As I picked up the shoes to go, my bro clarified that I couldn’t own them, but I could borrow them for one day– on Monday.
I was beside myself with thank you and said I would keep them well, but my bro halted me mid-sentence: No… They will keep you well, he evangelised.
Fast forward to Monday: I put on my hallowed Dr Martens even though they were two sizes too big. And I was dropped off at school by dad, as usual.
After he frowned at the size of my shoes, he bade me a good day and went on his way. I felt the intimate warmth of an autumn morning as I readied myself for a good day.
Great news charged the air early as I heard that the scariest of my tormentors, John, had a dentist’s appointment and so was not in school that day. I could picture him being dragged kicking and screaming to his dental doom, and I smiled darkly.
My day was even made more blissful by the knowledge that I was wearing a deadly pair of shoes, and nobody but nobody could mess with me now. So when I swaggered into the music class that morning, I was just praying that the gang would bang on my door.
And they didn’t disappoint. In the middle of the class, Keith winked conspiratorially at his co-thugs and then stuck his tongue out at me.
Normally, this alone would make me cry like a new born baby, as I contemplated an immediate future of a smack down. But this time, I repaid the compliment and stuck my tongue out at him and all his cronies for good measure. The five of them shot me a quizzical You-Want-To-Die-Or-What glare as they tried to figure out how my stance had gone from cry baby to Bring It On, Baby.
After their initial puzzlement, they all gave chilling smiles, rubbing their hands together with relish. And throughout the rest of the lesson, they looked at me with the glee of kids anticipating something new from Santa.
They just couldn’t wait to kick my ass, and they kept looking at the wall clock to see what time was playtime, running their index fingers across their throats in a mock slitting fashion.
When the clock struck ten, it was play time. All the classrooms disgorged leagues of exhilarated tots onto the playground. When my class was empty, I walked out onto the playground.
There, I found an open space at its centre, a black hole that all children steered clear of; all, that is, except five persons.
At the centre of the playground stood the gang, lined up like a firing squad.
It was silent. Then, suddenly, mysterious music rented the air.
A pleasant symphony abounded, with the crestfallen flutes of birdsong emphasising the menacing calm. But this was suddenly interrupted by blasts of noise, discordant plucks of guitar strings. Distinct, desperate, delinquent, dangerous, decapitating…a virtual thesaurus of approaching trouble.
This all proved to be the unquiet before the storm. For, just as suddenly, piercing keyboard stabs took charge to make everyone in the playground jump.
After this, descending piano notes took us all back to the initial silence.
This was to be my execution site, I thought. I then confidently strode into it, as an eerie silence settled among everyone assembled there.
When I stood about a metre from the five, Mark rushed me with deadly intent. I promptly kicked him on the shin and he fell to the floor, wailing like an eight-year-old.
Keith looked down at Mark with stunned indignation, and then he also charged at me; my right boot caught him on his left thigh, whereupon he also went down and cried like a kid who had just dropped his ice cream cone.
Then the twins fell on me, like a frantic pair of hungry hands would on a sumptuous meal. The three of us wrestled and were briefly tied up in a knot of struggling humanity, then, suddenly, a succession of sounds rang out…. Kabaam, bwok, bam, wham, whump, whack…. as my boots stuck irremovable kicks on their behinds like I was Bruce Lee.
They all also went down for the count. I then stared sharply at Austin, the last man-child standing. And before I could make a move, he took flight…. and bang!
He slammed head on and then bounced off of an anonymous kid; his face took on a bloody hue as he went to ground, screaming. I had prevailed!
The bullies soon gathered the debris of their broken reputations together and ran away to their mothers. The rest of the school cheered me as a conquering hero.
Days later, while no longer wearing the Dr Martens, Austin, Keith, Mark, Alistair, Niall, and even John called a truce with me. They also came to the realisation that they actually liked me, as we became friends. My salad days had begun: I went from zero to hero.
It was no longer: “Oh, no…It’s Matogo”, it was now, “Yo, Matogo!”