Short story: The Early Springer’s Book Club (Part 2)

If you haven’t read part 1 yet, you can find it here:

The Early Springer’s Book Club – Part 1

Unfortunately, part 2 won’t make any sense without it 🙂

And just to warn you, this is not exactly a YA story.

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Anyway, having suffered an ‘involuntary stiffening’ during class, young Derek’s week takes an unexpected turn… now read on.


Wednesday

On Wednesday of that same week, Derek Smith dragged his feet to school; he was expecting the day after the day after to be very much worse.

He was met at the gate by Tony Harrington-Speed and his henchmen – an assortment of ill-coordinated limbs and raging acne that basked in the light shining from Tony’s back passage.

They looked at the noticeboard.

They looked at Derek.

‘“The stiffening”,’ Harrington-Speed recited, then smirked. ‘Stebbs’s work, I’d say.’

Harrington-Speed like to think himself as the ‘one of the new breed of school bully’: an entrepreneurial tormentor who was very much a product of the Thatcherite education system. Harrington-Speed didn’t come from a broken home; he hadn’t fallen through the cracks of a social care network stretched to breaking point. He had no older brothers who tortured him for sport or tradition, or older sisters who used him to hone their skills with an eyeliner.

No, Harrington-Speed regarded being the school bully as a career move.

His father, Edward Speed MBE, owned the packaging factory at the edge of town, and had achieved his wealth through grit, sweat, and by driving his senior staff to nervous exhaustion which he insisted was character building.

Unfortunately, for Years One through Four of Blessed St. Mary’s Comprehensive School, Tony Harrington-Speed wanted to be just like his father.

‘If you’re going to flush my head,’ Derek said wearily, ‘then could it wait until lunchtime?’

‘Why?’ Tony asked. ‘Do you have a date?’ He looked to his henchmen with one eyebrow slightly raised. It was their cue to cut in with his laughter track. For a moment Derek had the strangest notion he was watching Only Fools and Horses.

‘Good one,’ Derek said, surrounded by peels of forced guffaws.

‘Don’t arse-lick, Smith. I don’t like arse-lickers.’

‘I wasn’t arse-licking, Tony. I think you are a genuinely funny human being.’

Harrington-Speed looked at him sideways. ‘Was that sarcasm, Smith?’ He turned to his henchmen. ‘Did that sound like sarcasm to you?’

‘Sounded a lot like it to me, Tone.’

‘Definitely at attempt at irony, I’d say.’

Harrington-Speed nodded and turned his attention back to Derek. ‘I see a toilet bowl in your future, Smith.’

‘You always do, Tony.’

‘And I suspect it won’t be one of the cleaner ones on the ground floor.’

‘It never is, Tony’

‘But not today,’ Harrington-Speed said brightly. He rubbed his hands together and smiled. It wasn’t the warmest smile; it reminded Derek of a rubber shark he’d seen in a film last Sunday night.

‘Today, Smith, I have come to heal, not flush.’ Harrington-Speed fancied himself a bit of poet.

‘Heal? There’s nothing wrong with me.’

‘Most of the school reckon that’s not the case, old son.’ Harrington-Speed put an arm around Derek’s neck and held him in a friendly, overly familiar headlock. He entreated Derek to his most sincere look of understanding.

‘Word has it you have a bit of problem, Derek.’

‘A problem.’

‘Let’s call it a condition, shall we?’

Harrington-Speed waited.

Derek tried his best to shrug.

‘Something of an unruly trouser snake.’ Harrington-Speed said patiently. He flicked his eyes towards Derek’s groin, but only for a second; any longer would have been ungentlemanly.

‘I have no idea what you’re talking about, Tony.’

‘The old marriage tackle growing a mind of its own. Happens to us all, doesn’t it, boys?’

The henchmen looked at each other, at the ground, scratched their noses and cleared their collective throat, unsure this was a conversation they wanted to be a part of.

Tony shot his bullying party a hard look and pushed on regardless. ‘Your dick,’ he said. ‘You can’t control your dick.’

There was no uncertainty on Derek’s part: this was definitely a conversation he’d rather not have. ‘If it’s all the same to you, Tony,’ he said weakly, ‘I think I’ll just go ahead with the head-flushing.’

‘Maybe later,’ Tony said, releasing Derek and dusting down his lapels. ‘But for now, I want to tell you a bit about a little self-help group I’m running for those of us afflicted with this embarrassing condition: The Early Springer’s Book Club.’ He puffed out his chest, and Derek wondered how long it’d taken him to come up with the name. It was something light, yet mysterious; friendly yet powerful. Tony hadn’t rolled the last syllable before his henchmen formed a circle around them, facing outward.

He sat down, legs folded, and motioned for Derek to do the same. He opened his bag and laid out his wares.

Derek’s eyes bulged from his head.

‘I can see you’re impressed,’ Tony said with his affected smirk.

Magazines.

Six of them.

Straight from Dillon’s top shelf of forbidden treasures.

Derek wondered if Tony had stolen them or bought them. He wondered how he’d managed to reach the shelf.

‘They’re my dad’s,’ Tony said, giving Derek the disquieting feeling he was reading his mind. ‘Loads more where this came from. New stuff, every month.’

Derek ran his hands over the cover. The girl on the front was pretty, unabashed, unobtainable. She was a dream, and Derek liked that she was a dream because dreams make everything so much less complicated. Dreams never disappoint.

‘They’re all like that,’ Tony whispered, and pushed two of the magazines towards him. They were thin and reasonably priced to Derek’s mind; he assumed they were for beginners, and then he thought, Beginners at what?

He knew the fundamentals, the basic theory; his father had explained it to him in a four-minute conversation that had left him confused and his mother perspiring. His father finished the chat and left Derek’s room in a hurry, mumbling something about asking his mother if he needed to know anything about the optional details such as love and marriage.

‘How much,’ Derek heard himself say.

‘50p a week. First week free. You can take two at a time but you can only keep them for a fortnight at most. Demand and supply and all that.’

It was like a library. Derek felt his heart beat faster. His mouth went dry and he tried to fix Miss Dumbavin’s face on the girl’s body. It made his head hurt and his conscience scream.

‘And they come back clean. Do you understand?’

It sounded a lot like a threat, but most things Tony said sounded like a threat.

‘I don’t know what you—’

‘The pages,’ Tony fanned them out under Derek’s nose, ‘stay separate.’

Derek didn’t understand but nodded all the same.

‘You’ll pay the full cover price if they come back with any –’ Tony tapped his nose and pointed at him. ‘– stains. And every three months, when my dad’s away on business, there’s a film club at my house. That’s an extra five quid.’

Derek nodded, and one of Tony’s lookouts hissed, ‘It’s Mr Singh!’

‘Which one?’

Derek couldn’t imagine why it mattered. Mr Singh the head of maths, Mr Singh the English teacher or Mr Singh: geography and history – who wasn’t important; they’d all be in detention until the end of days.

With a practised sweeping motion, Tony gathered the magazines and dropped them in his bag. He left out the two thin ones which Derek hurriedly snatched and forced into his satchel.

‘Careful!’ said Tony. The boys began to disperse as Mr Singh (Head of Maths) strode towards them.

Tony grinned. ‘My dad gets stuff,’ he said mysteriously, ‘from the continent.’

Derek assumed he meant videos and magazines, rather than cheese.


 

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