Grovel Greg, Grovel Part 3

Do you remember 1976? Madge does.

She was a 15 year-old school girl in that long, hot summer. She remembers the heatwave, the stand pipes in the streets, and the first strains of punk music from her transistor radio.

But she remembers it for another reason too.

For this was the year that her brother Greg disappeared, just five months after starting his new life in London.

Nearly 30 years later, Madge re-traces his steps, and tries to find-out what really happened to him.

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6. Strange Thursday

On one of these school days, I was working, not so far from Stockwell, when a Strange Thing happened to me. It was a Thursday, and I was about to skive-off early for the netball courts. During the day, I had noticed a young man looking at me as I made the road safety presentation to the kids. He wasn’t a teacher – he was a kind of maintenance guy because he kept fiddling with some electrical wires near to where I was working. Whenever I glanced-up from the kids, there he was, looking at me. And each time I caught him looking, he looked away and pretended to carry-on with his work. He was younger than me, and was very dark. Probably mixed race. He looked sort of familiar. In fact, he wasn’t bad looking, but the way he was staring was creepy. And sure enough, when I had finished, he came over to me.

            “Can I talk to you?” he said, nervously.

            “I have another appointment now,” I blurted. I stuffed all the kit into the bags as fast as I could, ran to the car, and drove away at a speed inappropriate for a Schools Road Safety Advisor.

            Reflecting on the incident afterwards, I decided that the manner of his approach was not that of a classic Lothario. Not smooth, not charming. Just strange.

            That was the same afternoon that things came to a head between Fierce Face and I. Fierce Face was not a bad player, but she tried harder than any other player on the court. Perhaps to make up for her extra years. Every week, I found myself playing against her.  So I was grateful when, this week, I was moved from my usual position of Wing Defence, to Goal Attack. However, as chance would have it, she had been moved to Goal Defence, so I had to play against her anyway. I semi-accidentally collided with her a couple of times, early in the game, to let her know that I was not to be intimidated. The first time she glared. The second time she glared and hissed like an angry snake. Then it happened: a genuine 50-50 ball, both of us moving with as much speed as our aging bodies could muster, towards each other. Either of us could have pulled out: but neither of us did. To my surprise, she somehow bounced off me and fell to the floor  Play stopped, and there was unusual silence. At that moment, I feared two things: that she was dead, or if she wasn’t, that she would kill me.

            Pretty quickly I ascertained that she wasn’t dead, or even injured. She stared-up at me, her face registering no pain, just anger. She leapt to her feet, and I thought ‘Oh my God.’ But she just shook me by the hand, and play continued.

            At the end of the game, I attempted to apologise to her, but she cut me off half-way through my sentence:

            “It was just an accident,” she said, and went off to get changed. I noticed that the palms of her hands were very badly grazed. She’d played the rest of the match with no skin on her hands, and not batted an eyelid. I had also noticed how West Indian her accent was, compared with the London hybrid spoken by the younger girls.

            “She’s one tough cookie,” I remark to one of the other girls, “but she always tries hardest against me, for some reason.”

            “She sees you as her rival,” replies the girl.

            “How so?” I ask.

            “Don’t take this wrong lady, but you’re probably the second oldest here, right?”

            “Yeah,” I say, trying not to sound too old.

            “And she’s the oldest. She don’t wanna be shown-up by you. She don’t want no one to say, ‘if Madge can still do it, why can’t Marcia?’”

            Marcia. That name rings a bell. “And just how old is this Marcia?” I ask.

            “Someone said she’s 57.” Fifty-seven!

Later, I christened that day Strange Thursday. The creepy guy looked familiar. The name ‘Marcia’ sounded familiar. But why? Very strange! I told you strange things are always happening to me.

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