Five and Twenty Minutes From my bed, under the dresser, I can see Mrs. O’keefe, our London evacuee, she has just lit the copper with yesterday’s Daily Herald and some sticks of firewood. Today is her wash day. Now she is making some toast. The smell of it all, the roaring, crackling fire and bread being burnt by the wood rather than being toasted, it’s making me hungry. She is playing the wireless, it’s an ‘Ultra’, very clear. It has no cover, Dad was making a cabinet for it, only the base was finished, I can see the valves glowing. I hear the Staines Lagonda factory’s hooter, calling the men to work, It’s about four miles away. The sound should be like the ‘All Clear’, but from this distance it is rising and falling, more like the ‘Air raid siren’. Mum is still in the Morrison shelter with Don, both fast asleep. Mum is still very sad about the baby, her crying makes me sad too. It’s still only seven o’clock. Iris has already left for work, she starts at half past seven. We have been home for a week now, the hooter stops. Now I can even hear Mrs. Wades chickens. Since the bomb, I have found it hard to sleep, the smallest noise wakes me. I feel different, everything is louder, and I look at the things around me in a way I did not before. I can hear the green alarm clock on the dresser, it is starting to whirr, gathering itself together to ring the bell, but there is no bell, lost in the bombing along with its glass. The clock has never been the same since. Mum puts the clock ten minutes fast, so that she isn’t late for anything, it loses about eight minutes a day. Around midday it’s a hard to know just what the time really is. I’m the only one who can work it out. Yesterday, Mrs. Salmon and my mother were talking about a boy at our school, who had something called St Vitus Dance, he could not keep still. I heard them say my name and then my ‘habit’. I never knew what a ‘habit’ was, leave alone that I had one. “He will grow out of it soon, it’s just the shock of the bomb, Effy.” Mrs. Salmon isn’t always right though, she was the one who said that the baby would be alright. Since I heard all this I have been looking at myself in our little looking glass every few minutes. All I could see was a little twitch near my eye. Now, as I lay in my bed, with the soft flannel sheet around my neck, I can feel, for the first time, the twitch, it must be getting worse. I pull the old Army overcoat that serves as a blanket away and go to the mirror. Mrs. O—that’s what Don calls her— looks up, holding a piece of toast on a long fork. “You’re awake early Alan, would you like some toast?” The mirror is in the scullery, I will have to go past her. “Please.” I say, I keep my eye on her as I walk toward her, to see if she notices my new twitch. She looks straight at me, I watch her eyes, to see if she sees anything. She just smiles and says. “There’s no butter duckie, only dripping” Butter always tastes funny, I think it is bad, I much prefer dripping, but only the white bit. The toast is hot and burnt around the edge but so very nice. I look in the mirror. There it is, I have a winky eye, just a little shiver. I try to stop it, this just makes it worse. I go back the dresser, pull the old army coat over my head and wonder if my twitch will ever go away. The overcoat smells of burnt wool. The buttons have a picture of a gate on them, I wonder from which regiment. They are not polished —Don says, if they were, snipers could shoot at them—I wonder what may have happened to the soldier who once wore this coat . It is now five and twenty past seven, the alarm clock stops whirring and returns to tick tock. The wireless is getting fainter, the accumulator needs recharging. Mr. Hyde, who has a wireless shop does this for tuppence. Mr Hyde has a twitch, he jerks his head about, he always looks surprised, he looks a bit like the thin one in Laurel and Hardy. Don says it’s because of all the electricity in his shop. My brother knows everything. My twitch stopped as suddenly as it had started, a couple months later.

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