I had come to Canada from England – apparently kidnapped by my mum but that’s for another time – and because I could read without using my finger and dribbling on the page I was considered, incorrectly, gifted, so was bumped up a grade.
I was bullied all through school for the simple reason that I had skipped a grade. You’d have thought I had actually appealed to my mother and the grade school teachers to go and inflict intellectual torture on bigger kids instead of hanging out and being a kid with kids my own age. Being able to read sooner meant that I was bullied. A lot. For one year I was even bullied by two girls. One of them had been required to retake a grade and was a proper scary piece of work. I like to fondly imagine that she is in the clink now – murdered a junkie in a deal gone wrong? Although, I am sure she will be the scary scary bull-dyke that runs the entire place. I suppose everyone needs to find their niche.
That particular round stopped when I was sat behind one of the two in class and as I looked down one day I was greeted by a rapidly spreading puddle of pee and that the head of this particular river of piss was the chair occupied by one of my torturers. With a heavy heart and a sombre expression I did the only thing a decent well brung up young boy could do and started squealing with delight as I excitedly drew the attention of everyone in the class to this rapidly expanding yellow puddle. Her credibility took a knock and she rather lacked the presence to bully me when we both knew that, though younger, I had a far more developed let-down reflex. With the accomplice wetting herself out of contention then the first one gave up as well. After all, it’s only fun if you have a crowd to play to.
The guy who delighted on picking on me and was a very accurate gobber, was in my year and was a proper dunce. He was so incredibly stupid that he’d been held back a year in Sixth grade. Who the hell is that dumb? Kelly took exception to my accent, the long words, which meant anything with two or more syllables, and the fact that he was a giant and I was puny person two years his junior. It is usual for everyone to just be shuffled along the conveyor belt that is primary education as it takes a lot longer for the real thickos to come to light. Either that or they already ride the small school bus to somewhere different and are never seen of again. It was a small village school and everyone knew everybody else and yet Kelly failed Sixth grade. Still, he was a crack shot at gobbing and hit me in the face from a good three metres away. Take the grossness out and you have to admire accuracy like that. I somehow doubt this skill was extrapolated into something useful later in life and if you had met him it would become much harder to argue against state decreed sterilisation.
I had never been spat on before. I’d been spat at but it had always been a poor attempt. This time, however, was unfortunately well aimed. The main glob of spit caused a direct hit on my left cheekbone and all the spray forced me to screw my eyes shut. Still, I was immediately conscious of the fact that this was a proper solid chunk of phlegm as it hit with some force. Wet but with a surprising amount of substance. And it stank. It really reeked of someone who hadn’t been taught any oral hygiene, ever.
As small boys we used to refer to these delights that had to be hawked up, from somewhere deep within one’s respiratory tract, with a great deal of effort prior to spitting at little brothers, in a distance or accuracy contest or at bullying victims, as Prairie Oysters. Did you know that the best way to get at least another metre of distance when hocking a loogie was to take a step towards the agreed line and then sort of flick your body sideways with the head turned through 90 degrees and loose it off when the head was being cracked like a whip? Get your timing and aim right and it really works wonders to the departure velocity. A bit like a magnum round really. Additionally, a good Prairie Oyster flies nicely due to the enhanced aerodynamic properties imparted by the solid core and is always preferable to just plain ‘ole saliva. Why do boys get favoured for the sciences you ask? Because we were learning about physics long before it even became a discrete subject.
For what it’s worth there was a monumental lack of parental involvement with young Kelly and though living down the road from us in a nice suburban neighbourhood Kelly’s house looked like it had been dropped on the plot from a great height. Caught up in it were various rusting home appliances that seemed to live outside yet have no function other than ornamental, large swathes of plastic sheeting nailed to unfinished parts of the building that were coated in mildew and a pick-up truck that appeared to be held together with string and primer. My mum used to refer to it when giving directions and would tell people that they knew they were nearly at our house when they passed the plot that looked like a trailer park after the tornado had hit it.
I owe an eternal debt of gratitude to my step-father as he finally taught me to deal with physical bullying. It was the sort of talk that is deeply frowned upon these days, which is probably why it was so effective. When I finally confessed to him that in Grade nine I was being regularly terrorised by this group of lads he gave me some stunningly effective advice. “Dominic, take your belt off and wrap the soft end around your hand but keep it hidden. When they corner you make sure it is outdoors and you have some room to move then start whirling the belt buckle around and around. Look right at them and look crazy. Pick one and crack him with the buckle and see what happens.” It worked. I was never intimidated again. There were plenty of words from a distance but they all thought I was completely unhinged and was best avoided. It was incredibly liberating and I smiled inside as I suddenly sensed the balance of power shift.
This now meant that I could get on fantasising about Jenny the French horn player that sat beside me in band and the heavenly Patricia in one of my classes. Frankly, I didn’t think it was possible to have an erection for so long. Very careful consideration had to be given to getting out of one’s seat as the priapic state seemed to have no end and even verged on the painfully uncomfortable at times.
Growing up was just a barrel of laughs.