Paper Round


I wake up and listen to the ticking of the alarm clock for thirty seconds or so. It’s set to go off at six but I might as well get up now, while I’m awake. I’ll get there early. My hand reaches for the black plastic bar on the top of the clock and presses it down, cancelling the alarm.

I pull on my clothes, aware of my brother sleeping in his bed on the other side of the room. I quietly open the door, stepping out on to the landing. I sense there is something different about this morning, but I put it to the back of my mind as I head for the kitchen.

A bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee later and I am backing my bike out of the greenhouse cum conservatory, easing the wide ‘cow horn’ handlebars through the door. Seconds later I am cycling along the road - empty of traffic at such an early hour - that will lead me down a steep hill into the town centre and to my paper shop.

The paper round is the first proper job I’ve had. It started five months ago when my Mum asked our newsagent if he had any rounds available. It took a few weeks but sure enough one came up and I became one of fifteen paperboys at the Allhallend Newsagency. My round is one of the smaller ones; measured in newspapers it is fifteen Sun, twelve Mirror, five Star, three Express, two Mail, and a Telegraph. The round is a long way from the shop, back up the steep hill to the estate at the very top of town. Every Saturday I get £2.80 for seven days work. A few months on, when the paperboy on the adjacent round quits, his £2.80 round is joined with mine. That will give me the top wage in the shop: £4.50. 

As I swoop down the empty roads towards the shop, I get the feeling, again, that something isn’t quite right. I don’t know what it is, and I’m nearly there now, so I forget about it.

I am the first to arrive. The shop is shut, but that’s usual - it must be before quarter past six. I park my bike and haul myself up on to the telephone exchange, to wait opposite the shop.

A while later and no-one else has arrived. That’s strange, I think. And now I know what’s different about this morning; the streetlights are on. I’m not used to the electric orange glow this early in the morning. What time is it? I think, noticing that the sky is as dark as ever. Usually at this time in the morning I can sense a change in the darkness, a less-deep purple heralding morning.

The church clock is just around the corner. I pick up my bike and pedal round, already aware of the truth of the situation. The clock says one fifteen. One fifteen in the morning. Shit.

I push my bike back up the hill, cycling when the steepness lightens. It takes me about ten minutes to get home. I put my bike back into the conservatory and, with minimal noise, let myself back into the front door. In the fuggy bedroom my brother is still sleeping. I undress in the quarter-light of the half-open door, then turn off the landing light, shut the door, and slip back into bed.

And then I remember to reset the alarm. I wouldn’t want to over-sleep.




February 2008