by Blake Dawson* <>

From the Preface to Chapter 1:

If you like to read this kind of story but are concerned about possible legal implications, work to change the law! If you don’t, why are you here?

*Blake Dawson is the person the otherwise anonymous author would be if “trading places” became magically possible.

Chapter 19: Marvel

With the initial rush of getting ready for the season starting to fade, I started finding in cricket the same kind of problems I was finding at school, being expected to lead without any kids around me I could really lean on for support. Even Robbie Vander was in the other class and he was not even thinking about cricket, where he would have been in Under 14s anyway, and nor was Corey French who had become an increasingly useful channel to the rest of the school where I remained a bit more acceptable than with my age peers. And those problems were only amplified at cricket by the only two players close to my ability, Rusty and Aaron, playing up their rivalry at any opportunity.

I was saddled with Rusty as vice captain and he went so far as to let me know that he thought that as I had my turn the year before, it should have been his turn. That really only convinced me that he had no real idea what a captain could and should do, and, as I had every confidence that Graham was not about to reign in those ropes, I became more and more the chess master shuffling pawns while dreaming of Knights and Castles and Kings and Queens ... and Bishops. I eventually enlisted Graham’s support to help me work through issues with Rusty in particular, which I saw as being exaggerated by he and Aaron always being together and never being around outside the mandatory hours for training and matches and going to another school, but we had not achieved much in that direction before things boiled over in a totally unexpected way.

The other thing that increasingly annoyed me was a nick name that I knew was around even as training got underway, but which started to be used to my face whenever any of several kids in the team felt disinclined to do what they were asked. And it was exacerbated by my inability to find any real touch with the bat. For a while I just assumed that it was a going away present from Joey Mantari, seeing as it that was about the speed his brain generally worked at, and he was more than happy to use it at our Monday night extra practice sessions which persisted in spite of their tensions. I soon realised that it also might have come from Rusty and Aaron, and much later that it could have been almost anybody and I was never likely to find out. But “Cap’n Marvel” it was, and for the season it was in fashion it made the kind of inverted sense that Australian’s make calling any red head “Bluey”. And I still hated it.

We were still not close enough to the end of the year for my liking when I decided to put an end to a night of disturbed sleep by getting up way early and going round to our cricket ground in the confident expectation of being alone long enough to soak up some of its still sacred atmosphere before the first of the kids arrived for another day’s play. That plan came unstuck when I found Aaron already settled in with his whites looking like he had slept in them. For a moment I hoped I might have chanced on an opportunity to get past the barriers that had grown between us. I spent weeks rehashing my choice of words only to learn years later why no choice of words would have made any difference to how things unfolded that morning.

Everything was something to be argued about. Then as the first other kids started to show he walked past and took a swipe which landed innocuously on my shoulder, I half threw a hand back at him which he greatly exaggerated the impact from and snarled: “Later.” Rusty soon arrived looking perplexed, spotted Aaron and rushed to his side: “What’s the matter?” “Him,” his head jerked my direction. Rusty clenched his fists and tried to look threatening. “Look. Don’t worry. It’s my problem ... and I’ll sort it out.”

Graham soon had the team getting ready for the game, and the outward signs of hostility disappeared, with Rusty bottling up his lack of knowledge and wild fantasies so much that he did not speak a word to me all morning. The team itself played a lot better than our recent form had suggested, mainly thanks to a big partnership between Aaron and me throughout which all our communications were completely cordial.

But when Rusty went to grab Aaron for his traditional lift home, it was his turn to cop the mixed message: “I don’t want a lift today, thanks anyway. I’ve got something to sort out here.” He again half gestured in my direction at which Rusty again shackled. “Look please just go mate. Thanks. But it’s my problem.” Rusty knew better than to keep his parents waiting and only had time to mutter “Fucking arsehole!” in my direction as he departed. Finally with only a couple of kids we hardly knew left waiting for lifts, Aaron walked over to me and punched me very gently in the ribs. I instinctively realised that I should overreact and respond in kind while suggesting we move to the grassy area beside the clubrooms which is out of sight from most directions. I even showed him where to leave our bags so it would be obvious we were still around if anybody was looking, but they would not get pinched.

We threw some more harmless punches until it became a wrestle on the ground in which every time we almost relaxed and enjoyed it I felt another jab in the ribs or knee in the thigh and he even got me to the point where I would do likewise whenever his hold on me got too tight. All this we peppered with expletives that never sounded quite personal but more directed at the world in general which certainly matched my mood. After quite a while, and a few conspicuous checks on our bags, and that we attracted no more than passing spectators, he suddenly slipped my hold, sprung to his feet and landed a reasonably forceful kick on my butt. Obviously I was meant to chase him and try to get him back, but I did not anticipate he would stop and prop so my kick landed square, nor was I willing to believe that it had enough force to do the damage it was soon inescapable that he had clearly suffered. He choked a scream but could not block his tears of physical pain, but would not let me close enough to show the real concern I had, even when a couple of times I feared he might have lost consciousness. But he eventually became confident he would survive, although it had certainly brought to an end the attempts at fighting and we moved to where we would notice any arrivals: “I’ll pay you back. Why don’t you just fuck off and leave me?” For once in my life I didn’t answer because I knew he knew he didn’t need an answer. Then just behind the first couple of senior players’ cars arriving for the afternoon matches a car I did not recognise but he clearly did pulled in and he was gone without another word.