Out of the Frying Pan.
The word was out–Andy Sissons–was a dead man walking: okay, it was a slight exaggeration, but the Mojo gang was out to get him big time. The scene of this drama was the local comprehensive but playground stuff it wasn’t as serious violence had occurred twice before and in the latest episode, the boy concerned was gravely injured. He’d since left the school, withdrawn by parents who discovered that the headmaster and board of governors were both ineffectual and uninterested.
The Mojo gang, were a bunch of ne’er do wells, led by a large coloured boy called, Mikky Georgsson, who was at age fourteen, six feet tall and fifteen stone. He had pretty well beaten up anyone who got in his way, including the headmaster and the chair of the board of governors. They both found the experience so frightening that they agreed not to report it to the police, since when Georgsson had increased his personal power base. Two or three of the teachers had tried to stand up to him, but damage to their cars–while at home showed them to let the status quo remain, however much it upset them.
The Mojos were a disparate group of boys and girls mostly fourteen year olds but one or two younger ones as well who followed their mentors in thuggery. All wore a red scarf of some sort to show their allegiance. They got their kicks from bullying younger kids, stealing their money or extorting it as a protection racket, most of the kids paying between fifty pence and a pound a day to avoid getting beaten up.
These elite pond scum, as Andy had described them, were unpopular with everyone else outside their social group. Andy had annoyed them by refusing to pay the protection money because it meant he was missing out on his lunch–they took his dinner money–or used to.
Much to his mother’s surprise, Andy began making sandwiches to take for his lunch, usually with a piece of fruit or a chocolate bar. Being relatively small compared to the Mojos, he didn’t need huge quantities of food, and besides he studied dance as a hobby and had done since he was small. He loved all sorts of dance, and performing made him feel alive. He was too small to make a top male ballet dancer, because it was unlikely he’d be able to lift a partner–but he was good at what he did, and he stayed modest about his abilities.
We’ve all heard urban myths about yobbos harassing dancers and finding out they were extremely fit and strong for their size, the equivalent of good athletes. In Cord Waltham Comprehensive–Codswallop, to the locals–it was no myth. Terry Munroe, a large boy of Irish extraction found out the hard way that Andy was strong and fit for his size. Munroe had fancied himself as a boxer and when he set upon Andy, the smaller boy proved a very difficult target, being lithe and agile, he caused the larger lout to punch the wall twice while he rolled over a desk and tipped it onto the aggressor’s feet and legs. He broke two toes.
Andy was also fast and could outrun any or all of the Mojos, and thus stayed mostly out of harm’s way. However, the day he refused to pay Garfield Rogers, Georgesson’s self styled second in command–he couldn’t spell or pronounce lieutenant–his dinner money, and then ran away, his card was marked.
When he managed to avoid being assaulted by Georgsson by leaping onto a desk and running down the classroom on the tops of the desks before dashing out the door–he was becoming a legend in his own lunchtime. Those children who were tired of the Mojo thugs taking their money, began to cheer Andy as their own Robin Hood and in several near misses, they’d helped him escape the clutches of the Mojos. However, his time was running out as both Mojos and the school hierarchy found him an embarrassment.
It was known he did dance and that he got time off school for practice, the equivalent of his games period, his mother had helped him make a strong case to show he was getting plenty of exercise and not only that but he could also explain the theory behind the exercises he did–which muscle groups he was stretching or strengthening, and why.
Sonia his mother, worked as a supervisor in the local supermarket, where she was tipped as management material. She was bright, personable and had a charm which saved her employer thousands in smoothing ruffled feathers of customers who were in dispute with the store.
It was a big store, employing a hundred of the locals, who stacked shelves, collected trolleys, served on checkouts or washed the floors. The problem with Sonia trying to make good her lack of education and subsequent opportunity, was that she worked long hours, then spent ages doing NVQ studies when she wasn’t working in the store. Andy accepted she was trying to do the best for them, and rarely complained, and he never told her about the bullying he got in school or his recent stand against them. In return she supported his dance hobby by paying his subscriptions and tutorial fees. He did a paper round to pay for any costumes or shoes he needed.
So the Mojos had him down as Fred Astaire, though they treated him with a contempt which questioned his masculinity, only poofters do dance, except when jogging about on the dance floor with a girl. But at the last school dance, Andy showed them up by doing a John Travolta stint with one of the girls who also went to dance classes, who played Olivia Newton-John to his performance–when they then went into Dirty Dancing routine, the whole school was clapping them and whistling them. It didn’t last long and instead of being seen as a talented dancer, Andy was seen as a rebel and a maverick something the Mojos couldn’t let happen.
It was a Wednesday afternoon when Andy set off for his usual practice session, while the rest of his year had games. However, this time the Mojos were out to intercept him and show him the error of his ways.
Twice he eluded them, but that meant heading back towards school and ultimately a trap. They chased him up and down corridors and finally, the only place of refuge was the girl’s changing room. He had no choice–he pulled open the door and dashed in.
Once the hullabaloo died down and Andy explained his situation, the girls would have hidden him, except Mandy Tompkins, who was a Mojo wannabe and she denounced him to the following posse.
They dragged him away, to wails of horror and cries of discontent, to face his nemesis, Mikky Georgsson. When the latter discovered his hiding place, he stopped his goons beating the poor lad senseless, instead he had a better idea.
“So, little poofter, you wanna hang out in the girl’s changin’ rooms, do ya?” He called two of his female acolytes and gave them instructions, they ran off giggling.
Andy feared for his life, they had broken someone’s arm before now, if they hurt his legs, he could lose his chance to become a professional dancer, which was all he dreamt of.
The girls returned with several carrier bags. “Right, Ginjah bleedin’ Rogers, you have a choice, we can beat the crap out of you, I mean beat it out of that fairy body, or you can save yourself, by doin’ somefin’ else as a punishment.”
Andy was trembling with fear. “What d’you mean–something else?” His mouth and throat were dry and his voice was embarrassingly squeaky.
“We in’t gonna tell you unless you choose it, so it’s eiver a beatin’ or somefin else.”
“How can I choose if I don’t know what it is?” Andy’s voice remained squeaky despite his attempt to clear his throat.
“It in’t a beatin’, you jus’ gotta go to ol’ Crambourne and tell ’im somefin’, fats all.”
“I’ve just got to go to the headmaster and tell him something? That’s it?”
“Fats what I said innit?”
“There’s no trick?”
“Would I do fat to you, Ginja?”
The answer was obviously yes, but it’s harder to fight back if they have just broken your arms and legs and left you looking for your teeth. Georgsson nodded to the two thugs holding Andy, and they jerked his arms behind his back until he screamed in pain.
“I’m waitin’ for your answer, Ginja,” Georgsson said menacingly, grabbing the boy’s longish hair and yanking it.
“Alright, alright, I’ll do it–I’ll do it,” Andy called out, tears running down his face as they pushed him to the ground. He rubbed his painful shoulders as he knelt on the floor waiting for sentence to be passed.
“Right, get ya cloves off, and put vese on,” the carrier bags were dropped in front of him. He looked into the bags and was horrified to see a bra and panties and school skirt amongst other bits and pieces.
He hesitated and they began tearing his uniform off–he beat them off and stripped off himself to wolf whistles from the larger boys. Then with tears running down his face he donned the girl’s uniform. He stood looking at the floor his eyes still blurred with tears as Georgsson spoke.
“Right, go and see Crambourne an’ tell him ya gonna come ta school as a girl from now on, and you wanna be called, uh, lessee, somefin’ feminine, yeah, Nancy. ’Ere, put some makeup on ’er.”
As they marched Andy to the head’s room, Georgsson growled to him quietly, “If we catch ya out of dresses ’n’ fin’s, you’re dead meat, girly,” he twisted his arm sharply, “got it?”
“What ya gonna tell ’im?”
“I want to come to school as a girl.”
“Yeah, and what else?”
“I want them to change my name to Nancy Sissons.”
“Right, you betta do as we agreed or we’ll still break ya bleedin’ legs–’n’ I guess it would be ’ard to dance wiv two broken legs, woul’n it?”
Andy could hardly stop from crying, surely the head would stop this when he told him what had happened.
“Oh ’n’ for security, we got ya on video puttin’ fa cloves on, so don’t try an’ tell him nuffin’ diff’rent or else, girly.”
They knocked on the head’s door and his voice called enter, Andy was pushed into the room and the door closed behind him. As he entered the room the head’s mobile rang and the film of Andy putting on the girl’s clothes was sent to him. It meant he didn’t believe Andy was coerced in any way, so he granted the boy’s unusual request, that he would wear the girl’s uniform to school from now on and be known as Nancy. He also said, rather hollowly, that he’d do his best to prevent unnecessary teasing if he could.
Andy staggered out of the room into the arms of the waiting thugs, who wrapped a red chiffon scarf round his neck and sent him on his way. Instead of his dance class he ran home as fast as he could, hoping his mother was still in work. She wasn’t and he almost ran into her in his haste to get to his room and change.
She listened in astonishment as he told her what had happened, and she bid him wait while she phoned the school. The headmaster insisted that her son hadn’t been coerced but had come to see him and explained quite coherently that he wanted to be a girl. Sonia wasn’t sure what to believe, and when the headmaster sent on the film of Andy dressing in the uniform, she was even more confused.
Andy feeling betrayed by the one person who should have supported him, ran up to his room and threw himself on the bed, resolving to kill himself before the morning. He undressed and fell into an exhausted sleep which his mother woke him from the next morning–she’d pressed the previously crumpled girl’s uniform and handed it to him after he’d showered.
“What’re you doing? I can’t wear that?” he shouted at her, “I’d rather be dead.”
“From what I understand, that could well happen. Wear it for today, play them at their own game, show them you’re not scared–while we think of a way to beat them.”
“You can’t beat them? They’re animals.”
“There has to be a way, just go along with this until we can do something. I’m meeting with some of the other girl’s mothers later on.”
“Other girls? I’m a boy, remember?”
“Yes, Andy, I brought you into this world, I remember alright.” She looked at him in the girl’s uniform and thought it looked better on him than it should. She played with his hair and tied it up in a high ponytail. He grumbled, but she countered with, “Look, we need to lull them into a false sense of security–let them think they’ve won.”
“Yeah, but it’s not you who’s got to go out there looking like a twit.”
“I know, but believe me, darling, you look anything but a twit. Treat it like a dance role, like you did that time you had to fill in for one of the girls.”
“Yeah, but nobody knew me then and I was so made up even you didn’t recognise me.”
She put a little makeup on him despite his protests, and in moments her son disappeared and a girl emerged. Sonia was astonished that the willowy, graceful child in front of her was a boy–not only that but he was pretty as well.
She walked her daughter to school, to show her support and also to make sure he went, then after seeing him into the building she met up with two other mums.
Andy survived the first day, despite some teasing, although loads of kids knew why he was wearing skirts–the Mojos couldn’t keep secret anything for very long. Then the next week, Sonia handed Andy a blue scarf to wear–he was puzzled until he saw several other kids wearing them, boys as well as girls.
Then the next week Andy, who was getting used to wearing a skirt, saw two other boys in skirts, inside he saw several others. At lunch time, he saw the BBC van outside and a group of parents gathering. The be-skirted boys with their blue scarves were gathered together with their parents and they denounced the school and the gang of thugs who terrorised the place to the cameras and the reporters waiting for the unusual tale they told.
Andy was stood in the centre and praised as the boy who brought it all to a head. The next day, as he arrived at the school in his skirt again, the place was different. A new headmaster greeted them all at assembly, telling them first that the Mojos had been suspended and anyone who had information for the police about their activities should see him afterwards.
Crambourne had resigned in disgrace after the BBC reported it on the local news bulletin–then it went national–and Andy was asked to speak to the news teams again. In the headmaster’s office he was filmed, still in the girl’s uniform and answered questions with the new headmaster there as a support.
“So now the thugs have been cleared out, you won’t have to wear a skirt ever again, will you?” asked the young woman reporter.
“Um–I don’t know,” replied Andy–“they are quite comfortable when you get used to them.”
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