When being just a lad like you

martin-bisof-117043-unsplashOne uniform switches for another. Green and white hoops, collar and tie-stifled all day, ripple proudly, like a Mexican wave. Or a virus.

The bus heaves away from the school. There are more boys than hairy tartan seats in the hallowed back three rows. Younger brothers of Fifth and Sixth Years have enlisted, and they sit in the aisles, smirking up at their elders as they light up, the sun catching treacle-shine gel that’s newly turned fluffy tufts to blades.

A whistler begins. His bold tune rides on the fug, drifting down the bus. Verse becomes chorus and another lad stamps time.

The bus strains forward and more boys join in. Their proud feet and their proud hearts are one, beating a steady drum; their dark eyes dare wrong looks. Then, when the glory and gusto can be contained no longer, over the wheezing engine as the bus crests the hill, one newly broken voice sings out, “Oh Father why are you so sad, on this bright Easter morn?”

And the rest give answer. Again and again, they answer, with the certainty and anger they were bred with, until the bus rumbles into the open countryside, and an opportunity for the boys to practice terror.

The lads cram their faces sideways into the crack of an open window to blast imitation sheep-dog whistles. It’s nearly Spring and the animals are heavy with unborn. They stagger to their feet and lurch forwards into a bolt, their heavy bellies stretching and pulsing beneath them as they run for the back of the field.

The sated boys settle back into their seats for a minute until one lad rouses them again with a chant, “Ooh ah up the RA, say ooh ah up the RA!” Singing recommences.

The bus judders to a halt. A boy stutters blindly down the aisle with a condom on his head, moaning and waving zombie-arms as his hips slam against seats and recoiling bodies. At the door, he turns back and sings to his remaining lads, the last line of a bastardised love song, “How proud I am to be a Roman Catholic.”

Published by Reflex Fiction, November 2018

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