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July 2018, vol 14 no 2

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Mark Gilbert

After School

You made me kneel down and kiss your feet. But it wasn’t as bad as all that – you were a deformed midget and you were ugly . . . and anyway, I had more important problems to worry about . . . .

In an act of pity you tapped me on the shoulder before my lips reached the black leather of your gleaming Dr. Martens . . . and told me to stop – “That’s alright, mate” – you’d proved your power over me, and I’d proved my loyalty, so that was enough – for this particular cloudy Wednesday.

When I saw you notice me scurrying along the path from the opposite side of the grassy rectangle, my eyes tried to fix tightly on the way ahead, thinking that if I ignored you, you might go away . . . .

You’d call out “Oi! Calculatah!” and come waddling across to cut off my escape route, your lanky foot soldier in tow. That was the nickname you gave me. Everyone had a nickname back then.

I never knew your name. You were nothing but an irritant. You went to a different school to me, or maybe you never went to school, just patrolled the lanes and avenues near where you lived with your ridiculous frayed flares dragging through the mud. You called me ‘Calculatah’ because that was what caught your attention the first time, the one thing I had of any conceivable value –

When you ordered me to empty my pockets you discovered my pristine Texas Instruments TI-1250 and enjoyed the look of alarm in my eyes when you tossed it from hand to hand and I wondered how I would explain to my mum that I had lost it and needed a replacement. And it stuck.

Your skinhead haircut got shorter and shorter every time I saw you that summer. But I wasn’t scared of you, you weren’t even a real skinhead.

pretending
everything’s ok
twinkling star


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