“It brightens” said Billy, scrambling through the hole in the fence after his small companion. “Whad’ya mean?”, she responded in her gruff voice.
Billy couldn’t think of a better way to describe what he had seen whilst watching some bigger boys a few days ago. “It brightens”, he said again. Mo started off down the road, clutching their latest ‘treasure’ tightly against her chest. Billy followed. It was always like that, Mo leading and Billy following, and it usually led into trouble. “You’re not to play with that Mo Allen”, his mother had said, but Billy liked playing with her, she was never short of ideas when it came to things to do.
As they went in through the park gates Mo repeated her question: “Whad’ya mean, it brightens?” “I’ll show you”, offered Billy, stretching out his hand. Mo turned away, keeping the precious bag out of his reach. Billy shrugged his shoulders. He felt quite important. It wasn’t often he knew something that Mo didn’t.
Curiosity got the better of her. “All right”, she said, putting the bag on the ground. “Show me.” Billy took a box of matches from his pocket. Carefully he undid the top of the bag and poured a little pile of white powder onto the grass then, striking the match, he dropped it onto the powder and stepped back. There was a flash, a loud ‘pop’ and the wonderful smell of gunpowder, as the little plume of smoke arose. Mo was delighted. “Do it again”, she urged. Billy obliged.
“It’s just like at the pictures”, Mo exclaimed, her eyes sparkling, “They pour the powder along the ground, then set light to it and hide behind a rock until it goes bang”. Billy nodded. He liked cowboy films too. “Come on then” Mo said, excitedly. “Let’s do it!” Picking up the bag, they walked slowly round the park in a large circle, carefully trickling the white powder in a trail behind them, until they were back where they had started. Mo put the bag of powder down, and folded her arms across her chest proudly. She was pleased with her efforts. Billy lit another match, dropped it and they ran behind their imaginary rock. To their delight, the flame began creeping along the ground.
They watched with baited breath as the little flame travelled around the grass, drawing nearer and nearer. There was an almighty BANG! Smoke bellowed up and Mo and Billy stood frozen to the spot. Amazingly unscathed, but momentarily blinded by the huge flash, and with ears ringing from the loud bang, Mo said “Oh boy! That was a big explosion!” In her childish ignorance she had left the bag, with the remaining gunpowder, on the ground next to the trail. Doors began to open and people came running from the houses opposite. The clanging of bells could be heard, growing louder and louder until a large, red fire engine was seen speeding down the street, the fireman jumping off, ready for action even before it had come to a complete standstill.
It wasn’t long before a policeman appeared on the scene and Billy found himself spilling the beans about how they came upon the bag of gunpowder. He told them about the hole in the fence down the road, near to the notice that neither Mo or Billy could read, that said: “Ministry of Defence – Keep Out”. Not that they would have taken any notice if they had been able to read it. He didn’t look at Mo. He knew she would be furious with him because now the hole would be mended and their latest playground, with all its treasures, lost to them.
The policeman gave them a stern lecture about the dangers lurking beyond that fence and then escorted them home, suggesting to their mothers that, in future, they might like to keep a closer eye on their offspring. After he had gone, Mo got a beating but she didn’t cry. She was used to it and, anyway, it had been worth it.
It certainly had brightened!