Authors: Maria Boyd
For my dad, Patrick Boyd, who understood and believed
and for all the Wills, Chrises, Marks, Zachs, Jocks and Tims who have touched my life
Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!
The words reverberated around the playground of St. Andrew’s like the backbeat of drums at a live gig. The bell for the end of the day had echoed half as loudly fifteen seconds before and with it hundreds of boys had bolted out of homerooms, toilets, offices, corridors and bike sheds, sniffing the taste of freedom for another week.
Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!
With each round of the chant more and more boys diverted from their quest for freedom and converged on the top oval. Everything was in place for the undertaking of one of the most revered rituals in an all-boys school: it was a Friday afternoon, the wind was blowing, there were no teachers around and two skinny Year 9 boys had been conned into believing that the other had said something about his mum.
I wasn’t really into the mob fight thing, and I felt sorry for the two kids who by now probably wanted to bawl their eyes out and run home, but it didn’t stop me loving the chaos it created.
Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!
Right on cue the staffroom door swung wide open and out came security. Normally the PE blokes were the first to make it out, maybe because they were fit or maybe because they didn’t want to miss out on the action. This time the charge was led by Waddlehead, aka Waverton, the deputy principal; he was old, but when he was wound up
he could move. He powered across the oval flanked by a collection of year coordinators, and the rest of the teachers who hadn’t already bolted to the pub for Friday-afternoon drinks. The door to Mr. No-Show Kennedy, the principal’s office, remained shut, as usual.
The two skinny Year 9 kids, who had just managed to grab each other’s shirt collars and kind of swing each other around, had absolutely no idea the posse, led by Deputy Waddlehead, had arrived. On instinct, most of the mob legged it upon their arrival. Unfortunately the two heroes took the mass exodus as a sign they were off the hook, and let go of each other’s shirts, grinning stupidly at one another, completely unaware that they were seconds away from impending doom. Still grinning, they turned around to see where everyone had buggered off to. It was then that their eyes fell on the procession. Fear froze on their faces. Waddlehead deliberately slowed down on approach. Like startled animals they remained glued to the spot, mesmerized. No one did anything. Then, with the slightest lift of his chin and a razor-sharp point and curl of his index finger, Waddlehead seized his prey. The two prisoners turned back toward the school and made the long, slow walk across the oval.
No, it wasn’t going to be a good weekend for those two buggers, no matter how much they swore to their mums that they were only sticking up for them.
The pack moved restlessly to the bus stop. They were unsettled, hanging around, waiting for something else to happen. They’d been left unsatisfied and were revved to the max. Because of the delay, most of us had missed our usual school buses. That meant there were even more of us squashed into a minuscule patch of grass just inside the school gates. We weren’t allowed outside the gates because some moron had managed to get himself flattened by a souped-up Torana three years ago. The kid was fine now, but Waddlehead has never got over it.
I don’t know why we had to suffer because some idiot forgot to follow his road rules. But that was the way things went at St. Andrew’s College Lakeside. Lakeside was the name of the fake suburb where the school was built and, like most things at St. Andrew’s, the idea of it being near any kind of water, let alone a lake, was bullshit.
I made my way over to where the boys were. Jock was causing havoc, as usual, running around trying to give any unsuspecting junior a wedgie. Tim, who was always up for anything, was Jock’s accomplice. They’d worked out this routine: they’d cash in on their rugby-hero status and their size, single out a kid, make him feel really important, and then one of them, normally Jock, would move in behind and give the poor unsuspecting bastard a wedgie. The other kids would fall about cracking up, leaving the victim not knowing whether to join in or throw a complete hissy fit. The funniest thing
was, though, once they’d readjusted themselves, most of them looked like they thought it was the best joke ever. Some even asked, sometimes begged, for Jock and Tim to do it to them next. Sad.
Jock looked up above his midget fan club and waved me over.
I shook my head and dropped my bag in our regular patch of grass. I noticed that one of the midgets had set up camp nearby with a music case half his size. He was definitely loving the Tim and Jock show—but only from a very safe distance. I was about to point out that he had to wait another four years before he’d earned the right to step on senior ground when I made eye contact. There was no way I could have told those eyes to get lost, they were too … trusting. Anyway, he wasn’t hurting anyone and if he went over there and became the next victim, I wasn’t going to protect him. I left the big-brother stuff to Jock and Tim.
If I thought about it, Tim and Jock were my closest mates, except for Chris. Chris was my best mate, but because he lived across the road from the school he’d never been a part of the bus bonding. This was something that had killed him in Years 7 and 8 but now, when we were whingeing about bad body odor on thirty-degree days, he just smiled and told us he’d be home relaxing after a cool shower in two minutes’ time.
Jock, Tim and me had gone through the same routine since we’d begged our mums in Year 7 not to drop us at the school gates and kiss us in front of our mates. And even worse, be at the bus stop when we got home! Back then catching the bus was considered a rite of passage. But now, four years down the track, it was a pain in the arse. The anticipation of our own set of keys to a car, any car, teased all of us. One more year before we could be masters of our own destinies and do as many burnouts as we wanted.
At least this year was different. We had finally crawled our way
up the bus chain and graduated to the top of the pyramid. The bus law of St. Andrew’s may not have been written in the student diary but every St. Andrew’s kid knew it. After five years we had earned the right to total bus control and power. We got on the bus first, the backseat was ours, and if anyone was going to peg something at someone it either came from us or was cleared by us. Only the Year 12 boys could pull rank. It was part of the unwritten student code, the one that teachers know nothing about.
I sussed the crowd. In the last ten minutes the rowdiness had grown to fever pitch. The fact that the buses were late increased that by a trillion.
On cue I heard the familiar rumble of the Lakeside Girls school bus. It was sitting at the lights about to begin the daily ritual of passing our stop. Just like us, the girls had their own bus law and their own code of behavior. They stared from the buses giggling, giving the finger or rolling their eyes in bored condescension. All three reactions were dependent on status and age, and were as predicable as ours. The main offenders were the Year 9s. This may have had something to do with them having reached puberty and being about ready to self-destruct if they didn’t utter those romantic words, “Oi, you scrag!” or even better, “Get stuffed!”
The restless pack sniffed the air. Girls! The gate tilted under the pressure of the boys trying to get prime position to give the girls some hassle. Everyone was ready to take their part when the hugest, loudest blowout, like the farts of thirty giants, came from the back of the bus. The girls screamed and the boys pissed themselves laughing. This continued until it dawned on everyone that in fact the bus was stuck and, even worse, that they would all have to actually look at one another.
This was a clear breach of bus law, and everyone was a little unsure of how to act. Never one to let the boys down, I felt it was my
opportunity—no, in fact my duty—to step in and save the day. I went over to Jock and whispered to him.
No way, Willo!
I smiled, extending my hand.
Wanna make a bet?
Casually I moved to the curb. I strategically placed myself so no other member of the public could see—we did have the good name of the college to keep up. I faced the entrance gates, looking directly into the stony frown of the school’s founder. The back half of my body was in full view of the stationary bus. Slowly, surreptitiously, I unbuckled my belt and grabbed the top of my school pants and boxers. I threw my head around ninety degrees on each side looking for the enemy, winked at the statue and dropped my pants. The first moon in full public view and in front of girls in St. Andrew’s history. Or so I was told afterward.