Athletes and Growing Pains
It’s a short bike ride down Low Hall Lane from our road, past the war time allotments where neighbors still grow vegetables, to the green playing fields and swings of St. James Park. To the left of the park is the smelly ugliness of the city dump, a sad place where poor wretches rummage through trash for items to repair and sell. Its slim pickings for them as the dustmen always bag anything of value for themselves from outside the homes. Behind the rear park fence there is a strip of land, filled with overgrown trees and bushes that we call the jungle, it’s where we built our gang hideout. To cross the Amazon River we balance across a fallen tree trunk, if we slip alligators will eat us. In truth we would die of the stink, it’s an open sewer. Beyond the jungle the city used trash fill and dirt to build a sports area; football fields, cricket pitches, and a running track.
Danny uses the cricket field as an escape from his battling parents, he’s a good batter. At the start of our second year, he tells me to try out for the team as a bowler.
Mr. Stanton, our cricket master, stands three feet from the wicket, and says he’ll “kill two birds with one stone” and watch my bowling, and Danny’s batting stroke. At twelve I have never actually bowled. I’ve seen cricket matches on TV, and feel I am destined to be a world’s best bowler. My run-up is perfect. My right arm rotates smoothly over my shoulder and the ball leaves my hand at incredible speed. Unfortunately, my aim is exactly three feet to the right of Danny’s bat, and the rock-hard leather cricket ball strikes Mr. Stanton in the crotch. By his screams I know have totally demolished his family jewels. I run to where he is reeling on the grass.
“Sorry, sir!” I say. “Slipped out of me ‘and. Do ya want me to ‘ave anover go?”
In a female voice he answers, “Another go? Are you mad? You’re out of cricket!”
I walk off the field feeling like a right wanker.
So ended what might have been a promising career as a cricketer.
Wills who cares! I think. Cricket is as boring as watching paint dry on a bloody fence.
I’m transferred into field and track, along with Dave, Eddy, and the other cricket dropouts. With the shortage of teachers, Stanton is the coach for field and track and cricket. He spends five minutes at the track, and then we never see him again.
Being dedicated teenagers, we always run one lap before heading for the stands to
play cards. It’s been an unlucky week for me, I’m down three shilling. I’m late, riding my bike as fast as it will go, I pray my luck will change. As I approach the others, surrounding Mr. Stanton, I smile. Dave is wearing cutoff work trousers, black leather shoes and a black sweater. The twins look as if their mother dressed them from a rummage sale: Bernard is wearing a silky blue shirt and a pair of khaki army trousers. Gilbert, is wearing an army shirt and a pair of tight red shorts, that I swear are women’s. Ed’s football socks are pulled up above his knees, overlapped by white shorts that look two sizes too big. I feel very out of place in my dad’s long white cricket trousers and starched white shirt. Mother insists I must look the part to carry on me father’s achievements on the cricket pitch. I’m too ashamed to tell them I was kicked off the cricked team. So I run wearing my dad’s cricket whites.
“Wel1 boys,” Stanton says, “you will represent our school at the County Games.”
My heart sinks “But Mr. Stanton, we can’t” I protest!
“You can and will, or you´ll get a fail for PE on your report card. And remember, I also teach you idiot’s social studies, which you’ll also fail, if you don’t at least place at the Interschool Games!” With a smug grin, he turns and walks off
“What a prick!” I say, and stick me tongue out to his back.
“No, he ain’t a prick”‘ Dave says. “A prick’s useful! ‘e’s a bleeding blackmailer. But ‘e ‘as all the bloody aces! So I guess we’re the bloody field and track team. ”
“But we don’t know ‘nuffing about all that stuff,” Eddy says.
“Then we’ll learn, and learn bloody quick.” Dave says firmly. “The games are in ten weeks and I don’t want us to look like the wankers what Stanton ‘finks we are.”
“Dave what do ya ‘fink our chances are of winning one of them races?” Eddy asks.
“I would say about a million to bloody one!”
“Oh, that’s OK then” Eddy says, “cause I didn’t “fink we really stood a chance.”
We all meet at the track at six A.M, two hours to practice before school starts.
“All right you idiots,” Dave yells. “As none of us knows our ‘idden talents in field and track, I want ya to line up. When I say go, run as fast and as far as you can!”
“Fuck ya Dave! I say. “It’s too bloody cold, and too bloody early to be running.”
“Little Alan’s cold is ‘e.” Dave says with a sneer. “Then run so you’ll get warm.”
Eddy takes off like a rocket. Being heaver and taller, it takes me a while to get going. Seeing the others sitting on the grass, I run all the way around the track then join them.
“Alright!” Dave says, “Eddy, you’re quick off the mark, so ya take the ‘undred-yard dash, plus the standing broad jump. Alan, the two-twenty and four-forty yard runs. Ya two twins ain’t very fast, and ya look like a couple of bloody fairies tip-toeing through the bleeding tulips. But ya did keep going, so ya can join Alan and Eddy in relay races. But, mark my words ya two wankers. I’ll punch ya lights out if ya don’t do well in the Interschool Games. As for me!” tall, slim Dave says, “I’m built for the high jump, and long jump. Be no problem, ‘cause I’ve watched both of ‘em on the telly.”
We meet every morning, evenings, and weekends, but have little improvement. We work hard for two hours then collapse in a group on the grass sweating and panting.
Out of breath. I say “Dave, we’re wasting … our bloody … time!”
“You lot are not motivated,” Dave says. “I got the winning times from last years games from old Stanton. We’re gonna race for green!”
“Oh!” I say, “So where’s this money coming from? It don’t grow on trees ya know!”
“We’re gonna nick it from our mum’s handbags. Then we’ll each ante-up a pound in the pot. The one what gets closest to winning will get the big five pound prize.”
We meet Mr. Stanton at six A.M. then board the red double-decker bus. Each of us really looks the part. Mr. Stanton had borrowed matching blue shorts and shirts from his old school. Getting off the bus, the white columned Grecian style South West Essex Tech looms up in front of us. We walk in silence to the running track. I know we’ve trained hard, for the entire ten weeks, but I have huge butterflies in me gut. Entering the field I see hundreds of real field and track athletes from the richer schools, limbering up. All my butterflies form a squadron then fly upwards. I swallow and close my lips to stop from throwing up. Hoping it will calm my nerves I head for the loo to have a quick wank.
I take second in the four-forty and third in the two-twenty. Dave steps over the line and is disqualified from the long jump. His long legs place him second in the high jump. We could have won the relay, but one of the twins refused to let go of the relay baton, and Eddy dragged him about thirty feet around the track. We came in third.
Eddy shocks us all by winning the hundred-yard dash, breaking the county record. He tells us, “When the gun went off, I let a very wet fart, and was afraid of pooping me shorts so I ran like hell for the finish line, and the W.C.” He won the five pound prize!
On Monday, all five of us go up on stage, in the assembly hall after morning prayers.
“Jolly good show chaps!” The headmaster says. “These five boys showed courage, determination, plus physical fitness at the Interschool Games. So give them a big hand.” The applause is deafening. “Heed their example!” He continues as the applause dies down “They were the underdogs and finished with flying colors, Eddy Sells breaking the county record.” thunderous applause starts again, and cuts off the Headmaster’s voice.
The five pounds made it fun, but I ‘fink the ‘fing what made us achieve the unachievable was our Cockney pride, to show Mr. Stanton that we ain’t no wankers.
Maureen Miller, who is labeled semi-easy, approaches me after the assembly.
“ ’ello Alan…., me name’s Maureen.” She says coyly. “Congratulations, ya’re one of our school ‘eros. I’ve wanted to talk to ‘ya fa so long, but I was too shy.” Wearing a black bra beneath a white low cut blouse, she looks as shy as an alligator in a duck pond.
“Oh, Maureen! Glad to meet ya.” I say, unable to keep my eyes out of her cleavage.
She offers to take me to a movie. Considering my empty pockets, I gladly accept.
As we sit down in the back row, a huge bar of Cadbury chocolate flashes on the screen. The movie then proceeds to show Cadbury’s factory, and how chocolate is made.
“So what’s the main movie, then, Maureen?”
“This is it!” she says, looking down.”
“A bloody movie about Cadburys?”
“Yeah! I got the tickets for free, from a bloke outside Woolworth’s.”
“Christ, Maureen! I ‘fought ya was taking me to a real bloody movie.”
“Now, now, don’t get pissed off. I’ll throw me raincoat over us, ya can cop a feel.”
My hand slipped inside her bra, and I’m titing-her-up! Unexpectedly, I feel her hand touching the head of my “Pride and Joy” through my trousers. I feel embarrassed that she knows how excited I am. Wills, I think, ya mates will never believe this!
“Do ya wan’ta put ya ‘and up me skirt?” she whispers, nibbling on my ear lobe.
“Not ‘alf!” I pull my hand from her bra. Holding my breathe I gingerly slip it between her legs, under her tartan skirt, and feel the softness of her inner thigh. I stop knowing I’m about to touch that forbidden place. I think, Wills, you could be the first of the boys to actually touch what we have talked about for so long?But ‘ow can ‘ya prove it to ‘em?
“What you two up to?” a voice says from behind a blinding light. It’s the usher.
“Oh, nuffing, sir,” I say, removing me hand. “We put the coat over us …It’s cold!”
“Do ya see stupid idiot written on me forehead?” he says, shining the light in my eyes.
“You two buggers are doing nasties in me cinema! I’m going to call ‘ya parents.”
I jump up, grab Maureen’s hand, push the usher across the aisle, and we run from the theater. We don’t stop running till we reach the bottom of High Street.
At the theater there was a tray of free samples, Maureen helped herself to two bars. At her house, she takes them from her handbag, and hands one to me.
“I’m five minutes late, me dad’ll kill me,” she says. “Sorry we don’t ‘ave time to finish what we started, but I’ll make it up to ya on our next date. I’ll eat me Cadbury’s in bed, and ‘fink of you, Alan. She kisses me hard, and is gone through her front door.
It all happens so quick that I stand there feeling as useless as spare prick at a wedding. On me way home I think of her soft smooth thighs while I eat the chocolate, and have to stop down an ally for a quick wank. Finish what we started. I think, does she mean?
Saturday morning. I awake early, and remember putting my hand up Maureen skirt. My pride and joy is making a tent of the sheets. I take care of it, into my handkerchief. Then I run up our street to Dave’s house, and pound on the door. His dad lets me in. Without a word, I bound up the stairs, two at a time, and burst into Dave’s bedroom.
“Wake up, Dave! I bloody did it. Wake up, for Christ sake.”
Slowly he sits up and rubs his eyes. “What’s all the bloody fuss about then?” Getting out of bed, he slides a chamber pot from beneath, and takes a pee in front of me.
“I bloody did it.” I yell “I put me bloody ‘and all the way up Maureen Miller’s skirt.”
Dave says, “So! Every boy in school ‘as got a little stink-finger from ‘er!”
I’m crushed. That dirty slut! I think.
Wills, I ‘ope ya didn’t touch ‘er ‘fing! Cause ya fingers could turn black and fall off!
At school Maureen Miller tries to talk to me, without a word I walk away in disgust. Now I’m definitely sworn off birds, and pledge to just hang out with me mates. Next time we all go to the cinema I have to have a bar of Cadbury’s. It recaptures the memory of Maureen Miller’s soft, smooth inner thigh. I head for the loo to relive the tension. After, I walk back to where me mates are seated. However, I don’t feel that wonderful old feeling like floating up to heave, it’s like I’m left still wanting.
It’s now a year later and we all seem to have changed dramatically. At fourteen Dave’s voice suddenly jumps three octaves. It goes from the high shrill of a girl being goosed in a crowd to the deep tones of a radio sports announcer.
Eddy, who insists we now call him Ed, says when he looked in the mirror one morning, he discovered his hands and feet had almost doubled in size. He says that’s why he keepings his hands in his pockets. We all know he’s playing pocket billiards.
Danny’s face and neck have become even more infested with acne. His favorite pastime is squeezing whiteheads that splatter onto the mirror in the boy’s toilet. He collects his blackheads in a matchbox, to grosses out the girls on the school playground. During this pitted-face period the same policeman who caught him sniffing girls’ bicycle seats, and let him off with just a warning, has now arrested him. It appears he had shinnied-up a drain pipe outside the municipal baths to ogle women undressing. The policeman would normally just shake his finger, call him a dirty little sod, and send him on his way. However, this time Danny was holding on the drain-pipe with one hand and amusing himself by abusing himself with the other. The story flew around our school, he is now called the “World’s Wildest Wanker.” Dave predicts, Danny will be the one to start a new club called “Sex Without Partners.”
As for myself, I am getting much taller plus suffering many of the same teenage growing aches and pains, my legs always ache. My mates attribute this to me standing while wanking in front of the toilet. How dare they suggest such a thing! I absolutely deny it! But I have change to a seated position.
End of Chapter 3
By Alan Wills
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