Rough Justice

by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 4

Uneasy rather than excited at the prospect of wrestling with the peculiar PE teacher, Robert told no one about it. The weightlifting room was under the Gymnasium. Basketballs thumped overhead with stunning irregularity, punctuated by raucous cheers, whistles, and the bangs and scuffles of feet. Frosted-glass windows stood wide to reveal football fields and the back boundary, where school met suburbia. The room was neatly organised and smelled of sweat. A pile of rubber mats occupied one corner. Bars, weights and stands were arranged along the wall facing the windows.

Mr Vaselly and the other PE teacher appeared in the doorway at the top of the stairs. They were laughing. Robert hardly recognised him; he looked younger, relaxed. Noticing Robert, he deleted the smile, frowned, excused himself from his colleague, closed the door and ran down the stairs.

'On time, good!' he grunted.

Silently, they dragged mats together to make a padded floor area, removed shoes and socks and faced each other. Vaselly's expression was wary, perhaps slightly curious, certainly uncompromising. 'We won't do anything energetic; your clothes are unsuitable. Next time I'll bring practice suits so we can work out properly. Bring your gym shoes.'

Everything was strictly professional. Mr Vaselly demonstrated the square stance, emphasised the constant need for balance, described first moves, recounted a little of the modern history of the sport and discussed centre of gravity - how it could be raised and lowered to advantage, as well as the pitfalls of misjudging it. Robert was taught not to waste energy on gripping, but to use his hand like a hook, and pull. He was shown the drop-step stance and how to use parts of his body as a fulcrum before posting or pulling. It was a serious game, this wrestling.

After what seemed like five minutes, Mr Vaselly stood back and rubbed at his bristly hair. 'You're getting the hang of it, but that's enough for today.'

Robert was astonished to realise they'd been practising for nearly an hour, and disappointed he'd have to wait another week.

'Tomorrow morning at seven-thirty.'

'But - I thought it was only an hour a week?'

'I warned you you'd regret it! How far do you think we'd get in the five weeks the headmaster has given us if we only practised once a week? No, it's every day for an hour. Don't be late! Close the windows. No need to put away the mats, we'll be the first ones here.' He took the stairs three at a time and disappeared.

'So he thinks it'll be too much for me does he? Huh! It certainly won't be me who's the first to cry stop,' Robert muttered as he replaced his shoes and socks, closed the windows and pulled the door shut.

After hearing an edited version of his battle of wills with the sports teacher, Robert's parents were determined he should be on time, behave correctly, and persevere. He arrived at the already open gym on the dot of half past seven. It had been a cloudless night with a touch of frost - even a hard jog to school hadn't raised a sweat. A wrestling suit was waiting for him in the centre of the mats, so he put it on, opened the window, and turned slowly in the already warm sunlight.

Mr Vaselly was still a mystery. Indecipherable. Thus, instead of his usual self-assurance Robert felt exposed, even vulnerable in the skin-tight, sightly too small garment. Vaselly appeared confident, relaxed, trim and hard.

'Wouldn't shorts be as good as these bathers?'

'The proper suit gives maximum freedom, there's no waist band to grab, and they can't be pulled down.'

'I feel… naked.'

'You'll get used to it. You're more heavily built than me. If you like we can close the windows and lock the door.'

'I reckon!'

Mr Vaselly was an excellent teacher; happy to explain again and again without making his pupil feel stupid. The aim might be simple, but the process was infinitely subtle. Robert could see that brute strength was not going to be the answer - he had already tried that, ending up on his back. There seemed to be as much psychology involved as agility, strength and staying power. His instructor had an uncanny knack of anticipating every move. The proper clothes did help. Apart from the extra freedom of movement, he could sometimes feel slight changes in the muscle tension of waist, chest or whatever part he was holding, and try to predict his opponent's next move. He couldn't hide his delight when he accidentally unbalanced Mr Vaselly with a reversed body hold. He wished he could remember how he'd done it. An hour disappeared.

'Same time tomorrow. Put the gear away,' and he was gone.

Robert carefully stowed his suit in his bag, dressed himself, set the room in order, opened the windows and was just in time for assembly; curiously pleased with his morning.

At the third session they greeted each other with guarded smiles before getting down to the serious problems of balance, stance, holds, posts and centre of gravity. Robert hoped Mr Vaselly was also enjoying the sessions, but he gave nothing away.

Tearing out of the gym one morning, late for assembly, he was hailed by Graham Arnessen, one of the kids from his Chemistry class. 'Yo, Robert, don't tell me you're a fitness freak?'

'Freak's the word,' smiled Robert, deciding to keep the wrestling under wraps. 'I twisted the dread Vaselly's arm till he let me work on a fitness circuit instead of one of the listed activities.'

Graham did an exaggerated double take. 'Vaselly let you what? This is groundbreaking! You get the most dreaded man on the staff to let you do what you want! All hail!' He knelt in an extravagant salaam. 'I'll order a medal.'

'Stupid prick, he's not that bad. Not that we talk to each other. I just do my thing.'

'Rather you than me, mate. Still it can't be worse than what I picked - patter-tennis for God's sake! Once a week we go to the tennis courts and play this fuckwit game. At least we used to, but hardly anyone bothers to turn up any more. We all thought Ma. Henderson was having you on when she said you'd have to take a compulsory activity. No one checks on it. They're probably trying to impress the new boy.' He laughed and they got to their seats just as the teachers began their daily procession up the aisle and onto the stage.

Robert had revised his initial reactions. About ten of his fellow year-twelve students met in a sunny corner of the cavernous, senior students' common room during intervals and lunchtimes, where they mucked about and discussed things of general interest. He was pleased they'd accepted him. The only one who didn't seem to fit in was a runt called Lance Osbairne. He imagined the others felt sorry for him.

By the end of lunchtime everyone knew about Robert's victory and had commiserated on his having to share space with Vaselly, or at least the boys did. Marcia and Helen were curious to know what the PE teacher was really like, but Robert was, quite honestly this time, unable to tell them. He had set out to find a chink in the enemy's armour, but knew as little now as he had at the start. Give it time, he thought, then frowned as he realised that his reasons for wanting to know Vaselly better had changed.

With brain and conversation on autopilot, Robert didn't realise, until Aaron thumped him on the shoulder, thrust a bit of paper into his hand and said, 'That'll be extra-shagabodacious, Rob me boy! Phone number's there in case you come adrift,' that he'd accepted an invitation to a party. Blood drained. Fingers froze. What the hell to do? The last thing he wanted was to go to a bloody party! Shit! Shit! Shit! He'd have to think of an excuse. A shadow made him look up.

'I'm glad you're going, Robert. Aaron's parties can get a bit frantic.'

'What the hell's her name'? He smiled vaguely at the thin, wide-eyed girl who asked lots of questions in class. 'Oh yeah, Maria. No, Marcia. What's she on about? She hardly knows me. I could be a frigging rapist. 'Why're you going then?' he asked lazily.

'I heard you say you were going.'

'You're joking!'

'How'd you guess?' Marcia gave a tinkling laugh, tossed her curly black hair and joined a gaggle of girls at the jukebox. Cold sweat trickled underarm. 'What's the matter with me? Why don't I want to go to the party? Because you're a fuckwit. Get out and have a good time like everyone else! But you don't want to be like everyone else - they're two-dimensional yobbos only interested in sex...' The unsettling interior monologue continued until class, where his ability to focus on the job in hand let him shut out unwelcome questions and thoughts.

Saturday arrived and, as there hadn't been time to develop a contagious illness, Robert jogged the two kilometres through chill drizzle to a rambling wooden house in a neglected allotment on a busy road. Traffic noise would have prevented a knock being heard even if the air hadn't been pulsating with a Rock beat loud enough to anaesthetise. He followed the numbing blare to a medium-sized room lit by a couple of red bulbs and a strobe. Someone sprawled across a lounger, three girls jiggled in the corner by the stereo, and several boys were drinking at an ornate bar, its mirrored surfaces reflecting and multiplying the erratically flashing lights. One of the girls detached themselves from the group and, as his eyes adjusted to the gloom, he recognised Marcia.

'Robert,' she yelled, twining her arms around his neck. 'You've come! The others reckoned you wouldn't, but I knew you would.' She stared into his frown and giggled nervously. 'Graham and Barbara are over there,' indicating vaguely. 'Let's dance.' She slid her arms down and clutched at his waist, apparently unwilling to risk separation. Aaron's large fist punched his shoulder. 'Good to see ya, Rob. Come and tank up before Marcia gets you by the balls.'

Robert was slightly shocked, but Marcia laughed and trailed them to the bar where Robert swapped his half-dozen cans for an opened stubby. Marcia dragged him to the middle of the room. Deafened, irritated by smoke and strobe, they jiggled aimlessly. He wondered when it would be OK to leave. On the other side of the room a ragged voice was screaming along with the music. Marcia was a good mover and for a while he enjoyed the dancing, until with a sudden flush of embarrassment realised they were the only couple on the floor. The others were scattered around the room kissing, groping, smoking, drinking. He steered Marcia across to Graham and Barbara, but it was too noisy to talk.

Placing his untouched stubby under a chair, he went for an urgent pee. A bundle of clothes whimpered in the passage. The toilet stank - someone had missed the pan. An open bedroom doorway emitted grunts from the dark. He wished he was somewhere else. Before he could re-enter the main room, Aaron grabbed his arm, pulled him into a bedroom, and closed the door. The noise level sank to a roar.

'Fuck, it's hot,' Aaron muttered, dragging off his shirt and taking a small bottle out of the drawer in the bedside table. With a grin of complicity he draped his arm round Robert's neck. 'These are for you, Rob baby.' He whispered into his ear, thrusting two white tablets into Robert's hand.

'What are they?'

'Happy pills.'

'No thanks.'

'They're harmless.'

'I don't want them.

Aaron's friendly leer dissolved. 'You're a nerd, Karim.' Pocketing his treasure, he slammed out.

Robert stood still. Twinges of disappointment and relief flittered through his chest. He's right. I am a nerd, he thought, forcing himself to return to the smoke and noise. Aaron was leaning on the bar running his fingers through his girlfriend's hair while she stroked his chest. He looked over her head at Robert and winked. Relieved, Robert winked back, joined the others, retrieved his can and pretended to sip. Six months previously he'd got drunk. Drunk enough to lose control, but not awareness. Instead of feeling more at ease his sense of alienation had intensified and, convinced he was surrounded by hostility, he'd panicked and vowed never to do it again.

Graham yelled in his ear, 'Not your scene?' Robert shook his head. Graham grinned and nodded towards the door. Robert went out and stood in the porch, deafened this time by a torrential downpour. He took several deep breaths. At least the air was clean. Panic retreated. A few minutes later Graham joined him and they stood side by side watching the rain.

Robert nodded back towards the lounge. 'Who're all those piss-heads?'

'No idea.'


'Extra. How'd you get here?'


'Wanna lift home, Fitman?'

'You beaut.'

They raced for the car.

'Get in the back, Barbara's draining her brain.'

Graham turned in his seat, stared at Robert, grunted a laugh and said, 'I knew I was right about you.'

'Right about what?'

'The others reckoned you'd chicken out. Rumour has it you're a...'

'A what?'

'You know. A ladies' man, but not a man for the ladies?'

Robert's mouth refused to function. Blood had drained to his feet. 'Are you telling me the others reckon I'm queer?'

He must have looked and sounded more aggressive than he felt because Graham backed off immediately. 'Hey, hey. Cool it, Rob. I told them you weren't a faggoty limp-wrist. You stick to yourself a bit at school and people were wondering – that's all. No worries. Just wanted to make sure I didn't have an AIDS arsehole on the back seat.'

Robert confined himself to an aggressive growl.

'Mind you, I wouldn't mind seeing Marcia's face if she discovered her date was a poofter.' Graham laughed wildly. Drinks and tabs were starting to show.

Robert's heart sank. He'd been set up. Too late to pretend he had a sudden urge to jog home through the rain. Blankness settled on his brain as two figures raced across. Barbara scrambled in beside Graham; Marcia clambered in the back, threw her arms around Robert's neck and kissed him wetly on the lips before subsiding into a fit of giggles. Her breath smelled of alcohol.

'Surprise, surprise,' laughed Barbara. 'Let's go somewhere quiet. That was a madhouse.'

'Don't his parent's mind?'

'No idea. They always clear out. I've never met them.'

Robert gave directions to his house.

Graham leered back over the seat. 'Yeah sure, mate.

He parked in front of the closed gates to a park. Before the engine was turned off, Barbara had unbuttoned Graham's shirt and was licking at his nipples. Marcia tried to follow suit but Robert pushed her hand away.

'I need some fresh air. Let's go for a walk.'

'Sounds romantic,' smirked Graham, leaning back against the window while Barbara fiddled with his jeans.

Marcia giggled.

The rain had stopped, so they squeezed through the gap between fence and gate and wandered into mist and dripping trees, arms around each other's waists.

'Do you fancy me, Robert?'

'You're intelligent and good to talk to.'

'That's not what I asked.' Her voice was slightly slurred.

'You ask good questions in class.'

'Clever of you to notice, but that's still not what I asked.'

'You're slim and slightly drunk.'



'Kiss me!'

Robert complied. Marcia wanted more. They found a bench. He took off his jacket and they sat on it. It began to rain heavily. They raced back to the car and scrambled in, soaking wet. Graham and Barbara didn't look up - his fingers were scrabbling in her hair; her face was in his groin.

Marcia laughed softly, slipped out of her blouse and placed Robert's hand on her breast. He felt her nipples harden. They tongue-kissed. She undid his zip and awkwardly took out his penis, scratching it on the zip. He winced and reluctantly slid his hand into her panties. She jiggled her buttocks to make it easier. In the front seat Graham muttered, 'Stop. I don't want to come yet.' They rearranged themselves and this time it was Barbara's turn to groan.

Marcia bent and sucked tentatively at Robert's still flaccid penis. He had the feeling it was her first time. He wanted to smash his fist into her head and run away as fast as he could. He hated the feel of her hot wetness, the smell, her slimy tongue pushing into his mouth, the soggy sucking on his cock. Her demands for kisses. He was also acutely embarrassed by his lack of an erection. But most of all he was bored. Bored, bored, bored! This had to be the most incredibly dull, asinine way to spend an evening that could be devised. And it seemed as if they'd been doing it for hours!


He looked down, frowning.

Marcia sidled up beside him, licked at his ear and whispered, 'I'll do anything you want.'

The invitation was clear, but there was nothing he wanted her to do.

'Did you like what I was doing?'

'I'd like it a bloody sight more if we had a bit of privacy!' Robert couldn't keep the snappiness out of his voice. 'How can I get a hard on listening to those two slurping in the front seat.'

Marcia giggled, fears allayed, her attraction to this paragon of sensitivity redoubled. That's what I like about you, Robert. You're so classy.'

They snuggled together, his hand on her breast, hers on his belly, swapping the occasional soggy kiss for what seemed an eternity in damp, semi-Platonic complicity until, with great snorts and exclamations of release, Graham achieved orgasm, adjusted himself, and drove them home.

Marcia got out first, leaning through the window to deposit a kiss full of promise and saliva. 'Next time we'll be alone,' she whispered, an expectant smile dowsing him in nebulous alarm for the future.

The evening had seemed endless, so Robert was surprised to find both parents still up.

'Had a good time?'

'No.' His face was tight with anger. He wanted to forget, not relive the embarrassment.

'Why not?'

'Too noisy. Too much drinking. Nothing to do.'

'Did you meet any girls?'



'To talk to, but… Oh hell. I give up. I just don't understand people!' Angry at the world and himself, Robert snapped goodnight and shut himself in his room. He was in bed with the light out when Sanjay came in.

'You still awake?'

'I wasn't.'

His father sat in the darkness on the end of the bed, unsure how to start but determined to be a good parent. He was a soft hearted man, distressed by unhappiness in those around him, so would be unable to sleep until he had tried to understand at least one of the problems which for so many months had been plaguing his previously cheerful and carefree son. He was also a clever man and, little by little, although the sordid details remained locked in Robert's head, the underlying cause of the anger came to light.

'What's the matter with me, Dad?'


'Did you like kissing and feeling up girls for hours?'

'Never had the chance. You know your grandmother.'

Despite himself, Robert smiled. 'Would you have liked to?'


'Why don't I?'

'Haven't found the right girl?'

'That's stupid! Marcia's intelligent and good-looking. Other guys don't seem to care who they do it with.' He turned his face into the pillow, sighed and mumbled. 'Maybe I'm just sexless.'

'Now you're stupid. The girls obviously find you sexy. There could be other reasons.'

'Like what?'

'There are any number of reasons for temporary impotence.'

'How do you know it's temporary?'

'Isn't it?'

Robert blushed in the dark. 'Yeah.' He assumed his father had wanked when he was young, but it was impossible to imagine.

'It doesn't matter what the reasons are. In time all will be resolved. And never forget that we love you no matter what.' He stood up. 'At least your studies won't be distracted by girls.'

'I'm distracted by my own inadequacy.'

Silence. For once Sanjay had no answer.

'Thanks, Dad. I know you mean well… but I'll sort things out for myself. I just don't know how to face Marcia on Monday.'

'You owe her nothing! She hasn't the right to either your affections or your body. The kindest thing is to let her think she's not your type. Problems will only arise if you apologise. That's always taken as a sign of weakness and starts a tide of rumour. People will usually accept your estimation of yourself, so if you want to avoid being the subject of gossip, appear self-satisfied.'

Sanjay and Monique talked until the early hours. They thought they knew the nature of the problem, but decided their son had to work it out for himself. They could only give love and support. The path to self-knowledge is a solitary one. If short cuts are taken the traveller might arrive before he is ready.

Monique fell asleep, leaving Sanjay to examine his values. What did he really feel? If Robert was... did he mind? He tried to feel upset, angry, disappointed, repelled – anything – but couldn't. His only emotion when thinking about Robert was a warm fuzzy love. Did it mean he didn't care? Why couldn't he feel let down? Disgusted? Ashamed? That was a good one. Ashamed before whom? The opinions of others seldom meant anything to Sanjay. He had always felt more an observer of life than a participant. Most of the things that motivated others left Sanjay untouched.

Blessed with a low sex-drive compounded by a sense of social inferiority, he had been twenty before being overtaken by the urge to take out girls. Even then, a goodnight peck had satisfied him, if not his partner. When propositioned by men he had felt neither threatened nor offended. Indeed, his polite apologies at having to refuse usually brought forth a laugh and had once resulted in a friendship, which still endured.

Monique was the first woman who had really aroused him. With her he had experienced no insecurities, no worries about inadequacy, no performance expectations to render him impotent. In fact his newfound sexual passion had almost overwhelmed him. To this day she was the only woman with whom he desired to have sex. He sighed and relaxed. He honestly did not give a stuff what sexual orientation his son might have. It had nothing to do with his worth and made not the slightest difference to Sanjay's love for him. Sleep invaded his being and put a smile on his face.

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