Rats! I’ve got to walk down to the shops for Mum.
I was hoping to meet up and spend some time with Tony. We’ve been trying to get to know each other better over the summer, since Tony got himself covered in chocolate at the school fête, but in spite of it being school holidays we haven’t been able to get together much.
One of us always seems to have some family business in the way. Like today. Why can’t Mum go herself? Something about ‘going round to Mrs. Next Door for coffee and you’ve got nothing else to do so make yourself useful.’ Wish I had a pound for every time I’ve heard that last bit but no chance.
At least we’ve been to each other’s houses a couple of times and met the ’rents. Thankfully that went off without incident. Not that I was expecting problems; Tony is nice and I can do cute and turn on the charm when it’s needed.
I suppose I shall have to go or I can see there being no food in house. There are some advantages in going. For example; I can hijack the menu for a day or two by buying chillies, ginger, garlic and all the other bits for a good curry. It also gets me out of the firing line for more chores for over an hour, nearer two if I detour through the park to do a little boy-watching on the way. There are nearly always some guys kicking a ball about, or just messing around, enough to make the walk interesting.
There aren’t many boys in the park yet. It’s too early for most kids but Mum doesn’t let me lie in during the holidays. She says if I don’t get into the habit of lying in bed all day it won’t be a struggle to get up when I have to go back to school next month. Thanks for the reminder, Mum. Just the thing to dampen the holiday spirit.
There are a few joggers in the park trying to keep fit. Some of the guys are fit too. Fit to look at that is. I hope I look that good when I get past twenty. They’re all too old for me though. I want someone my own age, someone like Tony. To be specific; I am hoping Tony and I can get it together.
However that shouldn’t stop me from checking out the runners as they pass me. Like the guy in the white shorts coming towards me now. I can feel myself smiling as my eyes trace up his legs to waist and chest then on to his face. At that point I see his grin. He must have seen me eyeing him up. My face burns with a blush and he colours up too. Was he checking me out? As he passes, my embarrassment is completed as I realise it is Mr. Sproat, one of the games masters from school. I think Brussels, as he is known to the pupils, will be taking our class next term.
As I am leaving the park I meet Paul, another kid from our year. I don’t know him that well but he seems to be okay. Not un-cute either.
We grunt the usual teen greetings and I ask him what he is up to.
“I’ve come to see if anybody was here,” he replies. “I thought Tony said he would be here this morning for a kick-about. What you doing?”
“Going to the shops for my Mum. I’ll come back when I’ve done if you’re all still here. I want to catch Tony too.”
“See ya then,” Paul says as he walks off into the park.
I mumble something to his back then turn towards the shops.
I start to think about what Paul said. He said he expected to meet Tony. Almost as though they had agreed it. Tony never said anything to me about being in the park this morning and I was sort of hoping he would come over and see me. Why would he say something to Paul without telling me?
The supermarket is quite busy when I get there. As I push my trolley round I see Mel at the fruit and veg picking up some bananas. I sneak up behind her and say:
“Got a date with a chocolate fountain?”
Her expression is priceless as she whips round to see who made the quip. Then there is an evil glint in her eye when she realises it is me.
“Nah. Mom said to get some as we’re having a fool for tea. I didn’t know you were invited.”
She’s sharp this morning. She must have been hanging out with Virginia again. It is the sort of thing she would have said.
“Where’s Tony? I thought you were together these days,” she asks.
“I’m hoping to catch up with him in the park later. I’ve just seen Paul who said they were supposed to be meeting there.”
“Blonde Paul? Hmm. I could fancy him,” she muses before continuing: “Anyway, good to see you, but I must get on. I’m supposed to be meeting Virginia in ten. Hope you and Tony get sorted.”
Mel bustles away leaving me looking at the ginger. There is not much left and what there is looks a bit old and wizened. Since I couldn’t find any cumin or cardamom either, I decide I shall have to go the long way home, via the corner shop near the school. The one run by Raj and Naveem’s parents. If they don’t have the supplies for a good curry there is no hope!
The detour means it will be longer before I get home and back out to find Tony. After meeting Paul I had changed my mind and to save time intended to go straight home instead of back through the park. Now that is not an option. It will have to be through the park and on the path furthest from the playing areas as well. That means I am unlikely to get the consolation prize of being able to boy-watch.
Needless to say I am a bit peed off as I head to the other shop. It doesn’t help that I am thinking about what Mel said. I know what she means, I could fancy Paul too. But was she implying that Tony might fancy him enough to want to do more than just look. Shit! Am I about to be dumped? Maybe Mel was closer to the truth than she thought and I am being played for a fool.
My mood lightens a bit when I get to the shop. The boys are running the counter, their parents are nowhere about. I can wind them up a bit.
“I thought you had to be sixteen to work legally?” I say, knowing they have to help in the shop and not always willingly.
“The ’rents say there’s a get out for family businesses,” Naveem grouses. I can see him gearing up to go into a full on rant so, I say the first thing that comes into my head to stop him.
“Anyway, since they seem to have left you two in charge, where are your parents today?” I ask Raj.
“They’re taking a couple of days off to visit cousins and cousins’ cousins in Brum. We get to mind the shop ‘since its school holidays and you’ve got nothing else to do’.”
Where have I heard that before? Sounds just like my Mum.
“What are they doing? Arranging wives for you?” I know this is a sensitive subject with the boys, but I just couldn’t resist.
Naveem seems to choke and goes bright red. Raj just laughs.
“We had a row with Dad about that. We tackled him and he started to get evasive. Nav got a bit upset and told Dad not to try to fix us up with any of that lot, saying they are all as foul as a bag of frogs with characters to match. Of course, I had to agree with him, they are!
”Then the old man tried to play the family honour card. As luck would have it, Virginia and Mel walked in just at that point and overheard him. We all know Virginia is a very pretty girl and even Mel outclasses that lot in Birmingham. Dad’s eyes were roving over both and went red when he realised we had spotted him.
“Virginia bats her eyelashes at him and puts on her sweet and innocent face and…”
“You mean the one when you know she isn’t going to be sweet or innocent?” I interrupt.
“That’s the one,” says Naveem who has now recovered enough to take up the story.
“So she says ‘Don’t you think it brings dishonour on your family not to be able to trust your boys to be mature enough to find someone suitable?’ Then just to twist the knife she adds ‘Your customers round here might see it that way…’ she trailed off, but Dad knew what she implied.
“She pitched it just right,” says Naveem, “Telling Dad it would hit him where it hurts most: in his pocket!”
“Then this one has to say something,” Raj points at his brother. “He said ‘Thanks, Virginia. I could give you a hug.’ Not one to miss an opportunity she starts hugs and kisses all round, Dad included. We thought he would have a heart attack, especially after she whispered something in his ear.”
“What was that?” I ask as I look at Raj.
“Dad wouldn’t say but Virginia told us later that she had told him that respect works both ways and it would be his fault for bringing dishonour on the family if he put us in a position where we had to take a stand. He shouldn’t make promises that aren’t his to keep.
“He still looked defeated at our meal that evening and said we would be involved in choosing our wives. So we both owe Virginia one, big time.”
There is a sigh from Naveem and Raj and I look across to see a wistful look on his face.
“Nav! I said owe her one, not give her one!” Raj turns back to me. “I swear he has to change his underpants every time she comes into the shop.”
Eventually we get around to dealing with the curry spices I want and I set off for home. In spite of the brothers’ story, I am back to being pissed off. I checked the prices in the shop and they were mostly cheaper than the big chain supermarket. I could have saved time and got brownie points for saving money by going straight there.
There is nobody to boy-watch as I walk into the park, although there are two kids wrestling on the ground on the far side of the playing area. They are too far away to be sure but one is blonde and the other dark, it could be Paul and Tony. As I watch, the dark haired one gains a position sitting astride the other’s crotch, then leans forward. It looks as though they are going to kiss. I can’t see it clearly because not only is it too far away but also, thinking it might be Tony and Paul, I feel as though I have been kicked in the guts.
The two disentangle, pick up a football that had been lying nearby and, bumping each other’s shoulders, walk off, leaving the park by the entrance where I met Paul earlier. Paul and Tony both live in that direction.
You can guess what sort of state I am in by the time I get home. Mum must have got some juicy gossip from Mrs. Next Door, because she seems oblivious to my mood. She does at least help with unpacking the shopping, but even that goes wrong when she sees the spices I have bought.
“I was wondering what to do for supper tonight. Curry is a good idea. Good thinking.”
I am starting to suck up the praise when she hits me with it.
“Why didn’t you just buy a jar of paste? It might not taste the same but it’s so much easier. Never mind, you’ve got nothing better to do. You can prepare the spices for me.”
If what I think I have seen in the park is right, she has a point there. Maybe I don’t have anything better to do. So I set to. To be honest I am too numb to put up a fight about it.
When I have finished I wash up and go to my room. I can’t decide what I want to do, so I look around. It is then I realise something is missing. I go and find Mum.
“Mum, do you know where my football is? I’m sure it was in my room.”
“Sorry dear, I forgot to tell you. Tony came over soon after you left and asked to borrow it. Didn’t you see him in the park as you came through?”
I decide I don’t want to discuss what I think I saw him doing in the park so I just answer “No”. Then I start to think about it and carry on.
“He hasn’t brought it back. I’m going over there to fetch it.”
“Can’t it wait? I’m sure he’ll bring it back tomorrow,” Mum says. How can she be sure of that?
“No. I don’t think it can.”
I think I hear her say something about a shirt but ignore it as I head off out slamming the door behind me.
I will get told off for that but what the hell? I am truly pissed off now. First, with Mum for letting Tony have my ball without my permission. That means she went in my room without asking as well. Second, with Tony for arranging to meet Paul in the park this morning. Then having the cheek to come and ask to borrow my ball when I am not there so that he can play around with Paul. By the looks of things not just with the ball either.
By the time I get to Tony’s I am livid. I do manage to be civil to his mother when I ask if he is around. Unfortunately she adds to the flames.
“Yes, he is in his room. I think he is on his own. His friend Paul was here earlier, but he only stayed about half an hour.”
Half an hour. That’s long enough for whatever they got up to. In fact it’s half an hour too long.
I don’t bother to knock. I just charge into his room. He must have been looking at one of the posters on his wall. As he turns round to see who has come in he grabs the ball. The draught from me opening the door must have set it rolling off his desk.
He is standing there looking sheepish; guilty more like. I am about as in his face as I can be with the ball between us. Although he doesn’t look up for a fight, he has no room for flight either with his back to the wall. I can feel myself all tensed up—neck and shoulders and my fists are clenched tight. If I don’t say something, I just know I’m going to hit him.
“You’ve got a damn cheek, borrowing my ball when I’m not there to ask, so that you can play with Paul. You didn’t even tell me you were going to meet up with him.”
Tony’s mouth is going but not sound is coming out.
“I thought we were supposed to be getting together, but you are having me for a fool, playing around with Paul and not with my ball either from what I saw as I came through the park. It looked as though you were kissing him.”
“I wasn’t kissing him,” Tony starts in reply. As he does, I scan down his chest and onwards until I notice a stain on his sweat pants. He sees me notice it.
“So it was more than just kissing was it? Fuck you!”
“It wasn’t like that. We were just play wrestling, but Paul got a bit excited and had an accident.”
“You expect me to believe that. I don’t suppose you were excited at all. Were you?”
As I am saying this my eyes are moving upwards and I sense I am being distracted by the sight of his bare chest and the cute sheepish look on his face. I also understand what Mum meant as I left the house. I realise I haven’t got a shirt on either and Tony is looking at my chest. I think how ridiculous we must look.
I can feel my anger and tension ebbing and I know I have to get out of there before I crack up and start laughing and ruin my performance. With the last of my anger I grab my ball and turn and make for the door saying:
“My ball, thank you! You can borrow it again after I get to play with yours!”
Dr. Freud would have been proud of me.
The walk home gives me time to think that it might be all over between Tony and me. Not that it really ever got started. There again maybe that thing between him and Paul was as he said and I have been jealous of an innocent friendship. If so I just hope we can salvage something.
All thoughts are put on hold at suppertime. The curry Mum and I have conjured up together is suitably mind-blowing, warming the heart as well as the taste buds.
The next morning the curry makes sure I am awake as it plays its trump card.
I am wondering what I should do about Tony when I hear the doorbell. Before I can get down to answer it Mum is shouting up to me that I have a visitor.
It is Paul. Looking very embarrassed. I am that surprised to see him, I forget to ask him how he knows where I live. Anyway I want to hear what he has to say for himself so we go up to my room, out of the way of Mum’s prying ears. He sits the wrong way round on the typist chair I have at my desk, his arms on the back. I perch my bum on the window ledge.
I let him start the conversation.
“Are you and Tony boyfriends?”
His question throws me. Then I realise my delay in answering has effectively outed Tony and me. We have never said anything but if Paul has asked he must have noticed something to give him the idea. There again if I am right in what I saw in the park, Paul might play for the same team.
“Well, I thought we were heading that way. Until yesterday and I saw you two together in the park.”
“Oh hell!” Paul says before asking “What do you think you saw?”
“It looked like you were rolling around trying to rub each other up, then Tony leaned over to kiss you, before you both went off bumping shoulders. Then when I go round to Tony’s, he has a stained patch on his pants and said you had an accident. It looked more like he had got you off.”
Paul groans and clearly doesn’t know what he wants to say or at least doesn’t know how to say it. So I ask the obvious questions.
“Paul, do you fancy Tony? Are you wanting him for your boyfriend?”
“No! I’m not after anyone as a boyfriend!”
He sounds emphatic about it. Then I see the makings of a smile start on his face and he starts to twist the chair to and fro.
“Mind you after yesterday, if I don’t get a girlfriend soon, I might think about it.”
If he is trying to wind me up, he is succeeding. I snap back at him.
“You’d better tell me what did happen yesterday.”
I can feel myself tense up, not as bad as in Tony’s room yesterday, but Paul must have picked up on it and on my tone. He twisting of the chair becomes more of a squirm and he blushes.
“This is dead embarrassing,” he says and sighs as if to psych himself up before continuing. “We met up in the park about five minutes after I saw you, but neither of us had brought a ball. So he said he would go and borrow yours and ran off before I could tell him you were at the shops.
“Anyway he comes back with your ball and we kicked it around for a bit. Then we got on to practice our tackling. That ended when we tripped over each other and landed in a heap. As you can guess there were some words exchanged and we ended up rolling on the ground sort of wrestling.”
His face flushes again and he draws a breath.
“It must have been the close body contact that we aren’t used to, but it wasn’t long before I noticed that we had both popped a boner. Worse I could feel myself getting really close. I wasn’t thinking of being with Tony or anyone else. It must have just been the friction. To try and cool off I stopped wrestling but it was too late. I don’t think he did it deliberately but as Tony settled down on top of me to claim victory it was enough to finish me off. And how! It was that intense I thought I was going to pass out. It must have been a big load too; the front of my pants was soaked. I must have mumbled something because Tony leaned down to hear better and some soaked onto his pants too.”
I can’t resist a giggle.
“I was right: Tony did get you off.”
Paul looks as though he knows he is not going to hear the end of this for some time. Should I rub it in? Or out? At least I know he will not out Tony and me in case he gets tarred with the same brush.
“So you are telling me that what I thought was Tony giving you a kiss was him leaning in to hear what you were saying. What was it you said and what was the shoulder bumping as you walked off?”
“Euw,” says Paul. “Even though I was knackered, I would have pushed Tony off if he had tried to kiss me. The shoulder bumping was me staggering; my legs hadn’t fully recovered as we left the park.”
“You still haven’t told me what you said to Tony.”
“I don’t know what I said, but Tony thinks it sounded like ‘Susie’. It could be I suppose. I do rather fancy her. Unfortunately she doesn’t seem interested in me.”
I know how I can make him blush big time.
“I bet she’s your jack off fantasy.”
Yup, that blush gives it away.
“So who else in our year do you fancy?”
“I like Cath but she’s all over Bruno. Mel is okay but since the fête she seems to spend all her time with Virginia. What about you? Anyone other than Tony?”
I should have seen that coming.
“No,” I reply. “Statistically there probably isn’t anyone else in our form anyway. I hope we can get it together.” Thankfully, he doesn’t ask about my wank fantasies; he is on my list.
Paul nods as if he is thinking about my reply. I hope it means he will put in a good word for me next time he sees Tony. We talk about other things for a while but we are interrupted by Mum asking me to go to the shops for some milk. Why didn’t she put it on the list yesterday?
I tell Paul I am going to go to the corner shop for a chat with Raj and Naveem and he decides to walk with me. On the way I fill him in about their dad wanting to arrange wives for them before Virginia put him right.
When we get to the shop it is not busy, so we talk with the boys for a few minutes before Raj asks how my curry was last night. I am about to answer when Paul chips in.
“My eyes watered from the second hand fumes when I called round at his place earlier. It must have been a real bum-burner.”
“Thank you, Paul. I am sure Raj has enough experience not to want that information,” I grouse.
Raj is smiling, trying not to laugh.
“We don’t really like it that hot. Mum might do one hot dish out of the three or four she prepares for us. She says it is all about the overall balance in the flavours and heat of the spices. Don’t you have anything cooling to go with your main dish? No raita or other side dishes?”
“No. Just the main dish and rice,” I say. “No extras.”
“Haven’t you ever been to an Indian Restaurant and seen the range on the menu so you can mix and match?” Raj asks.
I shake my head.
“Nah! The ’rents say it’s too far to drive and you get back too late. You would think there would be an Indian in a town this size and not have to drive to the next. I think it’s an excuse though. They are just too tight to eat out. It’s an occasion for us to have take-out from the Chinese.”
Raj mood changes, he seems to be deep in thought and he wanders off through the door into the house at the back of the shop. Paul takes this as his cue to say good-bye. I grab the milk and go to pay Naveem who has been serving the customers while we have been talking with Raj.
“Don’t worry about Raj. He often goes off like that when he gets an idea.”
Nav must have seen the puzzled look on my face as Raj wandered off. As he hands me my change he makes a suggestion.
“I overheard some of your conversation with Raj. If you want to learn more about our cooking, why don’t you come and chat to our mother? She works the shop in the mornings so that fits while school is out. You’d be doing us a favour, keeping her distracted and off our backs!”
I thank him and say I’ll see them around and head off home.
It was nice of Naveem to make that suggestion. Of course, it would mean I would be doing the shopping at their shop. I chuckle, thinking that family never misses an opportunity to drum up business.
My thoughts turn to Paul. His comment about my curry could have pissed me off but our chat this morning has broken the ice. I decide I like him and he could be a good friend.
I don’t know what to do about Tony. Some of me says it is up to him to make the next move but part of why I think him cute is that he is shy compared to me. So I expect I shall have to do something or things will drag on and we’ll drift apart.
When I get back home, through the park of course, Mum tells me Tony called round but couldn’t wait as the family were going away for a few days. He left a message. Something vague about being sorry for yesterday and an aunt in some remote part of the country at death’s door. I don’t think Mum was really listening to what he said. Whatever, it looks as though things are going to drag on, at least for a bit. I suppose it is a good sign that he took the trouble to come round wanting to talk to me in person.
Later Paul rings up to ask about a kick-about in the park tomorrow morning. With Tony away am I his next choice? Paul tells me that he rang Tony’s mobile after leaving me in the shop and told him he needed to make his peace with me. We work out that Tony must have persuaded his folks to stop off at my house on the way to his aunt. He gets another point for that.
As arranged, Paul and I meet up early-ish the next morning. Our kick-about becomes a replay of his bout with Tony when we trip each other tackling and end up wrestling on the ground. No prizes for guessing that Paul pops another stiffie. Because I can feel it through our sweat pants, I start to bone up too. Although I think it might be amusing to see if he has another accident, I decide I don’t really want to go there and stop wrestling.
“You’d better stop or you’ll be walking home wet again,” I say. He stills but his breathing is fast and heavy.
“Or is it too late, you randy toad? Didn’t you rub one out this morning?”
“I was late waking up so I didn’t have time. Same the other day with Tony.”
“There’s your problem then,” I say. Then I look down and see he still has his problem.
“I’ve got to finish off,” he says. “I’d better go hide in the bushes. Do you want to come and watch? Or watch and come?”
Sometimes Paul has a very dirty laugh.
The next time I am in the shop the boys’ parents are back from their trip to Birmingham. Naveem introduces me to his mother and I am soon having a tutorial on herbs and spices. She is friendly but firm and has me making notes. I suspect that there will be a written paper and practical examination at the end of term.
What I can’t work out is why Raj and Naveem are so friendly towards me. They used to be just okay mates from school. Now they always look extra pleased to see me. You would think I had done them a big favour or saved their lives or something.
I find out when I catch Raj in our street delivering leaflets. They are for an Indian restaurant that is going to open in a few days in the empty pub opposite the school. Raj tells me I’m responsible for the town getting an Indian at last. I put the idea in his head and he rang his dad while he was in Birmingham. A couple of those cousins’ cousins are chefs looking for a place of their own so Raj’s dad is setting them up.
“Since they are shunned by the rest of the family, we gain kudos for taking them away.” says Raj “Best of all, the new business has put all thoughts of marriage for me and Naveem out of the parents heads. So we owe you. If you need anything just ask and we’ll try and help.”
I think about asking for help with Tony, but that’s not really a problem I want to share. So I say that I shall have to persuade the parents to try the restaurant when it opens.
A couple more days go past and I am beginning to worry about Tony. I call Paul and he hasn’t heard anything either. Late in the afternoon the bell goes and I beat mum to the door.
It’s Tony and judging by the coy look on his face he is pleased to see me. I just know I am wearing the same silly grin. He holds up a thick brown paper bag. A delicious aroma wafts in my direction.
“Hi. I’ve brought a peace offering. I saw Paul and Raj and they suggested you would like some snacks from the Indian that opened today.”
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I pull him into the house and up to my room.
I tell him I’ve missed him and ask how was his trip to the aunt and why didn’t he ring?
“I couldn’t ring, she lives in the middle of nowhere with no mobile signal. She doesn’t have internet either.
“We would have been back sooner, but every time we packed to come home she had another funny turn. Mom says she should be on the stage, acting up like she does. It happens every so often when the old girl is feeling neglected. One day she really will be ill and no one will take any notice.”
“Like the boy that cried wolf,” I say.
We start to attack the snacks. He has brought samosas, onion bhajis and some chicken tikka pieces. The guys at the restaurant have even put in a pot of dipping sauce.
As we eat he tells me his version of his wrestle with Paul which confirms what Paul told me. Thankfully, he sees the funny side when I have to tell him about my turn wrestling and Paul’s invitation into the bushes to watch.
The snacks are delicious and what starts as offering pieces to try soon turns into gently feeding each other morsels coated in sauce. Very sensual.
Tony gets a drip of sauce on his chin, so I wipe it off with my finger, and then lick my finger. I am looking in his eyes and trying to be suggestive. It works. Feeding me the next piece he makes sure there is sauce on my chin. He wipes it off with his finger but instead of licking it himself, puts it in my mouth to suckle.
I don’t know if we finish all the food, but I do know that by the time he goes home he is allowed to borrow my ball again.
Copyright © Pedro September 2017
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