It wasn’t fair. The boys in his patrol would be expecting him, and there was a big competition this evening. Last week their scout leader had told them how important this meeting would be, and the district commissioner was coming.
It wasn’t clear just what he had done wrong: Perhaps he should have offered to wash up after tea. Perhaps he should have got on with his homework as soon as he had arrived home from school. Perhaps he should not have stood up for his sisters when Mum lost her temper with them. At six o’clock she had announced that he was grounded; he was not going to scouts this evening.
It was better, in his room, alone, without his sisters to ask questions. Dad was out somewhere so he couldn’t go and try to persuade him. On the other side of his room his wardrobe door was open and, just inside, he could see the uniform he should have been wearing, now, and pulling on his coat and setting off up the road.
First of all, he felt for the window latch behind the curtain, turned it halfway to the right then nudged the window to make sure that it would open. Then there was his uniform which he lifted down from the wardrobe and laid across his bed, where he would have put it if his mother had not imposed her ban on scouts this week.
At scouts they had played a game. One of them would sit on the floor, blindfolded. The others then had to approach him, as quietly as possible. If they gave themselves away by making sufficient noise for him to hear, and he pointed at one of them, that person was out and took his place.
He approached the door to his bedroom as stealthily as he could and turned the handle ever so ever so carefully. For a moment the door refused to budge and he had to give it the slightest of jerks. Out in the hall there was silence. From upstairs there came the light chatter of his sisters and from the kitchen, the sound of their mother’s favourite radio programme.
In seconds he had changed and climbed through the window. In minutes, slightly out of breath, he was arriving at the scout headquarters, catching up with the stragglers. The first item of the evening was the competition. There was not enough space in the main room and so he was told to take his patrol out to the back hall. Each patrol was given several lengths of rope; in twenty minutes they had to demonstrate as many knots as they could tie.
They had managed six knots when one of his friends, a scout from another patrol, came through from the main room and pulled the door shut behind him. The boy looked at him.
“Your mum’s out there. Says you’ve got to go home with her, straight away.”
“That’s all right. Just tell her you can’t find me.” There was a rear door to the hall and the others saw him step outside.
Ten minutes later he was back. Inside the main room there was no sign of his mother and he went back to the knots; they now had over twenty to display and there was a good chance that they would win the competition.
Later that evening he let himself into the house through the back door. His father was working at the dining room table and his mother was sitting upright in her favourite chair reading something. His father spoke.
“Late tonight. How did you get on?”
“Oh, we won, thanks.”
“Good.” His father paused and the boy wondered what might be coming next. “You’d best say goodnight then, and get off to bed – school tomorrow.”
Should the boy have been grounded?
Do you think his father knew what had gone on?