Carnal Knowledge by Stan Long

I was nine and my sister seven, and we were walking home from the dam that was a favourite haunt of mine, where moorhens nested and herons fished and where will-o-the-wisps coiled over the marshy ground on damp evenings. Visiting with her grandma with whom I lived, she had asked to go with me to see the dam during that late afternoon in the summer of the war when all the young men had been conscripted and both town and countryside were empty of them.

The road was without traffic, lonely at that time of day, except that I saw a figure, a man approaching from away off, and for no reason it seemed, I was suddenly filled with trepidation. He approached us smiling, stopped to speak, telling us he liked woods and asking if there were any in the vicinity. I told him of a place nearby where there were woods that bordered a stream where an old stone-arched bridge crossed it. Then I told him, that under it was a good place to tickle for trout and that sometimes, I would feel a lively one, wriggling in the dark.

He was very interested and wished I would show him the way, offering money when I demurred and becoming insistent when I excused ourselves by saying it was too late in the day and that we should have been home by now.

And I was old for my nine years and easily guessed his intent, my sister being pretty, blondÂÁhaired, blue-eyed - a doll to be played with - and I knew my sister and by knowing her, knew what he wanted of her, for I saw he was a prisoner-of-war out on furlough from the barracks south of the lighthouse, that he was young, strong and lonely.

And often after that, I wondered that if I had acquiesced, whether he would have raped my sister and then killed me, or both of us - and then again, strange after these many long years, I have wondered if I saved him from himself.

¿¿ 2007-Long

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