Not that it mattered all that much, since for the most part the buying of treats was limited to moon landings and major Royal Jubilees, but as a child I never liked Bubble Gum. Or chewing gum. Or those Gobstopper monstrosities. Or... Let's just say that I was particularly fussy when it came to my confectionery. Remember that, it's important to this story, later on.
It was a dark and stormy night, by which I mean it was quite a dingy day and we'd had a bit of drizzle. As a result, PE was to be held indoors, in the multi purpose assembly hall. What would we do, though? It wasn't a large hall, by any stretch, so options were limited. Usually it ended up with us running lengths or doing ridiculous approximations of sit-ups. Not this time though. This time, the teacher, being an imbecile had other ideas.
"We're going to play... Dodgeball!" Yeah, great. Now, we weren't going to play dodgeball the way dodgeball is supposed to be played; with teams, and a central line, and you're out if you're hit and catching to get people back in and all those other rules I know from watching the Vince Vaughan movie; but rather the free for all variety that basically consisted of kids randomly throwing balls around for an hour.
I'm sure you know the game I mean, even if what I laughingly refer to as the rules were slightly different were you're from. One person is 'on' and has to hit others with a ball. Anyone they hit becomes 'on' too, so as the game progresses the numbers advantage gradually shifts to the attacking team. More balls are added to the mix at the teachers discretion. Last man not 'on' wins.
And if you do know the game, you'll also know that it could get bloody vicious. You see, it's basic child psychology; most kids care about winning, but they care more about being able to throw the ball as hard as they can at other kids they don't like. So the 'on' person would gently tap a few of their mates who would of course make no effort to evade the ball, and then they'd go on a rampage. No-one ever got tagged with a single shot after that; they were picked off one by one, with each of them being ganged up on and hit with an avalanche of balls. See, vicious. And I'm not just bitter because I always fell victim to the worst of it.
This particular teacher, in an effort to show himself as being slightly less of an imbecile than he first appeared, attempted to rectify this issue in the 2nd game, by offering an incentive to people to actually try to win. There would be a prize, he said, to the victor.
Didn't make any difference of course; everyone went mad just the same. However, it meant that those of us who actually tried to win/didn't have tough friends to gang up with, had something to play for.
Now, I was a very shy and reserved child, much as I'm a shy and reserved adult, and it took a lot for me to get really heated up in PE. This time though, something happened. I wasn't the first victim pelted. I wasn't the 2nd. Or the 3rd or 4th. Others had annoyed the Alpha males more. I could sense an apathetic victory coming; the blood began to race; the adrenaline was pumping; I started bouncing on the spot. *WHACK* The ball smashed off the wall mere CMs from my head. Brown underpant time and no mistake.
I rallied though, and now my gander was up there was no stopping me. I dashed left, I raced right, I sprinted the length of the hall and back again; classmate after classmate fell prey to the balls of doom but not I; this was going to be my day to shine!
It came down to 2 of us. But disaster of disasters, we were trapped in a corner! What would happen. The whole class was well into it by now; we last two had run them ragged and they'd not been able to get us, so they were a little puffed out but properly excited. They surrounded us; toying with us; letting us know they could take us any time they wanted. Myself and my equally determined to win compatriot were desperately trying to get our breath back before making our desperate break for freedom. A real Butch and Sundance moment if ever one existed in a Primary School assembly hall.
This was it! My big chance to shine, or at the very least not look a total prick. I whispered something to him; he nodded; he would bolt out of the corner along the length of the stage footings and I would run for it along the wall. Going at 90degrees to each other we would either split the attacks and give ourselves a fighting chance of dodging, or one of us would get the lot; it was a chance we had to take. Forget Butch and Sundance; this was Billy and Doc in Young Guns II. This was 'Let's finish the game' writ large.
And it had exactly the same outcome; he got pelted with the lot, and I completely chickened out and never left the corner. Ladies and Gentlemen, your winner... ME!
So yeah, I was the last man standing, by virtue of the fact that I was a coward, and I won the great prize on offer from the teacher. One of those cardboard strips with gob stoppers in individual bubbles. I could have cried.