The Body

The body could have lain undisturbed for weeks before the child stumbled across it.

    Ironically, it was discovered in a churchyard, Jane's shortest route to school. During the soggy, dark winter months she had been taking the longer journey down the main road, but now it was spring and her mother had agreed that she could take the short cut along the rather neglected footpath again.

   Seemingly, no effort had been made to conceal the body. It lay in a shallow dip in the ground, hidden only by the accumulation of fallen leaves, with only a hint of a bare leg revealing its presence.

   The child stared at it for several minutes with the curiosity of the young about the mystery of death, trying to decide what she should do. She didn’t want to tell her mother in case she was made to revert to the longer route. In the end, she resolved that it would be her secret; not only would she keep the news from the rest of Year 3, but she wouldn't even mention it to her best friend. And the more she thought about it, the stronger became her conviction.

   After all, little Jane knew all about keeping secrets. Her Uncle John had drummed that into her often enough. But this time the secret would be her very own, and not shared with someone disgusting whom she loathed and hated whenever he tucked her into bed.

   She scraped some stones and fallen leaves over the body to conceal it, and then continued on her way to school, her head held high with pride. She had one special piece of information that was her very own, and that gave her a growing feeling of superiority.

    Spring turned into summer, and the weeds grew higher. During those days she had to look more closely to make sure the body was still there. By now she had decided that she ought to give it a name, but found it hard to invent one. Suddenly, with a wicked grin, she knew she must call it “John” after that despicable uncle. From that point on, she found that her attitude to it had completely changed - rather than caring about the origin and fate of the body, she now transferred all her secret feelings of hatred into it. Why should she care how and why it had died?

   From time to time the leaves blew away and Jane watched with a child's natural curiosity as the pale pink of the foot slowly became a dull grey scaly colour. Once she heard a buzzing sound and a bluebottle crawled out from under the stone and flew drowsily away.  She tried to imagine the condition of the rest of “John”, but shuddered at the thought, adding a fresh layer of leaves.


   Summer turned to autumn, and the older children of Year 5 were on a nature walk under the guidance of their teacher Mr Jones and a couple of teaching assistants. Each child carried a photocopied list describing many flowers and bugs that were familiar to their teacher, each entry followed by an empty box. The class had been let loose in the meadow beside the churchyard, keen to tick as many boxes as possible.

   Out of all the children in his class, Trevor was always the most adventurous. So, with more ticks already on his list than the others, he crept through the gate into the churchyard to widen his search area. Something lying in a ditch attracted his attention. Scraping away the weeds with a stick, he made a chilling discovery. He returned to his teacher who was helping a pupil identify a rather shrivelled specimen of a plant.  After waiting his turn, he said, 'Excuse me sir, I think you should look at something I've found.'

   Opening the gate to the churchyard, Trevor led the way. Mr Jones frowned at the child's intrusion into the sacred ground, but followed him in. Together they peered into the ditch. At first the teacher saw nothing, and wondered what all the fuss was about. Then he spotted the wee thing, with a reddish tinge to its neck and chest just below the beak. 'Poor little robin” he said, “that hard frost this winter must have been too much for him.”  Together they gently covered the little feathered remains with soil and let him rest in peace in the churchyard.


   At her next visit to the churchyard, Jane was initially disappointed to discover that her corpse was missing. This feeling was short-lived.  Her raised level of confidence was helping her to make an important decision. If this imaginary feathered John was now out of her life, why not the real one who was making her life a misery?

   And then she began to hatch a plan that would make her life a whole lot better....

©  2014 Alec Fry

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