The Bluebottle Boys — Chapter 17, Part 9, Edgbaston, late March 1962: “Meeting the ‘Aston Quartet'” [section 1 of 2]

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[Note: The photograph below is a shot of the far side of the ABC Edgbaston, where Doofus & Tiny will eventually go, as they make their retreat]

A dimmer switch inside my head slowly brought them back up again, to a shower of stars and the sound of what may or may not have been a swarm of bees – or maybe a large chorus of tweeting birds by the ocean.

I did hear the words “Y’shoodna doonnat.…” from a low tenor voice, or maybe a high baritone, followed by feeling Tiny’s ham hand unceremoniously leave my shoulder.

I heard numerous indistinct but contentious voices, which sounded like they were coming from the far end of a long tunnel, followed, as the stars slowly began to abate, by the voice of a kid about my age, laughing before he said, “Soooo, Prince Charming, this switchbled’s yaws. Wot a wuaste f’a really bostin noif.”

At this point, the lights were sufficiently on, the haze suitably cleared for me to see the voice did belong to a kid about my size and age,  examining Doofus’ switchblade as if it were an ancient artifact. He’d shaggy red wavy hair; his name, as I’d soon learn, was Mick Darrow.

I’d later discover his demeanor masked an intellect that would easily do well in my own school of well-heeled academic achievers – if it could cast aside prejudice, admit him and possibly grant him a scholarship.

At the opposite end of the intelligence continuum was the person now holding Quasimodo in check. His name was Wackford Willis – “Wack” to his friends, amongst which he now numbered Stan, Ian and me. Wack was 14 going on 15, though his mind was still in elementary grades.

But if Tiny was King Kong, this kid was Godzilla.

He held Tiny by the scruff of his neck, letting him balance – just barely – on the end of his toes. Wack had none of the sadistic delight Quentin had when he immobilized someone, but simply suspended Quasimodo in the same matter-of-fact way he might have held a box of groceries or a bag of coal.

Two others held Doof in place. One was another kid, also my age and size, who’d particularly enraged Doof by virtue of having the effrontery to be one of the people immobilizing him. Rufus, the Lord High Goofus of Doofus was calling him quite a variety of epithets and unpleasant names, none of which I intend to repeat here.

The verbally abused captor was Dexter Henry, an Afro-Caribbean kid – something of an anomaly among the good residents of Aston. Rufus’ ranting rage seemed to amuse him more than anything else. His father was a tailor, as I was to learn; he was upper-lower class, better dressed than the others, lived in conditions far closer to health and decency, and was, in the main, more affluent. His hair was perfectly ordered, tidy and arranged – as, I was to learn, was his life.

 

© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.

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