Fighting the Good So-and-So
One day not long after the encounter in which Paul Stopher’s windcheater got ripped, Rod came to me on the way home from school with a problem.
'I heard that Parrish git, Bill Parrish, talking about you and raising a laugh amongst his toadies.’
Parrish was a Fourth Former. He had a serious air about him and was said to be a hard case.
‘Raising a laugh, you say? Yeah, well, it can get like that now and then amongst these Fourth Formers.’
‘What do you mean? He shouldn’t be making jokes at the expense of us. They’re not that immature! Another year and they’ll be in the Fifth, the same as us now,’ said Rod.
‘I know, but the thing to do is let them have their laugh. They can’t hurt us, can they?’ I said.
‘You kidding? They can hurt a lot. I said you wouldn’t want to hear that kind of talk, and if you did you would come down on this Parrish character like a fantastically heavy ton.’
‘Let him speak his mind. I don’t think it’s worth worrying about.’
‘You telling me you won’t fight him?’ said Rod. ‘Because if you won’t, I’ll have to sort him out for you.’
‘You don’t have to do that, I can fight my own battles, man. Of course I’ll fight him. You know that.’
‘Well, that’s a relief,’ said Rod.
From that moment a frigid pebble went rolling around in my guts whenever the name Parrish came up.
Somehow it came up on the bus. Everyone was looking at me. My girlfriend, Theresa, thought I was an idiot.
‘Why have you got to fight him? Where does it say that? Is it in the school rules? Or was it Rod Jackson that said so?’
‘There’s this unwritten code, see.’
‘Be big enough to ignore it. We’re doing Henry IV, and Falstaff says what is honour? A word. What is a word, air. Puff it out the window.’
Then there was Rudge who was in Parrish’s class.
‘You’re the guy, are you?’ he said, looking me up and down.
‘Bill is quite a bit bigger than you, and he’s got muscle where it matters.’
Seeing my face fall, he had the compassion to add:
‘Of course, you could be a lot more aggressive. If you’re more aggressive than he is, that could win the day.’
Was I any more aggressive than anyone else? I didn’t think I was.
But I wasn’t going to let Rudge know that, and report back to Parrish. On the other hand, he seemed to be implying that Parrish wasn’t all that aggressive.
‘Have you sorted out the place and time?’ asked Rudge.
‘For the barney, the affair of honour! The fight!’
‘I’m leaving that to Rod Jackson. I suppose you’re all looking forward to it in the Fourth.’
‘There’s plenty would like to see it. Some are backing you.’
’Some are saying you act weedy, like, but that’s because you’ve got some inner confidence.’
Good, let them believe that, I thought to myself. As for sorting out the place and time, I would do absolutely nothing.
I did start a régime of sets of press-ups every night, and punching a balloon into the air in a corner of the front room to keep my eye in.
In the meantime I passed Parrish in the corridor and neither of us so much as raised a sneer.
‘What’s all this about you getting set up as a sort of knight without armour?’ asked Duncan Deakes during morning break.
‘Well, Rod Jackson heard this Parrish character running me down.’
‘You sure of your facts?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I’ve got an idea that Jackson doesn’t mind getting into fights himself, but he likes to watch them, too.’
If not precisely a beatnik, Duncan was certainly the Fifth Form’s expert on these attractive freaks. To him, whether you could fight or not wasn’t that big a deal. He was lightly built himself and somehow the idea of having a fight with him never arose. Plus the fact, he could defend himself with verbal put-downs when necessary.
‘I’ll see what I can find out,’ said Duncan.
In a few days the whole saga of the promotion of the match between me and Parrish fizzled into nothingness.
After being absent for a couple of days, Rod came to school with his arm in a cast and some cuts and bruises.
‘How did this happen?’ I asked.
‘Came off my bike,’ said Rod, then waved his hand and rapidly walked away.
‘Bull crap,’ said Duncan when I told him about it. ‘Do you know Stacy?’
‘The rugby player in 5A4? No, I never met him,’ I said.
‘Well, he showed Jackson all right. Stacy’s brother’s in the Fourth Form. Seems Jackson told Stacy’s brother, Tim, that a boy in another form, Trevor Eglinton, had been slagging him off. Then he told Eglinton that Tim Stacy had been slagging HIM. When the older Stacy found out.he didn’t like it very much, because his brother has had polio.’
‘So Rod was waiting to stand back and watch, eh?’
‘That’s right. So I’m going to check with Bill Parrish, to see if Jackson was feeding him the same old flannel about you.’
‘No, don’t do that, Duncan. Leave it.’
‘Just leave it. Let a bit of doubt still cling there. After all, Rod Parrish was a friend. Was.’
MORE STORIES FROM KD, CLICK THE IMAGE: