Today Lois Elsden shares her thoughts on a lost story – not one she wrote and lost, but one she read, many years ago and cannot remember the title or who wrote it, but is just left with a vivid memory.
Some stories make a life-long impact, and sometimes those stories get lost – well, the story doesn’t, it stays in your head, but what it actually was, what it was called and who it was by is lost and you’re left with the problem of and how you could find it and reread it.
I’ve mentioned before a couple of books from my childhood, one which had two stories, one about an old car abandoned in an orchard, covered with moss and the number plate YAK 1 or ! YAK which did turn into a yak, and the other about a sweet-shop with a sinister owner who looked like an octopus and eventually turned into on, and who sold sweets from a jar called ‘widows and orphans’… quite a horrific and haunting story for children!
The adult book I have ‘lost’ was about a brother whose sister wore a bear mask at parties, and then began to wear it more and more; her personality changed and eventually she could only live wearing the mask, and killed herself in a skiing accident – sounds horrific, and I’ve never forgotten it… except for its title and author! There was one other, about a man who found a lost boy I think in a snowstorm, a very little boy, and they were cut off for days by the snow; for some reason the man (called Gordon, or Gord) didn’t hand the boy to the appropriate authorities but went on the run with him… another never forgotten but anonymous book!
A story which I have little hope of ever finding,, appeared in the Daily Telegraph newspaper Saturday magazine when they would feature a short story each week. I have a feeling that this story,possibly published in the 1970’s or maybe earlier, was set in South Africa. it was about a group of young people one summer, who were on holiday by the beach; they were probably about 14-16 years old, mainly or all boys, and it was told by one of them. A very beautiful and rather eccentric girl of the same age attached herself to the group; they were all rather alarmed by her (not as precocious as today’s teenagers!) and all rather fancied her as she was so attractive – in every way.
She became just one of the gang, hanging out, swimming, talking about rubbish, doing bored teenage stuff. She fell in love with the most unlikely one of the group, a fat boy nicknamed Fatty (he may have been Tubby I can’t quite remember) He was totally unable to cope with this and would just sit blushing and awkward as she sat beside him, or put her arm round him, or lent her head on his shoulder.
His friends were half-amused, half puzzled, very jealous and would tease him when she wasn’t there. They must have met and socialised in the boys’ room, or maybe it was like a dorm, because when Fatty wasn’t there, she would lie on his bed and put her head on his pillow, where he slept. The boys thought this was very odd… it ended when for some reason the girl left. Was she taken away by her parents? Did her holiday end? or did she – as I half-remember, drown, either accidentally or to kill herself? The narrator is an adult looking back, puzzling over the whole thing.
it was a haunting story – well, it certainly haunted me, and I would love to know who wrote it and to read it again…
© Lois Elsden 2017
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