Sunday, 21 March 2010

98. Frogs, snails, etc

Gary was the kind of boy who pulled the legs off spiders and immolated ants with a magnifying glass.

He owned a penknife, wore an earring, and had Nightmare on Elm Street on VHS. Thanks to him, I got my first scar, saw my first pornographic magazine and learned my first swearword.

I remember that day well. It was a revelation. It was as if he had showed me another world hidden behind the drab one I’d known for the previous seven years of my life, a world more exciting, dangerous and adult. The Prelapsarian tabula rasa of my little brain – if ever a small boy’s head can ever be described like that – was no more. It would gain further stains before the end of that summer, becoming as grimey as my face usually was (and still is, for that matter). But for the time being I felt like I had been initiated into a secret brotherhood; one of the elite, some sort of profane Rosicrucian or a sweary Illuminati – not that I knew what any of those words meant.

I had danced home from school with devilish glee, dying for an opportunity to use my newfound knowledge.

Happily, my little brother stepped up, as he so often did. He showed our mother some picture he’d drawn at school. I took a deep breath.

“That’s crap, that.”

For a second I assumed the sky had fallen. Then I realised it my mother’s hand (the right one, backhand).

With perfect timing, Gary chose that moment to come in through the kitchen door. He never knocked and he ever used the front door.

“Hullo, Mrs Ball,” he said brightly.

“Hello, Gary,” mum replied, suspiciously. Gary was the one of my friends who wasn’t allowed to come round for tea.

He wiped his nose on the back of his hand (I remember his nose was always running, even in the middle of summer. How was that even possible?) and turned to me. “Robert, you gay, you will not believe what I found in the Woods,” he said, his eyes burning with delight.

He was right; I wouldn’t. And it would turn out that I was right not to believe, because what Gary had found was a world away from what he thought it was.

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