I’ve noticed that, despite all the excitement around iPads, iPhones and laptops, classes still enjoy a good story. While doing a unit on memoirs, I told some of my Year 7s some stories from my past. I asked them when it was that their parents had stopped reading to them; for most, it was when they were about 7-8 years of age. With this in mind, and seeing the obvious pleasure that listening to a story can have, I’ve decided to start a group for storytellers that will (hopefully) meet once a month at lunch time, starting next term. At the moment it is going by the working title of the Verbatim Club… we’ll see if a better name comes up!
But for now, a story from my own past – one that I told my year 7s. A story of shame on my part and the absolute fear it brought about. Just so as you know, for politeness sake, I’ve changed one “rude” word, to ‘fortunately’… I think you’ll get the actual context… Anyway, hopefully you can settle back and enjoy this one, that dates back to my first year at high school…
In the afternoons, I would walk to Ashfield Station to get the ‘school special’ bus home. The bus would start from the station, and be filled with students from schools such as Ashfield Boys’ High (my school), Bethlehem College and De La Salle College.
This is 1976, but the same type of buses on the same route – cnr of Milton St and Liverpool Rds. Photo by Dave Wilson
Each day, once full, the bus would head down Liverpool Rd towards my home. At the same time, boys from Trinity Grammar would come running down the road towards Ashfield Station, having been dropped off at the top of the road. They would run past the parked bus en masse, in an attempt to make the train. Being private school boys, they were held in contempt by the public schools, purely on the basis of ignorance. And so, on one day, my friend dared me to spit out the window onto a boy as they went past. Being 12 or thereabouts and always up for a dare, I of course agreed. My first critical error.
And so I picked my target, a blonde haired young man who was probably about 3-4 years older than I and a good deal bigger, which, with the benefit of hindsight, was a further mistake (mind you, hindsight would have had me not doing this in the first place). He had slowed due to the press of people ahead and I tool my chance. I spat as nonchalantly as a ‘non spitter’ could do out of the window, and proceeded to make yet another error. Rather than nonchalantly closing the window, I slid it way too quickly, thus adding to my guilt. By now the boy, sensing something wrong, had stopped, put his hand up to his hair and brought it down before his eyes. His focus went from his hand, up to my window where I sat framed, and back to his hand again.
There had been the usual after school chatter on the bus at the time, but this immediately ceased as the boy, bringing his hand into a fist slammed it into the side of the bus. This was followed with his bellowing, “You are FORTUNATELY dead! Get off that FORTUNATE bus now!!”
By now I was doing my best impression of a Warner Bros cartoon, one of those ones who gets the fright of one’s life and melts down the steps. I was already making incomprehensible sounds and trying my best to slide, like water, onto the floor. Hands damp, saliva thin, heart ka-chumping away…
“You are soooo FORTUNATELY dead! I’m going to FORTUNATELY kill you!”
And I believed every word he said. I was already half-muttering, half-thinking desperate prayers. Please can the bus go… go now…. please start.
“I’m coming to FORTUNATELY get you!” he said, making his way, with steely purpose and straight resolve, around the back of the bus. My life would be over in about 45 seconds. This is where he made his critical error. In seeking to get to me directly, this shortest possible route saw him barge through large rugby boys from my own school. Or rather, saw him attempt to barge through, to which they took exception.
In those few moments while he was detained, the bus coughed into life and started off, thus sparing me. It was months before I raised the nerve to catch the school special again.
Not one of my finest moments, but one that has worked well in the telling in class.
I’ll let you know how the Storytelling group goes…