A Boy Named James,

by Jolyon Lewes

Chapter 3

January 1963

Back to school after Christmas and to face the longest, coldest spell of winter weather the country had known since 1947. I was successful in swapping football for cross-country running but even if I'd stayed with football I wouldn't have had to play in the same team as the sneering boy for he had become one of the rugby fanatics. Like his fellow-fanatics he wore tough, dark- blue woollen shorts but uniquely, his had been dramatically truncated to be as revealing as his PE shorts. His shorts looked like very hairy swimming trunks. What a sight!

Soon even the rugby fanatics had to hang up their boots because the weather became so cold all sports were banned. The ban had little to do with the hazards of running about on ice and snow but a lot to do with the school's water supply freezing and there was no hot water for showers or baths. The huge, ghastly communal bath in the changing room remained empty for two months. What little water was available was kept for drinking, cooking and flushing the toilets. We cleaned our teeth out in the snow.

With the blanket ban on sports, boys like me thought we were in seventh heaven. Now the only boys in shorts were those junior kids who wore grey shorts and they made an arresting sight, especially Martin, now the only Third Former in shorts. I don't know if any of these kids died of exposure but like the rest of us, I'm sure they wore more than just pyjamas in the freezing dormitories. Tracksuits were useful, as were thick pullovers, hairy dressing gowns and even, for some masochists, CCF battledress trousers. The 'hard boys' gave in and wore pyjama jackets. It wasn't unusual to have two boys to a bed, sometimes more.

On a particularly cold day I celebrated my seventeenth birthday, not that the celebration ran to much more than raiding my tuck box for a couple of Cadbury's Milk Flakes. Sports resumed in late March for what little remained of Spring Term. I did a couple of cross-country runs and when all the snow had gone some walks around the school grounds where a few wild daffodils were making a brave appearance. The Easter holidays began and were spent at home.

I considered the idea of another cycle ride in my old Sunday suit but didn't have the courage. I tried it on to see if it still fitted and it did. I'd grown a little and the shorts looked shorter than ever. Putting the suit back in my wardrobe I saw the embarrassingly brief khaki shorts I had to wear on family seaside holidays. I didn't try them on because I knew the wretched things would still fit me. I also knew that if I said to my father I never wanted to wear them again he'd say something like 'You'll wear them every day from now on. The shorter the better!'

That expression got me thinking about the sneering boy. I'd noticed he didn't even wear a jockstrap under his shorts. His rugby shorts - and his superb legs - had become topics of conversation among several of my friends. Why were his shorts so blatantly revealing?

And his name? Well, it is Ellis, James Ellis.

During the Easter holidays I developed a sore right heel. It was only painful if I put pressure on the heel, in other words if I was walking or standing still. I didn't tell my parents but it got more painful as time went on so when I went back to school for the summer term I went to the school doctor. He said it was a verruca, probably caught from wet floors in the changing rooms and he gave me an 'off games' chit for a month. I could have kissed him. In fact, his treatment for the verruca was totally ineffective so I was excused games for most of the summer term.

This gave me a perfect excuse to watch other boys at sport and in particular the Under 15s Cricket Team. I've said before that it was the chaplain who ran this team and he made the boys wear shorts, not longs. For nets practice and work with the slip-catching cradle the boys wore PE shorts but for all matches they wore clean, white, starched tennis shorts. Cricketers tend to be physically fit and reasonably athletic so by watching the Under 15s at cricket I could pursue my hobby of observing attractive, bare legs. As I was excused games I could wear my school uniform instead of sports kit, which meant I wasn't likely to be harangued by someone senior to me and ordered to run about and get fit.

Even better, nobody would see my incompetence with a ball or bat so I wouldn't get jeered and sworn at by my team members. For the first time I could go to the sports field without my tummy in knots. I became a regular spectator of the Under 15s and learnt their names and chatted to them. I've always been happier mixing with people a little younger than me and as at seventeen I looked young for my age I didn't look out of place as a supporter of the Under 15s and I enjoyed the rapport I was building with them. This was going to be a good summer term, just so long as that verruca didn't vanish too quickly.

What made life even better after a month or so was that the sneering boy, James Ellis, was promoted from the rank and file cricketers of his year to the Under 15s. He specialised as a batsman and I made sure to observe him in the nets. He wore those tiny PE shorts and displayed much flair with his bat and much bare flesh. Once I even saw him smile but it wasn't at me. All I got from him were sneers. Perhaps I'd see him struck hard by a fast ball and then my feelings of Schadenfreude could surface again.

I couldn't see the team when they played away but I could and did watch their home matches. To a boy, they regarded having to wear shorts as ridiculous, especially as the shorts were stiff with starch (until softened by sweating) but the chaplain would not let them wear long trousers. Predictably, Ellis's shorts were shorter than anyone else's. Viewed from the front there was a gap of at least four inches between the top of his batting pads and the hems of his shorts. All that bare thigh gave him a look of vulnerability and I liked it. It never failed to give me a hard-on.

What gave him an even greater look of vulnerability one day in early July were the two cane-marks high on the backs of his legs, just below where his shorts finished. I was alerted to this by one of the opposing team speaking to one of his mates.

"I see that grumpy-looking kid's been caned recently."

I should have felt sorry for Elliot but back came the feeling of Schadenfreude. He must have deserved his punishment but would it affect his batting? Would he let his team down? Would they verbally abuse him? I smiled at the thought of him getting a taste of his own medicine.

Our team fielded first so I had to wait almost two hours before he went in to bat. He looked decidedly uncomfortable while waiting in the pavilion, often rubbing his bottom and I could understand why. At last, with the Under 15s two wickets down, he carried his bat to the crease and I was beginning to hope he'd get a good score. He took guard and faced the other team's fastest bowler.

The ball was bowled and down went Ellis. He writhed on the ground in obvious agony. The ball had hit him on the balls. From the boundary I heard his cries of pain. The chaplain, who'd been umpiring at square leg, ran to Ellis and tried to help. What he did appalled me. The poor boy wanted to double up but the chaplain pushed him so he was lying prone on the pitch and put his hand on Ellis's bottom and rubbed it. In an instant I went from intense dislike for Ellis to utter revulsion of what the chaplain was doing. I wanted to run on and yell 'Stop!'

Ellis was struggling to get up but the chaplain held him down, his great hand on the boy's bottom. People were looking on in amazement. The bowler came and tried to apologise to Ellis, who was still wailing. Eventually, the pain having subsided a bit, Ellis was allowed to get up and the chaplain helped him to the pavilion. In the scorebook the entry was Ellis J., retired hurt, no score.

I watched for half an hour as Ellis gradually recovered. He looked wretched and had even forgotten to sneer. Eventually he stood up, picked up his holdall and began to walk slowly the half mile back to school.

"Can I carry that for you?" I said.

It was a heavy bag with his bat, pads, spare clothing, blazer and cricket boots and he said thank you. The boy was hurting at the front and presumably aching at the rear.

I didn't say much but after a while I said I could see he'd been caned and he said it was the chaplain who'd done it. He used the nickname we had for the chaplain but it's unprintable.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because I swore at him because he won't let us wear jockstraps and without a jockstrap you can't wear a box and now look what's happened to me!"

"I didn't think you were old enough to have a jockstrap."

"I was fifteen in May!"

I'd no idea Ellis was that old. That meant he was only two years younger than me.

"And anyway," he said, "I could hardly wear a box with these shorts - they're far too short and it'd show."

I didn't know what to say. What he was saying made sense so I said nothing. When we got to the school I asked him if he was going to see Matron about his injury.

"What's the point? There's nothing she could do. Thanks for carrying my bag."

He turned his tear-stained face to me and instead of a sneer there was a little smile. I decided I could get to like him.

The summer term of 1963 was drawing pleasantly to a close. There were three more Under 15s cricket matches to enjoy and for these I was joined by a few of my fellow Sixth-Formers who shared with me the joys of sitting in the sunshine watching boys playing cricket in very brief, starched, white shorts. 'Cricket, lovely cricket,' as the calypso song put it. We chatted about the match and the players. In one of the matches our team was soundly beaten.

"A bit disappointing," said one of my friends. "Our only redeeming feature was that fantastic pair of legs belonging to young Ellis. Mind you, they look even better with cane-marks!"

I said I preferred them without cane-marks. There was no doubt that Ellis, who from now on I will call James, had superb legs, displayed in their entirety by his ultra-short shorts. Quite why all his shorts were so much shorter than anyone else's I wouldn't discover for a long time. After the incident of the cricket ball hitting his balls he'd stopped sneering at me and though he wasn't exactly friendly at least he wasn't hostile.

The summer holidays followed their usual pattern. Six weeks of contented mucking about at home, playing with my brothers and taking long, solitary bike rides during which I could let my mind wander at will. There was the traditional family holiday, this time in Norfolk. Forced as usual to wear my little khaki shorts, a family tradition for seaside holidays, whatever the weather and strictly enforced by my father, I wondered what James would be wearing. Would he have to do what his parents told him or did he go off to play with his mates? I'd no idea of the kind of life he had at home.

I felt intensely self-conscious if I had to wear those khaki shorts in company with people I knew and that included my family. I could protest all I liked but my father reminded me who was paying the bills and told me the shorts had years of life left in them.

"But I'm seventeen!"

"Exactly, and don't let them sag. Pull 'em up properly."

"But they're so short! "

"The shorter the better!" was my father's predictable response.

I took some comfort from thoughts of James, whose shorts were so much shorter than mine. Did they make him self-conscious? Did he have khaki shorts? Did he argue with his father? I needed to know.

Back at school in September I became not only an Upper Sixth Former but also a prefect and had my own study-bedroom. For the first time in my life I had a little power. Gone were the days of being ridiculed on the sports field. There was still compulsory sports but I managed to skive out of most of it, citing the need to concentrate on my duties as a prefect.

Cricket was over for the year and James was once again a rugby fanatic. I didn't know why but I felt protective towards him and didn't want to watch him at play in case he got hurt. I couldn't forget the appalling incident of the cricket ball in the balls and him lying in agony on the ground being molested by the school chaplain. I saw him changing for rugby though, into the severely shortened woollen shorts he'd worn the year before. I was also able to note his tan-line. It was quite marked and sat on each thigh about an inch below his bottom and the same distance below the hems of his rugby shorts. I assumed he'd spent much of the summer holidays in swimming trunks.

One Saturday in late September a friend of mine came up to me after games.

"You like Ellis, don't you? Have you seen those teeth marks on his bum? Those rugger buggers will stop at nothing!"

I made my way swiftly to the changing rooms and conducted myself as a prefect should, checking for any fights or signs of bullying. When I got to James he was standing in his underpants and about to put on his shirt. There wasn't enough of his bottom visible to see any teeth marks but his tan-line was very distinct. I said hello and he said hello back.

"You look like you spent most of the holidays on the beach," I said, smiling. He saw where I was looking and replied, with no hint of a sneer.

"No, never went to a beach. Spent most of my time playing croquet or tennis. We've got a couple of courts in the garden."

Well, that put me in my place. I didn't know anyone who had one tennis court in the garden, let alone two. My brothers and I played a sort of badminton on our tiny lawn, often having to retrieve the shuttlecock from the rose bushes. James had an upper class accent and I imagined him spending day after day in tennis kit, with a butler in attendance to serve chilled drinks between sets.

I found myself more and more intrigued with James. Why did he mix with the hard boys? I heard rumours that they regarded him not as one of them but as a sort of mascot to be exploited. Someone said he was like a lamb to the slaughter; he was induced to commit minor crimes that led to his being caned for the gratification of the hard boys who'd examine his wounds and rejoice in the power they held over him.

I was intrigued by James but was also becoming infatuated with him. Physically he was extremely beautiful, with a flawless complexion, fair hair and brown eyes. His proportions were perfect, his body well-muscled and everywhere his skin was firm and smooth, like polished marble. Although his voice had broken there were few signs of adolescence, not even a hint of bum-fluff on his rather dainty face. He was eminently kissable.

Did I want to kiss him? Oh, yes I did but that would be a stupid thing to do unless I wanted to destroy any chance of our becoming friends. Did I think about him when I wanked? Well, no, actually. I thought he was worth better things than that. Instead of lusting after him I found myself beginning to worship him and that placed him above being mere wank material. There was plenty of other wank material in the school. Martin, in his tiny grey shorts, had unwittingly provided that for nearly two years and although he was now at last in long trousers I could easily picture him when he wasn't. And there were plenty of other boys to think about in bed.

22 November 1963 is a date anyone my age and older will remember as the day President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. The shock of it reverberated around the school. I was fond of a song by Chuck Berry very popular on the pirate radio stations. It was called Memphis, Tennessee . I began to associate the two southern US cities with each other and each time I heard Chuck Berry I thought of the dying JFK in that motorcade and it depressed me. I went off the song.

A day or two later, at tea, I received a little note, handwritten in pencil. 'Being the physics brain you are, Jolyon, could you just jot down the answers to some questions I have. If you agree, I'll give them to you after tea.'

It was from James and was the first sign he was prepared to use my first name and that he wanted something from me. I met him after tea.

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