I think the end is in sight! (That is not a pun). Derek’s dreadful story started on Monday, so I guess it’ll finish on Friday: one school week. Not sure how it will end just yet though, which is odd for me because I like to plan out a story from start to finish. This will be the very first time I’ve managed to finish a work piece that was completely unplanned. The shape of things to come maybe; I don’t know. Anyway, I’ve you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding the first three parts; I’ve stuck them under the Writing menu, but just in case…
The Early Springer’s Book Club (Part 1)
The Early Springer’s Book Club (Part 2)
The Early Springer’s Book Club (Part 3)
And below is Part 4, which, if memory serves, takes place on Thursday…
The noticeboard outside the school carried the usual dew-soaked announcements for school recitals and missing satchels. Sophie Stebbs’s artwork had been removed and a note left in place, stating that items left on the board had to be laminated and approved by deputy head. The note was hand-written; Derek recognised the sensuous rolls and peaks of Miss Dunbavin’s handwriting. He thought, She’s defending me – just like Boudicca would. and he found himself smiling despite the fatigue and heaviness of limbs that had weighed him down on his walk to school. His journey of self-discovery, taken throughout the previous evening and well into the night, had left him physically drained.
‘You look like shit.’
‘Morning Tony.’ Derek replied without turning around.
‘By the looks of you,’ Tony Harrington-Speed continued, ‘I’d say you’d overdone it – if you get my drift.’
Derek caught his tone and didn’t really care for it. He noticed that Tony was travelling without his usual entourage of under-bullies and random arse-lickers, and he wondered if, without a crowd around him, Tony Harrington-Speed was half the man he pretended to be. He wondered what would happen if he hit him, now, hard, in the face…
‘The magazines are great, aren’t they?’ Tony was smiling now. Derek didn’t care for that either. ‘But you need to pace yourself, old son.’
He wasn’t sure that he could. The pictures from the magazines flooded his brain and his Problem urged him to find a quiet toilet cubicle where they could be alone… and when he tried to force the images from his head, Miss Dunbavin stood ready to take their place, dressed in her thin black pencil skirt and a crisp cream blouse, just thin enough for him to make out the line of her bra…
‘Earth to Smith; Earth to Smith.’ Tony was snapping his fingers under Derek’s nose. ‘Remember, it’s 70p a week, first instalment due Friday.’
‘Seventy… You said fifty!’
‘Yeah, and I also said that I wanted the mags back without the pages stuck together. You strike me as a bit of a risk.’
‘Sixty,’ said Derek automatically. Whenever his Dad was given a price for anything, he always knocked ten off.
Tony shook his head and sighed. ‘Your second name Trotter is it? It’s seventy a week or you can get your own dirty mags.’ He didn’t bother waiting for a reply. Derek watched him saunter off through the school gates and wondered how it was that some people seemed to sail through puberty without being touched by it. He dragged his feet into school, ignoring the kids in their gangs who all ignored him. He’d started late in the year, the time after friends were made and cliques had formed. He’d started late, as an outcast, with the label ‘weird kid’ etched invisibly on his forehead. The only person who paid him any attention was Tony Harrington-Speed, and that was usually just to flush his head or ‘borrow money’, and sometimes Derek was grateful for that because sometimes being bullied was better than being ignored.
… And of course there was always Sophie Stebbs. Derek sighed inwardly and slowed to a halt. Sophie and three of her hangers-on formed a tight semicircle around him: a makeshift theatre. Sophie was about to be clever.
‘You alright today, Derek?’ She had a way of pronouncing his name, like she was saying ‘tosser’: You alright today, tosser?
Her friends giggled and waited for Sophie to drop the hammer.
‘Not going to have any surprises in class today, are we?’
His Problem was the stuff of legend; something that others would use to hound and belittle him for the rest his days. Derek’s future slowly unfolded in front of him: an endless, deafening chorus of cock jokes. The mere thought of was enough to break him, and in a moment of uncommon cruelty, he remembered that Sophie Stebbs had a legend of her own.
‘What’s twelve times twelve, Sophie?’
Sophie stopped smiling so she could swallow. ‘Wh…what?’
‘You heard. What’s twelve times twelve?’
Sophie blinked. Her companions shuffled nervously from foot to foot.
‘Okay, something easier then. Five eights.’
Sophie folded under the simplest maths question; that was her legend, and thinking about it, Derek wondered why it wasn’t hauled out in front of her more often.
‘Five times ten, Sophie.’
‘Forty!’ she said in a panic.
‘Oh for fuck’s sake, Sophie…,’ whispered Lizzy.
Sophie’s eyes searched for the camaraderie that had armoured her only a moment before. Michelle and Lizzy coughed and drifted away, and then Derek saw something else: only one of Sophie’s eyes searched, the other one sort of… followed, catching up with its companion a second later. It was the greatest gift in the whole world! Why hadn’t he noticed this before? All those wasted opportunities…
‘Oh my god, Soph!’ he cried. ‘You’ve got spastic eyeballs!’
‘Leave it, Derek,’ Trisha Gibbs warned.
But Derek had no intention of leaving anything. ‘Can’t do maths, spastic eyes… Is there anything right with you Sophie?’
‘Leave her alone, Derek!’
‘You’re a spaz, Sophie,’ Derek said breathlessly. ‘You’re just a thick spaz. You should be in the special unit you should.’
Sophie stared at him, and Derek thought she was going to hit him. ‘You… shouldn’t…,’ she began and then dissolved into tears. Trisha closed in to comfort her.
Derek didn’t feel one mote of remorse.
‘You’re a right bastard, Derek Smith,’ said Trisha, cradling Sophie’s heaving sobbing frame in her heaving hairy arms. ‘Now look what you’ve done.’
‘She started it,’ Derek said triumphantly. He felt like a king, a god. He would ridicule Sophie Stebbs and her stupid brain and her crappy eye until the end of time. He was about to launch another attack, kick her while she was wounded, but as he opened his mouth, the scent of Poison drifted under his nostrils and settled on his tongue. Derek recognised it straight away; his mother wore it – and so did Miss Dunbavin. He turned slowly and there she was, standing there, hands on hips, in her pencil skirt and her crisply-pressed cream-coloured blouse.
‘Derek,’ Miss Dunbavin said through clenched, pearl-white teeth. ‘Derek, what have you done?’
She was beautiful, magnificent, and Derek couldn’t remember ever seeing her so angry.