ONCE A MONTH, Mrs Murphy took him on a trip to the other side of town. For these journeys she always made sure Geordie’s shirt and shorts were ironed, and that his face and fingernails were scrubbed clean. She herself was always dressed in a grey raincoat, with a scarf around her head, even when it was hot. After leaving the house, she would take him by the hand and lead him to the bus stop. He was only permitted to take one toy with him at a time, and today he was carrying an aeroplane.
On the bus, they sat at the front, and Mrs Murphy peeled him a mandarin. He’d never seen a mandarin before he’d met Mrs Murphy, or a custard apple, or a grape. Some fruits had skins on them that you could eat as well, others that tasted bad and you had to spit them out. When people wanted to get off the bus they pushed a button on the wall. Geordie counted the traffic lights as the bus zoomed past the familiar car yards and factories and supermarkets. After sixteen intersections, small houses became big houses, with fountains and gardens and statues with no clothes. When he got to twenty, he began counting all over again.
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