First published on Where's Grandad, June 2012
There was a boy, once. I was six and so was he. We were in First Class together, back in the days when First Class meant making your Holy Communion. With that massive ecclesiastical millstone around our necks, he’d be sent off to the Boys’ Academy of Learning and I’d be left behind in the Convent School for Premature Harlots. I suppose that was heavy on my mind. I did not want to be separated from him. He was a dashing little fellow.
Anyway, we were on our school tour and on the way back, the teacher allowed us to stop at a playground so we could stretch our legs and flake each other over the few available swings. We were each given an ice-pop as a treat. They were cheap, frozen splashes of chemicals that tasted fucking amazing but have probably since been outlawed. They were called Scribblers. They looked like pencils and so were better than the more economical Sparkles.
I loved Scribblers. Of course, I loved all of the HB ice-pops: Sparkles and Fat Frogs and Super Splits and Tangle Twisters and the Brunches I gorged on once a year when my uncle came back from the UK, laden down with disposable income and misty-eyed generosity. I loved the Loop The Loops, with their chocolate top, and the Maxi Twists, with their miserable sliver of sorbet tucked into the bone-white ice-cream, and the Calippos that came in a cardboard tube that went soggy and made your fingers sticky and your mother cross. But especially I loved Scribblers. Maybe my tongue knew I was going to be a writer before the rest of me figured it out.
The little boy that I had drawn designs on was on his own, going up and down one of the taller slides at the far end of the playground. It was as good a chance as any to ingratiate myself. We were in the same class, but we weren’t special friends, which must have stung something shocking because I’m nothing if not a stereotypical Leo. Even when I was six I expected everyone to be in love with me. I had long blonde hair and hazel eyes and I looked like I’d been gently rolled out of a Timotei ad for being too scruffy. I was the perfect best friend for a six-year-old boy.
He was going up and down on the slide and I wanted to join him.
But there was the Scribbler in my hand. I’d been savouring it. I never bit an ice-pop, whether I could help it or not (and I never have since, either. Sensitive teeth). Teacher had told us that we were to finish our pops before using the playground equipment, and I was no rebel. Nor was I used to choosing any treat over a Scribbler. But this was love.
I put the Scribbler very carefully on the grass, well out of the way of racing, kicking feet, and rushed to join the little fella on the tall slide.
He was inching himself down the chute, chubby little fingers clutching its sides. The steel had been smoothed to optimum launch speed by years of little arses speeding down onto the gravel and grass below, and I guess he wasn’t the most daring young man. Not so I. I climbed the slide behind him, sat at the top and slid down with the grace and speed of some sort of space-age angel, blonde tangle sailing out majestically behind me, head thrown back like the photogenic little astronaut I was. I hit him squarely in his reticent, blocky back with my patent Clarks’ best.
He went flying off the end of the slide and landed on his backside on the gravel. He got up and turned around and his lip was quivering like a maggot on a fishing line.
‘I’m telling Teacher on you!’ he said. ‘You’re bold. You hurt me. I’m telling.’
And off he went as fast as his plump six-year-old legs could carry him.
Well, I was heartbroken. You might as well have buried my She-Ra doll or unravelled my Read Along tape of A Little Princess or told me that The Phantom Menace would one day exist. It was a feeling so desperate and so deep and strong that I still remember it and wince, twenty-four years later. Not only had I made the object of my affection cry, but now I was going to be in trouble with Teacher and I was never in trouble with Teacher. And what a fucking wimp. Not that I knew the word 'fucking' back then, but it formed in bile in the back of my throat as a concept and I’ve not been able to dislodge it since. Miserable little... fucker. And hot tears blurred my vision and my nose went out in sympathy with it and it was the worst day of my little life.
The worst, worst day. Because when I went back over for my precious Scribbler, some other little fucker had nicked it.
I have never forgiven that little bastard. I hope he dies roaring.