by Rafael Henry

Chapter 9

A few years later

Tom has less than one year at 'Big School', Advanced Level exams looming. He'd been Peter Bennington's scum all those years ago, and now he has one of his own. Robin De'ath, pronounced Dee…….Ath.

Monday, six thirty in the morning. A wake up call. Tom is already awake in anticipation of his early morning visitor. The door opens quietly.

'Hello. Who might you be?' Of course he knew perfectly well who it was.

'I'm De'ath sir. I'm your new scum.'

'Criky. Not Doctor De'Ath I hope?'

'No sir.'

'Sorry. You must be very fed up with that joke. My apologies. So what is it then? Your first name?'

'Robin sir.'

'You got the time right anyway. Six thirty on the dot. I'm usually awake but call in anyway just in case. You ok with that Robin Deeeee……..Ath?'



The boy with the long hair turns, hands back in his dressing gown pockets, and leaves the room. Tom watches what he thinks is offensively named as 'scum' walk away to the door. The boy turns once to see Tom looking, with perhaps the tiniest of smiles, and then departs. Tom turns onto his side away from the door that just closed so quietly and doesn't quite know what to think. He closes his eyes and tries, in his rather vivid imagination, not to undress Robin. Robin with the pale brown hair with blond bits in it, naturally parting just to one side, the smooth skin across the forehead, hair thrown back and down to his shoulders. How he'd love to run his fingers through that lot. And then the mouth with the slight and rather fetching overbite and those tombstone front teeth that he'll surely grow into. He's had a chance to study the boy's mouth too. His lips; not too full, but full enough to excite him should they, in a perfect world, happen one morning to meet his? His eyes too, a mixture of deep blue and green with those black dots in the middle and a ring of black around the centres. And then the nose, fractionally retrouse, flanked by just the suggestion of freckles. Oh yes, a comely sight indeed. The rest of him Tom has never seen, apart from the figure standing in the queue waiting to get to the serving hatch. As luck would have it, where Tom sits, he has a good view of the queue and the backs of all the boys as they wait, sans blazers for mealtimes. They never know what to do with their hands so they stick them in their pockets. No jumpers now it's the warmer time of year, just the pale blue sleeveless shirts and short or long trousers, or even other kinds of attire if they have already changed for a cricket match or games. Material stretched across their buttocks revealing mummy's good taste, or not. But in Robin's case, probably his own insistence that he 'looks as he wants to look'. Grey shorts for summer that fit almost too well. Tom can't imagine a time when Robin's complete self would ever be revealed to him, but at least he can have the lad's company for a few minutes every morning. Good and early too.

Tuesday 6.30 am.

'You're looking a little peaky. This a bit too early for you, you ray of sunshine? How are things anyway?'

The boy thinks about that for a moment. A ray of sunshine?

'Not too bad thank you sir.' The boy answers, standing with hands in dressing gown pockets, not wanting too much eye contact.

'Oh. Pretty bad then?'

'They're ok sir.'

'I don't think so. What's the problem?'

'Nothing sir.'

'Best not to nothing me Robin. Sit down a minute. A bit of homesickness is it? Might be a bit late for that seeing as you've survived into the summer term. The other boys being a little unpleasant. Is that it?'

Tom happens to know that this boy has been teased, which is as we know, is a mild form of bullying. He's heard one or two other things about him too. Oh really? Now that's interesting. Perhaps it's not just the long hair and the teeth?

Silence. But Robin does sit on the edge of Tom's single bed facing him, close to the end of the narrow bed, just his right foot on the ground. Tom moves his feet to make room. There's nowhere else to sit in the small room with one fitted cupboard, a bedside table plus reading lamp, and a small window with ugly red curtains. Old now but then it 1960's best. Prefect's privilege.

The boy holds his dressing gown together in the middle, conscious of that fact that the cord that holds it all together has slipped undone. No matter really as he wears his striped flannel pyjamas underneath.

'So are you going to tell me?'

The two boys just stare at each other. Another minute passes.

'You've got another thirty seconds before I look for another scum Robin.'

So that was it. The hair. The long hair and the goofy front teeth. Not to mention his name of course. A bit of a curse that one.

'How long has this been going on for Robin?'

'Ever since I got here.'

'Is this something you can put up with?'

'I'll have to I suppose.'

'No you don't have to. We can do something about it. In fact we will. Have you told anyone else about this?'

'No. I don't want to get anyone into trouble. Then it'll be worse…….sir.'

'Of course. I had a bit of trouble too Robin. We managed to get that sorted.'

Eventually. It took a couple of years to explain to everyone else that there are differences between people, and for them to accept those differences. I had a couple of tough years here.

Robin is looking slightly uncomfortable in his dressing gown loosely fastened at the front.

'Is this all I have to do sir? To be your scum? The others told me about it.'

'Yes. That's all. Anyway, what did they tell you.'

'I thought there would be other things sir?'

'Like what? No. There's nothing that immediately comes to mind. Anyway it's nice to see you Robin. If there is anything I'll let you know.'

When Robin hears those words he's not sure what to think. His friend Charlie had heard talk about other duties scum were very rarely it has to be said, asked to perform. He assumed it was one of those lies the boys spread about just to scare you. When his alarm woke him that first morning he was scared. But he knew he had to go. All the first year boys had to scum for the House Prefects, but just for one term out of the three. The numbers worked out perfectly. Six prefects, three terms, eighteen boys. No one escapes. It gets the boys used to starting their day at a healthy hour. Robin had read the notice on the URGENT board. He'd seen his name next to Davenport's, his Whip to be. He's asked other boys what Davenport was like. Was he nice…….kind…….or horrible like one or two of the others. No, he was nice. Don't worry about it Robin. You'll be fine with him.

'Were you on time this morning Robin? Not late I hope? Your first morning.' Asks Charlie Baxter. The two boys sit together at breakfast, and lunch, and tea, as it happens.

'Yes. He's nice.'

'He's queer too. Everybody knows he is. Anything happen? Too soon probably. Wait a week.'

'No. He was already awake. I was there for five minutes and then he said I could go.'

'Did he say that he'd asked to have you scum for him?'


'I bet he did ask for you.'


'He fancies you. I reckon you're his type. You like him don't you?'


'Yes you bloody do. I've seen him look at you. I reckon he goes for the long hair. Can't be anything else. You're an ugly bugger. He wants you back doesn't he? He hasn't sacked you already has he?'

'No! I'm going again tomorrow. Six thirty every morning he said.'

'And don't be late. Pyjamas and dressing gown?'


'Pants under? I would if I were you. Two pairs and a chastity belt.'


'You're brave.'


'Dressing gown and pants on, like you were half way through getting dressed or something. He'd like that.'

'Should I?'

'Of course. You can't just let him chuck you out after two minutes. That's crazy. Or just pyjamas and nothing else. I know you fancy him. He likes you too. You're just his type.'


'Absolutely, you great fucking tart. You've got to be a bit proactive Robin. You've got to dangle it in front of him.'

'Dangle what?'

'What do you think you idiot?'

The other boys, listening in to this conversation, all laughed.

That afternoon Robin thought about what he and Charlie had spoken of. The mornings are warm in the House. It's late May. Very few boys go anywhere in dressing gowns now. Too warm for those things. Some boys go down to showers every morning with just a towel around their middles, or nothing at all. At first he was shocked that one and only time he saw what older boys looked like naked, compared to him . But at thirteen and a quarter, even he's bigger now, but nothing like that .

At the start of term Roger, he's Head of House, had the list of boys who were to scum that term. The last six boys out of the eighteen new residents. Tom Davenport said he didn't want one. 'I don't need my lavatory seat warming up in the morning thank you Roger.' Now this Summer Term, Robin's name is on the list but there were no takers for him. The long haired geeky boy.

'Someone has to have him.' Says Roger. 'Tom?'

So Tom put his hand up.

'Is that your hand up Tom? Roger says with a smile. 'Oh good. Is that wake up duty too?'

Tom feels his face warm as he nods.

'What time?'

'Six thirty?' Tom answers. In for a penny.

'Ok. He's on the list. They'll start this Tuesday. The list goes up tonight.'

Thomas Davenport thinks ………

He seems quite a sound character who is not getting on as well as he should be. He's different and the other boys don't like him for it. The long hair and the tombstone front teeth don't help. My prefect colleagues laughed when I said I'd have Robin. I've had, in fact still got a reputation, quite justifiably, as a bit 'different' myself from approximately my second year here. Water off a duck's back really and I just accept their judgement and laugh it off. I had an affair with another boy and it came out quite by accident. We were seen holding hands would you believe. Caught in the act. That only has to happen once. But, having said that, I'm accepted for being different. The Assistant Housemaster was very good at lecturing everybody about 'differences' in people. Plus a few veiled threats. I'm a very good swimmer which has helped keep the volves at bay. Lots of points for the House at the annual swimming sports, so they can't be too obnoxious otherwise I won't play the game. No such luck for Robin. I had this thought one night that I just might be able to help him. He came this morning for his initial visit. I think he's interesting enough. Enough to interest me shall we say, but I'll be good, trust me. He'll be back tomorrow. I think he likes me, just possibly in the same way I Iiked a couple of the older boys when I first got here. Just a hunch, that's all. I had two or three painful crushes on other boys not so long after I got here. I don't think there's anything particularly dreadful in that. One just can't help one's feelings for people. A friend of mine told me that apparently Robin De'Ath was full of the joys of spring when his name went up on the board next to mine. That would be nice wouldn't it; if he actually wanted to scum for me?

Summer Term.

Urgent notices only.

Name: On duties for Prefect:

De'Ath R. Davenport T.

Wednesday. 06.38

In the cupboard. Second shelf down Robin.'

'These?' Robin asks, holding the navy blur garment Tom wears for early morning swim in the outdoor school pool.

'That's them.' Tom says, swinging his legs off the bed onto the floor.

'You can look the other way now Robin, if you wouldn't mind.'

Robin does, most of the time, but not all the time as Tom drops his pyjama bottoms and still sitting on the edge of the bed, slips the sleek garment over his feet and up securely in position. Tom, at the vital moment, looks at Robin, just to make sure he wasn't looking. He wasn't. At least not at that moment, but he had a sneaky peek a few moments earlier. Well, it's not Tom's fault if the boy was looking; is it? No. besides it's just the boy's curiosity. He's bound to look.

Charlie asks…….

'What's he like then? Go on, tell, or……..' Charlie asks, giving his friend a dig in the ribs.

'Quite nice actually.' Robin says with a faint smile.

'Was that right? He was getting changed for a swim? So what did you see; exactly?'



'That's it. I just saw him. No more than a couple of seconds. I didn't dare look any longer.'

'Did he see you looking?'


'I told you. Remember what I said. Tomorrow morning. Just your pants under dressing gown. And make sure it doesn't come undone. I'll ask you at breakfast.'

Thursday 06.28. The next day.

'What's this then with the bare legs Robin?' Asks a smiling Thomas Davenport.

'I thought I'd get dressed early and then decided not to, so…….'

'So here you are. Excellent. How's the teasing going?'

'Better thanks.'

'Glad to hear that. Maybe they took a bit of notice of Mr Goodwin's Sunday morning talk.

Mr Terry Goodwin is young, kind, and leads the Christian Union two lunchtimes each week. Quite a few boys attend, but not Tom. Not so far anyway. It's good to hear that those unkind idiots have moderated their behaviour. Finally, hopefully, and not before time. Tom had mentioned Robin's hurt to Terry, and Terry being what he is, acted accordingly. Terry remains in his closet with the door tightly shut as far as this place is concerned. Like Thomas Davenport, he actively dislikes the 'scum' tradition and wants it to stop. And the sooner the better. And in a corridor between lessons, Mr Terry Goodwin needs a couple of words with Tom.

'My room after lunch please Tom?'

And then in the bedsit that live-in staff have…….Tom notices the group photo on Terry's wall. A cricket XI. Terry and Tom have had quite serious conversations before, often about human frailty.

'I see you have Robin scumming for you this term Tom. I hope this isn't going to lead to trouble……is it? We all have feelings Tom, but some can lead to very serious problems. Forewarned is forearmed, is it not? Just think back to one or two of our conversations young man. We've both said very personal things and I know having Robin so close like he is to you now might be difficult for you, if not for him. Consequences Tom. Please stop to think even though it'll be hard for you. Ok? You know you can come and talk. My door is open day and night too if you really need me. The flesh is weak Tom. Mine and yours. If it's just a matter of the flesh, then that is an issue that can be solved easily enough without any painful side-effects. Are you understanding me Tom?'

Tom nods. For the first time he's realised just how meaningful Terry's words have been. A nagging suspicion had occurred to him once or twice during their private chats but he had dismissed those doubts about Terry. He was now having second thoughts, but not about Robin. There was no way in this world that he could help being in love with the boy with the long hair. It is a fact of his life. Maybe one day far into the future the flower might open into full bloom. In the meantime he has to tread a precipitous cliff-edge path, with disaster just inches away, just a few terrible moments away.

'Behind that rather lovely smile of Robin's is a very determined boy. You will have to be strong young man.' Says Terry, raising an eyebrow.

There you are. Some plain speaking from someone who knows.

The next morning Robin turns up at wakeup time, sees Tom awake already and sits on the bed just a couple of feet from his Whip, who is sitting up. Robin, his hands held together, is looking at Tom.

'I don't believe you Robin De'Ath. What's wrong?'


'Yes there is. It's not stopped has it? The unkindness?'


'Come here, a bit closer.'

Robin moves a little closer, the slippery dressing gown cord coming undone in the process.

'I can see your knickers by the way.' Tom says, smiling broadly.

'Sorry.' Robin says, trying to tie the cord again but making a mess of it.

'Don't be. I have no objection to seeing your knickers.' He says quietly.

'Give me your hand please. Don't worry, this animal doesn't bite. Go on, be brave. Here, let me take it. No, both of them. Perfect. That didn't hurt did it.' He says as a matter of fact.

'You have good hands. You swim well don't you? You have good hands for swimming. Like mine. See? Now tell me what's wrong.'

Robin does have good hands that felt warm in Tom's. There was a problem, the same one that has persisted for weeks. Robin did tell Tom about it. A problem shared is a problem halved, if not solved completely. At least not yet.

Tom felt the anger rising inside him, in his head and in his heart. He looks at the boy's eyes and see's the hurt there. Robin stands up close to Tom who is looking.

'And you had better secure that cord Robin before you leave here.'

Tom had had the treatment himself years ago now. The same sort of ill treatment Robin is getting on a daily basis. His was particularly unpleasant. Jibes like……'You can park your boat in Davenport any time you like.' And 'Any Davenport in a storm'. Nasty stuff like that.

When Robin had left his room, Tom turned over and laid his head on the pillow, his eyes wide open. What he had seen he liked, not knowing that what Robin had seen, he liked too.

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