DB might have visited the village every week day for school, but his knowledge of its geography had always been restricted to the bus route, and the occasions where his class went out on minor expeditions: to church, for carol and remembrance services, or on a visit to the studio of a local potter. And although DB knew that it was a Saturday, that as far as school was concerned, he was free to go wherever and do whatever he liked- as much as a fourteen year old was free to do anything- he still experienced a mild feeling of elation to be there. As he followed William along a route of alleyways and back paths, he decided that, probably, this was to do with the idea that he was transgressing. He had learned this word only recently, while attempting the crossword in the local paper, less an act of knowledge when DB performed it, and more- with the thorough and laborious searches of his mother’s thesaurus- like a form of code-breaking. Transgressing. He liked the sound of the word, the pleasingly sinister sibilance.
After collecting his fishing rod and tackle, William had let them out through the garage, the long broad door clattering on the mechanism over their heads, and they had walked down the driveway into the warm spring sun. William walked quickly, the fishing rod bobbing over his shoulder. He always appeared to be concentrating on some distant, higher objective, and it made him seem untouchable.
‘Where are we going?’ DB asked.
‘We’re meeting Gill and Raymond in the usual place.’
You reached the usual place by turning off the main street of the village and heading down towards the church, leaving the road before you reached the bridge. The spire of the church pierced the air between a clump of trees across the marshland. The river water was brown and clear, looking like steeped tea in the glare of the sun. DB stood, watching it flow, feeling ambivalent about the way the day had turned out. He knew very little about fishing. His father had once taken him to the pools a few miles from their house. They’d caught a stickleback and he’d held it in his palm while his father stood over him, fanning out the fin along the spine, and warning DB to mind his fingers. The stickleback glistened with a tarnished green silver, its yellow eye immovable and troubling.
William opened up the packed lunch and sat chewing on a ham sandwich. DB sat down next to him and reached for the Thermos, but when he sipped from it, he found that the tea had stewed, and he chewed the bitterness away with a mouthful of ham sandwich.
‘What do you do?’ he asked.
‘What do you mean?’
‘While you wait?’
William Blake took a few moments to analyse the question, and when this was done, he looked baffled, irritated. ‘I don’t know. Look around you. You can talk, but not too loud.’
‘The fish hear it.’
DB tore up a handful of grass. ‘Do fish have ears, then?’
William laughed. ‘Of course.’
‘Wouldn’t they get in the way, though? Drag through the water? They’d sink.’
‘Are you serious?’
‘It was actually a joke.’ DB enjoyed making his voice as cutting as possible.
‘The sound bounces off the surface of the water,’ William said, tiredly. ‘They pick up the vibrations. It scares them away. You should know that,’ he went on. ‘Everyone knows that.’