I used to take bread to school for Harry Taylor. They only had his dad’s pension to live on. People said his dad lay down on the tracks on purpose, so the train would take off his legs and he’d get paid out.
The Taylors were a large family, I don’t know exactly how many. Some of them were already in high school and a few still at home. Harry never talked about them. He was a quiet kid.
My dad says in his boxing days Harry’s dad could really take a punch. He says when the accident happened Harry’s dad was already past his prime. That’s what made people talk. But I don’t know about this.
All I know was that Harry was always hungry and I took bread to school for him. He was skinny and hard and full of scratches and bruises, even on his face. The rest of us secretly admired him. We wanted to be as tough as him.
At lunchtime, we stood around him and asked him to show us his trick. “Come on, Harry, do it!”
Then he looked at me and I nodded and he did his trick.
The rest of us moved a few steps back. Harry looked at the ground and kicked the biggest stones out of the way. Once the gravel looked fairly even, he stood to one side, bolt upright like a soldier at attention. We watched him anxiously. Harry slowly tilted forward, his body straight, fists clenched by his sides. At first it went slowly. His heels lifted until only the scuffed toes of his shoes touched the ground. Then his body gathered speed and he hit the ground with a wet-sounding thud, face first.
Everyone cheered. Harry rolled over and held out his hand to take the sandwich from me.
Copyright Zirk van den Berg 1989