The day the Lone Ranger met his match

By Pam Keevil

Published on 29th June 2020

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(This was commended in Graffiti short story competition in January 2020 and is set in the late 1950s when The Lone Ranger was a popular TV show.)

 

Glen or rather Zorro, the masked Crusader, has moved away. Until the rest of the houses are built on our estate, there is no one to play with and it is just the start of the summer holidays. What can I do? I pull down my mask, put on my hat and tie the string under my chin. I jump down the last three stairs and run into the kitchen.

‘Take that. Kerpwo. Bang. Bang’ I wave and point a finger at the baddy by the kitchen sink.

‘Shhh’ mum says. ‘Don’t make a noise.’

‘Why?’ I say and stand on tip toe to see what she’s looking at.

‘Get away from the window.’

‘Why?’ I say again and rest my chin on the ledge.

‘Because’ mum says and flicks her tea towel at me. I duck. The Lone Ranger isn’t scared of a wet tea towel.

‘Why?’ I risk another question. She isn’t that cross. If she was, she’d have shouted at me.

‘The new neighbours are moving in. I don’t want to seem nosy. I’ll introduce myself later.’

‘Oh’ I say and step backwards. I don’t want new neighbours. I want the old ones back. Glen was my best friend. We were in the same class at school, he always picked me first when he was team leader, I helped him with his sums, especially the takeaways and we played brilliant games. He was Zorro with a cape and I was the Lone Ranger. We ran up and down the alleyways between our two houses pretending the postman was a robber or the bin men were a gang of cattle rustlers. He’d call out ‘Hey Zorro’ and I’d shout ‘Hiyo Silver’ and wave my hat in the air, just like the Lone Ranger did on TV. Except the real Lone Ranger had a horse and the horse would rear up on its back legs before he galloped off to catch more baddies. Zorro’s horse was black. Mine was silver grey, like his name. We had tried riding our bikes and pretending they were horses. It didn’t work. Glen’s bike was a three-wheeler and mine still had stabilisers.  If I let go of the handlebars to wave my hat, I wobbled.

‘The new family have got some children. You’ll soon be friends, won’t you?’ Mum lets the net curtain drop back in place. She reaches for her compact and dabs powder over her nose and cheeks and adds a swipe of red lipstick. She takes off the apron she always wears until dad is due home and runs a comb through her hair. ‘Mustn’t let the side down’ she says.

‘What side?’ Why do grown-ups talk in riddles all the time?

‘Never you mind’ she says and grabs my hand. ‘We’re going to introduce ourselves.’

With me in tow, she opens the side door and walks towards the shared passageway. ‘Cooeee’ she calls. ‘Anyone home?’

‘You know they are.’

‘Shhh. Don’t be cheeky.’

A scooter is parked under the covered shelter at the back of their house. Glen and I had spent hours there making dens with the clothes horse or chalking noughts and crosses on the wall. This is a proper scooter and leaning over it is a boy. He is ancient.

‘Hallo?’ mum says.

The boy looks up. He has a grease mark on his chin and his hair is slicked back. ‘Visitor for you’ he calls, picks up a spanner and twists something on the side of the machine.

A woman in a flowered apron appears at the back door. ‘Yes?’

‘We’re neighbours’ mum says. ‘I just thought I’d pop over to see if there was anything you needed?’

‘Oh come in. We’re all at sixes and sevens here but you’re welcome to a cup of tea and a biscuit. If I can find the tin. Is this your little boy?’ she says.

‘Yes. Mark is seven,’

‘Just the same age as my youngest.’

I cross my fingers. Could it be a new friend as good as Glen?’ At that moment a sullen faced girl appears at her mother’s side. She glares at me and sticks her tongue out. I daren’t do anything back. She is hidden. I am in full view and any rudeness like that will mean big trouble when dad gets home.

‘This is Susan. Susan, you’ve got a new little friend.’ The woman turns to me. ‘Go into the garden and play, like good children.’

Susan swaggers off and I follow. What games do girls like? Dolls? Dressing up? Yuck. I am stuck.

Susan points. ‘You can sit in the wheel barrow with me, if you like?’

Is that what girls do? Sit in a wheel barrow? I glance back at mum. She waggles her hand as if she is shooing me away.

I climb into the wheel barrow and we sit there.

‘Why are you dressed like that?’ she says.

I look down at my cowboy outfit; check shirt, proper chaps tied round my legs and spurs. ‘I’m The Lone Ranger.’

‘You haven’t got a horse’ Susan says.

‘I know.’

‘You can pretend.’

‘How?’

She climbs out of the wheelbarrow. ‘Like this.’ She opens the shed door. Inside are some canes. She picks one and tucks it under her arm. She skips, lifting one leg higher than the other and taps her leg with the cane. ‘Giddy up’ she says and continues round the lawn. She holds out a cane for me. I take it.

‘Go on, slap it against your leg.’ Susan demonstrates again.

I copy. ‘Ouch’ I yelp.

‘Silly. Don’t hit so hard.’

I tap more gently this time. That’s better and I follow her round the garden. If I blot out the shirts hanging on Mrs Smith’s washing line, the Ford Anglia propped on a pile of bricks because Mr Andrews is changing the wheel and the pong of malt from the factory on the other side of the town, I am riding my horse across the plains and off for another adventure. ‘Hiyo Silver’ I call and with the other hand I wave my hat in the air. I am the Lone Ranger.

 

***

 

‘What are you shouting about?’ A head pops through the trapdoor.

‘Sorry’ I didn’t know I was’ I say and drop the mask back into the case. ‘Can’t understand why mum kept all this’ I point to the boxes piled up under the eaves.

‘Memories’ Susan says. ‘Like us with all those Star Wars models. The kids don’t want them anymore and we could sell them on Ebay. We don’t. Stuff like that brings it all back. The sights, the smells.’

She’s right. I lift the mask to my face and it’s Sunday morning. The roast chicken is in the oven with the potatoes and an apple pie. Or it’s Monday with the steam from the old water heater filling the kitchen.

She moves away from the trapdoor. ‘Shift yourself or we’ll be late for the cinema.’

‘Do you think I could interest our two in the Lone Ranger?’ I say.

Susan’s head reappears. ‘I doubt it. They’re more into the Marvel Avengers. Which is why we need to leave in the next few minutes. The last thing they want is to miss the start because Granddad was mooning on about his past glories.’

Her voice softens. ‘Every generation has to find their own superheroes.’ She winks. ‘The Lone Ranger was good enough for me.’ I hear her clatter down the ladder.

She’s right but she’s wrong too. There’ll never be another hero like the Lone Ranger. ‘Hiyo Silver’ I say and drop the mask back into the case.

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