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There’s always too much green. Green grass, green trees. Bushes. Shrubs. The eternal creativity of nature, and it could only manage one colour for the majority of its foliage. Look at the colours it gave butterflies, birds, and all the leaves got was green. I guess rhubarb got lucky. They still loved it though, those two kids. A whole summer I looked after them, but I still can’t remember their names. I want to call the boy Charlie. But then I probably want to call all boys Charlie. I managed to keep this photo of them though, all tucked away at the bottom of my drawer. Moving house unearths so many treasures. Or trash. It’s amazing how many pencil sharpeners one can amass over the years.

They lived pretty far out in the countryside, that’s what I do remember. Well, the picture’s a clue. If only I had got them to wear large name badges. Tattoed them on their foreheads. The mother would have been so pleased. That was the last summer I was there, too. I don’t know whether they missed me. Probably not, I didn’t miss them. I was mainly doing it for the sense of community camaraderie; that mythical thing all the elderly insist was there back in the day, but really what they mean is now they’re old enough to benefit it should be further enforced. I didn’t mind helping out though, I’d been sentenced to a summer with my grandmother before, I knew what it was like. At least if I took them out, and all they could see was green, it was a break from the old style broderie and wallpaper of musty flowers that plagued that house, all feeble brown and acrid yellow. Pinks that looked like they were about to fall off the wall and crawl under the skirting board to die in peace, the sartorial equivalent of lumpy custard. Kids have got to have their vegetables, isn’t that what everyone’s always saying?

Charlie – yes, I’m going to call him Charlie – he used to carry around a train wherever he went. It was from the show ‘Thomas the Tank-Engine’. It wasn’t Thomas, though. That was very Charlie. He never went for the obvious, he was always slightly off-kilter. If the show was all about a blue train named Thomas, he wanted the runner-up sidekick, the next in line, the Percy. Isn’t that funny, I can remember the train he carried around but not his own name. But then I suppose Percy was about all the identity the kid had, the second-born, the next in line. Charlie could wait, he knew he could, he was destined for greatness, he didn’t need ice-cream now. He could own the factory, give him enough time. The girl was different; elder, immediate; demanding. Thomas. Though you could see her younger brother had an effect on her. Looking after him, she began to see life wasn’t all cutting down cotton fields to make clothes, sometimes you had to wait for the seed to grow. Patience. It wasn’t her middle name, but it was the word she heard most often.

They must be pretty old now. They can probably drive to their own wide, open spaces. Find which coat is there’s even without a nametag on it. Maybe they’re into drink, into trouble. Vices everywhere. But in my mind, I like to keep them how they were, look at them and think they are still young. Fresh. Green. There’s never enough green.

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