by Mark Sheerin
There were photos in the playground, photos in the bogs, photos on the inside of desks. But in fact they were photocopies, black and white versions of the original. Because the master was back in the photocube and the cube was back at Rick’s, and you know we never went there again.
500 copies got made, all showing a man in a poncho with a thick moustache, long 1970s hair and the brooding look of a killer. You had no choice but to laugh, so that’s what we did, from the moment we first saw it to the moment Badger stole the cube and made all those copies and handed them out around school. We hung out at Rick’s a lot so it was no way to pay him back. He was cool enough to have us round to sit on the family sofas and skin up and smoke weed. I heard he once got the belt for cutting class. But apparently they didn’t care about the drugs.
It was his dad in the photo, a six foot plus Yorkshireman who we understood to be a psychotherapist. That alone was funny. We never met him in person, but I got him on the phone once or twice. He sounded scary, so I held it together. His look in the photo was so dated and so dark, it would crack us up every time. And after one or two spliffs, someone would always get the cube and pass it around. Before long all of us would be in stitches and Rick would always go very, very quiet. Of course that was part of the whole comedy value. “Get the cube!” someone would say and the word itself was enough to set us off.
Badger got the copies done in the library and said it was for a project. In a way it was. The pictures of Rick’s father fluttering down a school corridor would have made a good art piece. Many were quick to want in on the joke and the copies were collected as trophies to be stuck on books and so forth. But those who didn’t get the joke became all aggressive. In fact Badger was screamed at by Winterburn who it seemed had a major problem with the whole thing. But Rick never got aggressive. He never spoke to us again, but he was never aggressive.
I only mention it all, because I saw him again the other week. He was waiting on the London platform for a train. He was dressed in a suit and reading a serious paper. I wasn’t sure it was him, ‘cos he looked older than you would think. But then he looked at me with a dark look from a decade or so past, which I recognised immediately.
And then I thought of my own father, all of a sudden. Just imagine if it had been him in the cube. Just imagine if it had been your father. It really doesn’t bear thinking about.
Mark Sheerin writes journalism in Brighton and blogs about contemporary art at www.criticismism.com
#1 by S de Assaf on January 14, 2011 - 9:53 am
Subtle and well rounded. I liked it very much. Lovely piece of writing.
#2 by Sandra on January 14, 2011 - 10:15 am
Really enjoyed this piece. A concise illustration of the breathtaking cruelty of youth, and the realisation of one’s own insensitivity. Excellent!
#3 by Sandra Davies on January 18, 2011 - 5:24 am
I really enjoyed this – solid and deep and sensitive – and ‘a dark look from a decade or so past’ was lovely.
#4 by Fiona Glass on January 18, 2011 - 4:19 pm
Very thought-provoking, especially the last line. Kids’ pranks can back-fire so easily – I’m sure we’ve all been there…