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THE WIND, THE COLD WIND / Leslie Norris IWAS ALMOST at the top of Victoria Road, under the big maroon hoarding advertising Camp Coffee, when I heard Jimmy James shouting. "Hey, Ginger!" he shouted, "Hold on a minute, Ginger!" He couldn't wait to reach me. He ran across the road in front of the Cardiff bus as if it didn't exist. There he was, large, redfaced, rolling urgently along like a boy with huge, slow springs in his knees, like a boy heaving himself through heavy, invisible water. Jimmy couldn't read very well. Once I'd written a letter for him, to his sister who lived in Birmingham and worked in a chocolate factory; once he'd let me walk to school with him and other large, important boys. He stopped in front of me, weighty, impassable. "I heard you were dead," he said, "The boys told me you were dead." His large, brown eyes looked down at me accusingly. "Not me, Jim," I said, "Never felt fitter, Jim." He thought that too sprightly by half. His fat cheeks reddened and he wagged a finger at me. It looked as thick as a club. "Watch it, Ginge," he said. He was fifteen years old, five years older than I, and big. He was a boy to be feared. I slowed it. "No, Jim," I said, smiling soberly, "I'm not dead." "The boys told me you were," he said. He was looking at me with the utmost care, his whole attitude reproachful and disappointed. I was immediately guilty. I had let Jimmy James down, I could see that. And then, in an instant, I understood, for something very like this had happened to me before. The previous winter, in January, a boy called Tony Plumley had drowned in a pond on the mountain. Td spent a lot of time worrying about Tony Plumley. The unready ice had split beneath him and tumbled him into the darkness. For weeks afterwards, lying in my bed at night, Td followed him down, hearing him choke, feeling the stiffening chill of the water. I had watched his skin turn blue as ice, I had felt his lungs fill to the throat with suffocating water, known the moment when at last his legs had gone limp and boneless. I had given Tony Plumley all the pity and fear I possessed. And later, in irresistable terror, I had gone with him into his very grave. Then, one day when I had forgotten all about him and was running carefree along a dappled path in the summer woods, there he was, in front of me, Tony Plumley, alive. I thought of all that sympathetic terror spent and wasted and I was 80 ยท The Missouri Review wildly angry. I charged him with being drowned. "It wasn't me," Tony Plumley said, backing off fast. "It was you," I said, "Put up your fists." But Tony Plumley stood still and cautious outside the range of my eager jabs. Taking the greatest care, speaking slowly, he explained that he was not drowned at all, that he had never been sliding on the pond, that his mother would not have let him. It was another boy, Tony Powell, who had dropped through the cheating ice and died. I had been confused by the similarity of their names. I stood there trying to reconcile myself to a world in which the firm certainty of death had proved unfaithful, a world in which Tony Powell, a boy unknown to me, was suddenly dead. Perplexed, I dropped my avenging hands. "Get moving, Plumley," I said. He slid tactfully past me and thumped away down the path. So I knew exactly how Jimmy James felt. I'd used a lot of emotion on Plumley and Jim must have been imagining my death with much the same intensity. I understood his disappointment, deserved his reproach , stood resignedly under his just anger. I knew, too, how the confusion had come about. "It's not me, Jim," I said, "It's Maldwyn Farraday. It's because we've both got red hair." This completely baffled Jim. He looked at me in despair. "What's red hair...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 80-86
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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