Solo time again in the regular series of offerings from author Eden Baylee and myself. The prompt for this one is: There were seventeen cats living in Larry’s basement.
This is my response to it. You’ll find Eden’s here.
I think it’s fair to say that my upbringing was unconventional. By that I don’t mean any disrespect for my parents or the rest of my family; it’s just that the district we lived in seemed to sort of breed eccentrics. Windy Geech, for example, or Maud Brimacombe, Elsie Worth, the Sammels sisters – none of them was normal. In the pub, Windy Geech’s order was always for a pint of beer, but never in a single glass, always in two halves. And he wasn’t called Windy because of farting or burping or anything. No, it was because he always wore a hat and had lots of thick hair sticking out the sides and back of it and one day it was blowing a gale and his hat blew off and on top he was completely bald. He had all this thick, dark hair round the edges but a blindingly white skull cap.
So, you see, all these folks weren’t weird in any mad or dangerous way, but just… well, they were not like people on telly, or in films and books. I lived in the pub they used so I saw – or more correctly, heard – them every night except Sunday.
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They’d start about 9 o’clock, singing songs I knew well in the end, although they weren’t the sort of things you heard on the radio in those rock and roll days. I think they said they were by Bing Crosby and Doris Day. I don’t suppose many of the kids at my school knew them.
But it’s not them I want to talk about. They were all… well, not old but not young either. I just wonder if having grown-ups like that made all of us kids decide we had to be different, too. Joanie Russell always wore different shoes – one black, one brown or a trainer and a school shoe. She knew she’d get away with it and wouldn’t be bullied or anything because most of the rest of us tried to do weird things with different sorts of clothes. Ricky Lander even wore dresses and skirts. And Derek Robbins, who came from Cornwall, always wore a kilt on Sundays. In fact, none of us looked like normal kids so, in a way, it wasn’t really weird. Then, one summer term, a new boy came to our school and was in our class. His name was Larry Davidson.
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At first, there didn’t seem anything weird about him at all. He’d come from somewhere up north and I suppose at first he must have thought everybody in the West Country was a nutter. He didn’t say anything about the clothes we were wearing or the stupid things we did. Most of us just thought maybe where he was from everybody was like that. Sort of normal, I suppose. In class, he just sat quiet all the time, listening to the teachers. He was very good at drawing, especially animals, so he got good marks. Most of the boys thought he was a wimp. He didn’t play football or cricket. But he was popular with the girls. In fact, Sandra Buxton said she fancied him. But she thought Little Richard was sexy so none of the boys took much notice of her. Anyway, I don’t know how it happened but, in the end, the way he was – all quiet, ordinary, normal – sort of made him seem more weird than the rest of us with all our deliberate differences. Ricky Swann invented all sorts of names for him, tried to get him into fights and stuff, but it never worked.
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So, in the end, we stopped taking much notice of him. Nothing seemed to upset or bother him, not even Sandra Buxton. She went out with him for a while… Well, it wasn’t really ‘going out’. They never went anywhere. She just walked home from school with him. He lived a couple of streets away from her, but she made it seem as if it was special. But then, near the end of term, coming up for Christmas… things changed.
For most of the term Ricky Swann had been calling Sandra Mrs Davidson. She didn’t seem to mind. Quite liked it in a way. But one Thursday in early December, when she arrived and there was no sign of Larry, Ricky began his usual ‘Morning Mrs Dav..’, but she didn’t smile or say anything or even let him finish. She slapped him. Hard. Her face was red and she was crying and she just walked straight into class and sat down. Then, later that day, a policeman came to talk to Mrs Jones, our headmistress. My mum told me later what it was all about. He’d said there were seventeen cats living in Larry’s basement. Well, not living. They were all dead.