A Story About Wanking
I am fourteen.
The Beast of Gristle torments me. To ignore it will result in day-long torment. As a school colleague had recently said with remarkable matter-of-factness, "It's always a shame to waste it".
(I would like to point out that this is not the same colleague who unzipped his flies in the library to show his reading companion the majesty of his adolescence in a fit of miss-placed pride - NONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WERE ME).
I set to work. Must quell the beast. Must cast out its demons. Must do so fairly quickly or shall miss school bus up huge hill and then be be punished by huge banger on end of fork just like at start of comic-book-intro to Grange Hill.
Despite the pressure, am doing quite well.
To interrupt the narrative for a moment, some background is required. We were a comparatively large family in a comparatively small coonsill hoose on a not well-regarded coonsill as-tayte. My unlucky-in-love-and-judgment mother was on her second alcoholic-I-work-hard-eight-hours-a-day-so-if-I-want-to-drink-myself-spastic-for-the-remaining-sixteen-then-I-will husband. Except he'd long since excused himself from the eight hours non-drinking bit as well. Things were grim, but our mother was proud and strong. Working three part-time jobs a week, and single-handedly bringing-up four children, she brought about the time that ended my daily shame, ridicule and embarrassment.
I WAS FINALLY OFF SCHOOL DINNER VOUCHERS.
Oh the voucher. The voucher that entitled you to the most basic meal off the already-basic menu. That entitled you to no pud. That was handed to you at the start of the day, already dog-eared, and that you then had to redeem at the canteen till in view of all your peers. That may as well have been a neon sign reading "My Parents Are Dossers and Pykies" floating above your head. That was FUCKING PINK. It bloody was you know.
But it was gone.
A glorious, unspoken morning bond developed between me and my mam. Just prior to my putting on my coat and leaving the house, she would wordlessly had me my dinner MONEY. I've done this, she would wordlessly say. For you.
He's a wanker, I would wordlessly say. And in this silent moment, we both know it. I love you.
As previously mentioned, I was running a bit late this particular morning.
Mam busts into room. "You're late", she says, oblivious to the fact that at this point I was ironically early. "Here's your bloody dinner money". She was in rush herself for one of her half-dozen jobs.
Faced with the sight of my mother, red-faced and flustered at the final lap of my self-appeasement, my testicles retreated into my stomach and I became limp as a Rich Tea dunked for too long. No mental image of Vanessa Paradis was strong enough to overcome this. I resigned myself to a day of troubled throbbing and got dressed.
Down the stairs to the front hall, where my coat always hung. Whilst reaching for it, Mam emerges from kitchen.
My Mam: Are you sure you're O.K. to go to school today?
My Mam: You don't think you might have a temperature?
My Mam: Only, when I gave you your dinner money just then, your hand felt a bit clammy.
A difficult decision. The certainty of a day off schoool without having to intentionally pretend to be unwell, weighed against the immediate need to put as much distance between me and my mother who - I suddenly realised - having given birth to me, must also have a vagina. JUST LIKE VANESSA PARADIS.
I grabbed my coat and ran.