Justice of the rough variety was the order of the day at my old school.
“Hey, Johnny, Billy Stone’s going to get you after school.” It was Tony ‘Smiffy’ Smith.
“Says you’ve been messing about with his sister and he’s going to give you a fat lip.”
I felt a sudden queasiness in the pit of my stomach. “I talked to her at the bus stop. That’s all.” Susan Stone was pretty, intelligent and friendly, everything her brother wasn’t. I often wondered if they had the same parents.
“Says he’s going to knock your teeth so far down your throat you’ll have to stick a toothbrush up your arse to clean them.”
“Hah. Let him try!”
“Oh, you think you can take him on, do you?” Smiffy laughed. “He’ll pulverise you!”
I sat in the toilet, literally shitting myself. There’d been this kid, Denis someone. Rumour had it that Billy Stone had taken a dislike to him. True, Denis was pale, spotty, wore thick-lensed glasses and had a high, annoying voice, but live and let live was what my parents had taught me. They said Billy had accused Denis of bumping into him at the bus stop. Apparently, Billy then punched Denis in the gut. When Denis bent over, gasping for breath, Billy had kneed him in the face, busting his nose. Denis had gone down and for good measure, Billy had kicked him ‘where it hurts,’ leaving Denis howling in agony and blubbering like a baby. It was all over in ten seconds.To add insult to injury, Alex Rawlinson, one of Billy’s gang, was said to have held Denis’s school bag open whilst Billy urinated into it.
To avoid a further beating, Denis had sworn he’d tripped and fallen over onto his face. He’d left the school shortly afterwards.
Then there’d been a playground fight with Ginger Tomkins. Ginger wasn’t a pushover like Denis, but I’d witnessed it myself. Surrounded by a mob of baying schoolkids, Ginger had managed to trade a few punches before Billy had headbutted him in the face. Ginger had gone down as if poleaxed, leaving Billy to ‘put the boot in,’ as was his custom.
Ginger had subsequently spent an agonising week, bandaged-up in a hospital bed. When questioned by the teachers, though, he swore he’d ‘fallen down the stairs.’ Billy evaded punishment once more.
That night I took a totally different route home, planning on telling mum I was coming down with flu and hoping that a few days off would give Billy a chance to pick on someone else.
I borrowed a mate’s bicycle and rode to a nearby railway station, a bare platform with a small waiting room and a toilet. It was totally deserted. I looked at my watch. The train wasn’t due for ten minutes so I elected to leave the bike and use the toilet. When I came back my heart sank to my ankles. Sitting on the bicycle was Billy Stone! I turned, thinking to run across the track but marching over it towards me, grim-faced and determined, were Smiffy and Alex.
Billy slipped something silver and metallic over his fingers. “Come on Johnny, let’s see what you’re made of. Smiffy says you ain’t scared of me!” He gave a harsh laugh, punching the knuckleduster into his other, cupped, hand.
I was in the direst of dire straits.
“Listen John, there’s some advice I want to give you. You’re young but it’s as well to know the score. There are evil people in this world and sometimes you have to fight evil with evil.”
I was eight years old, standing in my grandfather’s study. Books lined one wall. Many were ancient, leather-bound tomes. My grandfather selected one, opening it at a diagram of a pentagram in a circle. The circle enclosed many bewildering concentric circles, and the page was covered in strange symbols and hieroglyphics. “I got this book from a great magician. His name was Aleister, a real magician. Know what that is, John?”
“Someone who can summon beings not of this Earth – angels, demons, and other, er, lesser entities, to do his bidding.”
“Oh.” I didn’t really know what he was talking about.
So, I’d been given half a page of Latin to learn, a call to the demon, Valefar, a spirit said to bring protection and retribution. I’d been scared, but grandad said not to be. If I said the verse right, angels would control the demon. “And make sure you keep this to yourself, Johnny. If you tell anyone, anyone at all, mind, it’ll weaken the magic, understand?”
Now in desperation, I recalled those Latin phrases and recited them furiously under my breath, whilst Billy circled, a cruel lopsided grin on his face. Suddenly I thought I saw something behind him, a dark shadow flitting past, then with a raucous screech a huge black bird came from nowhere, swooping down on him and latching on to his head where it pecked repeatedly at his face. ‘Get it off, get it off!” he screamed, whilst Alex tried to swat the bird with his satchel. He made contact and it flew off, leaving Billy clutching his face, blood streaming through his fingers. “I can’t see! I can’t see!”
I retrieved the bicycle and rode away, grinning like a Cheshire cat. I’d take the scenic route home. Justice had been served!
Featured in the book, To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. II: 88 Little Stories
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