Chapter 5, Part 4 — Edgbaston & Solihull, Autumn 1961: Drusilla

Chapter 5, Part 4 — Edgbaston & Solihull,  Autumn 1961:  Drusilla

Tiny and Doof were in our class by virtue of having been held back a year. Rufus said he didn’t care. He was already a model, after all, well on his way to stardom in the cinema. His mother had arranged for him to appear in print advertisements for a local children’s clothing chain. But, no one else was knocking. And if performance in class plays was indicative, his emotive range (with apologies to Dorothy Parker) didn’t quite make it from A to B.

DrusillaI doubt Drusilla had worked out her future – or much of anything else quite so far, or that she’d been allowed to.

Beyond functioning as a miniature version of her mother, she seemed to serve no purpose at all. Whomever it was who said that people should be classified as static or dynamic, instead of male or female, failed to consider the need for a possible third category for those like Drusilla: inert.

Instead, Drusilla had a favorite pastime, with her male cohorts.

It consisted of making life as miserable as possible, as often as possible, for as many classmates who surpassed their intelligence, which, given the prerequisites usually required for admission, appeared to be everyone.

So far, Stan and I’d dodged the bullet. Apart from Rufus’ perpetual falsetto taunts of “Oh Reggie, oh pretty-boy” to me, and shouts of “Hey, Sambo!” to Stan, we’d encountered little harassment from them. We tried at all times to remember Dr Gupta’s rhetorical question. “If a bit of rubbish fell out of the bin, got on its hind legs and started calling you names, wouldn’t you laugh at it?”

But, laughter came more easily some days than it did others, especially for Stan.

Ian, meanwhile, smaller than Tiny, but still chunky enough to be mistaken for a Campbell kid, constantly had chairs pulled out from under him, had his books knocked away, or was tripped, slapped or shoved “anonymously.”

And Jenny, scarcely four feet tall, a stone lighter than the rest of us, with bottle-bottomed eyeglasses, cumbersome corrective shoes and her hair in a pixie cut, found herself relentlessly caught in Drusilla’s cross-hairs. She even received a series of “anonymous” taunts, and insults through phone calls to where she was boarding. She tried to bear it stoically, but now and then confided to Ian how miserable she felt. We never said anything, but we knew Jenny was often late for lunch because she’d been washing her face in the washroom, after a private cry in one of the stalls.

But the three provided proof for the ancient chestnut “where there is no sense there is no feeling.”

True, the classrooms and halls weren’t necessarily safe from them, either. But they usually preferred spending their free time skulking outside, seemingly oblivious to the acerbic freeze as they lay in wait for some poor unsuspecting sap to sally forth.

Amazingly – once in a while – a poor unsuspecting or forgetful sap obliged.

© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.

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G. H. McCallum

G. H. McCallum is author of the Reggie Stone series, the first of which, Walking Backwards for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall, was released on 12 December 2014; look for the second, The Bluebottle Boys, in late spring of 2016. He blogs principally on the 1960s, Victoriana and magic realism.