A chewed-on pencil

As I queued up for the bus on my first day of big school, I couldn’t wait for the chariot to arrive.

I’d seen so many episodes of The Simpsons over the years that I was excited for a large, gleaming yellow submarine with wheels to swing by driven by a super cool driver with a welcoming high five and a load of happy, laughing kids in the back singing morale-boosting songs.

So when the faded silver double decker turned up, resembling a piece of disused tin foil, my little face dropped.

I crossed my fingers and prayed as the doors creaked open with a whine of a lost dog, only to reveal my second disappointment: ‘Get the fuck on,’ growled my 70-year-old driver, opting to go for stern one finger point instead of a slapped, whole-handed greeting.

I nodded, climbed aboard and sat on the front row – avoiding the eye contact of the 30 or so gravel-faced teens who, rather than singing their hearts out, glared through my soul with dead eyes of the condemned.

It took no more than 10 seconds from the bus chugging away before a 45-year-old-looking sixth former yelled: ‘Oi, newbie! What’s your name?’

After a few seconds of silence, I turned around to see him staring back at me.

‘F…Frank,’ I spluttered.

‘Spank?’ he said. ‘Your name is Spank?’

‘No, F-‘

‘Spank. Your name is Spank.’

As the population of the bus howled with laughter, I felt two shovel-sized hands scoop me up by my armpits and carry me to the back row. A bigger boy made me bend over and handed me a chewed-on pencil. ‘Bite down on this,’ he said. ‘It’ll make it easier.’

I thought about objecting, but just bit down in the hope obliging would grant me a quicker escape.

Before I knew it my bum cheeks received the hardest slap they’d ever received.

‘SPANK! SPANK! THAT’S YOUR NAME!’ rang out from the lips of my fellow schoolmates, in an act of disturbing spontaneity and unison.

‘SPANK! SPANK! THAT’S YOUR NAME!’

Each one took a turn to split the skin on my bottom.

‘SPANK! SPANK! THAT’S YOUR NAME! SPANK! SPANK! THAT’S YOUR NAME!’

I was unable to prevent a tear from trickling down my face, but as the singing grew louder and louder and the group’s morale grew stronger and stronger, I couldn’t help feel relieved that some things on TV do come true.

© Carl Burkitt 2015

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