“Your head’s full of rocks,” Davy’s mother shouted after him as he hurtled down the track on his bicycle, dust clouding up behind him. She shook her head.

Round the corner, Davy stopped and got off his bike. He walked down the path towards the river, the velvet bag in his hand. When Grandad had given him the bag, Davy had found Grandad’s football and soldier medals inside. But now the medals were safe in Davy’s desk drawer and the river pebbles were in the bag.

“They might be rubbish to her but to me they’re treasure,” he said to himself. He sat on the stony beach and, one by one, took the pebbles out of the bag. He held them in his hand and looked at them one last time. Then, wiping tears from his face with river water, he walked back towards his bicycle, towards home.

The day Liam dove into the river

They still talk about the day Liam dove into the river, stayed down and then came up again, blood streaming down his face. They still talk about his da and his uncle jumping in together and his da reaching him and pulling him to the shore and carrying him across the field to the road and getting a ride to the hospital and Liam being stitched up and sent home and being kept off school for a week. They still talk about him waking up and asking for his da and then his uncle. They still talk about his uncle.

Published on 27 June 2015

Walking, watching, the Water of Leith

A tall man in a splashed grey t-shirt taps a stick on his leg. A black-and-white patched dog looks pointedly into the distance away from him.

Ginger toddler twins sleep side by side in a double buggy. Finally silent, they are holding hands. Their pale parents look close to tears. Their arms hang heavy.

Four tan, brown, tan, brown dogs weave leads from two hands, over and under and over and under. The owner’s look says she is too old for this. She pulls them back and puffs out her cheeks.

A race of clouds skit, one by one, across the face of the sun. The girl’s father pulls his pullover on. She drops her ball and her face crumples. The ball rolls towards the river, picking up speed, and her father stoop dives to save it.

The patchwork dog snatches a narrow-eyed glance at the man in the t-shirt, at his stick, then fixes the distance again, shoulders pinched.

Happy loud tourists with sunglasses, good hair and warm padded jackets tumble laughing down the green mesh metal steps. Some must be couples, but it is not clear who is not.

Finally, finally, the stick whirls over the waiting dog’s head and splashes down in the river, just beyond a brief whirlpool. A yelp, one would guess of joy, and the dog is springs and tail and pointed ears and bouncing.

I smile vaguely to myself and vaguely at other people, pick up my bags and walk on. There is the sound of a dog hitting water.