Remembering Ryan

by Rafael Henry

Chapter 1

I was called to my Housemaster's study one evening. That in itself is not an unusual occurrence. I thought to myself if I had committed any petty crime recently that merited a visit to his nibs, our House Beak.

'Tim, we have a new boy coming tomorrow.' He says with his customary diffidence, the smoke from his pipe twisting upwards in a spiral of haze. It smells nice, but as my father told me once, not good for the colour of one's teeth…….or the smell of one's breath either, not to mention one's lungs. Best to avoid tobacco son.

A New Boy coming? Ooh. No, it turns out, not a newbie, It's a daybug whose parents needed to be away from home for a few weeks. Pity. The New Ones are always interesting, until you realise that they're not interesting at all. Well, with the odd exception that is.

'Ryan Mount. Do you know him Simon?'

'No Sir, I don't think I do.' I lied.

'A Third Former.'

Ok. I'm a Fifth Former.

'Isn't that going to be a bit awkward Sir?'

'No, shouldn't be. There's another complication Simon. He's broken his arm quite badly. Being stupid again apparently. Fell out of a tree at home, but well enough now to come back to school. Bit unfortunate that his people are going away.' The man says, drawing deeply on his stinking pipe and then sending more grey smoke wisping upwards. My clothes are going to smell of the filthy stuff.

'He's a bit of a precocious boy, but I'm sure you can cope with his silliness. I'm afraid you've drawn the short straw this time. Vacant bed in your room and all that.'

Tubby droned on and on with me not really listening by this time. All I could think about was that image of Ryan in those perfect white and delectably brief PE shorts on the tennis court next to ours. Me and my best mate David.

We share rooms here. Two boys per room. There's only enough space for one bed really, but with the pressure on boarding places, needs must, so they told us. Two to a room. My previous room-mate left last term. I was never privy to the exact reason why he left us. This happens from time to time. John's here today, and then tomorrow he's not here. Just like that. A money thing probably. Dad loses his job, and John loses his opportunity here, such as it is, or was.

'Bit of a cheeky chappy this one Simon. Don't take any nonsense from him. Being here might take the steam out of him. Unfamiliar surroundings and all that.'

Another deep draught and another curling column of grey toxic matter rises to the yellow stained ceiling as the short sentences continue. I've seen this boy before. The tennis courts. That's where I've seen him. Wednesday afternoons. Everybody on games of one sort or another. I'd wondered where he'd got to, that Ryan boy. That would explain his absence. Home one exeat weekend and a spot of apple tree climbing in the big garden, and then disaster strikes. It has been known.

'Is he very incapacitated Sir?'

'Can't tie his shoe laces, or his tie. Needs quite a lot of help with ordinary tasks Simon. Bit helpless. It's his good arm, you know, the one he normally uses. Right-handed boy. Not good. Thought you'd be the right one for this Simon. Just you're thing. Good with the younger boys so I'm told. Sympathetic. Could get a bit intimate so care needed Simon. Dressing and undressing. That sort of thing. Keeping clean. Tricky. Do you think you can cope with that dear boy?'

Oh. Dear boy? Never had that treatment before. The pipe appears to have gone out thank goodness. Oh dear, have I got a reputation? Tubby looks at me for the first time since our 'conversation' began.

'Think you're up to it Simon?'

'Yes Sir, if you think you think so Sir.'

'I do. He'll be with you after Tea. Have all his things with him. You're excused Prep tonight. Get him sorted out then. Bring him to Chapel with you if you can. Get him into the swing of things here. Might be a bit upset to start with. Be sympathetic if you can. One other thing. Older boy and younger brethren. No problems there are there?'

'Problems Sir?'

'Umm. Nothing we should know about you. Preferences and all that?'

'Preferences Sir?'

'Yes. You know the sort of thing. Some boys. Not keen on the prospect of girls in their lives later on. Prefer the company of boys. Thorny one here Simon. Don't want any complaints …… we.'

Oh I get it.

'The boy can't shower. Has to bath every other night. He should be able to handle most things but not all. You can use the guest bathroom on your landing. Don't want the other boys staring at you do we. Intimate tasks Simon. Not everybody's cup of tea. Got a letter about it all here. Goes into some details. A bit unusual.Are you up to it?'

'Yes Sir, I'm sure everything will be fine.'

'Good. Just what I thought. Carry on.'

A letter? A bit unusual? How mysterious. I can hardly wait.

I left Tubby's study in a state of shock, surprise and excitement. Having a younger brother I only knew him by his Christian name, Ryan. He stood out from the crowd of the dozen or so Third Formers who had chosen tennis as their summer term games option. He stood out for a reason. David and I had agreed certain facts about Ryan.

'Fucking hell Simon. Did you see him just now?' David asks as we meet at the net. I've just net-corded, walked up to the net to meet David who obviously couldn't wait to offer his observations on the cute butter-haired boy who has just picked up his ball that came to rest at the back of our court. I was not five yards from him and in the perfect position to observe the boy bend down to pick up his ball, his white clad bottom lit perfectly by the afternoon sunlight.

You see the boys doing it all the time; that little surreptitious tug on the hem of their dinky little grey shorts. And then another little tug at the seam of their annoying underpants that have somehow ridden up annoyingly and become uncomfortable.

'Did you ever see anything so perfect Simon? I saw you looking by the way. Was that a tiny little smile he gave you?'

It was, elicited by mine, at least I hoped it was.

Ryan's got body conscious now. It's the first sign that he's learning about his body and what it does. The beginnings of a sexual awareness. They think that other boys are looking at their bottoms so they give their jumper a tug so it covers that area a little more and hides what they know is visible, and attractive to some. Everything gets a little tighter at the back by the end of the summer term. Too late now for new shorts. Make do with these. Same with everything else. Blue aertex shirts, dark blue jumper too short now and won't cover the bottom any more. Too bad.

Ryan gives the right side of his PE shorts another tug downwards, delicately, using one finger and his thumb. It's the new thing, these smaller underpants, but despite their sleeker cut, he's concerned that they will show. 1982. David and I are all in favour of as much showing as possible. Everything getting smaller with each succeeding month it seems. The boys' swimwear is the same. What do they think they look like? Better ask David. He's a connoisseur.

'I heard something about that boy.' David pipes up in the changing room, our game finished.

'Oh, what's that David?' I ask, breath suitably baited.

'I heard it from Gilbert. Small penis syndrome.'

'How the hell would he know? Not like yours then.'

'Shut up Simon.'

'Would that bother you then; given the opportunity?'

'No it wouldn't. You?'

'Not a bit. Rather endearing. Anyway Ryan has other qualities.'

'More important ones perchance?'


'Creamy legs and arms? Comely visage?'

'Amongst other attributes, yes. Those are new aren't they? Steal them from Ryan's knicker draw did you?' He jokes. As if. Time for a subject change methinks.

'Have you done Tubby's English essay yet?'

'On the agenda for tonight Simon.'

Tubby shows me the letter from Ryan's people. It was written in green ink which is unusual. If any of us wrote an essay in green ink it would be tossed back to us, flying in separating sheets as they glided over the class, gently floating to the floor, amid general laughter. And to think, our people are paying for this inhuman treatment!

I read the letter carefully as it contained detailed instructions as to the care of young Ryan with his broken arm.

'Shouldn't Matron be involved Sir? Some of these things Sir?'

'She is Simon, but Ryan's a sensitive boy. He'd be mortified. His people would far prefer Ryan's choice. He was told where the vacant bed was, and about you. Perfectly happy with that. Boys with boys here Simon. Far better.'

Oh I do agree. Quite right.

I waited in the main entrance hall for Ryan, the extensive gravel drive outside bathed in the late afternoon sunshine. I have to admit to feeling slightly nervous. Then the sound of crunching gravel. That'll be him.

He was carrying a large holdall, the strap over his shoulder, dressed in his unbelted worsted school grey short trousers that left two thirds of his thighs in the sunlight, no longer a creamy white and hairless, but a pale bronze colour, the tiny hairs on his legs and arms radiating light. On his feet were short grey socks and a traditional pair of sandals. Up top, he wore the regulation pale blue short-sleeved aertex shirt open at the neck for summer, neatly tucked in, and nothing as far as I could see under that. School caps had recently been abandoned, so his butter-milk hair shone, growing close to his head in little swirls of gold. As for the arm, it hung in a dark blue sling. He walked through the arched doorway as I rose to greet him.


'Hello. Are you Simon?'

'Yes. Welcome.'

He came closer.

'Can I take the bag Ryan?'

'Ok. Thanks.'



Sweet boy. So far so good.

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