Wilmott was a bully. He had a shock of dark hair, and dark brown eyes. He was suntanned, had polished football boots. He was fine-boned and agile. He had a smart leather wallet. There was a photo of a girl in it. He stood upright and confident. He would speak to the masters ingratiatingly and mock them behind their backs. He gathered power without breaking sweat. He knew what to say. A handsome raven with crows as sidekicks. Others would do his dirty work.
“You, Simes. See that boy’s school cap stuck in his bag. Steal it, boy!”
The boy was sitting on a brick wall with his friends, eating sandwiches. Trembling inside, I strolled past the little group of first years and snatched the cap and ran back to Wilmott who was grinning.
“I say boys. Did you see what that rascal Simes did?” he shouted. The first years all looked up. “He stole your cap! What a little thief, a sneaky little magpie he is! He was going to hide it in The Bogs!” I dropped the cap and ran. I hid in the library.
Willmott was a prefect. He was a dinner monitor. He was in charge when the plump dinner lady put the food on the trestle table. He and his friends would take most of the pie, the best meat and mash, and all the gravy. Then it would be pudding.
“Tapioca, boys! What a treat!” He grinned and started scooping the slop into the plastic bowls. “But wait a moment, boys. There is something to add. Plum jam!” he oozed. “Delicious!” he said, smacking his lips. “A nice big blob for everyone! There!” He dolloped the red jam into each bowl, making a crimson spot in the centre. “Some for everyone, except….” He looked at me, grinning. “Except for Simes. Look at how pathetic he is, wearing his uniform like a sack, looking like the thief he is!” He stood grinning as my blood ran cold, and the boys’ faces turned to look at me. Some were smiling. Some just looked afraid. In that moment, I knew that one day I would be avenged. I would have my moment.
I stood up and walked to the end of the table. I looked down at the smirking Wilmott. The dining hall went silent. The headmaster – Mr Goode – in his long-sleeved robe, stood on the dais like a crow, watching. I wanted to punch Wilmott but dared not.
Four years later. Special assembly. Wilmott had been heroic. A fine example. A House Captain. A leader among men. But he had died in a car crash. His mother, tearful, shook hands with Mr Goode, accepting the gift of a carriage clock. The masters stood sombrely in their black gowns. A wake of vultures.
“You remember what a bully he was?” a boy whispered. “Took his dad’s flash car. Always drove too fast.”
It shocked me.
How little we pitied him.
After his career as a teacher and school leader, John Simes founded Collingwood Learning – a consultancy for school improvement and international education. In 2013 he established Collingwood Publishing Limited. John lives with his family in South Devon, England, where he grapples with his addictions to cricket, literature, the stunning local landscape, and his continuing enthusiasm for education. A Game of Chess is his second novel and is the sequel to The Dream Factory – published by Matador.
Wilmott is from John’s first collection of short stories – The Upperthong Thunderbolt – to be published in October 2021.
“This potpourri of stories is inspired by all the amazing people I have known and taught. I love writing comedy, stories about the supernatural, stories about important life issues, thrillers, romances; about our progress as we walk the jagged pathway of living through Covid and these turbulent times. Readers of The Dream Factory and A Game of Chess will recognise some of the characters – Reverend Thomas, Miss B, Yvonne and, of course, Peter and Navinda, and the village of Ringmore (aka Dingwell!). I am fascinated by the transformational power of human love, our need to believe in something outside of ourselves, and our desire to be something more remarkable than we can be – perhaps? In these stories, you will find your many selves! Enjoy the whole crazy ride.”
John also edited and published the collection of poetry by Laurence McPartlin ‘Wake the Stars’ (Collingwood 2019). You can find out more about John at www.johnsimes.co.uk or www.visitthedreamfactory.com or follow him on Twitter: @johnthepoet2010.
Cover Image by OpenClipart-Vectors
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