Joe's Story

The growing pains of a teenage boy

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15. Back to school sc

Chapter 15 Back to school

It was on the day before school officially started. Summer was over. I had just attended a meeting where Ted, who was now our school Head Boy, had given out badges and introduced us new boys to the other prefects in the room.

   Afterwards I was walking back with these two prefects, Fred and Jimmy. We were chatting away about what Ted had said and had just reached the covered playground where I had parked dad’s old bike when, unexpectedly, Fred pushed me hard against the wall and stated, “So you’re Joe, the one whose party it was.”

   Before I could answer, Jimmy had commented. “Yeah, it’s him alright. I recognise his ugly mug even without the bruises.”

   “We don’t like his kind; do we?” Fred said.

   “No, he doesn’t belong with us prefects,” Jimmy replied.

   “It would be better for him if he resigned, don’t you think?” stated Fred.

   Fed up with this, I said, “Is it because I’m not a bully like you two?”

   “We’re not bullies, we’re prefects and we uphold the rules,” Fred informed me with a poke to the ribs.

   “You’ve a funny way of showing it” I countered.

   “We don’t like people who attack others in the toilets, you get that,” Jimmy said slapping my face.

   Oh, I thought so they must be friends of Edwards. “So you condone Edwards intimidating first formers and extracting money from them?” I asked.

   “Don’t talk daft; we’re the good guys, not a scumbag like you.”

   “You make me laugh,” I said. “If you front for Edwards, you’re the scum, not me. If you don’t believe me, check it out with some of the younger kids.”

   Without saying another word, they walked off.

   Hell, I felt sick. I was dreading tomorrow, maybe I could bunk off school. That would certainly be better than going in front of the whole school and then resigning later. The problem was all my friends knew about the letter and me being made a prefect of course, I could always tell my brother, Ted, but that would not be right.

   I was in trouble, damned if I did or damned if I didn’t. Hopefully, my friends would be supportive; it was the other boys I was more worried about.

                                        *****

   Mum was standing in the hall waiting for me as I came down stairs carrying my blazer. “Well,” she said. “Let’s have a look at you.”

   Reluctantly I put the blazer on, adjusting it while looking in the long mirror. My hair was good. I had used just enough gel to give it that spiky look. The bruises on my face had now completely gone

   The blazer was new and a good fit. The school emblem of two eagles were embroidered on its breast pocket exactly as my previous one. The only glaring addition was an enamel badge with the word PREFECT written across it.

   “That will do nicely,” Mum said giving me a kiss.

   “Hell, stop it. Mum. I feel embarrassed enough without you going on about it.” With that I, collected my bag from the hall chair, opened the front door and was off. Thankfully Ted had already left.

   As I approached school, I made sure the shoulder strap of my bag covered the prefect’s badge on my lapel.

   There were crowds of boys milling around when I got through the school gates. It appeared not to be a fire or even a drill as there were no alarms going off.

   As I got closer to the building, I could see everyone was looking up in the direction of the school roof. Good God, I thought. Up high in the gables, someone had painted a picture in vibrant colours of a couple stark naked, having sex.

   Alan was suddenly by my side. He laughingly asked me something. The noise was so loud with people shouting, I could hardly hear him speak.

   Pulling me down below the level of the others around us, he asked again, “Joe, what do you think of the display?”

   “Shit man, that must have been some climb.”

   “No. It was all done by ropes lowered from above, then we abseiled down.” Alan proudly stated.

   “Who’s we?” I asked, surprised by Alan’s daring.

   “Oh, some guys I met on the South Bank, who are into graffiti,” Alan replied.

   “Well next time, let me know and I’ll take photos of you doing it, if you like.” I had received this super camera with detachable lenses for my birthday from my dad, Jack, who lived in the States with his second wife and family.

   “Yeah, cool, and maybe you’ll be our eyes in case of trouble.

   Just then Mr Stevens, the head master, appeared, with some of the other teaching staff. He looked as if he was about to explode. He was so angry that his face had gone as red as a beetroot.

   Within minutes, all the prefects which included me were summoned to round up and get the boys inside. The school day had begun

                                                ****** 

   As a new Prefect I soon learnt we, as a group, were at the bottom of the pile and were expected to do all the shitty jobs like taking messages and generally being a dog’s body to everyone else.

   It must have been a week or so after my run in with Fred and Jimmy, that they once again crossed my path. I had just visited the toilet and was washing my hands when they came in, Hell, I thought.

   “Hi Joe,” Fred said as he walked over to me with this big grin on his face.

   “What do you two want?” I demanded, getting ready to make a dash for the exit.

   His partner, Jimmy, returned to stand beside Fred, after first checking out all the stalls were empty. “We’re here for a little chat,” Fred said.

   Now I was really getting scared. “Chat about what?” I asked.

“Well,” Fred said. “What if we said we believed you were telling us the truth about Edwards, but still we don’t condone your violence?”

   “Oh so trashing my home was acceptable violence, was it?”

This time Jimmy spoke, “The information we had at the time justified our actions. To make amends, we’ve spoken to Ted, your brother. You’re now on our ant-bullying team.”

   “Oh, another thing,” Fred informed me as we were leaving to find a better place to talk, “You might like to know, you were voted to be a prefect by last term’s first and second formers, because you did beat up Edwards.”

    I found patrolling great fun and very rewarding. At times it was quite funny how some of the youngsters would make a point of coming over and saying hello. Even to the point of asking me to help to resolve their disputes.

                                        *****

   Alan was already at Wendy’s fish shop, when I got there. Before I could say a word, he laughingly said, “God that was close.” He was referring to not being caught spraying the wall this morning at break time.

   “Yeah, you were bloody lucky I was the one who saw you first.” This morning I had been on patrol with Fred and had just turned the corner when who should I see, standing there with spray can in hand, but Alan. It was only by my shouting at an imaginary boy and so distracting Fred’s attention that had allowed him time to get away.

   Graffiti was becoming a real problem at school and we had orders to crack down hard on anyone we caught. We put them into work gangs and made them remove the offending daubs, which they soon found was not that easy.

   Looking around me now, while standing in the queue, I could see it was not only the school’s problem. Wendy’s shop front was covered in words and signs most of which were crude and had sexual suggestions.

   “You certainly started something, Alan, with your naked couple having sex.”

   “Yeah, you’re right, it seems everyone is doing it,” Alan agreed. “But you can’t compare mine with this shit, mine is art.”

   Maybe his was an art form, I thought. The school according to Ted at our last meeting, was having to pay shops like the supermarket compensation, to keep the schools name out of the papers.

   On returning after lunch, there was this great big fire engine blocking our way to the main entrance of the school. Its ladders were fully extended and stretched almost to the roof of the building. Near its top, we could see someone up there busy painting over the picture of the naked couple having sex.

   “Bugger that,” Alan shouted with some annoyance.

   “At least I got some great pictures for you to remember it by.”

   “That’s not the same.” Alan replied. “It’s seeing it every morning when I come through the gates. It always reminds me of how I felt hanging there suspended in mid-air, the thrill of it. Some of the painting even had to be done hanging upside down. Tomorrow it will be all gone.”

                                      ****

   There was a special assembly that afternoon. The paint spraying was getting out of hand. Everyone stopped talking when Mr Stevens, the Headmaster, came onto the stage.

   “Good afternoon, Students. I am sure you have all noticed when you came into school after lunch, that the offending picture defacing our beautiful building is, as I now speak, being painted over.” He paused as the noise level rose and waited until we were quiet again. “I have decided after a discussion with my colleagues to give you, the students, a wall in the playground.”

   Wow, I thought. Mum would be pleased when I brought home a few bricks as my share.

   “To make it your own, to cover it with graffiti.” At this a cheer went up, especially from Alan. The head master put his hand up and there was silence “Of course, there must be some order and control as to content.” He stood there until the mumbling of dissent stopped. “For that reason, there will be a special graffiti art class; a notice will be posted on the board.” With that, he dismissed us.

   “Hell,” Alan blurted out. “I hope it’s not Jenkins, the art teacher. He’s bloody useless.” Everyone laughed at this outburst.

   Thankfully, the notice was already there on the board at the last break of the day. Alan had been driving me crazy all through history and wouldn’t stop he was so excited.

   “Yes. “Alan exclaimed. When he read it, “That’s fantastic.”

   “What’s so fantastic?” I asked.

   “The school’s only arranging for a crew of two to come to teach us and they’re the best.”

   “So you’ve seen their work.”

   “We all have, Joe,” Alan said and started laughing.

   “No way, you don’t mean Stevens is employing your friends.”

   Alan didn’t reply for he was busy reading.

   “Here’s something for you Joe. It says they will be running a course at the same time using both still and video cameras, it’s called ‘Capturing street art.’ Apparently there’s a special way of recording this art form.”

   “I hope that doesn’t mean me having to hang upside down on a rope.”

   Smiling Alan replied, “Well you never know, Joe.” With that, he started laughing and I joined in. 

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