A Little Fiction – If…

grammar school
Photo by Mwesigwa Joel on Unsplash

…Staggered through the heavy, creaking iron gates shortly before 9.30 a.m., heavy eyed and stiff limbed. Slight suspicion that tongue may have been sand-papered overnight. What a party it was! Seven straight dandelion and burdocks and two helpings of trifle from those crinkled paper bowls. Also Marmite sandwiches and Cheese & Onion crisps. Sausages on sticks. And red jelly. Sally, the short freckled girl with braces on her teeth and unevenly pierced ears, made a big play for me during Postman’s Knock. It took me a whole two hours to get the jelly out of my ear. Also partial night brace from my left nostril.

Glanced up through designer sun-glasses to meet the stare of “Hoppy” Hopcroft as I stumbled gingerly towards the school entrance. Smiled sweetly at him as he spun away on his black leather-luk swivel chair. Have never been afraid of Hoppy – his school needs me: best runner in school, demon centre forward, ace seam bowler, opening bat and all round sporting hero. Anyway, the photos I took of him and Miss Denby in the senior cloak room have always given me the edge.

Morning break. Sat with Alison Penderford whilst others chased a threadbare tennis ball around to a final score of 47 – 33, twelve grazed knees, one badly sprained ankle, two fat lips (both, strangely, attached to the same face) and an already neurotic playground monitor taken to matron’s office with whistle fatigue. Meanwhile, I took Alison behind the bike sheds and gave her the full benefit of my training as a doctor’s nephew. She promised that I would be first to know if she suffered a sudden attack of breasts.

Sat through geography with Mr. Laing, vainly trying to concentrate on his lecture about watersheds, or anti-cyclones, or something, but unable to wrench my eyes away from his armpits. Has he never heard of anti-perspirant? He must be single. No partner would allow him to sweat like that. Nor wear those socks. Or the purple toupee. Nylon I shouldn’t wonder. Probably attached with Copydex. Like my eyelids.

Shared a table with Linda James at lunch time. She is a sweet girl and almost certain to embark upon puberty at any moment. I do not want to miss it. I gave her one of my luncheon meat fritters and she agreed to notify me the moment there are any developments.

Summoned to Hoppy’s office at 1.30 p.m. He did not mess about. He immediately offered me ten pounds in return for which I was to tell the rest of the class that I had been reduced to tears by his erudite and fearsome wit. I enquired whether this was a bribe and he said `No’. I said, `Good,’ and showed him the photos.

He made a renewed offer of fifty pounds, which I was pleased to accept. We shook hands amicably and I made a mental note to look out the snaps of Hoppy in an extra-curricular romp with Mr. Wynecroft, the school janitor. I intend to email a copy to myself in case of accident. Also if Mr. Wynecroft attempts to show me up in front of Betty Smith again.

Fought with four uncouth youths from 7C during afternoon break, confirming my belief in the efficacy of a brick-loaded satchel. The reason for this unseemly brawl was a loudly intoned slander on my good name. I prefer not to go into detail, but suffice it to say that the question of my sexuality was raised, owing to my preference for spending the games session in the gym with the girls rather than out on the cold and muddy rugby pitch with the boys, none of whom are conversant with the game’s etiquette, preferring on most occasions a swift kick in the groin to the more orthodox flying tackle. Anyway, I am allergic to mud.

Walking home with Valerie, she suggested that we could find something interesting to do in the woods. Blood coursed through my young, unfurred veins at a pressure that made me fear the imminent explosion of my upper cranium. Scenes from ‘Don’t Stop Now’ flashed through my mind. Or was it ‘Toy Story’? I can never be sure, I slept through both. “Hurry up,” lisped Valerie, leading me away to pleasures unknown. Visions of two naked bodies, dappled with late afternoon sunlight as it filtered diaphanously through the autumn-brown leaves; relaxing contentedly entwined, leaning back against the trunk of an ancient oak, sharing a gob-stopper, one colour change apiece…

Picked thirty two conkers and found an old kettle which is probably solid gold. Part of Captain Kidd’s hidden treasure I shouldn’t wonder. Valerie took it home to her dad. I’m sure a skilled craftsman could fashion a new lid, replace the spout and repair the hole in order to return it to its former glory, and Valerie’s dad has just bought a new hammer.

Past dark when I got home. Mum yelled in a muffled sort of way (her teeth were soaking in a mug of bleach) and tried to hit me with a box of fish fingers. I ran upstairs and wedged the bedroom door. Below, I could hear my parents discussing what to watch on Netflix and arguing over the last tin of lager. Attempted to read one of dad’s magazines under the bedclothes by the light of my phone. Perhaps my battery is going, but I couldn’t make out the pictures at all. I could not tell if I was holding them the right way up. Certainly there was something amiss with the man whose beard had slipped, and I wouldn’t want to meet Doreen from Devon on a dark night. Downstairs, not even the gathered might of Fast & Furious 73 could disguise the fact that mum and dad had settled the dispute over the lager and were now setting about the contents of mum’s secret gin bottle (not as strong as it was, since I discovered it). Strange rustlings and giggling as I dropped off to sleep.

Slept fitfully, waiting for the inevitable thump of parents attempting to climb the stairs quietly; faint echoes of whispered abuse; pleas to come out of the bathroom quickly, and the distant twang of the Slumberdown.

Sex, drink and violence, that’s all adults ever think about…