Mammary Mellor and the Crying Sword
I was thirteen the first time I saw a so-called grown-up cry. In real life, I mean, not on TV. Back then grown-ups on TV were always blubbing, especially the soap stars. Didn't matter if they were men, women, or something interesting in between – soon as life got tricky, they'd start to blart. It was pathetic.
The grown-up I want to tell you about, though - the one I saw dissolving into tears one rainy Wednesday afternoon when I was thirteen years old - was a teacher, not a soap star. And not some young girl fresh out of college, either - all boobs and perfume and short skirts and please-call-me-Mary.
For starters, this was a bloke, and a big bloke at that. His name was Mr Wilkinson, so for a while he'd been known as The World's Finest Blade. That was a bit of a mouthful, though. We soon started calling him The Sword instead.
The Sword taught Metalwork. This was around the time Metalwork and Woodwork got lumped together under a fancy new label – Craft, Design and Technology. They called it that to make craft teachers sound like they'd got more than half a brain cell between them, but it didn't fool us.
The Sword wasn't thick, though. He'd been around for as long as anyone could remember, and he was some piece of work. I've said he was big, but that doesn't cover it. Huge is what he was, built like Mike Tyson, with a voice that could rupture eardrums at fifty paces. And he'd written the rule book on class control. You didn't see anyone making paper aeroplanes in The Sword's lessons. Even my mate Andy Simms didn't muck about during Metalwork.
‘What's the height of strain?' Andy would ask me.
‘Teeth marks on the lavatory seat,' I'd say.
‘What's the height of stupidity?' he'd ask.
I forget the answer to that one, but messing about with The Sword would have fitted the bill.
I need to tell you a bit more about Andy, and I'd better introduce you to Mammary Mellor while I'm at it. They've both got pretty important parts to play here. After all, if it hadn't been for Mammary, the guy in leather would never have turned up, and The Sword would never have cried.
And Andy wouldn't have made all that money from hiring out his bra.
Miss Mellor turned up at Manor Comp at the start of our second year, and as soon as Andy copped a load of her bumps, he renamed her Mammary Mellor. It stuck. The lads in our class just couldn't believe her chest. Whatever blouse or jumper old Mammary happened to be wearing, her breasts always seemed to be right on the point of bursting out of it. When she wore things with buttons, Andy'd take bets on how many minutes of the lesson we'd get through before the first one popped.
Mammary was our new English teacher, but she almost didn't make it through the first month. She made all the usual mistakes, of course, and some that were entirely her own. Her biggest boob by far, though – and one that almost finished her off - was giving Andy a detention for farting in class.
The following morning he told everyone he'd pushed her into the stock-cupboard. He said he'd locked the door on her and kept farting through the keyhole until she cracked. He said he'd only let her out again after he got the bra and pants off her, plus a promise that she'd never pick on him again.
Some of it might even have been true. I've known Andy since primary school and he's always been a mad bugger. A smelly one, too. When it comes to farting, Andy could win cups for England.
Anyway, after that all the kids started giving poor old Mammary a hard time – she was one of those teachers you just had to wind up – and she went sick pretty smartish. She was off for weeks, and we ended up with about a million different supply teachers.
Mammary left on a Thursday. On the following Monday Andy came to school with what he said was her bra in his duffle bag - a 36 D-cup with a hint of perfume when you pushed your nose into the soft parts. Miss Mellor's Massive Mammary Memories, he called it. Andy let me have the first sniff for 10p. It was great! She wasn't much of a teacher, but Mammary had a decent face and a fantastic figure going for her, and like my mum always used to say, credit where credit's due.
For a couple of weeks Andy didn't have enough pockets to hold all the 10p pieces that came tumbling his way.
It was Colin Birch who first told us that The Sword had been in the SAS.
‘Bog off,' said Andy.
‘It's true,' said Colin. ‘He's killed people. Got medals for it. He's got one of them secret SAS signs tattooed on his arse.'
I looked at Andy. Andy looked at me. Colin was the kind of kid who believed you when you told him NASA was planning a manned mission to the sun - one that was scheduled to touch down at night for safety reasons.
‘How d'you know about the tattoo, Colin?' I said.
‘He's been looking through The Sword's bedroom window when he drops his kegs,' said Andy.
‘Swivel, you two!' said Colin.
We didn't believe the SAS thing, but The Sword certainly looked like he might have been something military. You didn't get arms and legs like that unless you worked out.
The week Mammary arrived, I saw The Sword push his car - a hulking great Rover - up the steep slope leading to the school car park. It had conked out just as he reached the main gates, and a bunch of us gathered around grinning and nudging each other. He had Mammary in there with him, giving her a lift to school. We nudged each other some more.
‘Time you flogged it for scrap and got yourself a decent motor, sir...'
‘You have to put petrol in 'em, y'know...'
‘Forget to wind up the elastic band this morning, sir..?'
The Sword never smiled much, and he didn't smile then. He just got out of his car and glared down at us.
‘Shift out the way, lads,' he said. ‘Let the fox see the rabbit.'
We didn't need telling twice. We shifted.
I remember he wound down the window, all slow and calm. Mammary started to get out, but he told her to stay put. Then he put his left hand on the wheel, his shoulder to the doorframe, and he pushed.
I tell you, that car went up the slope like its engine was still running and it was in second gear. The Sword steered it into his usual space, leaned inside, and yanked on the handbrake. When he stood up again he wasn't even out of breath.
Mammary looked impressed. So did we.
‘Bloody hell,' said Andy.
‘Yeah,' I said. ‘Bloody hell.'
Like I said, you didn't mess with The Sword.
And nobody was messing with him that wet Wednesday afternoon, about two weeks after Mammary had gone sick. We were all getting on with our work, sitting there nice and quiet, coming up with initial designs for Useful Household Items. I was designing a cup and mug holder in wood and metal. Andy said he was designing a wanking-machine, but he wasn't. He was designing a stand for his mum's salt and pepper pots. Then suddenly there's this great bang and some strange bloke's standing there in the middle of our classroom.
We all stared at him.
He was big, even bigger than The Sword. Black leather gear, top to toe. And no hair. Complete slap-head – bald as a billiard ball. To compensate, he'd got a forest growing on his top lip. The thickest, blackest moustache I'd ever seen.
He stood there in the middle of the classroom, just pointing at The Sword like one of those four horsemen guys we'd been studying in Art.
Andy nudged me and pointed. I looked and saw The Sword had got to his feet. He was staring at the leather guy – and his face had gone a scary shade of white.
‘Martin,' he said. ‘What on earth are you…'
He didn't get any further.
‘Don't,' said the stranger. ‘Don't you Martin me. Don't you even speak to me, you… you… bitch!'
His voice was way too high, and he had a bit of a lisp. Coming from someone who looked like him, it just didn't fit at all.
‘Is this a wind-up?' Andy whispered in my ear.
I looked at The Sword's face. The Sword didn't do wind-ups, and even if he did, I was pretty sure this wasn't one of them.
‘How could you do it, Simon?' said the bald guy, his voice breaking with emotion. ‘How could you?'
We all knew The Sword's first name, but I'd never heard anyone using it. He was always just The Sword. Hearing someone call him Simon was pretty weird. Even weirder when they looked like that and had trouble with the letter ‘s'.
‘Martin,' said The Sword, coming out from behind his desk. ‘This is neither the time nor the place…'
Martin banged his fist down on Colin Birch's desk. He hit it so hard it jumped – and so did Birchy. He looked like he was about to fill his kegs.
‘Oh no, not the right time,' yelled Martin. ‘Of course it isn't! I mean, we can't have it all coming out in front of them can we?'
He waved an arm around the room, taking in all of us. Birchy flinched, ducked, and fell off his seat. After picking himself up he ran out through the open door. I'd never seen him shift so fast before.
The Sword didn't seem to know what to do. He looked like someone waiting for disaster to strike, like someone staring up into the night sky and watching an asteroid getting bigger and bigger, closer and closer…
‘Martin,' he said. ‘Please…'
Martin began to grin, and his grin made him look like one of those crazy guys you see in films. Like a leather-clad Hannibal Lecter with a bad moustache and a lisp.
He turned to us.
‘Shall I tell you something you don't know about Sir, lads? Something he really doesn't want you to hear?'
‘Martin,' said The Sword. ‘For Christ's sake…'
Martin's grin expanded.
‘You call him The Sword, don't you? He likes that. He thinks it's really funny. Do you want to know why he thinks it's funny? Shall I tell you?'
‘Oh, Jesus, Martin…' The Sword sounded strange. He sounded like a little boy.
Martin was very quiet, very still.
‘Shall I tell them what you like to do with your Sword, Simon? What you liked to do until she came along? Don't you think they'd find that… interesting? Don't you think she would?'
‘Is there a problem here, Mr Wilkinson?'
Everyone turned to the door. The headmaster was standing there, his arms folded. You could see Colin Birch in his shadow, leaning to one side and peering in from behind his back.
‘It's all right, Mr Fox,' said The Sword, in a voice that said it wasn't all right at all. ‘This is a friend of mine. I'm afraid he's… he's had some bad news this morning and he's a little upset. But he's just leaving, aren't you Martin?'
Martin turned to Mr Fox. It didn't seem possible, but his grin became even wider. The classroom lights reflected off his shiny head.
‘Are you the headmaster?' he said.
Mr Fox nodded.
‘Oh, I'm so pleased to meet you. I've heard such a lot about you.'
He walked over to Mr Fox and extended his hand. Mr Fox looked wary, but he took it. Martin pumped it up and down. He glanced at The Sword, who was shaking his head violently. Then he looked back at Mr Fox, stared straight into his eyes, and said:
‘Simon here tells me you're a complete and utter wanker who couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery, and he says it'll be a relief to everyone when you finally retire. Oh, and is it true you're shafting your secretary? Apparently your members of staff are placing bets.'
There was a soft thump. I looked back towards the teacher's desk and saw The Sword had collapsed into his chair and was holding his head in his hands.
Mr Fox sat down on Colin's desk. He seemed to be in almost as bad a state of shock as The Sword himself.
Martin looked around the classroom, then he walked over to The Sword's desk, slow and steady. He leaned in close, and planted a kiss on the top of The Sword's bowed head.
‘I must be going, Simon. I've got some more of your things to finish burning. And don't bother coming home tonight. You can move in with your little Miss Mellor, if you like. I'm sure she'll be more than willing to put you up - in more ways than one. The two of you can play Swords and Scabbards to your heart's content from now on, can't you?'
He looked at us. ‘Bye, boys,' he said. Then he turned on his heel and left the room.
And that was the moment The Sword stopped being The Sword. That was when he lowered his head to the desk and began to cry. Mr Fox left the room, knocking Colin Birch out of the way as he did so.
©2005 John Ravenscroft
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