Wednesday, 16 March 2016

When Daddy Was Batman



 I grew up in a small village called Bishops Itchington, near a small town called Royal Leamington Spa in a non descript county named Warwickshire.

When I was a little boy I used to, like many kids throughout history, have truck with a neighbourhood bully named Jamie.

Jamie wasn't that big. He wasn't that strong. He didn't have a gang and he didn't have weapons. What Jamie had was a vicious, cruel streak and the ability to prey on younger children to vent his frustrations.

Basically, Jamie was a cunt.

I had been bullied by him before and used to run home in tears to a mother who would give me a cuddle and tell me everything was OK but make no attempt to actually curtail the little turd's behaviour. Mainly because his family were working class, rough as a spinster's nipples and the father was known to be violent.

One evening I was playing at the top of the alleyway that was near my house. We lived at 21, next to 25 was an alley that joined our road to the one behind it. It was fun to ride your bikes up and down it (and when we were younger, our toy tractors too) and run them up the tiny grass hill at the bottom. It was also a bit naughty as you weren't supposed to cycle on that alleyway as the big red signs either end made quite clear.

It was starting to get a little gloomy in the sky as the day was packing up its stuff and handing over to night. I was distracted by the sound of my little brother crying and turned to see Jamie sitting on his toy tractor. Walking closer, my little bro seemed very upset that this malnourished bully had stolen his toy and was grizzling loudly.

"What are you doing?" I asked, trying to keep my voice friendly. After all, my tone was the reason people lost their temper with me half the time so I made the tone as much of an enquiry as I could, and hoped it didn't sound like I was accusing Jamie of anything.

"Just sitting on his tractor" Jamie replied, like this was the most normal thing in the world.

"It's not yours, you need to give it him back...please."

Jamie had a face that, at that moment could have persuaded Lucifer to give someone a pass out of Hell for the day. He seemed only too eager to find a solution to this problem of him sitting on my little brother's toy tractor.

"Tell you what. You touch me on the shoulder and you can have it back BUT you must promise that you won't hit me." He beamed cherubically as he said this like these two totally incompatible things weren't at opposite ends of the spectrum of reasonableness.

"Err...how does that work? If I touch your shoulder you'll say I hit you."

Jamie looked momentarily offended and then said in a pleasant tone. "No I won't. Just tap me on the shoulder and you can have it back BUT you must promise not to hit me."

My little brother is now crying at the appropriation of one of his toys and I stand, stuck in stalemate while Jamie sits attached to the tractor, repeating softly that if I just touch his shoulder with my hand then he'll give Gary the tractor back.

I'm only 7 but I know this is a trap. Not sure exactly how or what, as touching someone's shoulder isn't the same as swinging a punch but I can tell that something isn't right.

Jamie attempts to make it easy for me by telling me to say "I won't hit you but I want to touch you on the shoulder." Which I do, hoping that alone will be enough. It isn't.

As Gary continues to be upset and Jamie continues to smile like St Christopher at the pearly gates I finally go "Oh all right" and reach out to gently tap his shoulder with my left hand.

Jamie's face instantly changes. His eager-to-please expression of conviviality warps and twists into a sneer of pure spite and malice.

"So" he sneers, "you lied to me". He gets up, the tractor moving back and pushes me against the wall. I see my brother jump on it and scooter off, using both feet. Jamie grits his teeth as he punches me in the stomach hard. I wheeze but try futilely to hit back, my fist swinging wildly and miss by a mile. Jamie is about to hit me again when a voice bellows.

"YOU BASTARD!!!"

We both turn to see my father storming up the alleyway towards us. Jamie is blatantly used to being confronted by outraged grown ups as he instantly replies while pointing at me "He was calling me names".

"DON'T YOU LIE TO ME. I HEARD YOU. YOU BASTARD!"

Our back garden is on a direct line, behind the fence we are facing, to where we have been standing for five minutes talking. Daddy was obviously digging up potatoes or something Daddyish and heard every word we said.

Jamie doesn't run but simply stands there like a rabbit caught in the headlights. My father reaches him and with a snarl grabs the front of his T-shirt and lifts Jamie clear off the ground. He lifts Jamie so high that his head is above my father's. He then yells in Jamie's face. "YOU STAY AWAY FROM MY KIDS!"

He then lets go and Jamie hits the ground with a thud, his legs buckling and sits on the tarmac hard. For a second he is too scared to move, then he gets up and bolts back to the other end of the alley and his home in Starbold Drive. My father shakes his fist at the scurrying little thug and turns to me.

"Are you alright Lance?"

I burst into tears and I lie about why I'm crying and say it's because Daddy frightened me. Truth is I'm totally overwhelmed by being duped, seeing my brother upset, getting roughed up, and above all the utter badassery that I have just witnessed.


Me and my Daddy walk home, he puts his arm on my shoulder and tells me everything's OK.


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