Daniel waited for Troy to continue. He had pointed to his chest before saying it, like he was going to list, going to name all the parts of his body. After a while Daniel nodded and Troy clambered up to the top bunk. It took him no time at all, stretching his left foot high to the middle of the ladder and yanking himself up like onto a horse.
There had been no discussion, no calling of the top bunk the night previous. Daniel had correctly assumed Troy would want the top bunk and duly crawled into the bottom, where he had changed into his pyjamas under the duvet. Troy had either fallen asleep straight away or not felt like chatting, and Daniel had lain awake for hours having slept on the plane. Tonight he was tired. Troy’s head hung down and stared at him.
“If you want to read here’s a flashlight.”
It was only in the following silence that a question occurred to Daniel, that hadn’t the night before. Why did Troy have a bunk bed? He didn’t have a brother. Maybe they had planned for a brother. Or maybe he had had one but didn’t anymore. Actually… Daniel had one as well. Do all children have bunk beds?
“Why do you have a bunk bed?”
Maybe that’s what Daniel’s Mum had meant his to be used for. Daniel aimed his flashlight at the slats above him. Written on the one above his head were the words ‘cock’ and ‘boobie’.
“What are you reading?”
Daniel turned off his torch as quickly as he could, which involved the beam becoming very wide before turning off.
“Oh… I’m reading… my adventure book.”
“Adventure? Like where you choose the book? Read it out to me Danny boy!”
Daniel opened ‘The White Dodo’. He was right at the end, and wasn’t sure he wanted to share the big moment with Troy. What if he had made a wrong decision early on and the ending was bad? Plus he had had to decide early on how he was going to pronounce some of the names in his head, but had never been confident about them. He turned to page 28, which was actually quite near the front of the book. Daniel never would have guessed he had been so close in pages to the end when he had started the book two weeks ago.
“Tahin (taa-hin) pushes back a branch and you see before you The White Dodo. You’ve finally found it! You stifle a cheer and grin to Tahin. He looks at you for instruction. You
A. Ask Tahin to pass your gun.
B. Ask Tahin to pass your net.
C. Perform the dodo call you learnt from Brescha (bres-ka).
A – turn to page 57
B – turn to page 100
C – turn to page 71”
Daniel paused, waiting for an answer. This was way too big a decision to leave to Troy. He hadn’t even been in the hut when Brescha had cooed in his sleep.
“Why do you want the White Dodo? Like, what is the story? It seems kind of weird.”
Daniel thought for a second about how much to tell Troy of the story, and then decided that the more informed the decision was, the more likely it was that they would get the Dodo. He read from the back of the book.
“The year is 1660, and YOU are the intrepid explorer tasked by Queen Victoria to find and bring back the fabled White Dodo before the animal dies out. The island of Mauritius (moor-it-ee-us) is a dangerous place, and many different paths lie ahead of you. Choose wisely!”
“Are you sure?”
“A, the gun.”
“If we miss we could scare it off. We might never see it again.”
“We won’t miss Danny.”
“It’s not that big.”
Daniel turned to page 57, and prepared for the worst.
“You ask Tahin for the gun. He looks at you, disappointed. You remember the countless times he has shared his respect for the animals of the jungle, and how you had promised him you were not a hunter, like the other vicious men who killed off most of the beautiful birds on the island. Still, you hold out your hand for it, reminding him who is the master and who is the servant. He sheds a single tear and passes you the gun.
You raise the gun and take aim. You can hear Tahin, the man you called brother, weeping gently. You
B. Put the gun away.”
“Troy, I really don’t think we should fire.”
“Come on Danny, we got this.”
Daniel sighed and turned to page 148.
“You steady the barrel. If you miss, it could scare away the only White Dodo in the world. You squeeze the trigger and fire.
A direct hit. You run through the trees to where the bird lies, dead. You think to yourself, ‘Well, at least now it can be stuffed and people will know it ever existed. It would have died anyway soon enough, being the last of it’s kind.’ Just then, you hear leaves rustling and into the clearing waddle two White Dodos. A mother and daughter. They are nudging the dead bird. What have you done! Now the White Dodos surely will die out! You fall to your knees and look around for Tahin. He has disappeared, taking with him the supplies, and the map. You lie down on the jungle floor and cry. You coo softly to the birds, and the baby Dodo comes to you, its father’s blood on its beak and face. You are alone. There is no way out… THE END”
Daniel turned off his torch. He could just go back and change his answers for the last two ones. No one would know. It was quiet for a while.
Troy was lying flat, with his hands round his eyes as if holding binoculars, and he let out what was probably a whistle. The air he blew carved a tiny groove in the sand. One of the girls was newly wet from the sea. The other one was glowing from sun oil, or sweat? They were both gloriously burnt. Troy moved his left arm under his body.
Daniel was lying on his shirt. One of the girls was wearing headphones like you get in an insurance advert, with a bit that you can speak into. Her glasses were like mirrors, and if she would just flip the microphone down she would look like a pilot. Her co-pilot didn’t look up to scratch. Reading on the job. Daniel put his hands in front of his eyes like binoculars, and looked out to sea.
Out in the bay were just two things. Kayaks. The boy looked like he was about Troy’s age, and he had a life jacket, red, and a red kayak and he had his paddle laying on his lap. As Daniel watched the boy floated round so that his back was to him, and he was facing the man. The man was a dads age, and he had his paddle on his lap too. He was holding the straps on his life jacket and looking at the boy. They didn’t splash each other. They weren’t wearing helmets. It looked to Daniel like the boy was breathing heavily, his shoulders going up and down. The man was staring. They were rocking a little bit from the sea but there were no waves. Daniel strained to see if they were talking. The man was just staring. Suddenly, the boy lurched to one side and then back the other way and his kayak was upside down.
Daniel stopped breathing.
The sun bounced off the wet red bottom of the kayak as it floated just a metre or two in front of the man. Daniel dropped his binoculars. The man had not moved, and was still holding the straps on his chest. The little wind there was was moving the man slowly away from the boy but he let himself be moved. A hand came up from under the kayak and was tapping the underside three times.
Daniel was up on his feet and running down the beach.
He hit the water and had to run like he was stretching. A small wave was moving towards him and Daniel dived over it, putting out his hands and hitting the sand below. As the water rushed back out underneath he looked out to see the man looking over at him. Daniel struggled to his feet and was about to shout again when a paddle shot up alongside the boy’s kayak. It came down to meet the surface and with one large movement and a big spray of water and air the boy swung up from under the sea. Daniel stood slack-jawed as another wave hit him in the stomach.
The boy held his paddle in the air in triumph as the man paddled over and hugged his son.
Daniel looked away, down at another wave which broke against his thighs. And another. And one up to his waist. He turned around and was met by two girls walking up to him. The pilot bent down and took off her mirrors. Her eyes were just as shiny.
“Are you alright, little boy?”
Daniel turned back to see the kayaks but the father and son were already paddling out beyond the bay. He felt a lump in his throat. He didn’t know what to say.
It was Troy, who was running towards them with his left hand down the front of his trunks. As the girls turned to the noise he screamed and threw the sand he was carrying straight into their faces.
“I don’t know what kind of ice creams you got at home, but you won’t find them in the meat section.”
Troy was being funny, even though he had led Daniel this way. He was pointing at the different meats and saying that they were delicious, or crap, and that one will put hairs on your chest.
Daniel was cold. He had left his shirt on the beach when they made their escape, and he had been trying so hard to keep up with Troy that he only realised when they got to the supermarket. Daniel worried about his nipples.
“That one is veal, you know what veal is? It’s baby cows, like lamb. You cook it up and stick it on a plate and mwah!”
They turned into an aisle which seemed to be for cereal boxes but with pictures of cake on the front. Daniel’s feet were cold on the plastic floor, and he had his hands in each armpit. “How do you know so much about meat?”
“My Dad takes me to restaurants. Also Marie, she’s a wicked chef.” Troy reached into the freezer box and pulled out two lollies. “Trust me on this one.”
“Thank you… Is Marie your Mum?”
Troy laughed as he walked away and when he finished laughing he kept saying ‘ha ha, Danny boy!’ without turning around. “She’s the maid.”
Troy put the lollies on the counter.
Daniel looked at Troy, who looked at Daniel and then up at the Lady. She wasn’t smiling.
“I guess we don’t have any money.”
Imps Fringe publicity 2012.
Photography and design by Mihaela Bodlovic.
AAA Batteries fringe Publicity 2012.
Photography by Ed Moore, design by Chris Turner.
“My dad’s probably doing your mum right now,” said Troy, apologetically placing his hand on Daniel’s shoulder. “Yep, right about now.”
Daniel looked down; which he had been trying hard not to do, what with the gap between his feet and the floor. He looked straight back at Troy, in his eyes. The left eye, the right, in between. He felt too close. “How do you know?”
Troy shrugged, and he jumped down from the branch. “It’s what I would do. Couldn’t tell you what style though.”
Daniel nodded until Troy was looking the other way and then hugged the trunk. He slid until his feet touched the grass and his t-shirt was bundled up under his chin.
The boys walked round the side of the house to the front. Daniel looked down. The gravel felt sharp through his sandals, and when Troy lingered at one of the windows he bent down and picked a choice stone. Almost pebble-like. Daniel slipped it into the net pocket of his trunks. Troy turned away from the window disappointed. He slapped his hand down hard on Daniel’s shoulder again and looked him in the eyes. How?
“Come on Danny, let’s ride!”
They had left their bikes in the sun, and the saddles were hot to the touch. Daniel squinted and looked around for an answer. Troy started making a sound. He cocked his head back, and then bringing his face sharply forward so that his nose stopped an inch from the seat, he spat hard. Smiling, he spread the gob with his hands. Daniel squinted.
“Do you want me to do yours?”
“No, I’m fine, thanks.”
“Takes the heat right out of it.”
“Really, I’m fine.”
“I don’t think mine is as hot as yours.”
They mounted and began to ride. Daniel lifted himself from the saddle with each turn of the pedals, and changed gears to catch up. The sun was high now, but it was out of his eyes, and as they headed downhill, Daniel relaxed onto his saddle and tried to enjoy the breeze. Was he still jet-lagged or hungry or sick? Up ahead, Troy had his feet stuck out wildly either side, and he turned back to see if Daniel could see.
“I bet they do it twice.”
Daniel plunged his fingers. “They haven’t given us much to work with,” he said out loud. The grains were small, and course. As he let the sand fall through his fingers he shook his head. There must have been a couple million of this ‘sand’ on the beach. Sand is just tiny rocks. “Use this,” said Troy. Daniel reached behind him for the tool but felt nothing. Moving his focus from the grains in his hand he saw that Troy was holding the spade above his head. His chest was puffed out and he was staring at the ocean. The spade was plastic, and short, but it would do.
Daniel set to work digging and piling and shaping and flattening. Troy stood back and whistled tunelessly. Once or twice he went to the water and let it cuff his ankles. Daniel’s forehead became moist, and he wiped it with his hand leaving sand in his eyebrows. He worked quick but cautious. The smooth, round pebble he had taken from Troy’s father’s house’s driveway hung forward in his trunks and the weight of it was pleasing. No one walked past or no one came in Daniel’s periphery. He was working in miniature now and that could have thrown him. Maybe he would take off his shirt. Troy had left his with the bikes and it was hot. Now he was working outside with no shirt on. Now he was building. He grabbed a stick, used it and threw it over his shoulder.
Daniel was finished. He stood up and dusted his knees. It was magnificent. It had four steep sides and the smoothest round pebble sticking right out of the top. A dry moat ran around it three inches deep and Daniel had managed to fashion a door by poking at the south-facing wall with a stick.
“It holds one royal family, and their servants. With room for visiting knights.”
“Or a President?”
“It could hold a President.”
Troy nodded and motioned for him to step to one side. The seriousness with which he was performing flattered Daniel, and he held the spade behind his back with both hands and bowed his head. He bowed a little too far and had to strain his eyes to watch, but he thought the ache a perfect mark of respect. Troy had gathered wet sand, which he called mud, and was covering his face and hair in it. He stared up at the sun with his hands stretched either side of him, and then turned, letting out a high scream, towards the castle.
The destruction lasted about forty-five seconds, and before long the boys were walking further along the beach. Troy was breathing heavily. “Don’t look back,” Daniel told himself.
“That was pretty good,” said Troy. He was walking in the ‘mud’, and with the beach slanted the way it was, they were the same height.