older, it was always me who was responsible for everything. I often resented him for that. But not this time. This time he was my hero.
So that's my story to introduce Simon. And it's also the reason I was still in Mum's bad books as I arrived, breathless, at our caravan, trying to make sense of what had happened with the small girl and her cloth doll.
'Sweetheart, you're ashen.'
She's always calling me ashen, my mum. These days she calls me it all the time. But I forgot she said it way back then too. I completely forgot that she's always called me ashen.
'I'm sorry about the other day, Mum.' And I was sorry. I'd been thinking about it a lot. About how Simon had to carry me, and how worried he had looked.
'It's okay, sweetheart. We're on holiday. Try and enjoy yourself. Your dad went down to the beach with Simon, they've taken the kite. Shall we join them?'
'I think I'm going to stay in for a bit. It's hot out. I think I'm going to watch some telly.'
'On a lovely day like today? Honestly, Matthew. What are we going to do with you?'
She sort of asked that in a friendly way, as though she didn't really feel a need to do anything with me. She could be nice like that. She could definitely be nice like that.
'I don't know Mum. Sorry about the other day. Sorry about everything.'
'It's forgotten sweetheart, really.'
'I promise. Let's go and fly that kite, shall we?'
'I don't feel like it.'
'You're not watching telly, Matt.'
'I'm in the middle of a game of hide-and-seek.'
'No. I'm seeking. I should do that really.'
But the other children had got bored of waiting to be found, and had broken off into smaller groups, and other games. I didn't feel like playing anyway. So I wandered around for a bit, and I found myself back at the place where the girl had been. Only she wasn't there any more. There was just the small mound of earth, now carefully decorated with a few picked buttercups and daisies, and -- to mark the spot -- two sticks, placed neatly in a cross.
Excerpted from Where the Moon Isn't by Nathan Filer. Copyright © 2013 by Nathan Filer. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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