Monday, 27 June 2011

an odd boy : if you see me coming, you’d better step aside

if you see me coming,
Infant school had been gloriously free of team sport – but junior school was a nightmare of ball games.  The balls of Moloch  were horribly in evidence—as were boys—and I eyed them warily.  They seemed infantile and ridiculous – ready to fight for reasons I couldn’t comprehend.  I’d been hit repeatedly and pushed about the school yard by a particular boy called Adrian Parrott.  He appeared to pick on me without cause – and evidently thought it fun to make my play periods miserable.  One day I decided that enough was enough – and knocked him to the floor with a blow to the nose.  I didn’t intend to hit him on the nose.  I just swung out at him – and his nose was at the end of the swing.  There was more blood than I imagined was possible.  His white shirt was sodden with it.  The poor boy was terrified.  So was I.  I thought he was going to die. 

Trouble erupted over my première as a pugilist.  Other boys—onlookers—came to my defence.  I’d been hit first – but the teachers seemed to think that I had hit back far too hard. 
I probably did hit him too hard – but I’d never hit anyone before.  How was I supposed to know what would happen? 

The teachers eyed me as some sort of thug.  I’d obviously been slugging it out since I was a toddler.

If you see me coming you’d better step aside / A lotta men didn’t and a lotta men died / I got one hand made of iron – the other made of steel /
If the left one don’t getcher then the right one will. 

Merle Travis—Sixteen Tons—performed by Tennessee Ernie Ford—1946

This was hardly my image of myself.  This was the first time I’d fought – so I was confused by the way in which I was treated. 

[...]

I was deeply sorry for Adrian Parrott – but the outcome proved useful.  I was never bullied again at that school. 

It wasn’t over a week in fact before I was talking to Adrian in a friendly way.  The teachers noticed that I never fought anyone and my Form Teacher took me aside to tell me that they were happy with my behaviour in the play ground.  Everything was forgotten and the teachers accepted that I was not a homicidal hoodlum.

When Bo Diddley come to town, the streets get empty and the sun go down.  
Bo Diddley—Bo Diddley’s a Gunslinger—1960



Volume 1 of an odd boy by Doc Togden will be published by Aro Books worldwide in 2011

Excerpts can be read on Doc Togden's Facebook fanpage

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