Wednesday, October 22, 2008

1965 - Strange David

David was oddly strange, always vaguely standing outside our classroom group. Not quite fitting in somehow, in ways none of us could pin down or explain.

Thick set and dark haired, he had strange habits. Like picking his nose with his thumb nail and showing us the contents. And farting to matching, gleeful giggles. And sticking his tongue out, firmly clenched between his teeth, when concentrating on small things. Which he often did.
I noticed, too, that while his nails were strong and perfect – I chewed mine to their stumps – they were always grubby, carrying beneath them the collected baggage and behaviour of something near wild.

David was the only boy I ever knew who could deftly catch flies and tie lengths of cotton around their bodies, then tie the other ends to the end of his wooden ruler. Those flies would often circle, only six inches off his desktop, for hours on end. And if they had enough strength, they’d occasionally lift the end of the ruler off the surface, causing it to flap up and down, much to David’s glee and sense of peculiar achievement. Mind you, boys in the class, including me, were always highly amused and in awe of his skills.

His sense of humour was oddly strange too. He always had a joke, often gleaned from older, more vulgar brothers, and laughed at the drop of a hat. I guess you could describe him as genuinely easy going. Seemingly nearly always happy.

But our primary school nuns were watching from the wings, carefully, sure somehow that he was nearly always up to no good, and nearly always willing to corrupt those more innocent around him.

The final straw came one afternoon, when behind the school’s huge cast iron incinerator, itself tucked carefully into a back corner of the school yard edging Cox’s Lane he decided it was time to show off his bum. And for more than 20 minutes, he’d pull his pants down, expose his bum, and gently rub it’s pinkness for anyone willing to look. And all the while, his tongue sticking out, clenched between his teeth, trying to stifle a most satisfied laugh. Or laughing along oddly with any of us who found this funny.

Word of his exploit spread like wildfire. And I remember being shocked, staring at him doubled over, bum as high in the air as he could get it, his face turned almost over his back to ensure the show was delivering according to expectations, that tongue clenched firmer than ever, and hand motions in order. I’d always been too afraid to use the school’s toilets, frightened other boys might hear me farting. I’d never dream of exposing my lower body, let alone for collective amusement.

As the throng grew larger, none of us noticed the nun wading through, arms flailing to get at David and his exposed bum. And when she reached him, his smile was climactic. “What an achievement!” I read in his sparkling eyes.

David didn’t come to school the next day. Nor the day after that. In fact, David never came back to our school. Nor did he go to our Catholic boys’ high school in Bellambi, despite living just across the street from it. A story soon quietly seeped through our primary class that David was somehow a pervert-in-the-making, and he’d fortunately been nipped in the bud. Just in the nick of time.

I saw him a number of times in subsequent years, in his green Woonona High School uniform (which reminded me, oddly, of the contents of his much younger nose). Although he seemed content, I never knew if he continued his schoolyard exploits. Nor did I ever see him smile again.


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