In response to those who wrote in asking for more (and in total defiance of those who didn't!) here's the next offering. If you've read 'Timmy and the Travellers' you'll already be acquainted with some, if not most, of the characters in this story; if you haven't, don't feel that you have to: I'll do my best to introduce the characters as they appear, hopefully in a way that won't have all my previous readers screaming, “But we already know all that!!!” - or, at least, not too often.
New readers need to know that this story is set in south-east England and starts in June 1976, which is why you'll find no mention of computers or mobile phones, and which is also why most of these characters have a very limited understanding of sex: there was very little sex education in schools back then. It would also be fair to warn you that Jeremy's step-father's views on race and immigration belong very much in the mid-seventies, and are categorically NOT the views of the author!
As with 'Timmy', these characters are all entirely fictional. On the other hand, the story is set in a real place, though once again I have changed the place names. Anyone from round there will probably work out where it is, though – feel free to write and ask me to confirm if you're right!
The usual warning applies: this story contains depictions of sexual activity between boys, so if that's not your thing, or if it's illegal where you are for you to be reading this, then it would be a really good idea to stop now.
“… so it was only supposed to be a straightforward chest X-ray, but they kept me hanging about for almost an hour. And then when I finally got into the room, I found out why it was taking so long: the person doing the X-rays was…”
“Let me guess,” interrupted Jeremy. “It has to be a woman, a foreigner or a non-white person. Which was it?”
“It was a bloody nigger!” declared his step-father, determined to finish his diatribe. “How he ever got the job, heaven only knows: they were only ever supposed to be let into the country to sweep the streets and things like that, not to be allowed to work in hospitals, treating decent white people. I’m going to write to the Department of Health about it.”
“Good luck,” muttered Jeremy.
“I just wondered if the X-ray came out okay?”
“Well, yes. But that’s not the point.”
“Why not?” asked Jeremy, knowing he should shut up but somehow not being able to. “You got what you went there for. Isn’t that all that matters? I don’t see why you think non-white people can’t be doctors. Bilal’s dad is a doctor…”
“What, a witch-doctor? We don’t want all that bone-rattling rubbish here: we want decent white doctors who you can understand, not some black idiot gibbering away in mumbo-jumbo.”
“He’s a proper doctor. And I bet if you were sick and he was the only doctor around you’d go and see him.”
“Of course I wouldn’t! I’m not letting some wog put his hands all over me…”
“Well, you’re a bloody moron, then,” said Jeremy, before he could stop himself.
Two hours later he was lying on the mattress in the spare room and staring at the ceiling. His bum hurt: his step-father had used his belt before locking him in the spare room – and he was hungry, because he’d been stupid enough to lose control of his tongue when he had barely started eating. Needless to say, he hadn’t been given a chance to take another mouthful.
He was angry, as much with himself as with his moronic step-father: he knew by now what would happen if he annoyed the man, but he still couldn’t control his tongue, which always seemed to have a mind of its own whenever Adolf said anything even more stupid than usual.
A few months ago Adolf would just have hit him; these days he locked him in the spare room instead, though sometimes he hit him as well for good measure. At first Jeremy had been locked in his own bedroom, but Adolf quickly found out that Jeremy was capable of getting out of the window and climbing down over the sloping roof above the porch. So these days he was locked in the spare room, which had no furniture except for the mattress he was now lying on. This window overlooked a rockery, so jumping down would probably have resulted in a broken ankle, but just to make sure Adolf had also made him take off all his clothes except his underpants. A barefoot landing in the rockery was clearly far too dangerous to try, and even if he landed safely he couldn’t do much wearing only his underwear.
He lay there quietly, wondering how long he’d have to stay here this time. Generally it was a couple of hours or so, but he had once been left here all night. On that occasion Adolf had opened the door long enough to throw in a blanket and a pillow and to put an empty bucket just inside the door for Jeremy to pee in. That had been an uncomfortable night, and he didn’t want to repeat it if it could be helped. But he was determined not to apologise: the man’s views were appalling, especially to a boy whose best friend was a Pakistani. To apologise would be to suggest that Adolf was right, and Jeremy was sure he could never do anything to support that idea.
Of course, his step-father’s name wasn’t really Adolf: it was actually Andrew Jordan. But he ran the local branch of the National Front, and he held views to match: basically he couldn’t stand foreigners, and non-white foreigners in particular (as far as he was concerned, all non-white people were ‘foreigners’, even the ones who, like Jeremy’s friend Bilal, had been born in England). He felt that they should all be put on a boat and shipped back to where they had come from (Jeremy had received an earlier beating for pointing out that they’d have trouble getting a boat to take Bilal back to the Two Counties Hospital, where he had been born: it was only a mile away, and it wasn’t on the coast).
Jeremy’s real father lived in California. His parents had got divorced a few years ago – Jeremy couldn’t remember exactly what had caused it, but the problem had come to a head when his father had been offered a well-paid job in America, and his mother – perhaps influenced by American films and television – had flatly refused to move to the USA, convinced that it was no place to bring up a child. So for some years Jeremy had just lived with his mother, which seemed to work just fine until a little over a year ago, when she had met and started to go out with Andrew Jordan.
Jeremy resented the man from the start: he was quite happy with no man on the scene. But his mother had obviously seen something in Andrew Jordan that was invisible to Jeremy’s eyes, because they started spending more and more time together, and about seven or eight months ago they had got married. After the wedding Jeremy had genuinely tried to give the man a chance, but his racist views were hard to stomach, and when Jeremy’s best friend Bilal Khan had been banned from the house on the inaccurate grounds that he was “an immigrant”, Jeremy had rebelled. He’d received his first proper beating that day, and they had continued on a regular basis since: he simply couldn’t hold his tongue in the presence of Mr Jordan’s racism and stupidity.
There was a sharp blast on a referee’s whistle from outside the house, and Jeremy immediately stood up and went to the window: the whistle was a signal. Sure enough, about five minutes later someone emerged from behind the rhododendron bush at the end of the garden.
Being locked in the spare room was an occupational hazard for Jeremy, and he had devised a plan with Bilal to deal with it: first Bilal would blow his whistle loudly from the front of the house, and then, while Mr Jordan was looking the wrong way, he would make his way down the alley that ran along the backs of the houses in this street, climb past a loose plank in the back fence and hide behind the rhododendron bush. If he stood in the right place he could only be seen from this room and the downstairs toilet, which only had a very small window: the bush hid him from the rest of the house.
He and Jeremy had been learning the sign language used by deaf people. It was hard work, but they were both getting quite good at it by now, and it meant they could communicate soundlessly. Jeremy had started teaching it to some of his other friends, too, but only Bilal was really good enough to use it so far.
“How long are you in for?” signed Bilal, from his spot beside the bush.
“Don’t know”, Jeremy returned.
“Why don’t you keep quiet?”
“Because I’m stupid. But not as stupid as Adolf.” (Instead of spelling out his name, they both used a Nazi straight-arm salute to refer to Mr Jordan).
“You have to try to keep quiet. It’s boring when you can’t come out.”
“It’s boring here, too. Sorry.”
“We were going to play football.”
“I know. You go.”
“I’ll stay and keep you company.”
“No. I’ll be fine. Go and play.”
“Go. Say hi to the others. If I get out soon I’ll come. If not…” He shrugged.
“Okay. I’ll come back before I go home. At about five.”
Jeremy nodded and waved, and Bilal waved back and disappeared behind the bush.
Jeremy went back to the mattress and lay down once more. He knew Bilal was right: he had to learn to control his tongue. He knew that teenagers were supposed to be stroppy, but he didn’t have that excuse: he was still only eleven, though his twelfth birthday was looming. And redheads were expected to have a short temper, but he couldn’t claim that excuse, either, because his hair was a mousy brown. Heaven knew how much worse things would be if he were a red-headed fourteen-year-old…
And it wasn’t just his relationship with Adolf that bothered him, either: recently he had discovered that there were worse things than having a racist for a step-father – like finding out that you were an absolute pervert, for example. He’d been trying not to think about it for ages, but he supposed he had to face it: he was starting to fancy his best friend.
He and Bilal had known each other for years, more or less since he had started at primary school, and for most of that time he’d just thought of him as a friend, nothing more. But in the past few months he’d started to see him differently: he’d realised how exceptionally good-looking Bilal was, what with the beautiful smile, and those fascinating brown eyes, and the long soft black hair, and the way it fell down over one eye sometimes… and the birthmark, of course.
Bilal had a small dark birthmark underneath his left eye, about the size of a fingertip. Bilal himself hated it, of course, but Jeremy thought it made him look even nicer – and lately he’d found himself wondering what it would feel like to kiss it.
Jeremy realised he had an erection, and if that didn’t prove what a pervert he was, nothing did. He lifted the elastic of his pants and moved it below his balls, so that his penis could stick out unconfined. He looked down at the hard little traitor between his legs, wishing to God that it didn’t have to raise its head every time he thought about Bilal. Not that there was that much of it to betray him: he was convinced he was small for his age, though in fact he was probably perfectly average. It didn’t help that there was absolutely no sign of hair yet: even though that was probably true of the majority of boys in his form, he was aware from the occasional peep on Games Day that Bilal already had some, even though there weren’t all that many yet. But the hairs he did have fascinated him: he wanted to touch them, to see how soft they were, to stroke them gently…
His erection twitched, and he took hold of it absently and started to stroke himself slowly. Great, he thought, when he realised what he was doing, now you’re wanking over your best friend. But he didn’t stop doing it.
He desperately needed to talk to someone about it, but he didn’t know who. Obviously Adolf was a complete non-starter: the man hated homosexuals as much as he hated foreigners. His real father was a better bet, but he didn’t think he would be able to bring himself to raise the issue with him: his month in America every year was his only chance to escape from Adolf for any length of time, and he was afraid his father would be so disappointed in him if he told him how he felt about Bilal that the visits would end.
He had made up his mind that if he discussed it with anyone, it would have to be with one of his friends. But it was really hard to decide which one to pick: he didn’t want to speak to any of the ones who went to his own school, because if he picked the wrong one and it got out, it would be sure to find its way to Bilal’s ear sooner or later, and that would be disastrous. So that left the ones who didn’t go to the Grove school.
Jeremy had a number of friends with whom he played football at weekends – when he wasn’t locked in the spare room, of course – and five of them went to different schools. He wondered which one he could talk to about… well, things. But even with those five, there were problems: to start with, they weren’t just his friends, they were Bilal’s friends, too, and three of them went to the same mosque as Bilal – indeed, that’s how he had met them in the first place, following an introduction from Bilal himself. He wasn’t sure that anything he said to them wouldn’t find its way back to Bilal fairly quickly. And that was a pity, because otherwise Kamran would have been an ideal candidate.
All of his football-playing friends were, for one reason or another, completely anathema to Adolf: four of them, including Bilal, were Pakistanis; one was Spanish; one was Jewish; and the last one, the only white English Christian in the group, had hair that ended well below his shoulder-blades, which disgusted Adolf, who thought that all boys should be neat and smart, if not actually wearing a Hitler Youth uniform. Jeremy would have liked them and enjoyed playing with them if they had all been white, Christian and smartly-dressed, but the fact that they all got right up Adolf’s nose made them absolutely perfect. Jeremy referred to them en masse as “The Jeremy Fielding Collection”, a name which the boys, all of whom knew about his background, entirely approved of. He was sure he could count on their friendship and rely on them in almost all circumstances – except, perhaps, if it came to telling them he was queer.
Kamran Younis was the eldest member of the Collection: he was thirteen, outgoing and fun, and extremely good at football, too. And despite the fact that he was quite a bit more grown up than the rest of them – he was the only one whose voice had broken, for a start – he never talked about girls, and always seemed to have time to play football with the rest of them. Jeremy liked him a lot, and for any other issue he would have been top of his list if he needed advice. But Kam had been friends with Bilal for ages, and Jeremy wasn’t sure that something as momentous as this wouldn’t be talked about the next time Kam and Bilal met at mosque.
Kam’s younger brother, Awais, was even more outgoing and bouncy, and was brilliant at cheering him up if he felt down. But it would be pointless to try talking to him, because Awais wouldn’t even understand what he was talking about: his ninth birthday was still a month or so away.
The third Pakistani, Usman Shabbir, was about Jeremy’s own age. He went to a prep school in Shortham, about five miles away from the town of Poundford Spa, where they all lived, and he was pretty bright. He was a lot quieter than Kam and Awais, and only in the past three or four months had he started to come out of his shell a bit. Again, Jeremy would have considered talking to him, had it not been for the friendship between Uzzy and Bilal.
The long-haired white boy was Tony Hanson, and he had been friends with Jeremy and Bilal for years – again, they had started at primary school together. The big plus point was that Tony, being white, was actually allowed to come to Jeremy’s house (though Adolf always made acerbic comments about his hair), which would make it easier to talk to him. And he was virtually certain that he could trust Tony, even though they went to the same school, which meant that Tony saw Bilal every day. That was the only consideration that held Jeremy back, but he was still prepared to put Tony on the short list.
That left the two most recent additions to the Collection. Miguel Àlvarez was an unlikely addition to the Collection: he hadn’t known any of the other boys before joining, and he didn’t go to the same school as any of them: he was at another prep school at the north end of the nearby town of Poundford (Poundford and Poundford Spa were about five miles apart). He had simply been out on his bike one day and had somehow found his way to the pub car park they used for their football games. He had watched Tony, Kam and Awais practising their headers and volleys for a few minutes and had then been invited to join in, and since then he had often appeared for their games.
He didn’t say a lot. Of course, this was partly because English was a foreign language to him, though he spoke it quite well, with only the accent and an occasional grammatical mistake to let him down; but he seemed to be naturally quiet and self-contained, except when playing football, when he became a lot louder. Jeremy wondered if all Spanish footballers shouted and waved their arms about whenever a pass went astray. Certainly from a security point of view Miguel would be a good choice, because he didn’t know Bilal very well at all. But on the other hand Jeremy wasn’t sure what the Spanish attitude to homosexuality might be: he knew that Spain had been a dictatorship until very recently, and he knew that Adolf was an admirer of the recently-deceased General Franco, and he was pretty sure that anything Adolf liked would be no use to him. Nevertheless, he pencilled Miguel’s name onto his mental shortlist.
Finally, there was Simeon Lewis, the most recent member of the Collection. Jeremy had liked Sim the moment he’d met him, and that was before he found out that he was Jewish and so a perfect addition to the Collection. The boy had shown that he had a courageous nature (either that, or he was completely insane!) by betting Kam and Uzzy that he could outperform them at football, and had promised to streak the length of the car park if he failed. He had failed, and had immediately removed all his clothes and run to the far end of the car park and back without the least hesitation, even repeating the run without protest when Tony had jokingly pointed out that the first run didn’t count because Sim had still been “wearing” a sticking-plaster on his bum. And this was in front of at least three boys he’d never set eyes on before that afternoon. Anyone with a sense of fun like that was worth knowing, in Jeremy’s eyes.
Simeon went to the same school as Uzzy, and it was obvious watching them that they were really good friends. It would be too much to hope that Sim felt the same way about Uzzy as Jeremy felt about Bilal, but the fact that this was another friendship across racial – and, indeed, religious – lines did a lot to suggest to Jeremy that Sim might be a good person to talk to. He added him to his mental list.
He sat up. While he had been considering his options his erection had subsided, and now dangled outside his pants, looking to him as small and insignificant as it usually did. But he knew that if he started thinking about Bilal again it would return to its previous embarrassing state, so he tucked it back inside his pants, walked to the window and looked out, determined to think about something else – anything would do, as long as it wasn’t how beautiful his friend looked when he smiled, with those gleaming white teeth and the soft black hair across his left eye, and that amazing little mark underneath his eye… oh, shit, he thought, it’s happening again…
The object of his confused thoughts had by this time cycled as far as the car park of the Hyde pub, where he had found some of the other members of the Collection waiting for him.
“Where’s Jeremy?” asked Kamran. “No, don’t tell me, let me guess… Could it be his spare room?”
“Surprise, surprise,” said Bilal. “He opened his mouth again.”
“It’s hard to blame him,” said Tony. “I think if I had to live in that house I’d be locked in that room permanently. At least, I would if it depended on me getting my hair cut to get out.”
Tony was proud of his long blond hair, and had sworn never to cut it until it reached his feet and tripped him up. Kam and Bilal wore their hair quite long, too, as was the done thing in the mid-seventies, but neither of them ever let it get below shoulder level. Awais would liked to have worn his long as well, but his mother had told him he was too young to grow it too much, and she insisted on getting it cut once it covered his ears. The rest of the Collection went to schools that had strong ideas about hair length, though pupils regularly tried to push those rules as far as they could be stretched.
Uzzy’s hair was quite short, and he wore it in an old-fashioned side parting that made him look like a small bank clerk, especially when his metal-framed glasses were taken into consideration. Simeon wore his hair in a fairly short style, more or less from choice (he thought he’d look silly with long hair, especially when he wore his yarmulke) and Miguel had a fairly strict father who wanted him to look smart for the odd occasion when colleagues from the embassy came to visit.
Uzzy and Sim were not there today – Uzzy had told Bilal the previous evening that he was going out with his parents, and Sim was generally otherwise engaged at synagogue and with his family on Saturdays. Miguel was there, though, sitting quietly on the wall as he usually did between games, and Awais was practising his football-juggling skills with mixed success. So that meant there were five of them, which was not really enough for a proper match.
“We could play two against two, if someone sits out each game,” suggested Kam.
“That's too boring for the fifth person,” complained his brother.
“Or we could play two against two with a fixed goalie,” offered Bilal.
“That'd be better,” agreed Awais. “Who's going in goal first?”
“I will, if you like,” said Bilal, and he took up position between the posts.
They played three or four games like that, but it wasn't really as satisfactory as a proper game, so after a bit they tried playing three against two. But that didn't really work, either, because none of them was really a bad enough player to give the two-player team any real chance of winning.
“We need more players,” said Kam. “You're really going to have to talk to Jeremy about getting into trouble with Adolf all the time, Bilal – we need him here.”
“I’ve told him, more times than I can remember. But you know what he’s like: he just speaks without thinking. I don’t think there’s anything we can do about it – after all, it’s usually because he’s sticking up for us that he gets in trouble. I think we’ll just have to put up with him not being here much – unless you can think of a way to get rid of Adolf, or change him into a normal human being…”
Not surprisingly, nobody could think of a way to do that, though Kam said that the idea of pushing Adolf under a bus was not without merit. With no immediate solution to their problem in sight they turned their attention back to football.
“I know – let’s play headers and volleys like we did that time before,” suggested Awais. “If we score five before the keeper catches the ball, he has to streak to the other end of the car park and back.”
“Whose mad idea was that?” asked Bilal, who hadn’t been around on that particular afternoon.
“Sim’s. He bet Kam and Uzzy he could catch the ball before they scored five, but he didn’t, so he had to streak. He looked really funny. And then we played again, and Jeremy lost and had to do it as well. It was a really good laugh – let’s do it again.”
“What happens if the keeper catches the ball before the other players have scored five goals?” asked Bilal.
“Then the keeper gets to choose who has to streak.”
“I’ve been thinking about that, and it isn’t really fair,” said Kam. “I know that if you won you’d want to make me do it, ‘cos you want to show me up. I reckon it would be fairer if whoever gives the keeper the catch has to streak instead. That way nobody would get picked on unfairly.”
Awais made a rude noise at him, but everyone else was nodding their agreement.
“Good, so that’s agreed,” said Kam. “And, as you were so keen to play again, Awais, how about you go in goal? Unless you’re chicken, of course…”
‘Chicken’ is the magic word that usually persuades boys to do something they’re not really too keen on doing, and it worked this time, too: Awais took up position between the posts and invited everyone to do their best, observing that their best would be far too pathetic to get past his expertise as a goalkeeper. And a couple of minutes later the fifth goal flew past him, volleyed in by Miguel from at least fifteen yards away. Awais hesitated, but only very briefly: there was no way he was going to let the others accuse him of chickening out, especially since he had been the one to suggest this game in the first place.
He sat down on the low wall that ran along the side of the car park and removed his shoes and socks, and then pulled his tee shirt over his head.
“Hold on,” said his brother, as Awais undid his belt, “we’d better check there’s nobody hanging about round the back of the pub.”
This car park was in the shape of a backwards L: the bottom bit, which they used for their football games, and the longer side bit, which ran right up to the back of the pub and which was actually used as a car park when the pub was open, which it wasn’t at the moment: British licensing hours in the seventies were extremely restricted. Kam jogged to the angle of the L and looked up towards the back of the pub, but as usual there was nobody about.
“All clear,” he called to his brother, who slipped off his shorts and underpants and ran at top speed to the other end of ‘their’ bit of the car park and back, his willy (which was quite a respectable size for a boy who was not quite nine years old) wobbling about as he ran.
“Of course, when Sim and Jeremy did this they did it twice,” Tony pointed out as Awais got back to the start. “So obviously you’ll have to do it twice, too, or it wouldn’t be fair.”
“Why not? Neither of them is here today,” Awais pointed out.
“Doesn’t matter,” said Tony. “The penalty for losing is four lengths, not two. Put it this way: you’re not getting your clothes back till you’ve done it again.”
That left Awais with little choice, so he turned and repeated his run, though he was moving a little more slowly by the time he got back to the start once more. And then he ran into a problem: when he went to get his clothes back he found that Miguel was sitting on them.
“Come on, Miguel, I’ve done the streak,” he complained.
“What?” said Miguel, trying to appear innocent, and at the same time trying not to stare too hard at Awais’s genitals, which he found really interesting, being rather larger than his own. And the penis also looked different because of course Awais was circumcised. He remembered that Sim’s had looked quite big when he had done his streak, too, and wondered if all circumcised boys had bigger ones.
“Gimme my clothes,” cried Awais, grabbing Miguel’s arm and tugging vainly: Miguel was heavier than he was.
“Come on, Mig, he’s done the run,” said Tony. “Give him his stuff back.”
“Oh, you want these,” said Miguel, standing up and handing Awais his clothes with a grin. “Sorry – you know I doan speak Eenglish so good.”
“Crap,” declared Awais, pulling his pants back on. “You speak English as well as any of us, so you don’t have to put on that silly accent. You wait till you lose – I’ll chuck your clothes over the wall, and then we’ll see how you like it.”
“I will not lose,” said Miguel, losing the exaggerated accent. “You know I am the best player here.”
“You wish,” said Tony and Kam in unison. They grinned at each other.
“Anyway, I am sorry,” said Miguel to Awais. “I should not tease you like that – you are brave to run without your clothes.”
Awais grunted. “Okay, so maybe I won’t throw your stuff over the wall,” he said, tying his laces. “So who’s going in goal next?”
There were no volunteers: none of the others had lost this game so far, and none showed any great enthusiasm for risking a bout of exposure now.
“Come on, someone has to,” said Awais. “Otherwise you’ll have to play rock-paper-scissors for it.”
“That’d be fair,” agreed Kam. “Okay, me and Tony, then Bilal and Miguel; losers play each other; loser of that game goes in goal. Fair enough?”
They agreed that it was, and Bilal ended up, unenthusiastically, going in goal. He really wasn’t sure about this: he was quite shy, the more so since his body had started to change with the onset of puberty, and he really didn’t want to undress in front of everyone, even though these were his friends. So he swore to himself that they weren’t going to score five goals, no matter what it took.
He couldn’t really do a lot of diving, since they were playing on tarmac, but he hurled himself about like a madman, blocking anything that was even remotely blockable. But every now and again one got past him, and when three had gone in the others started to tease him about how funny he was going to look running about in the altogether. But then Awais mis-hit a cross a little too close to the goal, and Bilal was able to jump and gather it in.
“Oh, come on, not again,” complained Awais. “I’ve done it once – there’s no point in doing it again.”
“There’s every point, if it teaches you to be more careful where you place your crosses,” retorted his brother.
“I think his punishment should be worse this time,” commented Tony. “Losing twice in a row has to deserve something extra.”
“Like what?” asked Awais, halfway through removing his shirt.
“I don’t know – what about for four circuits instead of two?”
“Well, it’s got to something extra, Tony’s right about that,” said Kam, and Miguel nodded vigorously.
“Well… okay, but I don’t fancy going there and back four times.”
“You do not have to run,” said Miguel. “You can walk if you want. Then you will not be tired.”
“No, thanks,” said Awais. “I want this over with quickly.”
“Then how about, you run there and back twice, like last time, but then you have to do twenty press-ups before you can get dressed again,” offered Tony.
“Fifteen, but they have to be proper ones.”
“Okay,” agreed Awais, putting the rest of his clothes back on the wall. “On condition that you don’t let Miguel sit on my clothes like he did before.”
“Okay,” agreed Miguel, and Awais darted off towards the far end of the car park once more. This time they hadn’t posted a sentry at the corner, so he stopped when he got there and peered around the corner before carrying on with his run. He completed the double circuit and dropped to the ground to start his press-ups, while the others crowded round and counted for him, disallowing any that weren’t done properly.
Miguel squatted down beside him and watched, insisting that Awais came all the way down between push-ups, and only allowing him to move up again once the tip of his penis had touched the ground. Miguel stared at it, fascinated, and soon he became aware that his own little penis had gone hard. When Awais finally finished his push-ups and stood up, Miguel had to turn away so that the bulge in his shorts was not obvious to everyone. Fortunately by the time Awais was dressed once more it had returned to its usual less obvious state.
Nobody wanted to risk losing another game, least of all Awais, who couldn’t imagine what would happen to him if he lost three in a row, and so they had another two against three match, keeping going with it until it was time to go home. Bilal made his way back to Jeremy’s house and checked his friend’s bedroom window: Jeremy’s old teddy bear was still leaning against the window, which was the signal that he was still locked away – he had positioned it there when he went to his room to get undressed immediately before being locked in the spare room. So Bilal moved a little way down the street, gave a sharp blast on his whistle and then made his way along the alleyway to the loose plank in the fence at the end of Jeremy’s garden.
Jeremy appeared at the window and waved at him, and he waved back.
“How much longer?” he signed, and Jeremy shrugged.
“They all say you’re an idiot,” Bilal told him.
Jeremy nodded in agreement, and then asked who was there.
Spelling everybody’s name letter by letter would have been very slow, so Jeremy and Bilal had devised a sort of shorthand, assigning a gesture to each member of the Collection. Bilal quickly cycled through the gestures that indicated Kam (hand held high – Kam was the tallest of them), Awais (both ears pushed forwards – Awais had a bad case of jug-ears), Tony (hand swept through the hair) and Miguel (both hands to one side, twitching an imaginary matador’s red cape).
Bilal didn’t feel up to describing Awais’s misfortunes in sign language, so he simply indicated that he was going home for tea and asked Tony to phone him when he got out. Tony nodded and waved goodbye, and then went back to the mattress feeling thoroughly fed up. Unless he could learn to control his tongue, he thought he’d probably spend the next five years at least having to rely on Bilal’s signed reports to find out everything that was happening in the world…
OK, so now we know that Jeremy's got problems, though quite how he's going to deal with them remains to be seen. In the next chapter we'll see what some of the other members of the Collection get up to when they're not playing football...
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