The Bluebottle Boys – Chapter 10, Part 1 – Edgbaston & Birmingham, 23 March 1962: Penance (Section 1 of 3)
[The featured photograph is of a church and rectory much like St. Ita’s.]
“I can’t believe you said that,” Ian said. “Warstone Lane Cemetery – are you nuts?”
We were outside hearing range of anyone else. It was fifteen minutes to dismissal by the time the Headmaster had finished with us, so the four of us had been let out early. Doof and Tiny had already gone, and Ian and I were at the curb, waiting for the limo.
“Nuts like Einstein,” I replied, though anything resembling a rational explanation for my dare was only then leaking its way into my head. “We win this – and we will – we’ll never hafta put up with their bullying again.
“Remember that with Stan gone, maybe for the rest of term, it’ll be Rufus the Doofus and Quasimodo, with periodic bits of help from Drusilla, against you and me. We’ll hafta outthink them – luckily, that won’t be difficult.”
“You’re gonna psyche them out?”
“Maybe,” I said, trying to look as mysterious as I could. Luckily, the limousine showed up then, and I didn’t have to say anything further.
I actually hadn’t the faintest idea what I’d do, and could only hope that whatever power had caused me to make this dare in the first place wouldn’t let me down when it came time to deliver.
Ian piled into the back, alongside his parents; I noticed Mr. Tippins’ clothes were impeccably tailored, with an understated, conservative kind of elegance. He was rather older than Mrs. Tippins was, about Dr. Gupta’s age, but he had a surprisingly more open countenance. Rashmi appeared in the distance; I motioned her to hurry. She was at the door moments later, saying Paravati had gone to hustle a somewhat sulky Stan along and that both would be here shortly.
No sooner had Rashmi entered the back seat across from the Tippins’ and Ian made introductions, than I saw the other two in the distance.
Ian had barely managed to explain that Stan wasn’t allowed to talk to any of the rest of us and wouldn’t mean to be rude, when he and Paravati arrived, and I introduced her to Ian and his parents. Rashmi got out a second to let Paravati and Stan in before she and I piled in beside them.
The limo arrived at our place minutes later, dropped off Stan and his didis and picked up my mum. Dressing well, at least by the standards of the new fashion industry, emerging after years of postwar austerity, was one of Mum’s few indulgences (at least in the absence of a good, sound, practical reason not to do so). But, even by this standard, she was dressed to the nines in her winter finery, even outdoing Mrs. Tippins, and she must’ve spent hours getting ready. She and Mrs. Tippins had exchanged small talk for several minutes, when Mr. Tippins turned to me.
“Reggie, your mother has such refined speech and Stan’s sisters sound like upper class Anglo-Indians. I hope you’ll forgive me a personal question – and please don’t think I’m saying that Stan and you don’t communicate well yourselves – but how did the two of you come to sound as though you had come from Wolverhampton?”
“I can answer that, Dad,” Ian said excitedly. “When Reggie first started school, he didn’t have an accent at all, hardly. Then he became friends with a kid from Wolverhaptom named Neville.”
“Your father was asking Reggie, not you,” Mrs. Tippins said to Ian in a gentle reproof.
So I told them my story (with Ian interjecting at regular intervals) of Neville Tanner, a Wolverhampton scholarship kid and my former best friend. I told of how his speech had beaten my sweet Silhillian tones senseless until I’d largely adopted his way of speaking – to Mum’s displeasure – then I’d infected Stan in the same way Neville had me. By the time I’d finished with my tale, the limo had arrived at St. Ita’s.
It was rather difficult to determine the age of St. Ita’s church and surrounding parish buildings. My best guess was that they’d been built somewhere between the turn of the century and the First World War. They were a bit plain to have been built in the 1880s or ‘90s, and in too good shape for the 1870s, though signs of wear could have been indications of buildings, nearly a century old, which had simply been well taken care of (at least within the limited means of such a parish) and had merely aged gracefully.
We exited the limo and made our way to the rectory, ready to face our “rendezvous with destiny.”
© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.
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G. H. McCallum
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