An Extract From Chapter 2. Tonto Was a Woman
They’d met, George and Anna, when they were nine years old. George’s family had not long moved to a house four doors down from Anna’s family home. Two days after arriving George took her beloved yellow bicycle out of the garage while her mother, a social worker, and father, a maths teacher, unpacked. She cycled to the end of the road, turned and cycled back. Three times she did this and on the third return journey she met Anna riding an identical yellow bike. They stopped. Stared at one another. For a sliver of a moment it could have gone either way – friends or enemies. They chose friends. Yellow bikes were all it took. In days they’d formed a gang. They called it the Two Yellows (it was a small gang) and it was dedicated to helping the poor and needy, world peace and the downfall of Dorothy Pringle, who lived in the next street, had blonde curly hair, pink socks, always did her homework and always got ten out of ten for the arithmetic.
Over fifty years later the Two Yellows were still talking, reminiscing, laughing, opining on the ways of the world and squirming with embarrassment at their youthful stupidity. Anna envied George one thing – her name. It wasn’t just that George was called George. She’d been named after a specific George – one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. ‘I want to be called after someone from a book,’ Anna had said to her parents. They’d looked bewildered and shrugged. They weren’t readers.
‘Breck from Kidnapped. That would have been excellent. Breck after Alan Breck, you know.’ They didn’t. ‘Or Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. You could have called me that.’
Well, they might have if they’d heard of the book, but they hadn’t. Besides, they associated the word ‘scout’ with a boy’s organisation and Baden-Powell and campfires and woggles. It didn’t seem like an odd name for a girl, it seemed like an odd name for anybody. But then Anna was a difficult child. She questioned everything – the way her mother made soup, why she had to go to Sunday School, indeed why she had to go to school at all, the clothes they bought her, the food they ate. Sometimes they wondered if they’d been handed the wrong baby.
George envied Anna one thing – her fearlessness.
It was always Anna who led the pair in adventures and mischief. She organised their apple scrumping afternoons, encouraged their shoplifting trips to Woolworths, where they took pencils and sweets from the pick’n’mix. She brought cigarettes to their secret place behind her dad’s garden shed. George was the one who smoothed troubled waters when they got into trouble. She stopped Anna eating too many stolen apples. ‘Diarrhoea,’ she warned. In time, she pointed out the dangers of smoking. She curtailed her cider intake so she could keep Anna upright and onto a night bus home. But sometimes she couldn’t stop Anna overdoing things.
Anna wanted to be a poet, a vet, a nun (it wasn’t a God thing, she briefly fancied she’d look cool in the outfit) or an actress. By the time she was fourteen the poet ambition was winning. She favoured rhyming verse. Her favourite words were ‘whisper’, ‘chrysanthemum’, ‘joyous’ and ‘verdant’. She hadn’t managed to put any of these in a poem. Her masterpiece to date was ‘The Tonto Syndrome’. Tonto was her hero, a gentle misunderstood man. She felt the Lone Ranger was mean to him. He had the shiny white horse and the silver bullets and never shared. And at the end of every episode someone always asked, ‘Who was that masked man?’ Nobody wondered, ‘Who was that mild-mannered trustworthy Indian fellow?’
It just wasn’t fair.
By Isla Dewar
Paperback | Pub: 05 Jul 2018
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