Malaysian Mustard

by Chris Oubridge

Chris lives in Cambridge and works full-time as a researcher of molecular biology.  He has written, directed and performed in several well-received one-off sketch shows and spoof pantomimes.  He is interested in writing scripts for stage, film or TV and strongly suspects
that he might have a novel or two in him.  Science fiction and comedy are his favoured genres.

I used to play in the thicket with my friends, Simon and Tim - only ever with one at a time, though, because they didn’t like each other.  The thicket was wasteland and we boys considered it our own.  We built dens, lit little fires, dammed the stream, made bridges, or scooped up grey clay from its bank with our fingers and made pots and figurines.

When we were twelve years old, men came, fenced off the thicket, cut down the trees and started building a house.

When the house was finished, a family moved in: a couple with two daughters.  Emma and Caroline Marshall were thirteen and fourteen, respectively.  They were tall, pretty and excitingly curvy.  Emma had bobbed red hair and freckles on her nose, while Caroline was blond and curly.  We three boys were besotted immediately.

I was invited in to the Marshall’s house before either Simon or Tim.  In the kitchen I was given orange squash while the girls and their mother made ham sandwiches. They were discussing the relative merits of English, German or French mustard.  We didn’t have mustard at home, and I didn’t know anything about it except that it could be hot.  I felt rather ignorant and unimpressive, sitting there quietly with my orange squash.

“Have you ever tried Malaysian mustard?” I asked, choosing an exotic country at random.  “It’s unbelievably hot.”

“I’ve never heard of Malaysian mustard.” Said Caroline.

“Oh, you should try it if you can.”  I said.  “I think you’d like it.”

“It’s strange that we don’t know about it.” Said Mrs Marshall.  “We lived in Malaysia for five years when the girls were small.”

It was such a little lie.