The sun’s going down, it’ll be dark soon. Almost dinner time. Dad said there’d be fish and chips. Not from the chip store though. Not the newspaper kind. Dad took the boat out real early and caught some fish. I said I’d help clean them. I’d watched dad often enough. Scales flake away like weird glitter, sticking to his arms. Watery blood everywhere and ropey guts, chucked stinking in a bucket. There were always a million flies in that bucket. But he’d said no again. Every time. “Your hands aren’t big enough for the knives yet lad, you won’t hold ‘em right. You an’ Kimmy go on to the beach for a while.”
No boats on the lake now. The holidays are nearly finished. Me and Kimmy had seen the Trents tow their boat off earlier. She’d waved but not me. Callum Trent was a loser. We have the beach to ourselves now. It isn’t a proper beach, not really. There’s only sand on this bit, where we come every year. The rest is mud and stones and weeds. It’s quiet now, I can hear the flick-buzz of some bug’s wings. I wriggle my toes deeper into the sand, still sun-warm and look over at Kimmy. Only her head is showing after the bury-me game. Last summer she said it’d be funny so I let her and Mum bury me with my own plastic shovel. They spent ages patting the sand down, leaving hand prints everywhere. Then they ran away, laughing. Now she’s the one waiting to be dug up. I don’t think I will.
I look at the knife, holding it up in front of the water. It’s not true Dad. I can so hold it right. Kimmy had seen me nick it as we left, whispered she’d tell unless we played her game first, tell Mum how I was a crazy boy who stole things. So we’d played pretend animals. Hers were boring; a cat, a horse. But when we were swimming she was a fish.
My stomach growls. I’m hungry again. Don’t know why. Mum had made us sandwiches for lunch. Not very good ones. Just luncheon and cheese. She’d been busy in the kitchen all day. Lots of people were coming later. Kimmy said Mum was making a cake today. Like she’d know. It had been really hot in the kitchen. The window latch had rusted shut last year and Dad hadn’t fixed it yet. Mum’s face was all red and her hair had stuck to her forehead. She’d given Kimmy the sandwich bag to hold. One each, she’d called after us.
I’d eaten mine earlier, before the sun could turn it too warm and squishy. Later I’d had Kimmy’s too, pulling the tomato out onto the sand first. Kimmy’s always had extras in them. It’s still there, staining the white sand. I grab a double handful and pour clean sand over it, patting it into a perfect hill. That’s better. There’s a hill like that on Kimmy’s belly. It makes her look really fat. Or like the lady at the lolly shop. Mum said that lady was having a baby. I’d said it must be fat too. There are shadows on Kimmy’s belly-hill. Carefully I add more sand, till it’s nice and white again.
Something tickles my hand. I have to squint really hard to see now. This side of the lake is already dark. Across the water the hills are still lit red. Ants. There are a line of ants crawling over my hand. Hissing in disgust I run and shove my whole arm into the water. Little black specks spin off over the waves. Going back to Kimmy I can see the ants climbing up onto her face, crawling all over it. There are some tangled and kicking in her hair. Urgh! A couple are even marching into her nose. Kimmy hates bugs even more than I do. She’d scream if she knew. Then they’d go in her mouth too.
Waving a bug away from my ear I stand up. I want dinner now. The sandwiches were ages ago. I pass a third sand hill. That one had a million flies earlier, until I made it bigger. There are none now. Heading up the path I start hearing voices moving towards the lake. They were calling for us. For Kimmy and me. We’re late but the party will be even better now. I’ve never liked sharing my birthday.