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The Bellows Boy
For my 10th birthday I received a gift of which every boy-child dreams, surely: a set of good, functioning bellows.
Shaped like the spade of aces, its fine wood, copper nozzle, brass studs and pleated leather filled me with a sense honourable duty.
The bellows, so often abused by other boys of my acquaintance, would, in my hands, be a force for good, and ever at my side.
Sure enough, the wheeze and squeak of its mechanism was as familiar to those who knew me as my own gentle panting.
On the fourth or fifth day - I can't remember now (does it matter?) I decided to take my bellows out into the world and right some wrongs.
It was a breezy day, ideal conditions for bellow-work, whether for good or ill, and soon I found my first task.
Along the lane by the duck-pond a frail gentleman in a broad cape leant into the wind, but could make no progress.
I planted my feet firmly behind him and began to pump, puffing and puffing into the wind. I must have done enough to create a little pocket
carry him as far as the off-licence. He threw a "Thank you lad!" into the wind, and the edge of my ear caught it as it blew past.
Satisfied with my first good deed I looked for other opportunities to pump my bellows in a good cause. In due course I found myself at the
window of the village tea-rooms. Peering in I saw a family of four sitting glum faced around a table of still-full soup bowls. I went in.
They looked up at me dolefully, and then down at my bellows. For a moment a gleam of hope shone in their eyes. "Too hot?" I mouthed.
Eagerly they nodded. A few gentle puffs across the meniscus of their broths and within a minute or two they were tucking in heartily, even
feeding me the odd spoonful by way of thanks. The elder of their group slipped a shiny five new pence piece into my palm, and off I went
with a skip in my gait and my bellows swinging by side. Feeling it was time to return home, I took the back alleys - the jitties as we call
them - and came across a scene that sickened me, as it does even the braves firemen who witness it - a cat up a tree! Even more repulsive
were the attempts of a clan of baying oiks trying to shake the poor cat from the relative security of the limb. As luck would have it I
arrived just in time as a vigorous jerk on the spindly trunk of the tree dislodged the poor beast and flung it into the air.
Without a thought my bellows sprung into position and immediately began a vigorous puffing towards the falling cat. Oh, beautiful bellows!
The cat found itself buoyed on the cushion of air formed by my stolid pumping, and drifted gently to the ground like a leaf.
Of course it landed and scuttled off without so much as a backward look. The oiks, jaws now dangling somewhere near the neck tattoos stared
in disbelief, but a few well-place wheezes from my bellows sent them scampering for their mummies too. I blew across the top of my bellows
like I'd seen the cowboys do in all the films, and skipped off home to help my daddy get the fire going in time to toast the tea-cakes.