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Sunday, 20 November 2011

Little Big Man

Having spent the last two entries on here whining about my inadequacies as a person, I thought it wise to perhaps lighten the mood somewhat with this one. So on went the old thinking cap ( it was a tight fit; I'd not worn it for a while and it's shocking how big your head can get when you don't stop to think*) and I came up with a story that, while it does contain me being daft, does so in a somewhat humorous manner. It's a funny story, anyway; I'm not saying it'll be funny once I've drained it of all life with my deathly prose.

The story is one that took place, in the timeline of my life, a couple of years before the point the blog is currently at. To be honest, I forgot about it; something that will probably happen quite a bit, but what the Hell. So, if you'd like to reacquaint yourself with what my life was like at the time this story takes place, or if you're new to the blog and haven't read the archives (and if not, why not? Get on it!), then it's roughly contemporaneous with this post.

Back? Right, then we'll begin.

My Grandmother, saintly paragon of virtue that she is, does have one vice; namely, she loves a bit of bingo. (I know, Granny playing bingo, what a cliche, but cliches become cliches for a reason, brother!) Eyes down, dibby dabby marker pen thing furiously stabbing at her eight different cards all strewn out before her in her lucky pattern, she was like a woman possessed when she got going. Which was every Tuesday and Thursday in the old Junior School assembly hall.

At this time it was considered perfectly OK to take kids along to these nights, sit them down with a glass of pop and a card, and let them join in the 'fun'. (I'm assuming it's a bit more strict these days; most things are, but I've not been to a bingo game in years so I don't know). Anyway, many was the evening I'd spend down there during the period I was staying with her and my Granda. I guess it was cheaper than a babysitter. (My Granda himself would have been at some pub or other, 'cos whether it be darts, snooker, dominoes, pool or, I don't know, tiddly-winks, he was on a team/team running committee. Dude never slept.)

There were times though; I guess when she just needed a night to herself; when my Grandmother would take a huge leap of faith and leave me at home with my Uncle Darren. The fool! It was on one such night that our story takes place. (I know right? Finally!) I should say at this point that these nights were probably far more fun for me than they were for Darren. He was, after all, a teenage boy, and I doubt that being left alone with a daft little pipsqueak who followed him around like a wee puppy dog was how he liked to spend his evenings. I loved it though; I idolised the guy, and I used to look forward to these nights like no other.

One one such occasion, we had been on our own for maybe an hour, watching TV with me pretending to like the stuff he was watching but not really understanding it, when a knock at the door broke his torture. It was a mate of his, asking could he do him a favour? He had just nicked a load of drink from his neighbours garage and could he stash it here for a bit? (Note to new readers, many of my family were minor villains, or friends with minor villains. They've 'mostly' reformed now). Anyway, the booze; six carrier bags full; was duly carted into the living room, the shady friend disappeared into the night and the TV was returned to.

Can you see where this is going?

Darren announced, after a little while, that he was going in the bath. I was to sit and watch TV until he got out, at which point it would be time for me to go to bed. I was gutted, and decided that I was going to prove to him that I was grown up enough to stay up with him. How on Earth was I to do this though? If only there were some 'grown up' activity that I could indulge in, to show him what I was capable of. Wait, what's that you say, voices in my head? Bags of alcohol? Ahhh.

Have you ever seen a 6 year old after a can? How about after 3 cans? Trust me, a 6 year old after 5 cans and 2 bottles is something even William Friedkin would think twice about putting on screen. I will say, in my defence, that I managed to stand up, the first few times I fell over, and even after I stayed down I never cried. I didn't quite have the energy to remove myself from the rapidly expanding pools of sick I was rolling in, but I had enough self awareness to know that crying wouldn't be cool. As it turns out though, I needn't have worried; it seems that I was fated not to impress Darren at all that night.

He returned from the bathroom and went, to be blunt, absolutely mental. The first time, and the only time that I can recall, that he would ever truly lose his temper with me. Even when I almost killed him he never got properly mad but this... I felt like shit. And not just for the obvious reason.

After he'd finished ranting at me he got me changed, stuck me over the toilet, and set about trying to clean the place up before his Mother got home. I can't imagine he had much luck. I say I can't imagine because I don't know for certain. The last thing I remember of that night is of depositing a bowlful into the toilet. I was told later that he'd found me asleep over the bowl and carried me to bed.


*eh? eh? Bit of clever clever commentary for you there. Someone give me a Phd.

Monday, 14 November 2011

My Brief Career As A Bully

Normally, I don't pay much attention to those accepted theories that attempt to explain the behaviour patterns in people. I always feel that, however much credence popular opinion gives them, they are always far too keen to generalise; to put people into groups. Not to mention, their tendency to overthink things. I mean, sometimes people do bad things because they're unpleasant people who like doing bad things; there's no deeper explanation than that.

I will concede, however, that in some cases, the theories can be correct. Take 'bullying is a cycle', for instance. Whilst I am convinced that many people terrorise those weaker than themselves purely because they can, there are instances of it happening as a means of 'paying on' the pain and suffering; like my brief and somewhat anti-climactic career as a bully.

As a child I was beaten often by my parents and by other children. I could live with it, for the most part, and indeed the occurrences would be forgotten almost as soon as they were over. They were just one of those things; a part of life. On one occasion though, and I don't know why it happened, I decided that I was going to beat up someone else. It wasn't an emotional response; I wasn't overly upset or not thinking straight. I simply decided, on a whim, that I was going to find someone I was confident I could take, and I was going to beat them up.

Of course, being me, I enlisted help. My cousin was to be my wingman, as it were, and we would beat up our unfortunate victim together. This served 2 purposes; the first was that it meant I was less exposed should my victim fight back, and secondly I was convinced that this would make me seem cooler than I really was in the eyes of my cousin. The sad part was, I was right; he got very excited at the prospect.

We chose our victim and set about luring him to a place where we could beat him up in private. It was all very businesslike on our part; not in any way a damaged person lashing out in a rage, but rather a totally cold, pre-meditated assault. Quite scary to look back at, to be honest. Anyway, we chose a young lad who was maybe a year younger than us, who had been an occasional hanger on to our little group but not by any stretch one of our 'friends'. He was quite a shy lad, very nervous, (a lot like myself, had I been honest, though I was better at hiding it than he was, at least back then) and we knew he would probably go along with whatever we said. And we were right.

Here's the thing though. We forgot. We forgot why we lured him to the secluded spot in the woods. We forgot why we had brought only him and none of the rest of the group. We forgot, because we had fun. We messed around, we played games, we had a laugh; what started as us luring him into a sense of security turned into us all having a bloody good afternoon. Then, when it started getting dark, we headed home.

It was when we left the woods and got back out onto the streets that the thought popped into my head... "If you don't kick his head in now, you've missed your chance". Just like that, and despite the pleasantness of the afternoon up until that point, a switch went in my head; I nudged my cousin and pointed at the kid. He nodded and, completely without hesitation, smacked him in the face, then I ran at him and kicked him in the back. We both laughed and the kid started crying. Then he said...

"Why are you doing this? I thought we you were my friends."

Totally guileless, totally without any attempt to look cool or save face; he just looked at us like a kicked puppy, heart on his sleeve. Something inside me shriveled up right in that moment. I'd like to say we stopped at that point. I'd like to say we realised we were in the wrong, apologised and backed off. I can't though, because we didn't. My cousin went back in for another go and, while I didn't lay any more blows I kept hurling abuse, telling him how much we hated him and we had never been his friends; all the while hating myself, but not being able to stop for fear of losing face in front of my cousin.

When he got tired of hitting the kid, we watched him run off up the street, sobbing, and I could have cried myself; until my cousin started on about how cool that had been and I felt a swelling of pride. Yes, all it took was a brief moment of someone saying I was cool and my conscience retreated back into it's shell. I didn't spare that poor kid another thought for the rest of the day. That night was another matter entirely though. The tossing, the turning, the inability to sleep for hours and then the nightmares when I did; it was clear that as cold and uncaring as I was capable of being in the moment, my conscience was never going to let me get away with that kind of behaviour. Some part of me knew how wrong my actions had been, and was damn sure going to drive the point home.

I never did apologise to that kid. Not because I didn't want to, but because he would never come near me again. He'd cross the road to avoid me, and I'd see that look of fear in his eyes that I'm sure was in mine whenever I saw one of my tormentors coming. Truth be told, I didn't deserve anything else.