Extract from 'Is' - Chapter 8

Opposite it was a really enormous green steam engine. It was pretty impressive I'll give it that. The wheels alone were much taller than me.

"'Caerphilly Castle'," said Isabel as she came and stood beside me.

"Yes, I know," I replied. "It's got the name there, over the wheel."

"Beautiful isn't it?" continued Is and she seemed quite lost for a second.

"Well, I wouldn't go that far." I laughed. "It's only a steam engine."

"No, you're wrong there, Robert." was all she replied.

It was a funny thing with Isabel. If it had been Mr Phillips or J.C.B. waxing lyrical over a huge lump of metal I'd have probably nodded off. But with Is, I found myself drawn in. She somehow made me see things differently. Perhaps it was because she had such a direct way of speaking, making what she said seem so much more important.

I noticed she almost always looked straight at you when she was speaking too. Most people look away every now and then. Is didn't. She watched your face intently with her dark brown eyes. It could be very disconcerting.

"It's from the Great Western Railway."

"I know that too." I replied, trying hard not to sound as smug as Clever Trevor had. "It says it there on that truck."

"Tender." she corrected me. It's called a tender."

"Tender, then."

I ran my hand along one of the solid steel bars (connecting rods, so Is informed me) that joined together the enormous wheels we were standing next to.

"Anyway," I conceded, "I suppose it's more interesting looking than the average InterCity train. Seems a lot bigger than a modern train too."

"No, it's not. It's just that you don't usually see trains from this angle. You're normally on the platform."

"I suppose you're right. I never thought of that." I said while continuing to run my hand over the metal.

Then I realised that the whole surface had been covered with grease. My hand was disgusting. "Oh, yuk, it's all greasy!" I moaned, turning round as I spoke. "Just look at my hand."

But Is wasn't behind me as I thought. Instead I found myself staring into the beaming face of Kevin Ryder.

"Your hand's all dirty." he said, stating the obvious.

"I know."

"That's a steam engine, that is." he continued.

"No? Really?" I answered as if surprised. "Is that what it is? You amaze me Kevin. I thought it was a fire engine."

This remark took a while to permeate the deep recesses of his skull of course. But finally he managed to set his razor-sharp brain to work on it.

"No, don't be daft!" He said at last. "Can't be. Fire engines are red! Don't you know nothing Morgan?"


'Is' by Derek Webb is published by Troll Carnival and available from your local bookshop as well as from Amazon  Waterstones or Gwales