“Come on” came the shout from downstairs, “It’s time you were out of bed and getting dressed. Your porridge will be getting cold!”
Jimmy Fisher had, in fact, been awake for the last hour and had been deliberately keeping quiet. He was reading a book on self-defence techniques he had found on a junk stall in the market. It had cost him sixpence but it was a real eye-opener; he had never imagined that such techniques existed. Snapping the book shut and hiding it under the mattress, he felt quietly confident in a way he never had before. He had memorised a variety of techniques for dealing with many dangerous threats. He now knew how to deal with a savage dog that seized upon one’s arm & where exactly to place the blow that would kill the animal without further ado. He still worried that having a big dog sink its teeth into his arm would rather hurt but he knew just what to do. However, he was confident that big boys throwing punches or thrusting knives at him could now be disposed of with simple, scientifically proven moves.
“Hurry up now, Jimmy! You’re going to be late for school!”
Breakfast finished, implored to be good and do his best and duly kissed and hugged, Jimmy left the house and walked down to the bus stop. As he walked along the lane, he was now on the lookout for maniacs wielding knives, threatening thugs and rabid dogs. As he rounded the corner into the village, he tensed as he heard a dog bark. Throwing his satchel strap over his head, so he had both hands free to deal with an attack, he braced himself. Mrs Jellico’s aged Labrador poked its head through the hedge bordering her garden, took one look at him and trotted off. Jimmy didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed.
Once on the bus, Jimmy relaxed a little, as crammed in as they all were, a surprise attack seemed unlikely. Looking around, he saw a group of girls from his year clustered together talking animatedly. Every so often, they would all look round and burst out laughing. Included in the group he noticed Jennifer Butterworth, and immediately coloured up, prompting more sniggering from the group. He liked Jennifer but she gave not the slightest indication that he even existed. Jimmy decided that she was posh….but very attractive all the same.
Soon, the bus disgorged them outside school and they all trooped into the playground.
“Hey, fishface!” came a penetrating shout from across the crowd. It was Richards, a large ugly lout from the year above, who knew he hated the nickname that had dogged him ever since his first year. Jimmy ignored him.
“Oi, I’m talking to yer!” Richards’ voice boomed louder, “Can’t yer hear when someone calls yer name?”
This is going to be a problem thought Jimmy. Worse, still he saw that Jenifer and her friends had heard and were giggling away together.
“Come over here if you want to speak to me,” Jimmy heard himself respond “Then you won’t have to shout like an idiot!”
The next thing Jimmy knew was Richards elbowing his way through the crowd, red in the face, gaining speed as he approached with both large hands outstretched, ready to grab him. Jimmy saw a textbook attack coming at him and reacted exactly as his book described; he grabbed hold of Richard’s lapels, brought his right knee up and into his attacker’s midriff and fell backwards, arching his back & pulling Richards with him. As they fell, he straightened his leg causing Richards to soar over his head. Jimmy twisted and sprang onto his feet in time to see Richards flat on his back, completely winded.
God, thought Jimmy, it works, it actually bloody works. Looking up he saw that Richard’s charge through the crowd had caused a few of the group of girls to fall over and there was Jenifer, also flat on her back with her skirt around her waist, struggling to preserve her modesty. Jimmy strutted over and holding out his hand helped her to her feet.
Before either could say a word, he saw that Richards was now on his feet, gasping for breath and scowling at him. The bell rang and a teacher appeared on the steps to usher the school inside. Glancing back, he saw Richards pointing a finger at him, mouthing something.
The morning passed quickly with art, geography and English, some of his favourite lessons. All too soon, the bell rang for lunch. The class quickly scrambled out and across the playground to queue outside the prefabricated building that served as the kitchen and dining hall. He was chatting happily with Bobby Smith, his chum from the village, when he felt a vicious shove in the back. Turning, he found Richards, red in face, in the process of drawing back his fist to strike.
A calmness, almost like slow-motion, came over Jimmy as his newly found instincts kicked in; as he saw the large fist approaching, he ducked, deflected the arm behind the fist and struck Richards a blow full on his face. Stepping back, as he expected a further attack, he was astonished to see a long slit appear on Richards cheek and blood began to flow copiously.
Two masters came rushing over, examined Richards face and ushered him away. As they departed, one of the two shouted back,
“You! Fisher! Headmaster’s study after school!”
The steak, kidney pie & chips had never tasted better that day. Slaps on the back and mutterings of “Well, done!” brightened his mood He started on the semolina and jam with his thoughts on the heavier tasks of maths and physics that stretched ahead before his meeting with the head. As they filed out of the dining hall, he noticed Jenifer glance at him with a shy smile on her face. He went through the afternoon floating on a cloud of happiness and newfound confidence.
At four, Jimmy took himself off to wait outside the headmaster’s study. He knew he had to wait, as Mr. Hardacre never appeared to see any of the day’s miscreants before at least 4.30. He decided it must be a ploy to worsen the terror of thinking about the punishment to come. Jimmy wasn’t worried though; it hadn’t been his fault, Richards had attacked him both times.
At a little after 4.30 Mr. Hardacre, swept down the corridor, his gown flowing behind him.
“Inside, Fisher!” he commanded. “What have you got to say for yourself then, boy”
“Please, sir, it wasn’t my fault. Richards attacked me.”
“Do you realise what you have done to Richards?” Spittle was forming on Hardacre’s lips now, “He was taken to the hospital where they placed four, yes, four stitches in his cheek.”
“Silence, boy! I will not countenance violence of any form in my school”
At this point, Jimmy noticed Hardacre had crossed the room and was rummaging in the umbrella stand where he kept his selection of canes. He then proceeded to take out a selection, testing each one by swishing it harshly through the air. Finally deciding on a particularly evil looking, knobbly one, he barked,
“Over the chair, boy!”
The six blows were delivered with all the strength Hardacre could marshal, with a lengthy pause between each strike.
Jimmy could hardly bear to sit as the bus trundled homewards. He decided that Hardacre enjoyed meting out the punishments; he was a sadist.
He smiled to himself as he remembered the events of the day. He had learnt to defend himself, bullies no longer worried him and he had won respect.
And best of all, Jenifer Butterworth liked him and…he had seen her knickers.
All in all, it had been a good Friday.