12 Sep

As he stared at it, the great looking-glass seemed to shimmer, and Bernard trembled.
So he’d been a baby once – hadn’t everyone been a baby? And he wouldn’t have recognised himself had he not recognised his own mother holding him so it might have been any old baby, mightn’t it, even a stranger conjured up in Hell to lead his mind astray.
As if he could read his thoughts Satan grinned that crooked, twisted grin of his and shook his horned head.
“Take another peek, sonny,” he growled, “let’s see what’s happened to the tender young thing as the years passed … look, here you are at school, and what a school that was, what a house of learning that even my friend Adolph would have been proud of.”
He looked into the looking glass and he instantly recognised a building he hadn’t been in for seventy years. It was his old infant school, the one that had been demolished in the post-war rebuilding of a bombed-out part of his town, and here it was in the shiny mirror clearer than it was in his head.
The playground was the same as it had always been, with weather-erosion on markings for games and a little toilet block well clear of the main buildings.
“They were like that back then,” he muttered to the Devil for no better reason that the silence in the vast cathedral-like space was oppressive and he needed to fill it with something.
“You mean schools?” grunted the other.
“No. The toilets. They were always in the open and away from the main building because of the smell. They smelt horrible of stale old wee and the strong disinfectant they put around everywhere, and that was worse than the wee. At least, I thought it was.”
“And the windows had no glass in them,” smirked the Devil. “Can you see, little windows above the head of a child so that others couldn’t see in from outside. You wouldn’t want the little girls peering in when you were weeing now, would you? That wouldn’t be right, would it: little girls watching and giggling and being naughty as they pointed and mocked?”
“Don’t!” shouted Bernard, shocking even himself, “I mean, they didn’t do that. They couldn’t. The windows were too high.”
“Look! Bernard look! Here you come!”
And it was him. He could tell from the slanted cut of his fringe and the way that his grey school shorts had creases down the sides instead of down the front. They had been embarrassing had those creases. He remembered being teased, your mum doesn’t know how to do the ironing like my mum does, you look scruffy! Scruffy old Bernie, Scruffy old Bernie… and the other children would, giggling and mocking and pointing, join in the silly chant.
Silly, yes, but it hurt.
Stuff like that does hurt when you’re five or six and only want to fit in with all the others. When you don’t want to be different like he hadn’t wanted to be different. And the last thing you want is a crowd of snotty kids jeering at you for something your mother’s done.
“I hated her for it,” he whispered, “for the way she knew I wanted to be the same, but made me different…”
“So you had to prove yourself…” suggested Satan. “You had to show everyone that you were at least as good as them! You had to do it!”
“I did!” almost shouted Bernard…
The young him in the playground stopped on his way to that ill-fragranced toilet block. “I’ll bet I can do it!” he crowed, “I’ll bet I can wee through the window! Just you lot see if I don’t!”
And he ran into the toilet, lowered his shorts with their wrong creases and aimed his stream of urine up, at the window.
There was no chance of it reaching even though he desperately wanted it to. The dead Bernard watched the little living him as he concentrated on that stream of urine and tried to force it ever higher. The little square window coated in the dreadful smelly black tar like all the inside of the boys toilets was beckoned him high above his head. It looked so near and yet so far. He stood back and stared with almost manic eyes at his target.
“I’ll do it!” he grated, “I know I’ll do it!”
“No you won’t!” boomed a voice.
It was the headmaster, a severe man with a fondness for punishment even though his charges were only young, too young, really, to be thrashed. But he was crippled from a childhood illness and the gammy leg that his tuberculosis had rewarded him with had left him unsuited to military service. He so wanted to be a soldier, to be in the field with his weapon cocked and a whole line of Nazis to gun down, but he couldn’t. He was forced to stay at home. He was obliged to be a teacher and then, with early promotion, a head master of a snotty little school filled with snotty little kids, and he would sort them out good and proper. That was his job – prepare the little brats for battle even if he couldn’t go forth to fight himself. So he would toughen them up, all right, he would turn squalling brats into warriors, just you see if he didn’t…
“You dirty, disgusting little boy!” boomed the Headmaster.
What had his name been? Mr Torrid? They’d called him Horrid Torrid, so that make sense.
“Get your dirty hand off that nasty, disgusting bit of you and come to my room with me!” barked Horrid Torrid.
And he’d had to.
Bernard watch his five year old self, wee dribbling out of his grey wrongly-ironed shorts because he’d been caught out long before he’d finished, as he trotted behind a limping Horrid Torrid.
And he’d been caned for that little bit of bragging. Even at his age, barely out of nappies, the headmaster had taken his stick to him and beaten his bottom with it. Hammered it onto those horrible grey school shorts until he howled and howled and howled…
How he’d hated Horrid Torrid.
And how he hated all those other kids who had taunted him to false bravery.
And how he hated his mother who hadn’t known how to iron a boy’s precious shorts.
But most of all, how he’d hated his own need to urinate and the little bit of him that did it.
© Peter Rogerson 12.09.16


One Response to “AT THE SCHOOL TOILET.”

  1. Peter Rogerson September 12, 2016 at 10:45 am #

    This is the seventh episode in a longer work that I’m contributing to daily. The other parts have been posted on this site as I write them and can also be found on writerscafe where they are listed and on a menu.

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