A Mars Bar, a Sherbet Dib-Dab and a packet of Dolly Mixtures.
‘Oi! Get back here you little scrote!’ shouted the shopkeeper to Peter as he ran away with his haul. ‘I’ve got mouths to feed as well, you know. You bloody bugger! You’ll have me out of business, you lot will!’
Peter ignored his cries and carried on running. He reached an alley way at the end of the road where he concluded that he was safe from the clutches of the angry shopkeeper. He sat down on an old paint tin next to a doorway and emptied out his pockets to see what he’d stolen. He had a Mars Bar, a Sherbet Dib-Dab and a packet of Dolly Mixtures. A decent breakfast, he thought.
He started to munch away on his chocolate bar. He looked up and saw a lady walking past the alley. She looked in and saw him.
‘Peter? Is that you?’ she said.
Oh no, its Mrs Andrews from school, thought Peter. I’m done for now! She’ll well grass me up!
‘Peter, what on earth are you doing down there?’ said Mrs Andrews as she approached him. ‘Shouldn’t you be at school?’
‘I’m not going. I’ve run away from home,’ said Peter as he chewed his chocolate.
‘Don’t be so silly, Peter. Run away from home? Whatever for?’ Mrs Andrews looked down at Peter’s clothes. He still had his school stuff on from the day before although his shirt was unbuttoned revealing a well-worn superman t-shirt underneath. His tie was loosened but still sat around his neck. He had a dried orange food stain on his shirt. It looked like the remnants of a spaghetti hoop.
‘Had enough, haven’t I? Nobody likes me,’ he said.
Mrs Andrews was now a little more concerned. She sensed something was not right with Peter. She saw that there was a wooden crate next to the doorway where he was sitting. ‘Do you mind if I sit down?’ she said.
‘If you like.’
Mrs Andrews sat down, not before taking out her handkerchief and placing it on top of the crate so as not to dirty her skirt. ‘What’s brought all this on then, eh?’
‘Dunno. Just ran away, didn’t I? My mum and dad haven’t got no time for me anymore. My sister is always picking on me and I’ve just had enough of it so I’m running away. Gonna go somewhere nice.’ Peter finished his chocolate bar and moved on to his sweets. ‘Wanna Dolly Mixture?’ he said offering the bag.
‘Er, no thanks, Peter, I’ve just had my breakfast.’
‘Suit yourself. More for me then.’
‘I’m sure that’s not true, Peter, about your parents,’ said Mrs Andrews reassuringly. ‘I bet they like you really. They’re probably just busy, that’s all. We all get a little pre-occupied with our lives from time to time and sometimes we take each other for granted. We don’t mean to do it; it’s just human nature.’
‘Ah, you would say that, wouldn’t you? You’re all the same,’ said Peter rather dismissive. He looked towards the end of the alley. There were hundreds of people walking past. The children of St Dominic’s were on their way to school accompanied by their parents. It was 8:45 am, Tuesday morning.
‘It’s true, Peter, honestly. I do it all the time with my husband. We’re just so busy these days that we hardly see each other, it doesn’t mean we don’t care. We just get dragged along with life.’
‘Well, I don’t believe you, Mrs Andrews, and I’m running away,’ said Peter. ‘I’ve made up my mind.’
Mrs Andrews decided to humour him to see if that would get her anywhere. She had to try and get through to him somehow. ‘So where are you going to go then?’
‘Well London’s a big place, Peter. You could get lost in London, quite easily. And how do you propose to get there, then?’
‘I can get the train. Only takes two hours from town. I went there last year with my mum and dad. It was nice.’
‘And how are you going to pay for your train ticket, Peter? It looks as though you can’t even afford to buy your own sweets today, so where are you going to get a hundred pounds or more from?’
Peter looked up at Mrs Andrews. ‘Could you lend us it?’
‘Certainly not, Peter. I haven’t got a hundred pounds to give away. And even if I did, it’s my duty as a teacher to make sure you get to school today, never mind giving you money to get to London.’
Peter thought about school. ‘Oh no, not school. I hate school, don’t I?’
‘Why do you hate school, Peter? You’ve never given me that impression before.’
‘I just hate it. I get bullied by the boys there. I hate every minute of it. I’m running away, I’ve had enough. I’m going to London.’
Mrs Andrews looked around. There were hundreds of people walking past the alley yet nobody even gave them a second glance. ‘And why London specifically, do you know anyone there?’ she said.
‘No, but there’s loads of people in London. I’ll be alright, I’ll meet someone and stay with them.’
‘There are eight million people in London, Peter, who are you going to meet that you put your trust in so much?’
‘Dunno, just someone. It worked out for Oliver Twist in the end, didn’t it? I was reading that book only yesterday in school,’ said Peter hopefully, as he looked at Mrs Andrews.
‘Oliver Twist! That’s fiction, Peter, written over a hundred years ago. And besides, London has changed an awful lot since Dickens’ time.’
‘I’ll be alright.’
Suddenly the angry shopkeeper appeared at the end of the alley with a policeman.
‘There he is there, the little bugger!’ shouted the shopkeeper. ‘It’s him, he’s the one who robbed me!’
‘Oh no, they’ve caught me!’ said Peter as he stood up to run.
Mrs Andrews stood up with him. ‘Now wait a minute Peter, we need to sort this out!’ she grabbed his arm as he tried to run.
The policeman and the shopkeeper ran down the alley while the policeman also grabbed hold of Peter’s arm.
‘Now, what the bloody-hell is all this then, eh?’ said the policeman. ‘This man here says that you have stolen from his shop, is that right?’
Peter looked down in shame. ‘Er, yeah, that’s right,’ he managed.
‘And I want him prosecuted!’ shouted the shopkeeper. ‘It’s my bleedin’ livelihood they’re taking away from me, you know?’
Mrs Andrews intervened. ‘Now please, please, I’m sure that we can sort this matter out officer, I’m certain that there has been some sort of misunderstanding with Peter here. Isn’t that right Peter?’ she said.
Peter was still looking down at the floor ashamed. He said nothing.
‘No bleedin’ misunderstanding, is there? He’s a bloody thief, that’s what he is!’ said the shopkeeper.
‘Ok, Sir, what is it that Peter took from you? And how much money does he owe you for the sweets?’ said Mrs Andrews.
‘Well, he had away with a Mars Bar, a sherbet Dib-Dab and a packet of Dolly Mixtures!’
‘And how much does that come to?’ said Mrs Andrews.
‘Well let me see now, a Mars bar is forty-six pence, a Dib-Dab is thirty-five and a packet of Dolly Mixtures is, er, fifty-five,’ said the shopkeeper, slightly calmer than before.
‘Well then, considering that I am the new maths teacher at St Dominic’s Primary School then I should be able to tell you that the total comes to one pound, thirty-six. So here you are, Sir, there is a two pound coin, and you can keep the change,’ said Mrs Andrews as she handed the shopkeeper some money.
‘And what about him?’ he said pointing to Peter. ‘He should be prosecuted for stealing!’
Mrs Andrews looked hopefully towards the policeman.
‘Well, I think that under the circumstances there isn’t any need for prosecution now is there?’ said the policeman entering into the conversation. ‘This young lady has paid you the money for the sweets, so let’s just put this one down to somebody having a bad morning, eh?’
He looked at Peter. ‘Have a few ales last night did we, Sir? A couple of shandys too many? Been out all night by the looks of it and all, haven’t we?’
He turned back to the shopkeeper. ‘I don’t know. The teachers these days, bloody worse than the kids. No wonder the buggers round here are so bleedin’ cheeky when they’ve got the likes of him telling them what to do. Come on, Tony, let’s go and have a cuppa.’
The policeman and the shopkeeper turned and walked back out of the alley leaving Peter and Mrs Andrews behind.
‘I think you could do with a cuppa as well, Mr Dickinson, eh?’ said Mrs Andrews. ‘Would you like to sit down and talk about it? I’m a good listener, you know. Come on, let’s get to school before all the kids see you like this. They’ll have a field day if this one gets out.’
Peter looked back at Mrs Andrews. He sighed. ‘What’s the matter with me?’ he said.
‘Come on, Peter, let’s get inside,’ she said. Mrs Andrews put her arm around Peter and they both walked off towards the end of the alley.
Mr Dickinson and Mrs Andrews turned right on to Linney Street and slowly made their way into St Dominic’s. They walked past dozens of people both young and old. No-one even noticed a grown man with a scrunched up tie and a superman t-shirt going to school. They were all too busy. They had their own problems to worry about.