and Girls Come Out to Play
day, sensational news hit the village. A Canadian girl had come
to stay. The gang met that night in emergency session under the
yellow sodium street lamp by the school playground to discuss
don’t believe it,’ somebody said. ‘Why would
a Canadian come here?’
This was my question as well, but I had no standing in the gang
as an authority on anything, let alone Canadian girls, so I had
waited for another member to ask it.
she’s learning English.’
be daft, they speak English in Canada.’
proper English, they don’t.’
heard she’s here to be a nanny for Mrs Grover at The Grange.’
cares why she’s here?’ This was our leader, Frank
Blunt, who predictably took over the debate and bulldozed it towards
his favourite topic. ‘I bet you I’m up her in a week.
Those Yank bints are sex-mad.’
The first speaker tried to object that Canadians and Americans
weren’t the same thing, but he didn’t stand a chance.
Frank Blunt’s status as sexual know-it-all was long established.
That’s not to say we necessarily believed all his claims
about doing girls, which in turn is not to say that we didn’t
want to. Some of the other members also made their own more modest
boasts. These usually involved ‘titting’ a girl at
the pictures or behind the cricket pavilion. There were two levels
of success: a touch of breast outside or inside her clothes. One
or two hopefuls tried to persuade us they had progressed to the
point of getting their hand right inside and down to the knicker
elastic frontier but, led by Frank Blunt who was determined to
preserve his supremacy in the minge stakes, we always shouted
‘You know what,’ Frank Blunt went on, ‘those
bints will let you do them without a Durex on.’
‘What if they have a baby?’ asked the lad who’d
tried to distinguish Canadians from Americans.
‘They know how not to,’ Frank Blunt replied, without
explanation. Since no one contradicted this, he moved into more
advanced territory. ‘And what’s more, they’ll
let you put your thing in their mouth.’
A couple of the knicker elastic brigade nodded in silent support
of this allegation. One added they knew for a fact that Helen
Rowe, the village bike, did this as well. I privately thought
the idea both disgusting and frightening. Fancy anyone putting
their mouth where you pissed out of. And what if they bit through
it like a stick of liquorice?
‘I’m telling you straight,’ insisted Frank Blunt,
as though he had read my mind. ‘And what’s more, they’ll
even let you stick it up their backside.’
For once, he had gone too far. It was obvious from people’s
faces that nobody was willing to credit such an idea. I myself,
with the confidence that only ignorance can give, felt sure it
would be physically impossible, even if you wanted to do it. Moreover,
there was nothing about this activity in Hank Janson’s Baby
Don’t Dare Squeal which was currently circulating under
our desk lids at school. One member even called ‘Get out
of it,’ though he did not identify himself when challenged
by Frank Blunt to do so. ‘Well, anyway,’ summed up
a boy who generally contributed even less to gang debates than
I did, ‘I expect she’s got one in the middle and two
at the front like the rest of them.’ On this thoughtful
note, the meeting broke up.
I left resolved never to so much as speak to this Canadian, always
assuming she existed. But she did, and I did, once. The very next
day, in fact. I had gone into the village shop for a bag of Tidman’s
gob-stoppers and there at the counter was this strange girl trying
to buy all sorts of things old Ma Pocock had never heard of. Finally,
to save face, she stonewalled one request with ‘I could
have it in the back, I’ll go and see,’ and the two
of us were left alone.
Already impressed by the way she’d got Ma Pocock running
around in a way none of us ever had, I swallowed my surprise when
she spoke to me first and did not even lower my eyes, my standard
practice when dealing with girls. It was obvious from the greeting
‘Hi’ that she must be the Canadian. I knew enough
to know they used this short form of our ‘Hey Up’.
What I couldn’t fathom was how she came to be on the small
side with dark hair and no lipstick and as far as I could tell
no tits, when everybody knew all lasses from over there had blonde
hair and dollops of make-up and whacking big ones in front. Still,
she did have bright white teeth which no girl I knew in the village
did, so there couldn’t be any mistake. The only other people
I’d met with gnashers like that were blokes old enough to
have been given a full extraction and new set for their twenty-first
birthday, as used to be the custom.
For some reason, she made me feel like I was speaking to a grown-up,
so instead of ‘Hey Up’ I answered with ‘Hello’.
‘I’m Gina,’ she continued, her teeth flashing
so much that I would have taken my sun-glasses out of my pocket
and put them on, that is if I’d actually had them on me
and always supposing I had the wit to do so. I didn’t say
anything back. Who cared what she was called? And we didn’t
give out our names as easily as that. I was saved by the return
of Ma Pocock who had unsurprisingly failed to find what she hadn’t
looked for. ‘Must have run out,’ she said aggressively,
feeling the need to restore her shopkeeper’s authority.
Gina shrugged her not very big shoulders, paid from the largest
handbag I’d ever seen for the few things Ma Pocock had managed
to come up with, and left.
However, when I’d got my gob-stoppers and come out of the
shop, she was waiting there.
This deserved no reply.
‘Do you live here?’
‘What, in this shop?’
‘No, I can see you don’t do that. I meant, in this
‘I suppose so.’
‘I don’t know. They told me England was a funny place,
but I never figured it would be like this.’
I felt I should spring to the defence of my country against this
foreigner throwing her weight around, but the only thing that
came to mind was a limp ‘Like what?’
Gina, though, was in no mood for an England versus Canada argument.
‘Can you tell me where the church is?’
I was dumbfounded. No one I knew, of any age or sex, ever went
to church except at the proper time: Christmas or weddings or
funerals. And if Frank Blunt was right, what would a Canadian
bint who let you put your thing in her mouth or up her arse want
with a church?
‘No.’ I couldn’t think of a smart answer, so
salvaged as much pride as I could with this rude lie.
‘Okay, if that’s the way you want it,’ was Gina’s
curious reply. Showing absolutely no sign of being upset, she
swung herself on to a brand new girl’s bike, provided by
Mrs Grover at The Grange I supposed, thinking of the rusty hand-me-down
which was what I had, and pedalled off.
I saw Gina quite a lot after this, either wheeling a big pram
containing the Grover twins or heaving a lawn mower around their
garden or just biking in the village on her own. She always shouted
‘Hi, there’ and every time her stupid teeth looked
even whiter. Of course, I never answered.
Interest in her soon died away, being replaced by more important
things like football. After one or two further sessions under
the street lamp, she ceased to feature in gang discussion. Naturally,
Frank Blunt got in a claim to have had her behind the pavilion,
adding the standard details about minge size and greasiness but
nothing about mouths or backsides. Nobody disputed him, either
believing because they wanted to, since if he had got it, ‘it’
remained a possibility for them as well, or because if they showed
too open a disbelief, they would find his fist in their face or
boot up the goolies.
I kept my trap shut as well. Partly because I too liked minge
stories, partly because he was bigger than me, and partly because
I had seen him duck down behind a wall to avoid Gina when he spotted
her coming down the street towards him.
It wasn’t long after the arrival of this Canadian, not that
she had anything to do with it, that I lost two of my virginities,
within hours of each other. In neither case could I claim any
credit for taking the initiative. I didn’t score, I was
scored against. And although for obvious reasons I was never exactly
the same afterwards, neither loss did anything to change my life.
One Saturday afternoon, I and some other lads biked over to the
next village to support our football team in a semi-final. City
were away, it was decent weather, and there was nothing better
The boys I went with seemed all right. I didn’t know them
that well, most were a bit older, and none were in our gang. My
real comrades weren’t there. They had either been taken
by their fathers to follow City on the away game or were doing
something else with their families. Frank Blunt said he had a
date at the pictures with some ‘pushover’ or other.
We stood on the squiggly whitewashed touchline for the first half,
cheering our team and exchanging insults and the odd push-and-shove
with lads from the other village. All routine stuff, nothing serious.
At half-time, there was no score. We hung around our players for
the break, partly to make sure they knew we were there, which
might help get us into the team in a few years, partly to grab
our share of the lemonade and orange slices that were being passed
About ten minutes into the second half, the other team broke away
and three of their forwards came steaming down the pitch towards
our end. Apart from the goalie, who was jumping up and down on
his line calling to the defenders to get back to where they effing
well should be, only our centre-half was anywhere near. He was
a big bugger called Ray Oxby, though to us he was commonly known
as Mighty Joe Young, a tribute to his size and hairiness inspired
by the gorilla of that name in a King Kong kind of film we had
all recently seen at the village hall.
You know that bit from the Bible on the Lyle’s Golden Syrup
tin? ‘Out of the strong came forth sweetness.’ Well,
it didn’t apply to Mighty Joe Young. He was a nasty piece
of work. But you couldn’t say he didn’t get stuck
in. He put on a good turn of speed and went in feet first against
their pack of forwards. There was a loud cracking noise, followed
by a great bellow from Mighty Joe Young: ‘Christ, I’ve
broken my bloody leg!’
He had, as well. It was too big a job for our trainer with his
bucket of water and magic sponge. While the other team clustered
around the stricken Mighty Joe Young, our lot stood or sat in
little groups or nipped back to the touchline for more lemonade.
One or two made a big show of getting cigarettes from their wives
or girl friends and lighting up. The referee came off and bullied
one of the locals into biking to the nearest phone to call for
an ambulance from the city hospital.
We were obviously in for a long wait. To pass the time, and to
avoid going on the pitch to express any sympathy for Mighty Joe
Young, I joined with the others, first in a scratch football game
against the lads from the rival village, then when we got tired
of that, in some aimless wrestling and chasing around.
For no particular reason, I ended up through the hedge and into
the next field with a boy from our side called Roy Seager. He
wasn’t as tall as me, which was saying something, but he
was stocky and keen, and in the general scuffling had proved as
good as anyone else. We eyed each other, not saying anything.
All of a sudden, this Roy Seager bent down, picked up a stone,
threw it at me, and galloped off across the field. More surprised
by the running than the throwing, I hesitated for a minute before
setting out in pursuit. The stone had sailed harmlessly by me.
I bore no grudge for this attack; I would have done the same,
had I spotted a stone first.
By the time I caught up with him, Roy Seager had reached a patch
of long grass and cow parsley in front of a ditch. He was sitting
in it, looking puffed out. I stood over him and was trying to
decide just where to kick him when he reached up, pulled me down,
and thumped me in the solar plexus. I lay there winded. When I
got my breath back, I became aware of him unbuttoning my trousers
and sticking his hand into my fly and dragging out my thing.
‘Hey, stop it,’ I objected automatically, more out
of surprise than anything. ‘What are you up to?’
Roy Seager didn’t answer. By now, he was sitting flat on
my chest with his back to me. I couldn’t move. Once he had
my thing pulled through the tangle of underpants and flies, he
started to jerk it. I shouted at him to stop, it was hurting,
especially when he began to peel the foreskin back from the tip.
He took no notice and carried on, himself making no noise of any
kind. Then, without being aware of any change of action on his
part or reaction on mine, I realised that it wasn’t hurting
any more, in fact it was feeling all right in a way I couldn’t
have described, though this pleasure was mixed with a new sensation
of alarm as I understood that my thing had doubled in size. So
as not to give anything away, I continued to tell him to stop
it. He did, but only after a final tweak that made me feel like
I was bursting open.
Roy Seager released me and got off. I sat up and anxiously examined
my thing. It was red from all the jerking, and there was a trail
of bubbly white running down from the tip. I wasn’t going
to give him the satisfaction of either complaint or thanks, and
there didn’t seem anything else to say, so without a word
we walked back to see if the match had started again. It turned
out that the ambulance still hadn’t come. After another
twenty minutes or so, the referee blew his Acme Thunderer whistle
three times and announced with great self-importance that the
game would have to be abandoned. Everybody started to drift away,
the players more quickly than the spectators. Mighty Joe Young
lay where he had fallen, alone now except for the referee and
the trainer who was still flapping around uselessly with his bucket
I hung about until everyone else had set off. I wanted to bike
home by myself. Despite my surprise at what had taken place in
the long grass and the way it had been done, I knew what it was
all about. Although backwards in sexual experience, especially
compared to those lads who had sisters, I was, thanks to Frank
Blunt and the gang elite, well aware of the basics, above all
about tossing off. It was simply something that I hadn’t
got around to trying for myself. While I couldn’t help noticing
that I had grown hair ‘down there’, regular checks
with the tape measure from my granny’s sewing basket had
convinced me, even using millimetres instead of inches, that I
wasn’t yet ready to blast off. Now, although the tossee
not the tosser, I had joined the facts of life, at least in a
small way. As I biked back, a little stiffly, I was thinking that,
with the details suitably changed, I would have my first starring
role in the gang’s next session on this subject.
I expected to be in trouble when I got home. I lived with my grandparents:
my mother was dead and my father had vanished so long ago that
for all practical purposes he was as well. My granny wouldn’t
want to be hanging around making late teas. Saturday night meant
the whist drive for her, brown ale and dominoes at the British
Legion for my grandad. But for some reason she was in a good mood,
so instead of a ballocking a big plate of egg, chips, and beans
was set in front of me with even an enquiry about how the match
had gone. She then hurried off to her whist drive. Grandad had
already gone to the Legion, so I was left to eat my tea in peace.
Normally, I would have dawdled over it with a comic. Instead,
I wolfed it down in record time and didn’t even consider
raiding the larder for any cake that might be going begging.
As soon as I had finished, I got as far away from the window as
possible, pulled down my trousers, and started to jerk away for
dear life. Nothing happened: no nice feelings, no increase in
size, not a drop. After about ten minutes, since it was hurting
and I had got a bit of a belly-ache as well, from doing it too
soon after tea I supposed, I packed it in. I had no idea why it
hadn’t worked. Perhaps I could contrive to get Frank Blunt
to explain the problem without seeming to be asking.
What was I going to do next? There was no prospect of a gang meeting,
and my pocket money was already spent. I decided to wander around
the village. There were usually a few lads outside the pub waiting
for their grown-ups. Or a game of kicking-in under a street lamp.
But I was out of luck. There were not even any cats or dogs to
throw stones at.
I was on the point of jacking it in and going home, when I found
myself walking past the cricket field. It occurred to me that
I had lost my penknife somewhere there the other day, so I thought
I’d go and see if I could find it. Fat chance at night,
you might say, but the village council had put up quite a big
light next to the pavilion to discourage people like me from vandalising
it, so it wasn’t entirely a waste of time.
As I approached the pavilion, a wooden affair with a verandah
and four steps leading up, I thought I heard some sort of noise
coming from it. Good-o, I said to myself, maybe there are some
lads having a crafty smoke in there. But just as I was going to
put my foot on the first step, the door opened and somebody came
out. Not any lad I knew, in fact not any lad at all, but a girl.
And not any old girl. It was Helen Rowe, the village bike, who
was said to give anything in trousers a ride. The grown-ups said
she ‘got it’ from her mother who’d farmed Helen
out to some relative early in the war and gone off to join the
Woman’s Land Army, whose motto was Backs To The Soil. There
was a lot of guesswork about who her father was. The official
one had gone missing in action and was presumed dead, but my granny
was not the only person to say he was more likely buried in the
Tomb of the Unknown Quantity.
There was a Helen Rowe in every village. The sort of girl that
gets buried in a Y-shaped coffin. It had very little to do with
the way they looked. Faces didn’t count. It was common knowledge
that you didn’t look at the mantlepiece when you were poking
the fire. What mattered was that they had the experience and the
know-how to take you in hand and get things started.
Our Helen was not actually all that bad, if you didn’t mind
a girl on the tall side with slender legs and frizzy red hair
wearing a mohair jumper over average bazookas and a knee-length
tartan skirt. The snag about the skirt was that where it stopped
emphasised the knobbliness of her knees. No one in the entire
world has nice knees, in my opinion. As always, her face was lathered
in make-up; this was one of the biggest things about her in the
eyes of the village. Lots of black mascara and bright orange lipstick
which under the pavilion light looked all smudgy.
The thing about Helen, though, was not so much what she looked
like, or even the things she was supposed to do, but the way she
behaved in general. She talked like a boy, swore like a boy, and
seemed to think she was as good as a boy. She even smoked, Woodbines
at that, not cork-tipped. As my granny was fond of saying about
my grandad, she smoked like a chimney. I had heard Frank Blunt
remark that Helen Rowe didn’t have red changes like other
girls, she just had a fall of soot once a month.
‘Baldy,’ she said in that off-putting tone she had,
half-way between ‘hello’ and ‘bugger off’.
It was typical of her to launch right in with the nickname I hated
but which anyone called Baldwin is bound to have at that age.
‘Christ, look what the wind’s blown in,’ she
went on, her voice going up almost to a shout. Did she think I’d
been struck deaf? ‘What brings you here on a Saturday night?
Looking for something?’ Her voice went down again on this,
for no reason I could fathom. But how did she know why I was there?
‘I was just looking for my penknife,’ I replied, feeling
quite proud of myself for not stuttering.
‘He’s looking for his penknife,’ she echoed,
loudly again, as if there were somebody else there. Then she went
on in her normal voice with a funny sort of smile that got you
even worse, ‘Looking for your penknife, are you? At this
time of night? Don’t tell me you’ve got to get a stone
out of your horse’s hoof?’
Our penknives were always judged in terms of the number of gadgets
they had attached, chief of which was the one that was supposed
to be for hooves and stones, although that wasn’t so daft
in those days; there were still plenty of dray horses around.
What got me, apart from the voice and smile, was how this girl
came out with the sort of line you associated with the comedians
on the wireless.
‘No, it’s just that I lost it here a few days ago
and I was walking past so I thought I’d have a look.’
‘He thought he’d have a look,’ said Helen, reverting
to the invisible third person. Then back to the low tone and smile,
‘You’ve come to the right place for a look, I can
tell you. Bugger your penknife, aren’t I sharp enough for
‘You what? Come on, let me look for it. I won’t be
‘No, I bet you wouldn’t be,’ she replied mysteriously.
‘All right, let’s find this shitting knife of yours.
Where is it?’
I suppose Helen would have thought more of me if I’d made
the answer she’d set me up for: if I knew where it was,
it wouldn’t be lost, would it? But I wasn’t up to
that level of repartee. So I just said, if it’s here, it
must be down in the grass somewhere.
‘Hark at clever clogs. You ought to be on Paul Temple.’
Yes, I thought, but daren’t say, and if you were Steve,
the wireless sleuth’s wife and helper, he wouldn’t
get a word in edgeways. Instead, I mumbled, ‘I don’t
think I’ll bother, after all. I’ll come back tomorrow
when it’s properly light.’
‘Don’t be mardy, you’ve only just come. Look,
I’ll help you.’ She promptly got down on her knees,
contriving without seeming to do anything to let her skirt fly
up high enough for me to see her knickers.
And not just any old knickers. Not for Helen the usual girl’s
brown ones with elastic at the waist, the ones Frank Blunt called
Harvest Festivals because everything is safely gathered in. Hers
were black. Real black, I mean, not dirty. Black knickers! This
was real Jane of the ‘Daily Mirror’ stuff.
‘Come on,’ she ordered, not turning her head. ‘What
are you gizzhawking at, as if I didn’t know?’
‘Nothing.’ I was still hypnotised by the sight.
Helen was back up as quickly as she had gone down.
you like my knickers, then?’
‘They were all right.’
‘Drop dead, Erroll Flynn. All right, were they? How about
this, then? Have a proper gleg.’ She stood close to me,
pulling the tartan skirt up high. I knew I was going to mess myself
if I wasn’t careful. I also knew that the front seat view
I was getting beat anything we had ever seen in the Tuesday Night
pictures at the village hall. It crossed my mind that the little
blotches which stood out on her thighs might be the knicker burn
which Frank Blunt said happened to girls who dropped them like
lightning; but they were only freckles. I heard myself saying,
‘I have to be off,’ then, making myself sound even
more like a soppy-cake, ‘I’ll get into trouble if
I’m not home.’
‘Diddums do it to him, then?’ she jeered, twanging
her knickers like Shirley Abicair doing the Third Man theme on
her zither, though there was no sign of any elastic. ‘Don’t
be such a twerp. I bet you toss off every night thinking about
this. Here’s your big chance. Come on, I won’t hurt
‘Yes, come on, you prat,’ a third voice suddenly boomed
out. ‘Get stuck in.’ I was even more petrified at
this, and when the owner of the voice came out of the pavilion
into the light, my bowels almost went into my boots. It was Gonge.
This Gonge was a figure of unique fascination in our world. None
of us knew his real name. He lived just beyond the end of the
main street in a tumbledown cottage, lower on the social scale
than even the council houses and the worst yards. Gonge must have
been several years older than the rest of us, though as far as
we could tell, he didn’t read or write. At least, he was
never seen with so much as a comic. Although he was a great lummox
of a lad, it was his fierce eyes that most intimidated us, along
with his Sod You way of walking and his conversation. Well, conversation
isn’t the right word for it. He had this knack of looming
up on us at street corners or as we were walking home from the
bus stop or waiting to bat at cricket and launching straight into
a monologue about minge. Unlike Frank Blunt, though, he specialised
in lurid descriptions of ‘breaking girls in’ or how
he did it to them when they had their jammy rags on. The blood
and the hurting were what was most important to Gonge: he never
seemed to mention the pleasure side. There were rumours in the
village that he had put at least two of his many sisters in the
pudding club, tales which the grown-ups themselves believed, making
him seem even more formidable. Of course, I ooh-ed and ah-ed over
his reports like everyone else, though privately and not out of
any sympathy for the girls I was more than a bit put off by all
the stuff about blood and hurting.
Incidentally, if you’re hoping Gonge came to a bad end,
you’re in for a disappointment. The last I knew before leaving
the village for good was that he had followed contentedly into
his father’s idling and poaching footsteps and was married,
with no kids which ruled out the obvious reason, to a girl from
the posh end, a girl so plain and prissy that not even in my most
wankful moments had I honoured her with a wet fantasy.
‘Get stuck in,’ Gonge urged again. ‘Do you want
me to show you how?’ He seemed more het up than Helen over
‘Hold hard, you’ve had your lot,’ Helen interrupted.
She might have been arguing over who should have the last chocolate
from a box of Milk Tray.
To my amazement, Gonge seemed almost as in awe of Helen as I was.
‘I was only trying to help poor old Baldy here. He’s
not got the first idea...’
‘Don’t bother, I’ll be teacher. Fuck off, Gonge.’
Not even Frank Blunt had ever been heard to say a word of disagreement
to Gonge, let alone ‘fuck off’, the ultimate deterrent,
not one you heard a lot of adults use in those days, at least
not in front of us. Yet here was Helen, a girl, telling Gonge
of all people to do it, and not even shouting. And he did, there
and then, with a tame ‘Best of British, Baldy, you’ll
shagging well need it.’
‘You don’t want to take any notice of Gonge,’
observed Helen mildly. ‘He thinks he’s it, but he’s
I didn’t say anything. Mentally, though, I was storing up
this phrase for future use at gang meetings.
As she spoke, Helen moved right up to me. I fumbled at her knickers,
first with one hand, then both. I didn’t get far, what with
nerves and having my eyes closed. I would have done anything rather
than meet her gaze, except have a gleg at what was inside the
knickers. There’s nothing worse for a lad than having his
sexual dream come true. Why wasn’t I at home reading the
‘Here, let me do it,’ chafed Helen. ‘There,
they’re off. Do you reckon you could manage the rest by
I hesitantly lowered myself to the ground, hoping there were no
nettles, and lay on the grass waiting for her to join me. But
this was wrong as well.
‘Now what are you up to?’
‘Getting ready. Isn’t this right?’
‘What about your precautions?’
‘A Durex, cloth ears.’
‘No, of course you haven’t. I bet a bob you’ve
never even seen one. Look, if you don’t have a Durex, you’ve
got to do it standing up. That way, I don’t get put up the
spout. I thought everybody knew that.’
Miserably, I levered myself back up to my feet, helped on by a
sharpish kick from Helen. ‘Get your trousers down, then,’
she ordered, adding in her third person voice, ‘Christ on
a crutch, he’s still wearing braces.’
There was no point in trying to explain that I did wear a belt
these days, but had mislaid it at home, and only had the one.
I eased down the offending braces and stood shuffling about with
the trousers round my ankles. I knew what was expected of me.
How I was going to do it was another matter, but I wasn’t
going to risk another explosion from Helen by asking. I got my
arms around her, more for balance than anything, and started a
vague prodding at her lower parts with mine. Helen pulled me as
close as she could, then put both hands on my arse and tried to
manoeuvre me into position for a better aim. She was strong for
a girl. So strong, in fact, that she knocked me off balance and
in the flailing panic that followed we ended up on the ground,
her on top of me.
‘This is no shitting good. I tell you what, I’ll stand
on the top step and lean on the verandah post. You get on the
next step down and work from there.’
Battle stations. This must be what the minge experts called a
knee-trembler. I could see why. My knees were trembling, all right.
The trouble was, the part of me that needed to be, wasn’t.
I heaved away at her for ages without getting anywhere.
‘Sod it, we’ll be here all night at this rate.’
Taking this to be my dismissal, I backed down a step before she
could change her mind, dragged up my trousers, and was about to
escape when she said, ‘Where do you think you’re off
‘Er, home. I thought you’d had enough.’
‘Had enough? Haven’t had any yet, have I? You want
to eat your greens, get some lead in your pencil. Any road, get
back up here. Nothing wrong with your hands as well, is there?’
Helen took tight hold of me again, grabbed my right hand, and
guided it down to her middle. I could feel a sort of rounded area,
covered in bristles and sticky, a bit like an old cricket ball
in a cowpat. ‘Don’t muck around there. Get your fingers
down in and keep them moving till I say different.’
‘Come on, duck,’ she added in her quiet voice.
I did as I was told, relieved that here was something I could
apparently do to her satisfaction. I went on with it, my eyes
glued to the ground, until after some squirming about and a funny
noise, she said I could stop. I risked a quick look at her face.
Just for a second, she seemed different. I had an idea of what
it was all about, though couldn’t have put a name to it.
That was the other thing about village bikes: they liked it as
much as the lad, maybe more.
Not that Helen was letting on. She replaced her knickers in an
impatient sort of way, then pulled out a packet of Woodbines from
a pocket in her skirt and lit up, not offering me one. I suppose
I was looking up at her like a puppy wanting approval. ‘Never
mind, Baldy. You know more than you did an hour ago, don’t
As I left, I was vaguely wondering how many reserves Helen might
have lined up inside the pavilion. She didn’t seem very
surprised or even that much bothered by my failure to perform.
‘Sling your hook, you useless article,’ were her parting
words, but they were said in her mildest tone.
Wouldn’t you know it, the moment I got clear of the field
and Helen, my balls started bouncing as though they’d been
invented by Barnes Wallis and my thing shot straight up and wouldn’t
go down until I went under a tree and scratted it a few times
and got the second ration that day out of it. Then I took myself
off home and went to bed. Or would have, but there was a big rumpus
going on over something between my granny and grandad and I got
clouted by both of them for being there, so it was a good while
before I could get myself bedded down.
Even though I hadn’t gone all the way, I had had my first
go with girls and boys. In fact, it was the most versatile day
of my life in that regard. But thinking about it kept me awake
for five minutes at the most, and it played no part at all in
my dreams which were routine ones about playing for England and
scoring the winning goal in the last second.
I never had another crack at Helen. God knows what became of her.
Perhaps she took a lorry ride to shame, as the Sunday papers used
to say. Or else turned into a nun. Who cares? Well, perhaps I
should. Helen was a sport in her way. She didn’t let on
to anybody about me missing my big chance. At least, no one ever
taunted me about it, not even Frank Blunt who would have if he’d
known and, whatever the truth about him and Gina, there could
be no doubt that he had Helen a good few times. And Gonge himself
did no more than loom over me a few days later outside Ma Pocock’s
and say, ‘You didn’t get lost, then. You could get
a horse and cart up it, couldn’t you?’ I was thrilled
at this unexpected and never to be repeated chance to feel on
an equal footing with the great Gonge.
Gina left the village after three or four months. Everybody remarked
that she was going away a good deal bigger than when she came.
Since it was unthinkable that someone from Canada could have fattened
up on our austerity food, tongues wagged. The gang members started
to look at Frank Blunt with renewed respect, and there was talk
about Gonge as well, until Mr Grover suddenly left The Grange
with his suitcases, never to return.
Gina herself went very soon after, a more subdued departure on
the Boat Train that stopped at the village station once a week.
It was reported that the only person to see her off on the platform
was Helen Rowe. I was the only one not to be surprised, because
that pair had already surprised me before when I spotted them
down a lane where I’d been sent on some errand kissing each
other in the way men and women did in American films. That puzzled
me for a long time, but I never did bring it forward as a topic
for debate under the street lamp, even if they’d have believed
me it somehow didn’t seem right, and I doubt even Frank
Blunt could have come up with an explanation for it.
was born in 1937 and educated in England. He emigrated to Australia
in 1962, re-moving to Canada in 1965, where he is Emeritus Professor
of Classics, University of Calgary, and a Fellow of the Royal
Society of Canada. He has published around 30 short stories in
print (magazines and book anthologies), and has a novella, "Not
Cricket", imminent in Chapbook form (Rembrandt & Company
Press, USA), also in e-zines. He has been a Finalist in the Arthur
Ellis Awards (Canada 1999) and the Anthony Awards (Bouchercon,
2000, USA) in the mystery short story category.
and Girls Come Out to Play
© 2006 by Barry Baldwin
All rights reserved.