A story of bullying at school... and Pete and Cliff's approach to dealing with it
|Pete awoke at 08:00. He’d slept late. Normally his mother would wake him at 07:30. He didn’t have to leave for school until 08:30 so he had a little time yet. As he lay there, he could hear the muffled sounds of what appeared to be an argument downstairs.
His parents rarely argued and, from what he could make out, they both seemed to be arguing with Kenny. This was rarer still.
Kenny was eighteen and could do no wrong in their eyes. They had a point. He had done well in school – got ‘A’ passes right across the board – and was now prepping for university. On top of that, he was a really nice guy.
Pete felt a little left out of things. It was Kenny this and Kenny that… he looked at the clock by his bed. 08:15. Even now they were neglecting him to focus on Kenny. He decided to wait for his mother no longer and get himself up.
‘Gonna be late because of her!’ he muttered as he pulled his trousers on. He hurried into the bathroom and brushed his teeth. From there, the voices were a little clearer.
'When I think of all the work you did studying…. All the plans you had…' his mother was saying.
'Plans you had, you mean!' Kenny had snapped back! That wasn’t like him.
'Don’t you speak to your mother like that!' That was Dad being Sir Galahad
'I mean… the army of all things!' His mother continued.
Pete stopped brushing. The army?? Kenny is joining the army?
He quickly put on the shirt he had worn yesterday and was fixing his tie into something like a tie knot as he came into the kitchen. He snatched a slice of toast from the table and held it in his mouth as he crammed books into his school bag.
‘Gig I hear Keggy’s goinin ne arny?’ he said with the toast still in his mouth.
‘You’re going to be late! And don’t talk with your mouth full!’ his mother snapped.
‘Whose fault is that?’ Pete protested, swallowing a mouthful of toast.
‘Don’t you speak to your mother like that!’ Sir Galahad demanded.
‘Army, eh?’ he said to Kenny, ignoring his parents. ‘Will they give you a gun and everything?’
‘I suppose so.’ Kenny said.
‘I don’t call it “cool”! I call it a waste of a life!’ his mother argued.
‘Can you get me a cap badge?’ Pete said, still ignoring his parents.
‘Can you wait till I’ve joined or do you want me to go and get you one now?’ Kenny said grinning.
‘That shirt’s all crumpled!’ his mother said. ‘What are people going to think when they see you in that?’
‘That you don’t care about me and they’ll be right!’ Pete complained.
‘Don’t you speak to your mother like that!’ his father repeated like a parrot that had been taught only that phrase.
Kenny chuckled. ‘Go on, Squit. You’re late.’
Pete grinned. ‘Don’t you talk to your brother like that!’ he said and hurried out as Kenny was laughing at the remark.
‘I’m glad you can find something to laugh about!’ his mother protested tearfully.
‘Oh, Mum!’ he said, trying to sound sympathetic. ‘It is my life.’
Cliff was waiting for Pete at the rec and was getting some stick from some of the sixth formers. Nothing new there, then.
John Zigmund – or Ziggy was the main instigator, as usual. Ziggy was sitting on the swing and making an elaborate show of smoking a cigarette and periodically spitting to show that he was a man. At fourteen, he was older than them by two years.
“Hey, Glass-Eye!’ he taunted Cliff. ‘Here comes your little gay friend!’
Pete ignored him but, as he fell in step with his friend, Cliff shouted “Get knotted Miss Piggy!’
‘What did you call me??’ Ziggy challenged, rising from the swing. No real man would tolerate being called Miss Piggy.
Cliff broke into a run. ‘C’mon!’ he called to Pete.
Pete liked Cliff but there were times when he could happily thump him. Pete resigned himself to having to break into a run. They didn’t have to run fast or very far. Ziggy was big and could make mincemeat out of anybody he could lay his hands on. But he was overweight and didn’t have the stamina to put up much of a chase.
Ziggy spat on the tarmac and took a showy drag of his cigarette. He would bide his time. His chance would come and then he would let ‘em have it. He wasn’t going to go chasing little kids around. He’d wait for his opportunity. That’s the way a man would do it. He spat again to show his manliness and sat back on the swing. ‘Hey, Tosspot!’ he called to one of the boys with him ‘Give us a push, will ya!’
Cliff was a nice kid but he had few friends. Pete couldn’t figure that out. Maybe it was because he had a glass eye or maybe it was because his dad was an abusive drunk but Pete was about the only friend he had. Pete didn’t have many friends either but that was because there weren’t that many people at his school he wanted to be friends with. In fact, he had to admit that Cliff was his only real friend. He was the only kid he hung around with out of school. He was the only kid he saw every day through the summer holidays. Although he avoided going to Cliff’s house unless he had to, Cliff would often spend time at Pete’s house. His mother didn’t really approve because of Cliff’s family but she tolerated him because he was such a nice kid.
While waiting for the bell, they kept a wary eye for Ziggy’s arrival but, when the bell finally sounded and they all went inside, it was clear that Ziggy wouldn’t be coming. He was obviously bunking off that day. They hung around in the locker room while waiting to be called into Assembly.
‘Coming up the res tonight?’ Cliff asked. The 'res' was a disused reservoir where they would catch frogs and newts. They didn’t keep them because neither had parents who would tolerate frogs and newts being brought into the house. But they’d catch them and admire their beauty – or, in the case of toads, their ugliness. It didn’t matter either way as both qualities stirred a sense of awe in them. They took photos with Pete’s phone and Cliff would make drawings of some of them. Many of the photos were uploaded to Pete’s blog, FrogBlog.
‘Oh I don’t know’ Pete said. Cliff looked at him in dismay. They always went up the res after school. Pete grinned at his friend’s expression: ‘I shall have to consult my diary’ he said, grinning.
Today was biology and Cliff especially liked biology. This was for two main reasons: one was that it involved a lot of drawing and Cliff was good at drawing and the other was that he’d occasionally get to see the inside of a frog. Although, if he were to be perfectly honest, there was also a third reason in that he really liked Mr. Blatchley, who took biology. But that sounded like a bit of a gay reason so he rarely included it.
‘I heard old Blatchley’s retiring this term’ Pete said
‘I heard that too.’ Cliff confirmed.
‘Really? Where’d you hear it?’ Pete was a little surprised, as Cliff didn’t usually pick up on rumours until they were really old.
‘Same place as you did, you divvy! It was announced in Assembly yesterday!’
Pete had absolutely no recollection of that. He rarely listened to anything in Assembly and just let his mind wander. He’d heard two kids talking about it in the toilets later that day.
‘Hey! Guess what Kenny’s gonna do!’ Pete said, brightening at the sudden realisation that he had some news that Cliff didn’t know about yet.
‘What d’you mean what he’s gonna do?’
‘You know, like with his life.’
‘Well, he’s gonna yoony, isn’t he? Then he’ll invent a cure for cancer or something. I dunno.’
‘He’s joining the army!’
Cliff was satisfyingly amazed. ‘Kenny??’
Pete nodded ‘I heard this morning. He’s gonna get me a cap badge’
‘You sure he’s not winding you up?’ Cliff asked suspiciously.
Pete shook his head. ‘Nope. Kenny an’ Mum were arguing about it’.
Mr. Tennyson poked his head into the locker room. ‘I thought I’d find you here.’ He said. ‘Come on Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. Assembly! Now!’
They filed into the main Assembly Hall, which was also the Gym. And so began the day.
Assembly dragged on and Pete’s mind wandered. Pete knew they could relax today but Ziggy held grudges and he wasn’t going to bunk off forever. Cliff’s little insult had guaranteed that they had a pasting coming, if not today, then tomorrow. Cliff’s a nice kid but he’s got a big mouth. He decided to let tomorrow take care of itself. No point wasting today worrying about tomorrow.
‘Calm down everyone and take your seats please!’ Mr. Blatchley settled the usual hum of conversation with a wave of his hand. He never seemed to get stressed like the other teachers.
‘We dissecting frogs today, sir?’ Cliff called out hopefully.
Blatchley smiled. Cliff asked this every lesson. ‘No, Perry. We’re not dissecting frogs but we are dissecting a cow’s eye.’
‘Eugh! Gross!’ Karen exclaimed, as she did about every project they did in biology.
Terry Guy smirked across at Cliff. ‘You’re always on about frogs. You’re obsessed.’ Guy was one of Ziggy’s sidekicks but he was unlikely to bother anyone today, as Ziggy wasn’t around to back him up.
‘Get knotted, Guy!’ Cliff snapped with confidence.
‘That’s enough!’ Blatchley warned
Guy continued to smirk. ‘Maybe Perry’s mum kissed a frog that turned into a handsome prince. Is that it? Your dad used to be a frog?’
Cliff shrugged off the mild taunt ‘He’s still a bloody frog!’ he muttered. This attracted more laughter than Guy’s jibe, which deflated Guy a little.
‘Now settle down, please!’ Blatchley ordered as he delivered a Tupperware tub containing a cow’s eye to each desk.
‘Eugh! Gross!’ Karen repeated.
‘Hey, Perry!’ Guy hissed ‘Why don’t you swap yours with your glass eye? Then you’ll have a real ‘un!’
‘That’s quite enough!’ Blatchley raised his voice. He had heard the remark ‘Guy, apologise to Perry!’
‘I was only joking, sir!’ Guy complained
‘I said apologise!’
Guy reluctantly mumbled ‘Sorry’ without looking at Cliff. He inwardly swore that Cliff would pay for this humiliation as soon as Ziggy’s back.
Pete’s mum had cooked macaroni cheese for tea. She had absently overlooked the fact that her husband was on late shift and wouldn’t be home ‘til after ten. Kenny had gone to the recruitment centre and would be meeting up with friends later so he wouldn’t be home either. It would just be her and Pete although, as usual, she had cooked enough for the whole family.
Suddenly the back door burst open and Pete strode in like an explosion. Her peace was shattered. ‘Can Cliff stay for tea, Mum?’
She sighed as if an added burden had been placed upon her. ‘Oh I wish you’d said! I’ve cooked it now!’
Pete looked at the brimming casserole dish ‘There’s enough!’ he said.
‘Luckily! Just give me warning next time. Hello, Cliff.’ She added as Cliff shuffled in behind Pete.
Cliff sat a little awkwardly at the table and Pete nudged him. ‘Come on. We have to wash our hands first.’ He prompted. Cliff shuffled to his feet again and followed Pete to the bathroom.
‘You boys got homework tonight?’ she asked when they were settled at the table. Cliff was wolfing back his food as if he hadn’t eaten in a fortnight. Pete shook his head. ‘Were going up the res after tea.’ He announced.
‘You shouldn’t play around there. It’s dangerous.’ She said
‘It’s not deep, is it, Cliff?’ Pete assured her and Cliff shook his head to confirm that it was, indeed, not deep.
‘You can wade right across it. It’s not deep enough to drown in.’ Pete added.
‘You can drown in a cup of water!’ his mother pointed out.
Pete and Cliff exchanged glances. ‘How?’ Pete asked at last
‘It can be done.’ She assured them.
Pete picked up his glass of water, determined to put this theory to the test. He pushed his mouth against the rim of the glass then tilted the glass so the water reached his mouth… he then began to giggle: ‘Help!’ he gargled into the water ‘I’m drowning!’
Cliff dissolved into laughter as Pete began to dribble the water onto his lap.
‘You’re spilling it! Now behave!’ his mother commanded but had to fight against laughing herself. She had to admit that it was a pretty silly concept.
‘I don’t think very many people have actually drowned in a glass of water, have they?’ Pete said and his mother had to chuckle at the idea.
‘No. Probably not.’ She conceded.
‘So, if we promise not to stand on our heads in two feet of water and drown ourselves, can we go up the res?’
She sighed and shook her head in exasperation ‘I suppose so but get changed first.’
‘Cliff can’t, can he?’ Pete reasoned
‘He can put some old clothes of yours on. I’m not having Cliff’s mother complaining because he got his school clothes dirty.’
‘Great! Come on, Cliff!’ They thundered upstairs and almost immediately Pete’s music was thumping out a heavy base.
Cliff was a little smaller than Pete and the jeans were bunched under the belt that held them up. However, neither concerned themselves too much with appearances as they made their way up the hill toward the res.
They were both engrossed in peering under rocks in the shallow water, looking for frogs and were unaware of the larger boys gathering at the edge of the water behind them.
‘Well, look who it isn’t!’ Ziggy sneered as they both spun around to see Ziggy, Terry Guy and Skit Docksey grinning at them. ‘It’s Glass-Eye and his little gay friend!’
Pete and Cliff both broke into a run but, whereas Ziggy couldn’t have caught them, Guy and Docksey were plenty fast enough. Docksey pinned Pete to the ground while Guy and Ziggy piled onto Cliff. Guy sat on his legs while Ziggy straddled his chest with a knee on each arm.
‘Right, Glass-Eye,’ Ziggy purred unpleasantly, ‘let’s have a proper look at that glass eye of yours…’
Pete wriggled and tried to free himself from Docksey but the larger boy held him firm. ‘Get off him, you bastards!’ Pete yelled
‘Ooh! He’s worried about his little gay friend!’ Docksey jeered and let a dribble of frothy spit lower itself on a strand of slimy saliva onto Pete’s face.
Cliff screamed as Ziggy dug his thumb into the corner of his left eye. The glass eye popped out and Ziggy held it triumphantly in his hand. ‘Eye-eye!’ he shouted and the others laughed as if this was the funniest joke ever. Cliff was screaming in panic and pain.
Ziggy stood and hurled the eye into the middle of the reservoir. Docksey thumped Pete in the face before he lifted himself off him and Guy kicked Cliff in the ribs as he got up off his legs. ‘Shoulda kept that cow’s eye!’ he laughed and they walked away, satisfied with their revenge.
Pete’s lip was bleeding as he got up and went to Cliff, who was still lying where they had left him. ‘You all right, Cliff?’ he asked. Cliff was crying with pain, frustration and humiliation. ‘I haven’t got a spare one!’ Cliff wailed. Pete had never seen Cliff without his eye before. Both lids were sunken into the hollow of the empty eye socket and reddened where Ziggy had brutally pushed the eye out.
Pete looked at the middle of the reservoir, where the eye had fallen and waded out to the spot. He had never been as far as the middle before and it was certainly more than two feet deep; more like four.
‘You won’t find it now!’ Cliff groaned as he sat up. Pete ignored him and reached down to feel among the rocks and junk that littered the bed. He had to duck his head into the water for his arm to reach to the bottom. He came up to gasp a lungful of air and ducked again.
‘Pete! Give it up! It’s lost!’ Cliff wailed
Again Pete ducked… again and again… and then…
‘GOT IT!’ he cried as he shot up out of the water holding the glass eye aloft.
‘You got it!’ Cliff echoed with relief.
Pete waded to the bank, grinning with the glass eye in his hand and then stopped suddenly and looked at it. ‘Hang on! Your eye is green!’ he said.
‘So?’ Cliff said, a little puzzled.
‘Well, this eye is brown!’
‘It can’t be! Show me!’ Cliff demanded
‘Bloody hell!’ Pete said ‘I’ve found somebody else’s glass eye!’
Pete suddenly grinned ‘Had ya going!’ he said and tossed the eye to Cliff, who picked it up and wiped the bits of grass off it and put it in his pocket.
‘Aren’t you going to put it in?’ Pete asked, hoping to see Cliff doing it.
‘I can’t now.’ He said ‘It’s got to be washed and soaked in sterilant first and I’ve got to put a lubricant on it.
‘Ooooh!’ Pete sang ‘Sterilant and looooobricant!’
‘I’ll keep my eye out for you’ Cliff grinned and they both laughed at that. They headed back to Pete’s house exchanging Eye jokes.
‘He cast his eye across the lake…’ Pete laughed
‘…and it landed with a plop in the middle!’ Cliff added.
By the time they got to Pete’s, they were both in hysterics of laughter.
‘What on Earth…??’ Pete’s mother looked at them as they came in. Cliff was filthy and his left eye was missing. Pete looked as if he’d been for a swim.
‘I fell in’ Pete said casually
‘And what happened to Cliff’s eye?’
‘He fell over and it popped out’ Pete said, suddenly laughing at the thought
‘Popped out??’ she said and both Pete and Cliff found this inexplicably funny
‘Yeah. It always pops out when I fall over” Cliff said, barely able to contain himself. It was clear that both boys were intoxicated with laughter to the point that almost everything now was funny.
‘Well, can’t you pop it back in again?’ she asked. This evoked fresh howls of laughter.
‘He’s got to soak it in sterident first’ Pete said
‘Sterilant, divvy!’ Cliff corrected him
‘I was going to say…!’ Pete’s mum said, ‘Sterident’s for false teeth!’
This was too much for them. Neither could have said why this was so funny but they could not contain the laughter.
Later, after Pete had changed into dry clothes and Cliff had changed back into his school clothes, the giggles had subsided. They had tried to maintain it by thinking of other funny things but they were just about giggled-out.
‘You’ll have a black eye tomorrow. That’s really starting to bruise’ Pete observed.
‘I’m not coming in tomorrow’ Cliff decided.
‘You bunking off??’ Pete said
‘Nah. I just won’t come in. I’ll stay home.’
‘What’ll your mum and dad say?’ Pete was concerned because Cliff’s dad could be pretty aggressive. Pete had never seen him smile.
‘They won’t care as long as I stay in my room and don’t bother them.’
‘Jeez!’ This seemed incredible to Pete.
* * *
‘Where’s your mate this morning?’ It was Ben Freeman. Pete liked him well enough but he had a big mouth. Pete was reluctant to tell him anything he didn’t want spread around the school so he was evasive. This increased Ben’s curiosity and, as he was trying to grill Pete for details, an idea occurred to him.
‘Sorry, Ben. I’m not allowed to tell you. He said
‘Tell me what? Go on… I won’t tell anybody.’
‘I can’t, Ben. The police said I’m not allowed to talk about it.’
‘The police?? Why? What’s happened?’
Pete stopped and made a show of looking around to make sure no one would overhear. ‘Look, you’ve got to promise not to tell a soul, OK?’ he said
‘I promise! Trust me!’
‘Cliff was attacked last night. Somebody gouged out his eye.’
‘What?? His glass eye?’
‘No. His good eye. Cliff is totally blind now. The police are with him at the hospital’
‘Christ! You’re joking!’
‘Look, you can’t tell anyone. Do you understand?’ Pete said gravely. ‘The police are coming to the school later today to interview the students. They think it was someone from the school. That’s why you can’t mention it. They don’t want to warn off whoever did it.’
Ben shuddered: ‘Gouged his eye out! Man! That’s gross!’
Pete left him contemplating the horror of it, turning as he left to add: ‘Not a soul, remember.’
‘Trust me. You can count on it!’ Ben assured him
Pete could barely contain the smile as he waked away. Oh I’m counting on it all right! He thought.
By the time Pete reached the school, almost everyone was talking about it. It was a matter of a few minutes before Ziggy found him.
‘Hey! What’s this I been hearing about Glass-Eye?’
‘Sorry Ziggy. I’m not allowed to talk about it.’ Pete said
Ziggy grabbed his jacket and slammed him against the railings. ‘You talk about it! They’re saying his real eye was pulled out!’
‘That’s right. You pulled out his left eye.’
‘Yeah. Well, that’s his glass eye. Everybody knows that!’
‘No, Ziggy. His right eye is the glass eye. You gouged out his real eye. He’s totally blind now.’
‘Cobblers! It was glass! I know what a glass eye feels like! You’re lying!’
‘You asked me, OK? I didn’t want to say anything. The police said I mustn’t talk about it!’
‘Police! You spoke to the police? What did you tell them?’
Pete was getting into his stride now as the story he was inventing unfolded: ‘Cliff said I wasn’t there when it happened. He knew I’d get a pasting if I told them who did it.’
‘So you haven’t told ‘em?’ Pete could see relief in his expression. It would be short-lived.
‘I said I wasn’t there. The police are with Cliff at the hospital. Of course, Cliff won’t be coming back to the school, will he? He’s blind and he’ll have to go to a special school. We won’t be seeing him again so he’s got nothing to lose, has he?’
Ziggy released him ‘What do you mean?’ he said uneasily.
‘Well, I won’t tell the police but there’s no reason why Cliff wouldn’t. You’re not going to get anywhere near him.’
Ziggy wiped his mouth nervously. ‘Christ!’ he spluttered and Pete relished the look of panic on his face. ‘They reckon the police are coming here. Is that true?’
Pete shrugged: ‘They said they were coming to interview the students… but they’ll probably just want to talk to you.’
‘Christ!’ Ziggy said again and he walked away looking very nervous.
Neither Ziggy, Terry Guy nor Skit Docksey were seen again for the rest of the day. Each of them had been seen in the school earlier so they were all marked as having walked off the school grounds. Automatic detentions.
Yesssssss! Pete thought: Reeeee-sult!
‘You what??’ Cliff said when Pete told him the news. Cliff had stayed in his room all day and was feeling a little stir-crazy. As much as he loved what Pete had done to Ziggy, he was afraid that he might never be able to show his face outside ever again. Ziggy would rip his head off over this!
‘What about tomorrow?’ Cliff said. ‘He’s gonna kill me!’
‘Why?’ Pete said ‘It was me who did the lying.’
‘He’ll think I put you up to it!’
‘We’ll both go in. I’ll think of something. Trust me.’
‘How are you going to get us out of this, eh?’ Cliff said.
‘You didn’t think I’d find your eyeball in the res.’
Cliff sniggered ‘You have any idea how weird that sounds?’
Cliff agreed to resign himself to whatever fate awaited them tomorrow. They would face it together. That’s what friends do.
The next day, Pete went to Cliff’s house to meet him as they had decided not to cut across the recreation ground. That would be asking for trouble. Cliff’s place was in the council estate, which spanned a sprawling network of alleyways and passages between the garages and the backs of houses. It was a labyrinth of alleyways and by far the longest route to school. But they would be unlikely to encounter Ziggy on the way. Nevertheless, they looked nervously around as they made their way in silence. They were both beginning to regret not bunking off for the day.
They comforted themselves with the fact that, once in class, Ziggy couldn’t touch them and that they were both capable of outrunning him. But, considering the brutality of the last attack he inflicted upon them, it was a small comfort.
They timed their arrival to coincide exactly with the bell so that Ziggy would not get the chance to confront them in the schoolyard. As they filed in, they both caught sight of him. He gestured with his fist and mouthed a silent sentence: You are dead!
They stayed in at break time and pretended to be catching up on homework in the IT room, where Mr. Kennedy was busy with some marking. He wouldn’t normally allow students in the IT room at break but, as he was there and as long as they were quiet, he agreed that they could do so.
They did the same at lunch break. They both froze, however, when they heard doors being slammed in the toilets across the corridor and Ziggy’s voice yelling: ‘Where are they??”
Mr. Kennedy looked up. ‘What the devil is going on out there?’ he said and, getting up from his desk, he went to the door and opened it. Pete and Cliff tried to sink invisibly into their chairs as Kennedy yelled “Hey! You, boy! Oh Zigmund! I might have known! What the devil is going on out here?’
‘Sorry, sir. I was looking for someone.’ Ziggy’s voice replied
‘Get back out in the yard! Any more of this and you’ll be down for detention!’
‘And that goes for you, too, Guy… and you, Docksey!’
‘Yes sir’ they mumbled in unison.
Kennedy returned to his desk but left the door ajar. Pete looked up to see Ziggy glowering at him from the corridor. He ran his finger across his throat and pointed to Pete before going back out. Pete and Cliff exchanged glances.
That afternoon was the longest afternoon either of them could recall. They made a dash for it as soon as the bell went but still they expected to see Ziggy and the other two waiting outside the school for them. The coast was clear.
They took the same convoluted route home that they had taken on the way to school. However, here, they took even more precautions. There was a main alley that led to the rear of Cliff’s house and this they had taken on the way in. But, just in case the gang were waiting for them somewhere along this alley, they took a winding path around several passages that skirt the main alley and joins it closer to Cliff’s house. They were fairly confident that they had escaped a beating today but tomorrow was going to be another day like this one.
Cliff asked if Pete could get Kenny to beat Ziggy up and make him leave them alone. But Kenny just wasn’t the aggressive type. He’d just give Ziggy a good talking to and that would make matters worse. They fell into silence as each tried to think of a way of bringing this all to an end.
They were just about to turn into the passage that leads back into the main alley when Pete suddenly pushed Cliff back and brought his finger to his lips. They both peered around the corner and saw Ziggy with his back to them, watching out for them along the main alley. They quietly backtracked until they were far enough away to risk speaking again.
‘We could go home through the rec if Ziggy is here’ Cliff said.
‘What if Guy and Docksey are at the rec?’ Pete pointed out.
They fell silent again... and then…
‘They’re in detention!’ Pete suddenly announced as the realisation struck him. ‘They walked off the school grounds yesterday and didn’t come back. That’s automatic detention!’
‘Well Ziggy isn’t.’ Cliff reminded him.’ He’s waiting for us back there.’
Pete nodded ‘He must’ve skipped it but Guy and Docksey wouldn’t have the guts to skip detention.’
‘So we go back through the rec!’ Cliff sighed with relief.
‘I’ve got a better idea…’ Pete said.
Ziggy was sure they wouldn’t have the nerve to go across the rec. He was so sure they’d take this route…
Now he was beginning to doubt it. They should have been along by now. He knew he’d get double detention for skipping and, if that was all for nothing, those two faggots were going to pay! He was fourteen! He was a man! A man doesn’t let two snotty kids make a prat of him like this. They had it coming and the longer it takes to get them the worse it’s going to be. That was his vow. They would be begging him for…. His train of thought stopped as he heard voices approaching. He risked a peep around the corner and quickly ducked his head back in. it was them!
He listened intently as they approached. He had to time this exactly and grab them as soon as they were level with the passage he was waiting in. he couldn’t risk peeping out again. If they got wind that he was waiting, they’d run and his chance would be lost. If only Skit and Terry hadn’t chickened out of skipping! They could put up a chase and run them down. But what the hell! He could do this on his own.
He heard them chatting as they approached… and they were talking about him!
‘D’you think anybody really believes that Ziggy’s tough?’ Glass-Eye was saying.
‘Nah! That’s why everybody laughs at him behind his back.’ His gay faggot friend was saying. ‘Even Docksey calls him Jabba The Hut!’ he was saying and laughing. Does he now? I’ll have a word with him about that! Ziggy thought. The voices were getting closer… any moment now…
Pete’s voice was so close now: ‘D’you know what the most pathetic thing about Ziggy is…?’
Ziggy poised himself to leap…
Suddenly a heavy school bag laden with books whipped around the corner with the force of a whiplash as the straps hit the wall, catching Ziggy square in the face and slamming his head against the rough, pebbledash rendering of the wall behind him. He went down like a sack of coal. For a moment, he could see nothing but swirling patterns of magenta and cyan. Then he heard Pete’s voice again ‘…it’s that he’s such a useless bag of jelly!’ The schoolbag came down on him again, this time slamming his head against the tarmac.
Ziggy howled with pain and fear. He couldn’t figure out what was happening. As his eyes came back into focus he could see the silhouettes of Pete and Cliff against the sky. Pete was about to swing the bag again.
‘NO! PLEASE!’ Ziggy had cried out instinctively before he could check his reactions. The third blow never came. Pete and Cliff were running down the alley and laughing.
For a few moments, he couldn’t get up. Blood was pouring from his nose and his face was swelling. He felt blood trickling down the back of his neck and, when he felt the back of his head, it was deeply grazed with bits of grit embedded into the wounds. ‘The Bastards!’ he found himself sobbing. ‘The bastards are going to die for this!’
Geoff Perry ignored the ringing phone as he was watching the football on Sky TV. The phone continued to ring.
‘Trace!’ he called but there was no answer from the kitchen.
‘TRACE!’ he called again as the phone continued to ring. ‘Damn that woman!’ he snarled as he picked up the receiver ‘Yeah?’ he snapped abruptly with his focus still on the TV.
‘Mr. Perry?’ it was a woman’s voice
‘Yeah, Who’s this?’
‘I’m Mrs. Gregson. Pete Gregson’s mother…’
‘Who’s Pete Gregson when ‘e’s at home?’
‘Pete is Cliff’s friend, Mr. Perry.’ She sounded a little irritated.
Fernando Torres was leading the ball toward the goal and it looked like he was going to go for it
‘GO ON, SON! GO ON!’ he shouted
‘I beg your pardon?’
The ball hit the post.
‘GAH! Not you, love. It’s all right. Yeah, Cliff’s mate. I know.’
‘Well, Cliff wants to know if he can sleep over tonight. Is that OK with you?’
‘Yeah. Whatever… COME ON YOU BEAUTY! AAAGH! YOU TOSSER! Yeah, sleep over. No problem. That it?’
‘Er… well, yes. That’s it really’
Pete’s mother stared at the telephone receiver for a while after Cliff’s father had hung up and shook her head before replacing hers. She’d recently seen a TV documentary about Tourettes Syndrome. It must be awful, she thought.
Pete and Cliff were in Pete’s room. Pete had opened his FrogBlog website and created a new page with no links to it. He uploaded the video clip that Cliff had taken of the attack on Ziggy and run it to make sure it played OK. The footage began with them both making disparaging remarks about Ziggy followed by a long shot of Pete swinging his bag at the corner of the passage where Ziggy was waiting. Ziggy actually screamed like a woman and Pete and Cliff dissolved into laughter at this. The next shot was of Ziggy curled up on the ground crying and sobbing and then holding his hand up to Pete (out of shot) and crying ‘NO! PLEASE!’
Pete’s voice could be heard describing him as a useless bag of jelly. It was, in their eyes, sheer beauty!
‘He’s never, ever, EVER going to want anyone to see that!’ Cliff cried excitedly.
Pete grinned at his friend. ‘And, as long as he leaves us alone, nobody ever will.’
They High Fived and said in unison ‘REEE-SULT!’
Pete then logged into FaceBook and did a search for Ziggy. There were more ‘Ziggys’ and ‘Zigmunds’ than he had expected but, eventually he found him.
‘Shall I send him a friend request?’ Pete asked
‘I think not’ Cliff said.
Pete clicked the ‘Send a message’ link and pasted a link to the video page. Underneath he wrote:
So far only U an us know about this. U ever bother us again an i’ll send every 1 a link so they will all know
He clicked SEND.
'Think it'll work?' Cliff said.
'We'll find out tomorrow' Pete said with a little less confidence than he had tried to convey.
Ziggy was not at school the next day... or the day after that. The day after that was Saturday so they had the whole weekend, which dragged by, punctuated by alternate feelings of elation when they were both sure Ziggy would never bother them again and a sense of foreboding on the occasions when it occurred to them that he might actually kill them.
They avoided the res as that would be the first place that anyone who might happen to be looking for them would expect to find them. The rec was a fairly open space so, although there was the possibility of seeing Ziggy and his henchmen, they would see them in plenty of time to run before even Guy and Docksey would be able to catch up with them. They decided to chance it.
As it turned out, neither of them were in sight. Just a few younger kids playing on the swings... which they vacated instinctively as the two older boys approached.
'I reckon we must have beat him up worse than we thought' Pete said as he flopped down onto a freshly vacated swing.
'Don't tell me you're worried about him!' Cliff said as he took up the adjacent swing.
'Worried about us, more like' Pete said. 'What if the police were called? Ziggy's got evidence!'
'He won't show that to anybody!' Cliff assured him.
'What if he's in a coma and the police want to find out who done it? They could take his computer and hack his password and everything! I've seen it on telly!'
Cliff hadn't thought of that. They both sat in silence gently swinging a little. 'Reckon we should take it down?' Cliff said at last.
'Dunno' Pete said. 'If we do, Ziggy'll flatten us... if he's not in a coma!'
'No wait!' Cliff said 'If he's not in a coma, he'll have seen it by now and he'll know we got a copy even if we take it down!'
Pete was impressed with Cliff's clear logic. 'Alright' he said. 'Let's go and take it down now before the pol...' he stopped as he caught Cliff staring over his shoulder. He turned to see Guy and Docksey approaching them. They had been so engrossed in this latest dilemma, they hadn't seen them until it was too late to make a run for it. They'd catch them for sure.
'Arright, Cliff?' Docksey said as they approached. 'Arright, Pete?' he added. Guy was regarding them both with an expression of admiration. Pete and Cliff exchanged glances, not too sure how to take this.
'Ziggy told us about the fight' Guy said as the two boys joined them on the swings.
'He told you??' Pete said, amazed.
'Never thought you had it in you' Docksey said.
For a second time Pete and Cliff exchanged glances. This was not turning out as they had expected. 'Yeah, well, a bloke can only take so much' Cliff said. 'I don't often lose me temper but, when I do, watch out!'
Pete silently cringed. Cliff's big mouth is going to get them flattened.... again!
But Guy and Docksey were laughing! Not in a mocking way but... well... like friends!
Docksey pulled a half smoked cigarette from his pocket and lit it. 'Drag?' he said, offering the crumpled cigarette to them. They both shook their heads. 'Mind you, Ziggy reckons he could've had 'em anyway but he says kudos for helping him out' Docksey continued.
Neither Cliff nor Pete knew where this was going so they both remained silent. Docksey took a long pull at his cigarette and made an exaggerated show of holding a mouthful of smoke with his mouth wide open, puffing out little clouds as if trying to make smoke rings.
'He reckons there was four of 'em. Is that right?' Docksey said at last.
'Four of what?' Pete said, now totally confused.
Both Docksey and Guy snorted a laugh. 'Four of what!' Guy sniggered. 'Bikers, you divvies!'
'What bikers?' Pete insisted.
'You takin' the piss, you little twazzock?' Docksey laughed. 'The bikers that was beatin' him up!'
Suddenly it all fell into place. Pete and Cliff looked at each other and grinned. 'We didn't know they were bikers' Cliff said. 'We thought they were gorillas'.
Docksey and Guy roared with laughter at this... far more than the joke was worth. 'Anyway, Ziggy says he owes you one. No 'ard feelins, yeah?' Docksey said, getting up from the swing. Guy followed suit. 'See ya Monday' he said as they departed.
When they had gone, Pete and Cliff just stared at each other in disbelief and then, as if on cue, they both burst into laughter. 'Comin' up the res, then?' Cliff said when the laughter had died away.
'Yeah' Pete said. 'Let's go and find some frogs'.