- for everyone on the autism spectrum

 

Thomas thought he was doing really well at school. He had lots of friends and his maths book was full of red ticks. That was until Mrs Gregory’s Year Three class when all the other kids in class had started working on fractions. It was also the time when a big hole just seemed to appear in Thomas’s head when everything to do with maths and logic just seemed to dribble away never to be seen again. He tried looking around to see if any of the other kids had also suddenly grown holes in their heads. No. They were all hard at work with their heads still brimming with their maths. Some of the other kids were even chewing on their pencils as though they were enjoying the lesson. Bored, Thomas started playing with the green crayon he found in his blazer pocket. Before he knew what was happening he’d got the crayon stuck up his nose. He tried with his best nose-picking finger to get it out. But it was well and truly stuck.


Christine Brookes, the girl near to him, seeing what had happened, started laughing. Soon all the class were laughing.
He was beckoned to the front where Mrs Gregory told him to blow his nose. Hard,  harder than he had ever done before. There was more class laughter when a dollop of snot and crayon shot into his hand. Not only that, but he then had to walk down the aisle to get to the toilet. The teasing from that lasted almost two days.


Because his brain was no-where it should have been, Thomas was now being called the Class-Three-trouble-maker. So in the end, he thought it was only natural for him to become the trouble–maker. He wasn’t going to be a nasty spiteful trouble-maker. No, he was going to be more of a sort of prankster. Yes, a prankster. His favourite prank was played on Miss Goody-Two-Shoes Simpson, who was always given the best Monday morning monitor job of filling up the ink-wells for the start of the second lesson. Every time she reached Thomas’s desk she would always pull a face. Thomas would make an even uglier face back. She would then tell teacher while shedding crocodile tears.  Of course they believed her. That was the morning when teacher caught Christine Brookes whispering across the aisle to Teresa Lease. Teacher stomped from her desk and without warning or saying anything hit Christine so hard across the face she knocked her glasses on the floor and broke them. Thomas’s punishment with the ruler on the back of his hand for pulling his face was mild compared to what had happened to Christine.


Miss Egan would always ask the class to give Simpson a big clap because Simpson never spilled a drop of ink onto anyone’s desk. Thomas couldn’t resist sneaking into class during the break to fill, with his Mam’s Andrew’s Liver Salts, as many inkwells as he could manage in the time. When Miss Goody-Goody Ink-Well Filler started her job while snooting at everyone, ink began to bubble all over everyone’s desk.  Miss Goody-Two-Shoes wasn’t even told off.


Mr Greenough, the Head Master, gave Thomas three of his very best for that one. Thomas’s best mate, Roger, told him to rub his hands with candle wax before going into the Head Master’s office. Roger convinced him the cane would slide off, so it wouldn’t hurt as much. It still hurt. Maybe, more because his hand was almost red raw with the candlewax?


Thomas’s Mam was called in around once a month. The school thought of sending him to the nearby St. Paul’s even though it was a Proddy-dog school. But his Mam being the devout Irish Catholic (Republican) freaked, saying she would make sure he would improve. His parents even bought a Robinson Crusoe book which they leaned against Mam’s Bible on the front room shelf. They now had two books in the house. Neither were ever read.


With their hard earned cotton mill money, Thomas’s parents paid for him to visit a private maths teacher who gave up on him after just three sessions because she believed him to have no concentration and he was also lazy. Thomas, really, really wanted to learn but it just wouldn’t happen. Yes, he could count up to a hundred but as soon as he tried to add numbers together or do division, the numbers wouldn’t move like they seemed to do for the other kids. Or those same numbers would just disappear never to be seen again ………….


Roger was a blond, good looking lad, who never had dirty hands or knees, and you could always cut paper with the creases he had in his short pants. Both his parents were professional people in their town of Bolton, Lancashire. He was always driven to school in his parents’ shiny black Humber Hawk Mk V1 and when in class he always sat next to Thomas. After school they would sometimes meet up on Astley Bridge Park where Thomas would try and help Roger swing across the monkey bars. Roger never once made it all the way across. After playing on the swings Thomas would tell him about the various wild birds like the shrikes, blue tits or the clever magpies who visited the park.

The two of them would sometimes rub candlewax on the park slide then watched from the railings while the other kids went flying off the end and then laughed when they landed in the puddles of water.


Roger was the only one who didn’t laugh when Mr Horricks hit Thomas, hard on the side of his head with the board duster. That teacher made the class laugh even more when he said it was to knock some sense into Thomas. Again, only Roger didn’t laugh.


That was the weekend when Thomas tried teaching Roger how to kick a football. But his timing was so far out they both gave up. It was usually after Saturday Confession at Holy Infants Church when Roger would sneak a couple of hours away to meet up with Thomas and they would sometimes spend a few hours in Thomas’s house playing with his toy fort and lead soldiers while both boys wore gas-masks. A couple of play times at Thomas’s house, Roger would wear some of Thomas’s spare clothes and they would then dig for hidden treasure in Thomas’s backyard. Later Roger would try and help Thomas with his maths and reading.


1958 was their Eleven Plus year. Roger tried his best to tell Thomas how to go about working out the answers. The teachers’ eyes kept Thomas and Roger separate. She then seemed to keep an eye more on Thomas than any of the other children. Thomas hadn’t a clue what the Eleven Plus was for. But he came up with the theory that he would answer the same number on every page, that way he was sure to get something right. Wrong.


The two boys planned more play time together in their big summer holidays of that year. They chalked notes on the stone flags in the yard about what they were going to do and where they were going to go. Thomas was going to show Roger how to light a fire without paper and only using only two matches. Roger thought this was impossible.


Friday.  All the wood they had been given permission to collect from The Wolfenden Street Timber Yard was waiting in the outside toilet ready for when Roger was free. The two boys had talked about building the biggest bonfire that could possibly be built in Thomas’s back yard. Thomas even had a couple of buckets of water ready in case the fire went out of control. His Mam brought the boys the two best potatoes ready for roasting in the embers of their fire which the boys would enjoy with best butter dripping down their chins onto their fingers.


Saturday. Thomas waited and waited.


Roger’s parents may have got to hear about the planned bonfire. For some reason that was never made clear they decided to take Roger sailing around the Anglesey/Welsh coast. It was around the time when the two boys should have been building their bonny in the back yard when something went wrong with the family boat they were sailing. Roger drowned in the autumn/winter of 1958.

 

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Peter Street

information about Peter Street - and other Natterjack Writers - is here

Peter Street has two ebooks available from Natterjack: a novella, and an autobiographical memoir. Click here for details

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