John Summers

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The Raging Summer

Extract from Chapter 15 Ė Like Whippets True to Form

It was a time when I walked on the mountain tops and wondered which way I would run myself. Dry blue days they were, when the sky lifted with larks and meadow-pippits, rising on the hot air that warmed off the breast of the mountain, and the clover growing in the mountain turf sounded all sugared with bees.

Smells of wimberries clouded lightly with the bloom of summer ripeness, hiding themselves from the sun in the hot limestone rocks at the very tops of the mountains.

Swarfs of tough tussocky grass stirring on the mountain where I lay on my face in it and smelt the earth, and wondered on the blue bowl of the sky that was stirred by the wheat-thick spires of grass piled before my face. And as I lay and read the Oxford Book of English Verse, it was so quiet on the mountain top that a dog-fox who thought the mountain belonged only to him and his kind, came and sat not six feet from me. Both of us looked down to the valley and watched the insect people walk in the streets and come out on to the bailey of Colliers Row, or stand queueing for the midday Red and White over to Dowlais Top and across to Merthyr.

Then the hot breeze turned over the page in my open book and the dog-fox snapped round his muzzle in one long silent stare of amazement to see me here with him. We looked deep into each otherís eyes, the dog-foxís tail stirring behind him fretfully, and our eyes fusing in one burning question till the fox leapt sideways in one fire-cracker jump, all four feet in the air, and tail-over-head hurled himself away somewhere down the mountain, deep in the rustling grasses. And I went down the mountain by the sheeptrack too; both of us running foxes and facing into the summer wind.

I looked down into the valley.

There would be no Mikhail Sholokov born from here: no And Quiet Flows the Don. From a place like this there would only be something always slightly comic; no grandeur. A comical waste and a folly. No, no terrible beauty was here, or if it was coming, it was yet to be born.

The crisp sheets of paper I was piling up, covered with the blacklead-pencilled jottings of those first words I was writing, were like crisp banknotes, themselves to be used in my bid for power. The power to move menís hearts and their minds.

To show that the real power was here just the same: the power to grip menís minds, to change them, to change the world through them. Readers, men and women one had never met, that one would never even need to meet.

To write books. Just words. So that afterwards the reader would feel, yes, that it had all happened to him and to her. Then each book would no longer belong to me but belong to them too and they would, with even more than my own small determination, fight for it and protect it because it was for ever theirs now.

Small wonder why those old High Authorities had fought like the devil to throw out the Parliamentary Act which provided us workers with education. They knew well enough that they were playing with fire and that in those flames they would be forging people like me...

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