"Come on! Shoot!" Les Hughes yelled. He was talking
to Billy Kent who dribbled back and forth in front of the goal
that was marked by a hazelnut bush and a thick branch. Les was
the goalie in a soccer club and wanted to be trained by Billy.
Billy was a bit smaller and younger than Les and usually had to
bend to Les' will. Both lived on Land Street in Kensington in
houses right across from each other. They knew each other for
quite a while, went to kindergarten together and now played soccer
in the yard because it was pretty much the only thing to do on
an afternoon without school and because it was sort of fun too.
"Come on!" Les urged again. Billy arranged the shot
and kicked. The ball touched bottom just before the goalie and
bounced to the right on the uneven ground so that Les was beat.
He reluctantly ran after the ball.
The next shot he caught with a dive and so the game went on for
quite some time until Billy finally said that he was thirsty and
that he could use a break and a soda. They decided to go Les'
apartment for a refreshment.
"What would you like?" asked Les. "Oh, I'd like
a syrup." After Les had mixed the drinks the two went to
his room to listen to music.
"Wow! How refreshing!" Billy exclaimed, having made
himself comfortable on the bed. They listened to the music until
Les threw a pillow at Billy. He counter-attacked right away and
a battle ensued. Dust and feathers flew. Suddenly Les grabbed
Billy and put him in a headlock but his laughing showed that he
was just kidding. Billy managed to free himself and jumped over
to the closet. "Hey, catch!" he yelled and threw a tennis
ball at Les. After another brawl Les suggested to go play with
the tennis ball. "Cool", said Billy enthusiastically
and threw the ball out the window where it landed on the street.
Les locked the apartment door and they ran downstairs. They threw
the ball at each other from as far apart as possible and tried
to catch it with one hand. Once, Les' throw was off and the ball
disappeared in the thickness of a tree. Unfortunately it also
got stuck between two branches about halfway up the tree.
The only thing they achieved by throwing stones at it was that
the caretaker came running, yelling and waving his arms in the
air. The scolding spoiled their fun. After the caretaker had left,
Les climbed up on the tree and retrieved the tennis ball not without
a struggle. Then they continued to play. This time they tried
to throw the ball as high up and far as possible. Les was first.
He threw with great effort. The ball described an arch and flew
through a window on the second floor that happened to be open.
Luckily, it was the apartment of the Kents and they went to the
house right away to get the ball. The door was locked. Billy's
mother therefore was not home and he had to get the keys out.
They found the ball in the living room where it almost had knocked
over a vase. "By the way, do you have a second key to the
apartment door?" asked Les. "Yes, it's in the hallway
on the board. Why?" Billy replied. "Oh, never mind."
"Wait a second, I have to pee real quick", Billy said.
Just as soon as Billy had closed the bathroom door, Les went to
the board with the keys and took the apartment key. He walked
around the apartment and finally found a hiding place for it:
He put the key underneath a wall thermometer and adjusted everything
neatly again. As Billy came out of the bathroom, Les was halfway
through with his prank but the most important thing, snatching
Billy's key, was yet ahead. He was sure he wouldn't get upset
over a little prank among friends. "Hey," Billy shouted
from his room, "are we going outside again?" He already
had the key in his hand when Les entered the room. "Look,
out there," Les distracted Billy and snatched the key in
an instant and ran to the apartment door. As Billy stepped into
the hallway and wanted to throw the tennis ball to Les, the key
turned in the lock - on the outside. "Les, what are you doing?
Open up!" Billy begged and rattled the door knob. "No,
no, you stay here, nice and easy, and I am now going away. I have
some errands to run," mocked Les frantically. "Just
go," Billy replied relaxed and thought of the second key
on the board. As he went back through the hallway he saw a note
from his mother next to the phone. It said that she wouldn't be
home until about 8:45pm; about 5 hours from now.
He was certain that his Dad had put the key on the board at lunch
but now the key wasn't there. Billy saw Les walk across the street.
Billy thought he would be back shortly and would release him.
But when he saw him ride away on his bicycle, his hope vanished
and he didn't think his friend was so funny anymore. He started
searching for the key seriously now. He checked under the carpets,
looked through the closets and dug through the garbage cans but
no key appeared. He continued his search and after almost an hour
he had put the whole apartment upside down. Almost the whole,
since he still hadn't found the key. Slowly he started to worry.
His Dad would not come home today at all. He would have to wait
until his Mom came back. The windows were too high to jump. The
other tenants weren't home yet at that time either. He thought
of the telephone. He would call the caretaker and he would have
an extra key. His mind at ease he picked up the receiver but there
was only white noise. The phone was dead. Even if this happened
here every once in a while, it was very disturbing for Billy.
As a last resort he went to check the bathroom. He opened the
cover of the toilet's water tank; put it right back. No way the
key would be here since he was in here when Les hid the key. Or,
did Les take the key with him? he wondered. Billy suddenly sniffed
the air because it smelled like smoke that seemed to come from
"Do you understand, dear reader, it smelled of smoke in the
He followed the smell and discovered thick clouds of smoke rolling
in and coming from the kitchen. He froze. He was locked in, the
phone was dead, no other people were in the house, the windows
were too high up and there was a fire. The joke seemed to become
a serious matter. The kitchen looked like a scary place; the stove
was glowing red - (Mrs. Kent forgot to turn it off) - and from
there flames shot in all directions. The refrigerator was already
on fire and the spice rack too. The walls were partially covered
with wood and were already black and the fire was spreading. Now
the floor was burning too. Billy panicked. He tried to carry water
from the bathroom to the kitchen with his bare hands which, of
course, was futile.
After fifteen minutes the fire had taken over the hallway and
the kitchen was burned out. Billy was hoping that someone on the
outside would see the fire and call for help. He knew that he
had to find a container to hold water in order to fight the fire.
After a desperate search he found a can of paint thinner in the
closet. He had to dump the thinner first. In his hurry he poured
almost all the contents over his clothes. He courageously ran
through the flames to get water in the bathroom. A horrible, painful,
scared scream mixed with the crackling of the fire. Billy was
brightly lit and glowing flashes of light extended from him: he
was on fire. He threw his arms and legs around wildly. But that
was exactly the wrong thing to do as it kindled the fire even
more. He tried to make it to the door. Just in front of it he
came to a stop and tumbled against the wall. A thermometer crashed
to the floor. There was a metallic sound.
Even though Billy Kent was dead he didn't stop burning. The flames
ate his hair, his clothes and skin was still glowing and it stank
Only coals were left for the fire department to fight and all
they could do was retrieve a completely charcoaled body. At key
was found next to the body and everybody wondered why he hadn't
used it to get outside. After all, it was the apartment key. Everybody
was silent from the shock.
That was the exact moment that Les Hughes turned into Land Street
on his bicycle to free his buddy Billy. He saw the crowd and the
remains of the house where the Kents lived but he couldn't or
didn't want to grasp what had happened and helplessly turned away.
In a yard a few houses down, Les spotted another kid called Bert.
"Hey, Bert!" Les yelled, "wanna play soccer?"
Copyright © October 1980, Wasty, No Key For The Door
German title: Bubenstreich
Reading time: approx. 8 minutes
Last updated February 12, 2001 by Martin Mathis, e-mail lastbandit.com