It was threatening to get truly dark when Lou heard the sound of water again. They had reached the bottom of the hill and there was one working streetlight left there and it showed the dark water dragging things along.
(A piece of iron piping; a light bulb; a toothbrush.)
Then Lou saw the girl, standing in the dimness at the edge of the streetlight’s reach: she carried a Thomas the Tank Engine backpack and her ankles were wet. Lou thought, I should bring her back, but he didn’t know how. He had to find words, he knew, and he tried to search some out that fit.
(Some newspaper; a black strip of rubber; a ping-pong bat.)
Then he coughed and said: ‘Danielle Major seven years old in the canteen at 5.30 PM with short brown hair your sister is very worried.’
She piped back in her clear instructive voice. ‘I told her, but she wouldn’t listen, she’s not in charge of me. I told her they’re both coming back, Pete’s swimming back to find us and Mummy’s coming too. I already told Andrea we have to go and meet them but she’s just stupid and trying to be in charge.’
She paused to take a breath.
‘Andrea thinks Mummy is gone and she doesn’t care less about Pete because she’s just stupid, because they’re coming back both of them anyway.’
(A wireless phone; a toilet seat; a nail.)
Then she shrieked.
They both saw a fuzzy lump floating down the river of rainwater: the body of a rat, carried by the current.
Then Lou had the thought:
That’s not floating. It’s swimming.
It was true, though the thing could only just stay above the water. When the rat met dry land he went to the waiting hands of his owner, who enveloped him in her jacket and rubbed him dry, shrieking still, and singing, ‘I told you, told you, told you.’
After that she went with Lou back up to the school, maybe because she was happy about the return of her pet, and maybe because she knew Andrea would be worried as it was night time and she’d gone off without saying goodbye. The sky was still clear enough to see the moon peering down silver through the gaps between the clouds, and Lou looked up at it, and had a thought.
By the lovely Jonny Heath