Chapter Eight – The Unsullied
Polpollo Academy wasn’t all that bad. Aside from Jodie Craddock’s little gang of psycho-bitches and the fact that Barry, James and Phil could pretty much go and fuck themselves, it was quite chilled. There weren’t really any gangs like there had been at St Catherines, no Kebabbys or Merc-yas, and, although there were fights, at least nobody had been stabbed or set on fire yet. It was pretty relaxed to tell the truth and I soon got into the groove, taking notes and enjoying my own company.
I got weird looks from some of the other kids, but I didn’t want to be accepted, I didn’t need their approval or respect. I was enjoying the space and lack of social pressure. In Bristol there’d be a party every weekend at someone’s house while their parents were out, or in the park near the school, basically just an excuse for everyone to steal booze off their parents, get wasted and try to finger each other. If that happened in Polpollo, I wasn’t invited and I didn’t care; I had more time to rinse Kart-toons. I had just completed the game on the hardest difficulty setting without a single race loss. In short, in my own head at least, I was the man. Now I just needed the internet connection to prove it.
Art class was probably the best. We usually listened to the teacher Miss Howe for the first ten minutes as she outlined a particular artist like Paul Klee or Kandinsky before sticking on some music on the iPod dock and screwing around with paint and clay or whatever and basically doing whatever the hell we wanted to for the next hour and a bit. Miss Howe was easy to listen to with her breathy voice like Jessica Rabbit made flesh. She always wore the shortest dresses and the most inappropriate low-cut tops and heels, tottering around the class-room, bending over desks to help with anything you might need.
As you can imagine, a lot of the guys seemed to need assistance with the strangest things in Miss Howe’s class. Somebody (Aaron Cardigan) had even made a website, a sort of shrine, to Miss Howe’s behind, Howedyalikethat.com, complete with pictures taken on their smart phone. Whoever it was that made it (Aaron Cardigan) had taken to setting “traps” for Miss Howe like a trainee paparazzi, gloating over the latest “up-skirts” or “nip-slips” in the comments. Despite regular and in-depth viewings of the site (especially downloaded to my USB stick at lunch-time in the library), I couldn’t bring myself to condone their (Aaron Cardigan’s) actions, but I somehow felt that I couldn’t entirely condemn them either.
Sully had suggested I download the site so that I could judge it “critically”. Sully, or John Sullivan as his parents had christened him, sat next to me in class. He was pretty cool to be honest; he was into gaming as much as I was, although he preferred the blood-soaked battlefields and HD gore porn games over the Italian plumbers and super-fast hedgehogs of the world. His favourite game was “Headshot”, set in a never-ending modern conflict between the evil Red army and the friendly Blues. I had the game myself, but hadn’t played it much and now with Uncle Archie’s backward self-imposed internet drought, I couldn’t play it at all. However, Sully liked “Kart-toons” and had even got a gold ranking for the second hardest difficulty setting which made him alright in my book.
Sully had the unfortunate honour of being the only non-white kid at Polpollo Academy, and as I had the distinction of being the only non-local pupil, we got on immediately. While Sully was revered as something of a celebrity by some of the kids for being black, he was teased mercilessly by the more racist, sorry I mean “retarded” kids, to the point of bullying. I, on the other hand, barely existed. I had failed to make a blip on most people’s radar and that was the way I liked it. I’d rather not exist than get the crap kicked out of me again by Craddock’s coven or the rugby boys.
He was into decent music too, everything from AC/DC to Public Enemy, and actually played me a few new things I hadn’t heard before like Ghostface Killah and Fat Freddy’s Drop to name just two. He lent me his hard drive to copy his music and TV shows too, so soon I was immersed in “The Wire” and “Breaking Bad” in the evenings alone at Uncle Archie’s, glued to my laptop screen as I followed the fate of Stringer Bell et al. Yeah, John Sullivan, Sully, with his prematurely receding hairline and wispy moustache was alright. I’d done the unthinkable; I’d made a friend.
The weather had been too bad to go out in the boat with Uncle Archie last weekend, so in Miss Howe’s class I asked Sully if he wanted to tag along on Saturday. I figured if he was there I wouldn’t be so tempted to drown Uncle Archie in the briny depths, or at least if I was I’d have an accomplice.
“So what do you think Sully? Are you up for some hot fishing action?”
I peeled dried PVA glue from my fingers and looked at the mess I’d made. It was supposed to be an Easter Island style head of Sully, but it looked more like a deformed skittle made of cereal boxes. He looked at my efforts before shaking his head slowly and flicking it off the desk.
“That ain’t me G, what the hell have you been smoking?”
I was a little offended. His take on me looked like a Mr Men character with Down’s syndrome made of a Weetabix box. I bent down to pick it up and caught a glimpse of Miss Howe’s shapely legs for my troubles.
“Yours isn’t much better asshole.”
“Nah man, I meant the fishing, not that piece of crap. Floating about in boats and shit, gutting guppies, that’s not me.”
I didn’t want to tell him that he’d managed to glue glitter on to his fledgling moustache, especially not now he’d insulted my cardboard tribute to his face. No, I’d leave that as a nice surprise for after class.
“Fair enough Sully. I didn’t know you were scared of water.”
I knew I’d hit home as he looked momentarily taken aback before taking his usual cocky high-road defence mechanism out on me.
“I ain’t scared of water G, what do you think I am; some kind of pussy? It’s just boring man.”
He looked like a disco-loving cat with his glittery bum-fluff and half-popped collar, but I knew better than to take the piss too much. He was my only friend, sometimes I just had to let things slide.
“I’ve never been on a boat before. Uncle Archie wants us to “bond”, it’s his idea of fun. It’s his idea of life actually; he’s out at sea more than he’s on land.”
“Sounds like it mate, that no-internet Captain Birdseye-looking crackpot. Nah, I’m playing football Saturday anyway. You’ll have to come down the park sometime when you’re not getting all wet with your crazy uncle.”
Miss Howe called the class to attention, something that only she could do so painlessly, and set us our homework for the week (which she knew we wouldn’t do) to the sound of rustling bags. Lunchtime meant queues in the canteen and that meant first come, first served. The bell rang and, before it had stopped, we were gone.