When I was thirteen, I saw Tally die.
I had an evening paper round and so did Tally. She did one side of Ditchling Road and I did the other, it being far too long for one person to deliver papers to both sides of the road. I had the odd numbers, she had the evens.
Ditchling Road is a steep hill road in a coastal town. It stretches upwards from the seafront to the farthest inland end of town. It’s about three miles long. The way we liked to deliver our papers was to start at the top of the hill at the far end of town and work our way down it towards the sea. So that’s what we both did.
We’d collect our bags of newspapers at about four, then cycle up Ditchling Road, sometimes racing each other, most often not. When we reached the hilltop, we’d rest for a while, sitting on one of the golf course benches, eating chocolates and talking about anything. We could see the sea from where we sat. Sometimes, if I’d brought my radio, we’d listen to music. At five we’d start our deliveries, Tally on the left side, me on the right. The first one back at the shop bought the other one something – sweets, stickers, cards, bubble gum, whatever. It wasn’t so much what it was, more that it was. It was one of the deals between Tally and I.
Tally was pretty. Her full name was Natalia Brown, but she preferred Tally. She was as tall as me and had long, dark hair – almost black, which she tied up in a ponytail. She was also very adventurous – more than anyone else I knew. She would do the most incredibly dangerous things, just so that she could say she had done them. Most of the time, Tally was the only person to have done a certain thing. She was a natural trailblazer. For example, when the lake in Hollingbury Park froze over, Tally was the only one who dared to walk across the frozen lake at its widest point. I watched her breathlessly, hearing the pinging and cracking of ice beneath her as she fearlessly stepped from one bank to the other. Nothing fazed her.
So, when she mentioned climbing the pylon, I knew she meant it – and I knew she’d do it, no matter what I said. Read more…
R J Dent says: ‘Tally is a semi-true story which draws on two specific incidents from my childhood: a friend climbed a pylon for a dare, was electrocuted and survived; when I delivered evening newspapers, there was a tall blonde girl (working for a rival newsagent) delivering papers on the opposite side of the road to me. I enjoyed writing Tally very much.’
Copyright © R J Dent (2016)
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