That damn little Wingnut was getting cheekier every day, and getting his jollies outa testing my limits. While I was training the juniors, and leaning over the edge of the pool, I felt a shove from behind, which sent me unceremoniously into the drink. By the time I'd surfaced, Wingnut was scampering up to the top of the stand where he figured he'd be outa reach, which he was… for the time being. On the walk home from school, though, it was a different story.
"Hey, Wingnut, I wanna be in charge of your initiation on the tour. When I'm finished, you're not gonna have one tiny, itty bitty stitch of hair on you. Not one tiny bit!"
"Kyle will help me," the kid responded, with an anxious expression.
"I'll beat him up."
"Cool! Can I watch?" Wingnut was too slow to avoid the clip over the ear that he received from Kyle.
Next morning at swim prac, I was in a dirty mood again… yeah, you guessed it… my mom's boyfriend. Nevertheless, I was reasonably talkative, and was kinda amused by the fact that we were doing sprints, which didn't suit Kyle at all. He was better at longer distances, and was totally pissed off at having to compete in the shorter races. Wingnut, on the other hand, was itching to chirp me about something, but I saw Kyle take him to one side, and have a quiet word in his ear… probably warning the kid to steer clear of me when I was showing the aggro 'signs'.
On Friday night, it was back to old times. Carol, Kyle, Steph and I went clubbing to Corners, where my bud and I got ourselves totally slaughtered. The girls weren't too impressed, but that's about all I could remember. Next morning, I phoned Kyle for a report.
"You're asking me? I don't even remember arriving home! I remember walking Steph to her house, and having a bit of a graunch, but that's it. Oh, yeah… I do remember that you were a fucking wreck, and laughing all the time. What was so damn funny?"
"Must've been you."
Carol had often dissed me about drinking too much on Friday nights, but I figured it was just a release thingy. Every other day, I was into fitness big time… skipping, situps, weights, swimming, boxing, whatever. There wasn't an ounce of fat on my bod, and I was proud of it. To my mind, my body was something I could constantly work at, honing it, and defining each and every muscle until I was satisfied with the result… which I never was, of course. Fitness was something that needed sustained effort, as well as the kinda dedication most people just didn't have.
Part of our swim training was doing an hour of cardio-vascular work in the school gym. It was called the 'circuit', and was designed to build up stamina and endurance. My constant skipping and boxing training had given me the edge over the other guys, but I was still a lather of sweat by the end of the session.
Kyle and I usually worked together on the circuit, the idea being that one guy would push the other, and prevent him from slacking off. The prob for Kyle was that he considered me to be a slave-driver. "You're so damn fit, you fucking cream through most of the stuff, dammit!"
"So why don't you get another partner?"
"'Cause you get all pumped up, and I like gawking at your awesome bod," he laughed.
The only guy who who could out-perform me was Jumbo, and he used heavier weights as well. But that was no biggie. Hell, he was a giant, and nobody on the team expected to measure up to him.
The circuit rules meant that each of us would get one minute on each piece of equipment, followed by a 30 second break. We would start off on the running machine, but, 'cause we were supposed to be fit dudes, the machines were set at a steep angle, and a hectic speed. Next came the lat machine that used a weighted, pulley system, with a bar above our heads. We pulled the bar down behind our shoulders, then in front of our chest. After that came the step machine, where we had to climb as many 'floors' as possible in one minute, as though we were climbing an endless staircase. Then the bicep machine, where we lifted weights in a curl fashion. Next, the rowing machine, on which we competed with the machine itself over a one kilometer distance. Kyle liked that one, 'cause he'd win every time. Then the pec machine. That was one of my favs, 'cause I was pretty proud of my pecs.
Next came a separate circuit of sit-ups, with five different sections in the abs routine. By the time the guys had finished that one, most of them could hardly walk.
That led to the leg-curl exercises, first for our hamstrings, then for our quads. After that, we went on the calf machine. The final exercise was cycling, where we'd pedal for five minutes. It was supposed to be a cool-down, but I loved to race that thing, and pushed Kyle to do the same.
The guys on the swim team called it the 'circuit from hell', 'cause the seniors like myself and Ross pushed everyone to their absolute limit. That particular week was more hell than usual 'cause the swim tour was scheduled for the following week, and we were psyching ourselves up to win.
However, that wasn't the end of the circuit! No way, Jose! After the cycling, we did free weights, then the pull-down weights for shoulder strengthening, followed by bench and leg presses. Unlike Kyle, though, I preferred to also work out with dumbells, doing bicep curls, and shoulder presses.
"OK, guys," the coach yelled, "shower time! I don't want your sweaty slime floating in the pool!"
Charming, I thought. I don't think any of us did.
The rest of the day was pretty ordinary… a bit of swim training in the morning, then grounds duty during recesses. Each week, prefects were allocated a day of grounds duty, which I hated. Most of the seniors thought I was pretty cool, but the juniors weren't so sure… most of them kept their distance so as not to make me mad. They knew that, rather than book them and give them detention, I'd prefer to take them behind the wall, and give them a piece of my mind. And if they gave me too much lip, I'd give them a clout. But I'd only needed to do that once to date.
A few days later, though, my prefect responsibilities were to be tested big time. Wingnut was in major trouble.
I was sitting and chatting with Kyle during recess when I saw a bunch of lighties running across the field where they'd previously been playing cricket. "Better check to see what's going on," I suggested.
As we arrived on the scene, I saw Wingnut and another kid wrestling on the ground, and fisting each other. It was pretty serious stuff, so I stepped in and separated them. Wingnut's face was bleeding, and covered in dirt, and his shirt was torn at the buttons. The other guy had a fat lip, and his shirt was torn at the sleeve. It was like a scene outa some fucking war movie.
"OK, what's going on here?" I demanded.
Wingnut was first to speak. "He wouldn't let us play with his cricket bat!"
"He always wants to bat before me! It's my bat!"
"That's 'cause I'm better than you, shithead!"
"Whoa," I warned, "watch the language!"
"Says who?" the other kid asked, referring to Wingnut's last comment.
"Says me!" Wingnut retorted, "and you're acting like a spoilt brat!"
"Piss off! You're always batting first. You always take over!"
"I always open… we agreed!"
"Is that why you guys are fighting?" I interjected. "Over who's gonna bat first?"
"When he tried to take the bat," Wingnut argued, "he hit me with it. So I flattened him!"
"Fuck off!" the other dude protested. "Who flattened who?"
"OK, guys, you're both going on detention."
"C'mon, Mark!" the grommet pleaded. "It's no biggie! Not detention!"
"You're written up, boyo. Detention Friday."
"I think there's gonna be surf."
"Any more crap outa you, and I'll put you on detention for the whole damn week. Now go and clean yourselves up."
By then, quite a large crowd had gathered. Wingnut and the other dude shouldered their way though the throng, muttering obscenties, and pushing and shoving each other on their way to the change room.
"See what the fuck you did?" the grommet complained.
"Me? You started it!"
"I should flatten you again."
"Piss off… you couldn't flatten horse shit."
I shook my head, and turned to Kyle. "He's a damn hothead… like his friend."
"Yeah, you!" I smiled. "You're a bad influence."
"Looks like he came off worse… maybe he'll learn a lesson."
"Oh, yeah, right! Like you learn a lesson every time!"
"Am I really that bad? I thought you had a shorter fuse than mine."
"Only when I'm pushed." I glanced toward the change room. "Wingnut's gonna be pretty mad at me, huh?"
"Not really. I'll just beat the shit outa him if he is."
"Were we like that when we were lighties?"
"Probably worse," he laughed. "And we still act like that, so we can't really judge."
"I think Wingnut's finally found out that guys aren't just gonna lay down and die if he challenges them."
"Yep… but I know someone who discovered that about a year ago."
"Hey, Kyle," I laughed, "when you didn't lay down and die, I just killed you anyway!"
"You need a gang."
At that point in the convo, I saw Wingnut running toward us across the field. He was wearing his blazer to cover his torn shirt. "Hey, Mark," he yelled as he drew near.
"Please, please, please take me off detention!"
"Can't do that. You were fighting, and everyone saw you."
"Shit," he said as he lowered his head, and kicked the ground in disgust.
"What's the big deal? Two hours of yard duty at school, then it's all over."
"TWO HOURS? Fuck!"
"I could make it three."
"Kyle?" the kid asked, looking like a sad puppy.
But Kyle shrugged, and turned his hands palm-side up. "Hey! I've got nothing to do with it, buddy."
Then it was my turn for the puppy eyes. "Mark? Please?"
"No. You fight with the best, and die like the rest, boyo."
"The best? He's a prick!"
"It's a figure of speech. Anyway, he's your friend."
"He's still a prick."
There was an undeniably funny side to Wingnut's dilemma that reminded me so much of the relationship between Kyle and me. Fights, for whatever reason, seemed to be an integral part of our connection. The weird thing, though, at least in our case, was that our altercations seemed to bring us closer together.
On the walk home that afternoon, Wingnut was trailing Kyle and me, and looking totally pissed off. He gave me the impression that he was trying very hard to look angry 'cause he wanted to make me feel guilty. But I wasn't buying that one. Hey, been there, done that.
"Hey, Kyle!" he piped from behind us. "Did you get detention when you were fighting the other day?"
"Oh? Like the teacher's pet, huh? Or is that the prefect's pet?"
"You've got a choice here," I said without looking at the kid. "Let me beat the shit outa you, and I'll let you off. That's the offer I gave to Kyle."
"Cool! Then am I allowed to hit back like Kyle did? 'Cause I feel like giving you a fat lip!"
"You're getting pretty fucking cocky. I could've put you on report for that fight, and you could've been suspended."
"Kiff! More surfing time."
"Drop it, Wingnut, before we all end up fighting with each other."
"Oh, right… don't wanna see you getting beaten up again."
That was it. I turned around, grabbed the kid by the collar, and lifted him off the ground with one hand. "Listen up, Wingnut. Detention is not a big fucking deal. I'd look like a right prick if I let you get off while I was booking other guys. There's always a fight on the grounds. We'd end up having a free-for-all. So shut the fuck up before I shut you up."
"Whoa!" the wide-eyed grommet pleaded as his toes dangled a few inches above the sidewalk. "Down boy! Hey, I'm sorry! I was just pissing on your battery."
It was too late. The kid had pissed on more than just my battery, and had brought home to me the difficulty I had with being a prefect… no favorites, no special deals, no exceptions. I gave the guys a quick wave, and split to my house.
About an hour later, the phone rang. I was expecting it to be Carol. "Hello?"
"Hey, it's Wingnut. I'm really sorry about this arvie."
"No prob. I hope you understand my situation."
"Yeah, I thought about it, and I do. And my dad gave me this HUGE lecture about the cost of clothing. He said he was thinking of making me wear my torn shirt to school. That'd suck big time, 'cause I'd have to wear my blazer to cover it, and it's hot!"
"Hey, Wingnut, we live and learn. OK? I'll see you tomorrow."
"See ya. And thanks."
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