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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

La Petit Mort

As far as I remember, two kids died at our school while I was there.

The first one was a boy in the year below me in school. Now, to understand this, you have to know there is nothing to do in my home town. These days there's even less - the laughable 'high street' has now almost closed down with every store vacant or turned into an off-licence, nail bar or tanning salon. You can either get wasted or have french tips, those are your two options. At least in my day there was a Kwik-Fit to go and steal tyres from to make a swing over the disused railway line - not that I ever did. I was far too busy learning BASIC for that sort of outdoor shenanigans. But you can understand why kids turned to drugs quite early, though saying that, the budget for proper drugs never really rolled in, and kids had to be inventive, sniffing everything from aerosols to air fresheners. Some would rack up maker pens and sniff them sliding them back and forth, looking like they were playing the pan-pipes. If you came across someone in the changing rooms with a swipes of primary colours under their nose and a slightly glassy expression, you knew you weren't going to get a straight answer to the question "Can I borrow you RE homework?"

Apparently this got more and more extreme: people would spray aerosols into plastic bags and inhale the fumes. Further than that, apparently the fumes from certain melting plastic gave off something wonderfully hallucinogenic, and thusly a spate of kids hanging around fiery, melting bins and snorting became commonplace. Soon the new bus shelters had to be replaced with the old-style metal ones after they went up in flames with a circle of spaced-out teenagers lying around it and proclaiming themselves "The Space Rhinos from Galaxia  14".

Apparently the boy died while sniffing WD40 sprayed into a Threshers carrier. We were all told this in the sports hall, gathered there to have the news broken by uncharacteristically solemn teachers. They told us the dangers of what had happened and how sad they were for the friends of the boy. I didn't know him, and my reaction was to laugh. Not out of cruelty or spite, but because it was the one thing you shouldn't do, and so I did. I had to bury my head in my locker until it passed. I'm really not sure why I did that - I've never been that au fait with my emotions; the only other time I've had such an extreme reaction like that to something that was when my mother tried to get me in a polyester for my third school uniform. Oh man, there were tears then. Oh yes.

* * * * *

The second one who died was over Cannock Chase, a huge bit of parkland where deer wandered and teenage couples conceived their ungodly offspring. Thankfully the two things were separate; there were no antlered children running about the common. Though there were an awful lot of kids with webbed feet padding around the vast council estate called The Avenues due to some blurring of the line between 'lover' and 'family'. Still, they had a natural advantage in the swimming gala, so people didn't give them that hard a time.

Anyway, Cannock Chase. If you were hard, you used to hang around there, so to a swot like myself it seemed like a Woodstock of free love, motorbikes, and girls with easy virtues who ended up screaming down the school corridors "You can't dump me Darren, this is yours!" before dropping out of school early and go and live in Wayne House, an enormous tower block to the south of the town that echoed with the cries of new-born children and reeked of the disinfectant they use to hide the odor of urine.

Clearly my sister was always over on the Chase. She'd embraced the fun at a very early age, often came back reeking of mints at all hours. She told me one day that she'd come back so drunk that she'd been sick in her make-up drawer in the night, and only realised when she'd got up and reached in for some concealer to hide the bags under her eyes the following morning. She was 14 at the time. And spent most her lunch money on Diamond White.

She happened to be over Cannock Chase when the girl died. It was howling with rain and uncharacteristically warm for the midlands, and rather than run for shelter, people were running around in it and having fun. The girl - it's bad of me not to know her name, isn't it? She's only known as The Girl Who Died to swathes of us from that year - she was lying on the grass, laughing and joking with her friends when - POW! - a bolt of lightning came down and struck her. Completely out of nowhere.

The inquest recorded that the lightning had struck the underwire in her bra and killed her instantly. It was a ludicrous death that apparently she would have approved of, so people mourned her with a strange acquiescence. And lets face it, they're a backward lot in my hometown, so most of them were convinced that she'd displeased the Gods somehow and there was talk of sacrificing a goat on the steps of Tesco to appease them.

The thing that always gets me about this story is while The Girl Who Died was laughing her last, my sister was a hundred feet away. She'd decided to take shelter under a tree, a ludicrous mistake in itself, and happened to be holding the aluminium can of cider aloft when the lightning crashed down.


silentchrisw said...

We had murderers, or at least manslaughterers.

Beat that.

Oh, and incest.

Skip said...

brilliant! underwire. brilliant.

Lippy said...

Well yes, both you and I know what it's like to grow up in an area where Bostick comes with a serving suggesting on the side of the pack.

Trashbinder said...

I was born and raised in Burntwood. This is all sounding very familiar.

CyberPete said...

The morale of the story is that you shouldn't wear a bra with underwire outside in bad weather eh.

I was known as the freak little brother of the boy who died at my school. Of course my brother didn't die of anything as ludicris as that