Saturday, 20 February 2010
Pigs might fly
Just look at us in this photograph. That's Derek on the rocking horse, my rocking horse. Can you see the way he is leaning over towards me? He was trying to push me out of view. He always dominated me as a child, not any more though.
"Let's use the children's nursery", said the lady photographer, her commanding manner completely silenced mother who had planned on the Sun room.
She eyed both of us for a moment, then again without consulting Mother, who looked on in admiration at this woman's confidence, told Derek to mount the Rocking horse. I think it was all to do with the way we dressed. I was wearing button up boots a little straight tie at my neck, and was a quiet boy. Derek on the other hand, wore buckle shoes, a shoulder collar with a large tie belonging to Father at his neck. Clearly flamboyant just like her. He was a pushy little boy and had a cheeky manner which clearly endeared him to her. So he sat on my rocking horse.
I was instructed to rest my hand lightly on his leg, some sign of filial affection I suppose. He pushed me away several times but eventually gave in and consented to picture being taken, as you see it now.
For years Derek was the bane of my life. I don't say that we competed against each other, far from it. I tried desperately to avoid contact with him, but it was no good. As soon as we were out of sight of our parents, I would suffer the pinching and the pushing. I dreaded lest I ever got praised by aunties, uncles or friends; it would only result in a glare from Derek, then later true retribution would be loosed.
"Doesn't Billy look smart in his new school cap?"
My heart sank, please don't let Derek hear. But it was no good, he had. Later the cap was torn from my head and thrown in the bushes and I was given a punch.
"Your boys are so sweet, but Billy looks so sad."
I was sad indeed later when Derek had whacked me with a birch twig. I had learned not to complain, that would only bring admonishment for telling fibs.
"He's your brother, Billy, of course he wouldn't do that."
More often than not, Mother would plead, "Why can't you two boys play nicely together. Do try to be good, Billy."
I don't believe we ever played nicely together as Mother put it. I cannot bear to remember the indignities I was put to when we were alone together. I have never liked gardening because of the episodes with the snails and the worms...
I cannot for the life of me understand why my parents ignored the fact that it was always me that came running back with, grazed knees and elbows, cut fingers, a bloody nose and eventually a broken arm.
This last incident happened when were coming home from school, with Derek's friend Brian. They were laughing and joking, when Derek turned around to see me smiling at what they were saying. I don't remember what could have been so funny then, to allow me to be so careless. Derek stopped and strode back to where I was. He lifted his fist and I fell back on the grass verge to avoid him. He stopped, then jumped on me with both feet. Desperately I raised a protective hand, only to receive his full weight on that arm. I remember thinking at the time that something bad had happened to me but it didn't hurt as much as a slap in the face, or his special Chinese burn. This time however the pain didn't go away and I couldn't move my fingers.
Derek and his friend had gone on. I managed to stagger up and support the broken arm, with the other. Crying tears of hurt and anger, I stumbled home.
I never told what happened, when my parents discovered I couldn't use the arm.
"I fell out of a tree."
"You are so careless Billy, why can't you behave like Derek?"
Soon my possession of a plaster cast became as unwelcome as that inadvertent grin which had caused the broken limb. Now I only had one arm to defend myself.
So my tormented life as a child continued.
As a teenager I hardly ever spoke to Derek, but I knew by his looks at me he was still longing for the day when an opportunity would arise for some physical or mental abuse.
My first girlfriend as a teenager was Iris Watkins, looking back now, I can see her face. A round smiley freckled face, surrounded by a mass of curly brown hair. She seemed to like me, and I was proud to be with her. We walked home together from school and in Blackberry Lane out of sight of the houses I held her hand. She was warm and friendly and her mother always welcomed me in their cottage, plying me with drinks and home made cake. Then one day she was gone from my life for ever. Later I found out that she had called for me on the way to school and Derek had been at the garden gate. Whatever he said to her was enough to end our relationship.
Luckily our ways parted when we got jobs and I had to get a tiny flat in town where I worked as a clerk. For some years my life was free from his bullying. Those were halcyon days indeed. There was the Cricket Club, the local girls at the Town Hall dances and the exhilaration of being my own person. These were the best times in my life.
But it all had to end.
The first letter I received was a polite request for a bill to be paid, which the writer stated must surely be a result of an oversight. I was puzzled, I owed no money at all to anyone. Then before I had dealt with that one other demands came in. They became more impatient. The words 'unless' and 'legal proceedings', were quoted. Frantically I contacted the firms involved. Goods and services had been booked in my name giving my address, but had not been paid for. Every time the shop the shop had been given the instruction to send the account to me. In those days tradesmen trusted customers. I even called at the establishments concerned. My suspicions were clearly centering on Derek.
I had to confront him.
He no longer lived with Mother, so I wrote a postcard asking him to call on me that evening. I half expected him not to bother but at 8.00 p.m. precisely, my door bell rang.
He stood at the door. His eyes were laughing but his mouth sneered at me. Arrogant as usual he walked past me before I could ask him in.
"So this is where little Billy lives?"
Avoid confrontation. Act sensibly. Use reason. All these thoughts went through my mind.
"Derek let me come right to the point. These accounts that you have put in my name. I cannot pay them."
He looked quizzically at me, probably wondering what I would say next.
"I know that we have never got on." I went on. "But why on earth didn't you let me know you were short of cash, and we could have come to some sort of agreement."
"Short of cash!" he laughed. "Pigs might fly, I could buy and sell you ten times over."
This was probably true. He had a better job than I, and according to Mother he had now invested in some property. He was refusing to take the easy way out now and give up by saying it was all a silly game.
"O.K. then Derek. So what is it all about?
"It's all about making you squirm." He said maliciously. "You are such a fool, you need to be taught a lesson. It is so good to see you hurt."
With that he came over to me and pushed at my chest with his right hand. I fell against the fireplace. I reached out to steady myself against the mantelpiece. I missed and knocked the fire irons over and finished up in heap by the empty hearth.
He laughed and stepped forward to kick me as I was down. I picked up the poker to defend myself and jabbed at him as he came upon me. The tip of the poker pierced his thigh. A strange look came over him. It was a mixture of hurt and surprise. He looked around for something to hit me with but before he could find anything I got up on my feet and struck him . The poker this time hit him in the jaw. I have never felt such satisfaction. It was not just the hit, it was the way the jaw broke and the feeling transmitted through the poker to my hand. I was exhilarated. He could not utter a sound but attempted to cradle his face in his hands. I wanted to hear him cry out. But he couldn't, he was spoiling my game. I struck him again. A look of sheer terror now came to his eyes. Yes! Little Billy was fighting back. Now he was whimpering. He tried to avoid my next blow but still had to take it on the shoulder. He crumpled there in front of me. He was trying to scream but nothing came out, except a few bloody bubbles. He rocked himself unable to tend all of his injuries. So I hit him again, right across the temple. He gave up attempting to protect himself and said no more. It was all over for him.
I sat down exhausted.
All I could think of was that I would have to pay those bills now.
I stayed sitting quietly for some time. Derek didn't do a lot either. He was quite dead.
Then I got out the family photographs to look at. Just to see what we were like when we were younger. Now here is that one I was telling you about. The one where we are together with Derek sitting on my rocking horse. He shouldn't have should he? Because this little piggy did fly.
Black & white photograph found in a Trash & Treasure store by author