TWILLINGTON'S TIP


1,420 words


As soon as he saw the TWILLINGTON TOWN COUNCIL coat of arms Colin knew what the envelope contained. He opened the letter and read, feeling a pang of annoyance at the "Dear Master ...” After all, he was almost fourteen and at least warranted Mr. If they had addressed his friend Amy as "Miss" she would have set off stink bombs at every lamppost around the town hall, and she was only eleven. Amy was a "MS" in Doc Martins.

Perhaps Colin should have told her what he had been up to, but didn't like to admit that pacifism wasn't working.

The letter went on to condescendingly explain that Twillington created a lot of rubbish and it had to be dumped somewhere. So, where better than on the site of a derelict factory, safely tucked out of view from the gleaming new shopping centre with its smartly paved pedestrianised thoroughfares? The tip couldn't even be seen from the multi-storey car park so, “perhaps Master Colin Arnatt could suggest a better location?" Yes, Colin could. It involved demolishing the town hall while several council officers were still inside it.

The next time he stood on the hill overlooking the tip with Amy, he told her about his one boy campaign. She only laughed. Colin hardly expected her to do anything else. She always made him feel such a wimp when he tried to do the right thing.

Through the valley of rubbish below trickled an incongruously bright stream. It flowed on through Twillington, tastefully wending its way about the new shopping centre in a white stone conduit overhung by plants.

Feeling defeated, Colin moaned on about the vandalism of local government. Amy had stopped listening to him and was trying work out where the stream rose from. The shell of the Victorian factory was still standing and, hanging from an outer wall, were the rotting remains of a water wheel. The stream was now far too shallow to turn it. Further along the valley was a massive wall of brick and crumbling concrete in the hillside which looked as though it was trying to prevent the resident troll from bursting out.

Amy went down to the edge of the tip to pick up a sharp metal rod, and then strode off along the valley to the wall. Colin could tell by the determination in her stride that she had vandalism in mind. He dutifully bounded after her, wondering how she managed to negotiate the bricks littering the derelict factory site without snapping her ankles. It must have been the self defence classes.

The stench from the tip was overpowering enough to knock the scavenging gulls out of the sky. Holding a handkerchief over his nose as he went round the mounds of rotting rubbish, he climbed up the wall to reach Amy who was now standing on top of it.

Colin looked down at the stream as it trickled from an ancient pipe in the hillside. "Didn't know this is where the water came from? This wall must be sealing up an old tunnel. Could've been a railway track."

Amy pointed back to the derelict water wheel hanging from the old factory wall. "Or to work that."

"Canal?"

"Not enough water pressure." Amy prized away some bricks from the wall and they tumbled into the detritus filling the gully below.

Several rats scurried for cover.

"Don't do that! It can't be safe as it is."

Knowing Colin was more worried by rats than a few stray bricks, Amy turned her attention to the hillside. She randomly jabbed her metal probe into the ground. Small gushes of water flowed out.

"Jacob's Cave must be down there," Colin calculated. "My Dad showed me an entrance to it on the other side of this hill. He said that his great grandparents used to have picnics down there before it flooded. Every year their chapel arranged this outing for the congregation."

Amy watched the water trickling out of the hillside. "Need to wear flippers now."

Colin could tell by his friend's expression that she was plotting something he'd rather not know about.

"Let's go home now," he said firmly.

Amy continued to think. "You're really upset about this tip aren't you." It wasn't a question.

He answered it nevertheless. "Well of course I am. Look what's happened to the wildlife. There used to be voles and frogs and kestrels here only a couple of years ago, now there're only rats and seagulls, and that bad smell."

"Yeah, shame that," agreed Amy. "Let's go then."

Colin was too anxious to leave to wonder why she decided to do as he asked. Amy never did anything he asked. It was a point of honour. So he didn't turn round to see what she was doing and went back through the derelict factory and round the tip.

Sure that Colin was too far away to see what she was doing, Amy drove her metal spike deep into the crumbling bricks of the wall with several blows from a rock. Colin heard, but didn't want to know what she was up to. That way detention, severe reprimands, and nightmares lay.

"That should do it," Amy muttered to herself. She could calculate as well, albeit more instinctively.

As water started to push its way through the crack she had made in the wall she bounded after Colin.

He was relieved that she had decided to follow him after all and felt confident to ask when she caught up, "What did you just do?" without fear of a terrible answer.

Just digging this out." Amy held up a piece of flint. "Could put a good edge on that."

"You know what your dad said he'd do if he caught you with anything sharp again so why bother to dig it out?"

"That concrete's almost eroded away."

"Then why make it worse?"

Amy laughed. "Come on, Mum says you're invited to our barbecue this evening. Bring that letter with you; she'll want to see it."

"Well, she's worried about green issues as well, isn't she," Colin gave his friend a stern glance, "unlike some people whose only interest in life is fried food."

Amy tossed the flint away. "Well excuse me for liking chip sandwiches."

It was almost midnight. Barbecue fumes still scented the air, and the new shopping centre was now empty as the last supermarket shutter came down.

Colin half woke at the sound of clattering, thought it was the washing machine, and went back to sleep, not awake enough to wonder why his father would be doing the laundry in the middle of the night.

A short while before the ancient brick wall on the hillside near the derelict factory had crumbled under the pressure of the water it held back. Those few bricks Amy had loosened became holes, then chasms...

Soon a torrent of water poured into the valley, slammed into the reeking tip and swept its contents through the town centre. No longer contained by the polished stone conduit that had guided it on its tasteful way, the river picked up vehicles in the lower levels of the car park and clattered them against each other. The wall of water continued to push the rancid rubbish through the gleaming shopping centre and into the main street where it deposited much of its load on the steps of Twillington Town Hall, as well as flooding the basement from where council tax demands were issued.

A lone security guard and his dog had to run too hard to call for help. When reinforcements eventually did arrive, all the fire service could do was watch the town's garbage slop against their water tenders and corporation flower tubs and litter bins bob about like corks in the filthy water.

Then came the rats.

In sinuous formation, they swarmed from the water and up drainpipes, into gutters, lofts, offices, shops, and even banks. The council's pest control officer couldn't cope and had to call in private experts to help evict them.

Having found its natural level, the river that once drove a Victorian factory water wheel lay contentedly on its reclaimed flood plain, the detritus on its surface alive with flies. It couldn't seep away because the ground had been concreted over.

Amongst the letters stored in the town hall's basement, one mockingly floated on the water's surface.

It began,

"Dear Sir or Madam,

I would respectfully like to draw your attention the damage caused to the environment by the new council tip..."


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