by Huw Jones
Huw was about to enter the shower area after PE one afternoon when he saw a group of four boys in the drying area outside the showers viciously kicking and taunting a boy whom he could not see clearly. He heard them making derisory comments while punching and kicking the boy as he lay naked on the floor, huddled in a ball. To his horror, he realised it was Gareth. He rushed into the centre of the group fists flying, pushing the boys away, "Leave him alone. Get away from him you bastards!" Huw screamed. The four boys were shocked by this loud and aggressive opposition to what they were doing and stepped back.
"What's it to you, Taffy? He's a dirty queer," sneered the ringleader Adrian Crowe.
Huw found resources of inner strength he had no idea that he possessed. "Get away from him. What did he do to you? Who did he touch? Four of you to punch and kick him until he's shit and pissed himself?" He screamed even louder, "You bastards! Get away."
He knelt by Gareth and held him quietly.
"He's a fucking queer and we don't want to be around his sort," said Adrian Crowe, his bravado beginning to desert him.
"Oh yes, what makes you think that?" snapped Huw without taking his eyes off Gareth.
"His cock was hard in the showers," Crowe snapped back.
"So you've never been hard at an embarrassing time?" Huw shouted, beside himself with anger.
"You don't know what queers can do. What makes you think you have any experience of life -- you've never been felt-up by a queer," said one of the others, a little less certainly.
Huw paused and looked up with fury in his face and said slowly, "I'll tell you what I've experienced. I've experienced being groped by someone much older and more powerful than I was. I've experienced my father being killed at a coal mine and I've experienced my younger sister and brother being buried alive in the collapse of a coal tip. I've experienced my mother going mad and being admitted to a psychiatric hospital because she couldn't cope. I've experienced being beaten black and blue because my barmy foster-father thought that accepting a hug from another foster-kid when it all got too much for me meant I was a queer and didn't deserve to live. I've experienced trying to kill myself by jumping into a weir because I thought there was nobody who cared a shit about me and that I was worthless. Don't fucking tell me I don't have any experience of life!"
There was a deathly silence and Huw carried on, his anger uncontrolled. "I was just starting to think there was some hope in this hell-hole since meeting people like Gareth who was kind to me instead the unfriendliness from everyone else at this school. You're a pack of fucking animals! You beat him because he was small and couldn't fight back. I've had it with this fucking school and its macho culture of bullying and brutality. You're all a bunch of worthless scum."
At this point Huw realised that silence in the room was continuing too long and he turned to see that Mr Lambert, the PE teacher had walked to the edge of the showers and was standing behind him. "Right, you four boys get changed and then wait outside the Headmaster's office for me." He turned to the rest of the class who were standing outside the showers drying area, trying to see the drama that was taking place.
"Okay you lot, get out of here and on to your next lesson. The bell is about to go anyway." He turned to Huw and Gareth and said gently, "Help me clean him up, Jones and we'll take him to the nurse."
Mr Lambert and Huw gently lifted him underneath the shower head and cleaned the results of his involuntary evacuation from his body and the blood from his face. Huw hoped that bare feet had done a lot less damage to Gareth than the brutal kicking could have. He could only shudder to think what would have happened if they had been wearing outdoor shoes. Between them, they carried Gareth out to the changing benches and carefully dried him, dressing him quickly in a clean tracksuit that Mr Lambert asked Huw to bring from his office. Mr Lambert then carefully carried him to the nurse's office for her to examine him.
Huw knocked on the door and when they heard the nurse's "come in", he held the door open. Mr Lambert laid Gareth down on her examination couch and explained to the nurse, that he had been kicked and punched repeatedly by a group of boys and had injuries to many parts of his body. Mrs Scarratt was known to all the boys as Nurse Scary, as she would not accept any nonsense from malingerers pretending to be unwell in an attempt to get out of some school activity. She scolded him roundly, "What were you thinking of, Mr Lambert, picking him up and bringing him to me? He might have internal injuries. You should have left him there and called me."
"Sorry Mary, I didn't think and it was a bit embarrassing for the lad to be lying on the floor naked in the showers. You'll have to excuse me; I need to be getting to the Head's office to let him know what's happened and why he's got four miserable specimens of humanity standing outside his office." He turned to Huw, "Jones, you stay here with Williams until the Head calls for you." He turned and left the nurse's office.
The nurse turned to Huw after the master had left, "Would you wait outside please, Huw isn't it, I need to undress Gareth."
"NO!" screamed Gareth, in evident distress. "I want him here with me."
Mary Scarratt nodded to Huw and turning to Gareth said, "I was just trying to spare your blushes but I'm happy for him to stay if you are."
"There's nothing of me that he hasn't seen before and nothing could be more embarrassing than have somebody clean you up after you've shitted and pissed yourself. Sorry, nurse," he added with embarrassment.
"Oh dear, I didn't realise that had happened. Well, he certainly is a good friend." She swiftly and gently took Gareth's tracksuit top off and examined him carefully, taking his pulse and blood pressure, making notes and little noises to herself. She put a blanket over Gareth and then lifted it to his waist and pulled his tracksuit bottoms down to his knees. Gently she examined his middle area asking Gareth if her touch in different areas was painful. He hardly needed to answer as the grimaces on his face and his groans indicated that every area was incredibly painful. "Do you mind me examining your genitals, Gareth?" she asked. Gareth shook his head and the nurse gently lifted his penis and testicles. Gareth screamed as she lifted his testicles and she quickly took her hand away. "Sorry Gareth. They did a thorough job on you. I'm afraid we need to get you to hospital so they can x-ray you and examine you more thoroughly. I'll leave you here with Huw while I arrange for an ambulance, and speak with your parents. Will someone be at home?"
"Yes," Gareth tearfully replied, "mum will be, she only works mornings."
The nurse left and Huw walked across to the examination couch and took hold of both Gareth's hands. With tears in his eyes he looked into Gareth's face, "Mae'n ddrwg gen i, Gareth bach."
"You've nothing to be sorry for, Huw. You stopped those bastards and you were there for me. Diolch yn fawr iawn, fy nghariad." said Gareth grimacing with pain.
'He said, "thank you so much, my love",' thought Huw. 'Maybe it's his injuries talking.'
A few moments later Mr Lambert returned and asked Huw to go to the Headmaster's office. Huw left the room apprehensively and walked along the corridors until he turned a corner and saw the four culprits standing outside the head's office. He carefully avoided looking at any of them as he knocked on the Headmaster's door. He heard the Headmaster's summons to come in and was invited to sit down.
The Headmaster began. "Well Jones, Mr Lambert has told me what happened and you acted very bravely to intervene as you did. I need you to give a detailed account about everything that happened and anything that was said as I need to get to the bottom of this incident."
Nervously he began to describe all that had taken place while the Headmaster took notes. He explained how he had seen the four boys kicking and punching another boy lying on the ground.
"Nobody else was intervening at all and I thought it was awful that four boys should be laying into one small boy. When I went across to stop them, I realised that it was Gareth Williams," said Huw. "I could see that his face was covered with blood and he had, er, wet and soiled himself. I was really angry and I pushed the boys away from him and stopped them."
"Did they give any indication as to why they were doing it?" asked the Head.
Huw began to be embarrassed as he explained the details of what had taken place. "They said that he had an erection and they didn't want any queers round them. I told them that it happened to all of us at times and they had no right to attack Gareth."
As his narrative progressed, he found himself getting increasingly angry. When he got to the point of explaining where Mr Lambert intervened he paused.
"Sir, I probably shouldn't say this but ever since I've been at Bath Road School I have been horrified by the culture of bullying and brutality here."
The Head's eyes widened and his face reddened. "What do you mean by a 'culture of bullying and brutality'?" he asked sharply.
Huw was embarrassed but felt he had nothing to lose. "I've seen older pupils bullying youngsters every single day; I've seen youngsters who have had their heads pushed down the toilet; you can't walk along a corridor without seeing somebody having their books pushed out of their hands. Bullying is rife in this school, Sir, and neither prefects nor staff challenge it, ever. Gareth's parents came to the school more than once with a complaint of bullying against him and nothing was done."
Dr Grey's face turned even redder with anger, "How dare you question how I run my school! I've been teaching for 40 years and a little rough housing never does anybody any harm. It toughens you up for life. Those boys crossed a line this afternoon but Williams needed to be toughened up. I don't like parents whining to me that their son is being bullied. That will be all, Jones." The Headmaster gathered his papers and turned away from Huw who left the room stunned.
He walked past the four boys waiting outside the headmaster's office and went into the boys' toilets. He ran the cold tap and rinsed his face looking into the mirror at his white, tired reflection. After he dried his face and hands, he glanced at his watch. There was only 20 minutes left of the day. He couldn't face going into the classroom late or being quizzed by the other members of the class about what went on following the incident in the showers. He went back to the gym and picked up his sports bag and his and book bag and walked towards the exit. He could hardly believe what had happened -- yet again, his world seemed to be falling apart.
He was relieved to remember that it was Wednesday. He was due to spend the evening with Gwyn and Janet Evans. He was confident that he would get both a good hearing from Gwyn and good advice as to what he should do. Huw's very strongly developed sense of social justice was not going to let this go. He decided to go back to the nurse's office to check on Gareth before he left. He knocked gently on the door and Mrs Scarratt called out to come in. He walked in nervously and was pleased to be greeted by a smile from Gareth.
" Sut wyt ti, Gareth?" Huw asked.
"English please Huw," said Mrs Scarratt with a smile.
"Sorry, nurse," said Huw, "how are you feeling, Gareth?"
Gareth grimaced and replied, "Like I've just been run over by a bus -- twice!"
At that moment there was another knock on the door and the school secretary showed two uniformed ambulance staff into the room. Mrs Scarratt quickly explained the nature and extent of Gareth's injuries and the two men quickly and professionally lifted Gareth on to the trolley they had brought with them and he was taken to the waiting ambulance followed by Huw and Mrs Scarratt. The school secretary was waiting for them. Mrs Scarratt checked with the ambulance staff and confirmed to the school secretary that Gareth would be taken to the accident and emergency department of Battle Hospital. The ambulance left with Gareth and Mrs Scarratt. The secretary went to telephone Gareth's mother. Huw was left standing at the school entrance, a picture of misery.
With a renewed determination, he strode to the bike sheds and rode to the Evans house.
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