The making of a rebel

The little pond on the green shone in the early May sunshine, even though the wind was chill and made his legs hurt.  Clouds across the sky made it feel it might rain. Two more years then no more short trousers. In his coat pocket David felt the medallion. He felt the embossed picture and the writing under it.  The purple ribbon threaded through the bar at the top. The metal was cold and he pushed the pointed end into his palm. The medal meant he was a trained chorister, a high chorister.  Three weeks ago he had been to the RSCM and his medal had arrived in the post yesterday.  The Royal School of Church Music.  A high chorister now and three weddings on Saturday.  That meant 7/6d.  Three half crowns for about two hours singing. What would he do with all that money?  Give it to Mummy. At the weddings the medallion would hang round his neck on the crisp white surplice. He would be proud. Tonight before the practice he would hang the medallion in the cupboard with his cassock ready for Saturday. It would be a long practice.  Trying out the anthems and hymns for Saturday.  Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring. Maybe a new one with Mr Branker shouting.  What was it the older boys called him? Sounded like Branker. Pranker, Manker?

The school playground was almost empty.  He liked being early, nosing round the yard, walking the white lines.  His brother and sister left him at the gate and waited for their own friends.  He had done his duty.  Seen them into the playground.  Now he could be alone.  His friend Geoffrey would always be late.  Geoffrey Monk.  Last week he had stayed a night at Geoffrey’s house.  Geoffrey’s mum had put them both in a bath.  It had been very strange seeing Geoffrey with no clothes. Being with him naked in a bath. He hadn’t looked at him the same since. 

The rain started.  After ten minutes the early children were allowed into the warm school.  David hung up his coat on his hook and took the medallion out of his coat pocket and put it into the one in his grey school shorts.  He liked the feel of it in his pocket.  He was proud of it.  He might show it to Geoffrey, even though Geoffrey wasn’t in the choir and wouldn’t know what it meant.  The school corridor was warm.  Damp children were coming in from the rain and waiting in line outside the classrooms.  They wouldn’t go in until the teacher told them they could.  The classroom belonged to the teacher.  David was third in line.  The two in front of him were girls and he didn’t have anything to say to them.  Along the wall was a big noticeboard that had been painted with a scene from History.  David didn’t know what.  He didn’t like History. He waited.  It seemed like ages.  Other children joined him in the queue.  They weren’t friends so he just ignored them. 

The medallion was in his hand.  The sharp point found its way in a short line scratched in the bottom corner of the history painting.  The line was about an inch long and then turned right, downwards for another inch.  An upside down L.  It turned left another inch and stopped. A zig zag.  The pattern was asking for another zigzag across it, across the middle.  It happened.  The result was pleasing but something was wrong with it.  What was wrong? David had seen the shape before but wasn’t sure where.  He rubbed it with his hand and the flecks of paint fell to the floor.  He soon forgot it because here was Mrs Jackson stalking up the corridor and looking furious.  She always looked furious. She was David’s teacher and would be his teacher next year in Class 6.  She always moved up with her class from Class 5 to Class 6 so she would really know her children after two years with them.

The class started but didn’t go very far before Miss Hamilton, the Headmistress was at the door.  David was told to go and wait in the corridor outside her room.  She looked serious and angry.  Teachers spoke in the corridor and examined the scratched swastika on the Mural of British History.

David spent the whole day doing work in Miss Hamilton’s room.  At the end of the day he was told to bend over a chair and was walloped six times with a slipper.  His mother was waiting outside to take him home.  On his way out David noticed his pattern had been painted over but the colour didn't quite match. No choir practice today and no weddings on Saturday.  What he had done defacing school property with the Nazi emblem, less than ten years after the end of the war had, for the first time in his life, but certainly not the last, established him as an outsider.  He was a naughty boy, destined for trouble; a boy who needed to be watched carefully.

All the best from a road near you,

Mr Alexander
Mr Alexander