Sardine cans is what Mother called them. The smaller caravans, down the hill in the dip, the view out their living room window looking in through the living room window of the caravan facing them, them all lookin’ at each other’s wonderin whose is uglier! said she in one of her rants.

Our caravan holidays I hated intensely. I hated squint-eyed Gary with his constant gurn on, begging me pennies for the arcade. I hated his brother, Sleeket Ian as Mother referred to him, even though I kept insisting to her, every time she announced him thusly as Sleeket Ian, that he was ESN and that he’d not the capacity for sleeketness. Something, an observation of mine let’s say, that goaded her into proclaiming in her big leviathan tones, like it were a revelation and she the St Paul, Ahh! But there you have it! The dumber them appear, the cuter them are!

The summertime was the only time I came close to something like enjoying my time away at the caravan. Long, hot days spent burning insects alive or shoplifting form the newsagents down the town. The newsagent didn’t seem too bothered about me pinching his merchandise. The newsagent didn’t seem too bothered about anything at all, in fact. He was so chill this newsagent that it inspired me for a good many years after to want to be a newsagent myself when I grew up. Not the best aspiration to have looking at how things are now though, with magazines and newspapers all being transferred to the digital screen for the most part. No need for newsagents no more. No need for so many things now, things we all thought back then would never go extinct.


One day, standing by the swings counting the cars race up the road adjacent to the park, I met two of the older boys from around the site, Graham and Scott, otherwise known as Tuh and Doobada, respectively. Tuh, because Graham spat a lot, and Doobada because Scott couldn’t speak properly. They both lived in the caravans down in the dip, the sardine cans as mother called them.

“When our Mas go out to the bingo, we stand in the living rooms of our caravans that’re facing each other, and we have a wank race,” said Tuh, spitting.

“Duts rit,” said Doobada, struggling to get his words out. “Heek alvays winds,” he went on, pointing a trembling and spindly finger at Tuh.

Gary and his brother Sleeket Ian arrived at the park then. Sleeket Ian was mumbling something incoherent. Gary told him to shut up.

“Shut up, you fuckin’ head spastic,” hissed Gary.

We all laughed at this turn of phrase, then Gary gubbed Doobada.

“What was that for?” I inquired.

“He sliced my cousin,” said Gary, gurning. “She’s only nine,” he told us.

I didn’t know whether I was going to shit or puke hearing what I’d heard. That night, I locked my bedroom window for fear Doobada would come in and slice me, too. Something told me he wouldn’t be fussy on who he sliced, boy or girl; it’d all be the same to him in his primordial lust.

Anyway, being the gossip I am, the next day I ran about the caravan site telling all on sundry about Doobada and his slicing of Gary’s nine-year-old cousin.

Something Satanic in me even took my gossiping tongue down to the gates of the chapel that Sunday morning to wait on the old ladies coming out, their ears ringing with the word of God. Not for too long, though, thought me to myself. Not for too long when they hear what that young brute Doobada did on a nine-year-old.

“Ladies, ladies,” said I, beckoning them over with a fey turn in my wrist.

Three of them approached me, tittering away. I always, even back then, had a way with the old ladies. It was as if I were the saucer of milk and they the cat.

So I said, “I recognise you all from around the caravan site. My mummy brings me up here all the time. Winter, Spring, Autumn or Summer, we’re here—getting our money’s worth, she tells me. Anyway, do any of you know young Scott? You may otherwise know him as Doobada.”

“Oh yes, but of course; the one who can’t speak right,” chirped one of the old ducks.

“Well…” said I, lowering my voice, “wait ‘til you all hear this…”

What I told them then was a tale the beginnings of which were based in real truth, in the slicing allegation of Gary’s, but which continued as a wild and highly speculative reconstruction, borne of my own imaginings, of the actual slicing itself.

When I got done, the old ladies’ mouths hung open, their jowls slack and wobbly. The look of collective shock on their three faces fired me up to say more.

I opened my mouth to begin again when one of them threw her hands in the air.

“No more! I’ll hear no more,” she said, her face gone white.

The following day, Mother hit me a skite across the bake as I sat watching Land of the Giants.

“Mrs. Farrington cornered me in the shop this morning. Told me what you’d told her yesterday! Her and those two other auld bitches, Mrs Thompson and Mrs Young. Mrs Young told Mrs Farrington she thought you needed a child psychiatrist.”

“Not me needs one of them,” said I, my bake still smarting. “Would be Doobada needs to go see one of them; him slicing a nine-year-old and all.”

Mother went to give me another skite, but I ducked her and ran out the door.


I walked around the caravan site aimlessly, occasionally pinging the windows of caravans with bits of stone I kicked up out from the badly tarmacked paths that ran right the way around the place. Old men, if they’d seen it was I had pinged their windows, would shake their fist and shout something at me that I couldn’t hear, being that they were inside and I out. But I’d give them the finger anyway in answer to their shaking fists, then go running off.

I ran into my pal Bob Rose at the turnstile leading to the path that brought you to the beach.

He said, “Danny, people around the site say you been sayin’ terrible things. Mrs Farrington’s telling people you’ve gone lost your mind!”

For a moment or two, I stood and savoured Bob’s recently acquired antebellum way of speaking. His doting granny, whose caravan he was bunking up in over the summer, watched Gone With The Wind and Dynasty continuously, day in, day out, and she didn’t let Bob put on his cartoons or anything else for even a minute.

Anyway, I breathed in the hot air of the bright summer day, in then out then in then out, and I said to him, “I don’t give a fuck, Bob. Gary, the wee tramp, came over and gubbed Doobada the other night, said he’d sliced his nine-year-old cousin. Wasn’t me that said it, I just spread it,” then I begun singing, “we didn’t start the fire, it was always burnin’ since the world was turnin’!” clicking my fingers, too.

“What’s sliced mean?” asked Bob, his innocent face all screwed up.

“Fucked,” I answered.

Bob’s face stayed screwed up. “Fucked a nine-year-old?” he whimpered. “Doobada fucked a nine-year-old? Can nine-year-olds have babies, I wonder?”

“Imagine it,” said I, darkly. Then I went, “BOO!” right in his ear, and Bob Rose near shite himself.

I decided to give Mother another hour or two more to cool her jets before I went back to her little home away from home, a thing she always said before we set off from our real home that made me want to throw up my Weetabix.

So I went and got my 20p piece collection, which I kept in a sock that I hid under Big Jody the Caravan Site Manager’s Utility Shed. Big Jody liked to tell folk he built the Utility Shed singlehanded, but nobody believed him. Anyway, there it stood, pride of place next to his office. An office in which he did precisely fuck all.

For reasons unknown to me, Jody’s shed was up on blocks of wood, raised up about a foot or two, giving me enough space to get down on my belly and reach my arm in under to hoke my 20ps out. I took out two pounds’ worth, then threw my sock back in under there.

I got up, brushed myself off, and went in the direction of the site arcade, where they’d Streets of Rage, Bubble Bobble and Mortal Kombat.

I passed by Big Jody’s office when the fat wee shite hammered the window, then started wagging his sausage-like finger at me. I stopped and waited for him to heave his big arse up and out of his Lay-Z-Boy and come talk to me. I was intrigued as to what the cunt wanted.

“What you want?” I drawled like a cowboy soon as he got outside.

“You been spreadin’ rumours round my caravan site, boy?” he went, his wet lips pursed like he was waiting for me to do something.

“People gossip. Fact of life,” said I.

“And I hear, this morning, that you been pingin’ folks’ windys, too?”

“People gossip. Fact of life,” said I, again. I let my hand hover over my hip, like I was about to draw a six-shooter on him.

Jody stared at me for ages, then he said, “I hear you been causing mischief, spreading terrible rumours, I’ll kick you and yer ma off this site, I don’t care how grand she’s got it sitting up there on the hill, youse’ll be kicked off this site by Big Jody McLintock, you hear me?”

“Big Jody, I hate this caravan site. I hate coming, winter, summer, spring, and autumn. I hate you and I hate everybody in it. And if I thought that me doing some horseplay would have you kick us off this site, never to return, well I’d up the ante right here and now, shoot you down right where you stand in cold blood, get you right between the eyes, and then proceed to kill your whole family into the bargain. But I know even that wouldn’t get me and my mother kicked off this site, and that your words are as hollow as your head. You wouldn’t kick us off because you’re greedy and you’d be loathe to kick anybody out from here and miss out on their fees. That, and, also, you know too well my mother’s a loud mouth and a propagandist, and that she’d tell the whole country how you, Big Jody McLintock, evicted her on the most spurious of grounds. She’d paint you as ten times the monster you actually are, you fat wee cunt.”

Big Jody stood gawping at me, the big O of his mouth black as a tunnel. From across the street, Mrs. Farrington, Mrs. Thompson, and Mrs. Young emerged from their posh little café where they all liked to take high tea. All three were preciously and most precisely dabbing the corners of their mouths with their delicate silk hankies, clearing the crumbs from their whiskers.

“Ladies! Ladies!” shouted I across to them. “Ladies, Big Jody here’s been telling me that he also enjoys slicing the odd nine-year-old when the notion takes him.”

Mrs. Young dropped her delicate silk hankie in a puddle, and Mrs. Thompson scowled at me and Big Jody. Mrs. Farrington didn’t do anything at all.

I turned to face Big Jody then, and with that hand hovering over my hip, I made like I was pulling an invisible six-shooter, and I went, “PITCH-CHEW! PITCH-CHEW! PITCH-CHEW!” at him, my finger out like the barrel, my thumb sticking up like the hammer.

“You’re dead, Big Jody,” said I to him. “You’re totally dead.”

I resolved then that a game of Streets Of Rage or Mortal Kombat would not best serve my mental condition at that present moment in time, so changing my mind about going to the arcade, I went in the direction of the beach instead.


Down at the beach, a whale had gotten waylaid and put itself on the shoreline, breathing its last in God’s good air—well, good for us humans—but which, conversely, drowns it and all like it that hail from the ocean if they spend too long in it.

Children younger than I were climbing on its tail and kicking it in the mouth. A number of old men ran around the edges of the children and their horseplay, conscious that they shouldn’t put hands on them in the day and age it was.

“Get away from it,” one of them shouted at the children. “It could have a disease. You might catch a disease from it!” he went on.

Then another old boy, this one waving a walking stick, chimed in, “Stop kicking it! Stop climbing on it! You devils. You little monsters. It is still alive. It can feel what you are doing to it. God’s creature. Oh, man alive, I’m calling the police!”

And call the police he must’ve, as three hours later, that afternoon, after the poor thing had perished, too, they blew it up using dynamite and with a crowd assembled to see the spectacle of a dead whale exploding. All were flabbergasted.

Among the crowd that’d assembled was Gary and Sleeket Ian’s cousin, the nine-year-old Doobada was alleged to have sliced. Something about seeing all those whale guts breaking apart and tearing away from each other in the explosion must’ve unlocked something in her, because a few days later, she got her mummy to call the police, whom she told everything to, everything about Doobada and what he did to her.


Nobody said anything about anything to do with the slicing of a nine-year-old ever again around that site or further afield even, I’m sure.

But the old ladies and others besides still give me the stink eye when they saw me around. Me and Mother got it, too. That I spread the terrible tale seemed a worse thing to do than the deed that give rise to it in the first place.

The following season, Mother got Big Jody to transport her little home away from home to a different site, where she found a prime location setting her caravan out as the grandest, as it had been in the previous place.

Everything it seemed to me appeared the same as on the last site. The people, the caravans, the arcade machines and the doziness all just like where we’d come from. The sense, also, that lurking within every sardine can, as well as in the grand caravans that encircled them as if like a siege, lay a secretiveness and a malevolence that would I’m sure make itself be seen in time by all, as the seasons came and went.