Janice sat beside you on the bombsite off Meadow Row looking towards the New Kent Road watching the people and traffic pass you with your catapult and she with the doll her gran had bought her from the market in the Cut Gran said those are dangerous Janice said pointing at the catapult not if you’re careful and responsible you said but they fire stones she said guns fire bullets you said they can kill people David killed Goliath with a stone she said I heard it in church

I only fire at tin cans or other such targets you said she looked at the sky at pigeons flying overhead what about birds? she asked no I don’t shoot at birds although I did fire at a rat once but missed and it ran off I hate rats she said there was one on our balcony once and it frightened me to death you laughed you remember that coalman who stomped on that one along the balcony by your flat? yuk she said horrible blood and guts everywhere and on his boot you said

she hugged her doll close against her don’t remind me you studied the doll in her arms the way it was close to her chest her hands caressing the painted china head the yellow flowered dress and small white socks and black plastic shoes you’d make a good mum you said watching her rock the doll in her arms do you think so? she asked yes you said maybe one day I will have a real baby she said and and and and rock it to sleep feed it with a bottle burp it change its nappy

like I saw a lady do in the toilets of Waterloo station and Gran said it wasn’t hygienic not there of all places Gran said I’d have to have a peg on my nose if I had to change a baby’s nappy you said I think men have weaker stomachs than women do she said I think mothers are given stronger stomachs when they have babies it’s God way of helping them deal with babies I’d rather have a catapult than a baby you said or a doll do you want to hold my doll and I can hold your catapult? she asked

no thanks you replied if my mates saw me I’d never live it down she kissed the doll’s head and said likewise but there was a smile on her lips and a sparkle in her eyes and a beauty in the way she sat in her orange coloured dress and bright red beret hat.

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