Ginny. Part 2. the stranglers’ underpants
And it was that Summer, death of mother, metamorphosis from boy into girl and back again, that Ginny and Charles posted a notice on the board of Claire’s Roadside Café offering 5-7 year olds, “a once in a lifetime opportunity at a knockdown price”:
Latin lessons and open sea swimming.
Charles’s father, something of a Roman at heart, had taught Charles Latin when he was barely out of nappies. It was Ginny, of course, son of a cup-diver, who was the swimmer.
Charles lived with his father in an extremely narrow and dilapidated house situated between the lifeguard station and the school for the blind. On a daily basis burly lifeguards in sleek bulging Speedos, easier to read than blasted Braille, would direct willowy blind people to the correct doorway never understanding it was they themselves who were being taken for a ride.
Charles’s father, apart from being a Roman scholar, was a mapmaker. And with this in mind, the Winter before all this happened, in a fit of self-promotion, he had changed the family name to Atlas.
So overnight Charles Macawber had become Charles Atlas, like the Italian American bodybuilder with the fabulous body who had named himself after the statue of Atlas on top of a Coney Island hotel.
It was the tossing of a gauntlet.
Boys drunk on Bullshot (vodka, beer broth, Worcestershire sauce) would come in packs to the Charles’s house, hang outside smoking pendulous roll-ups talking about boners and latest Airfix models, the Golden Hind, the Cutty Sark, HMS Victory, until Charles made an appearance. Then they would take it in turns to knock him to the ground and declare themselves the defeater of Atlas, the bravest of the brave, the strongest man in the universe etc. Etc.
It was after one such beating, both his eyes black, his lip as split as one of the banana desserts served in the Summer months from Gino’s Frozen Gelatos, that Ginny, with the idea of distracting his friend from his own woes, made his confession, what happened after midnight.
“What an actual girl? Like Jane Fonda in On Golden Pond or Mr. Singh’s oversexed wife, ferrying men to her in taxis from Poulton-le-Fylde every time Mr Singh went out of town on business?”
Ginny demurred, tried not to look like Grace Kelly looking out to sea, headscarf fluttering femininely in the gentle breeze.
“Meet me on the mudflats,” Ginny said finally, “stroke of midnight. I’ll show you.”
Charles was the cleverest person Ginny knew. As well as Latin he could mould wax into any shape; dolphins, angels, a hummingbird with its beak inside a flower.
And so it was later, effect achieved, dick to no dick, Ginny said that if Charles could help him with his problem then in turn he would get Charles twelve pairs of worn underpants.
Post being boffed regularly to the ground Charles had developed an obsession with the Stasi, the former East German secret police.
Scouring their records he had come across numerous articles regarding their collecting and storing of underpants in glass jars in underground bunkers and had come to the conclusion that if he collected a single pair of underpants from all the boys in town he might be able to track, through his acute sense of smell or that of a suitable tracker dog, not only where the boys had been but also where they might be.
“Then I won’t be beaten so much. Quad erat demonstrandum.”
Two days later Ginny approached Lenny ‘the Lynx’ Lomax at Claire’s Roadside Café.
Lomax was 6’ 2’’, had once won best dressed cowboy at the Poulton-le-Fylde annual hoedown and now worked with Ginny’s father on the same graveyard shift as a gravedigger.
Lomax, and this was what Ginny was fingering him for, was also the coach of the Saltburn-by-the-Sea basketball team, The Saltburn Stranglers.
“I want to be in the team,” said Ginny.
“You,” said Lomax and had looked down at Ginny as if he might be seeing a tiny dot at the end of a telescope.
“No space for a short-arse,” he said and then, over the flat of one of Claire’s cinnamon rolls, said that he did have a range of brand new staplers if Ginny was interested.
As well as heading the Stranglers Lomax worked part time in the Saltburn stationary shop, Pencils Anonymous, and was always trying to sell innocent bystanders gummed envelopes or those tiny rubbers you put on the end of your fingers to more successfully count money or agitate the bottoms of small monkeys.
Ginny, who wasn’t normally confident said confidently, “I know about the stockings.”
In one of their weekly share-sessions, instituted after the death of Ginny’s mother, Ginny’s father had told him how one night he had come across Lomax digging the graves in nothing but a pair of sheer black stockings and a blond wig, listening to Dolly Parton through its built in Walkman.
Bridling, Lomax shoved the rest of the bun in his mouth.
“We leave from the Chip’s Chips at 7pm Friday. If you really want to join the Stranglers be there. But I warn you, if you can’t dribble straight it’ll be on your own head.”
After a competition on SBTSR, Saltburn-by-the-Sea’s local radio station, the basketball bus had been painted green and yellow like The Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo. the Stranglers themselves were disappointed. They wanted blood-red and a fang / tooth design across the front bumper.
Ginny had always been scared of the Stranglers, long-legged kids with speech impediments, hare lips and homemade tattoos. On weekdays after school they hung out under the pier and shoved cold chips up their noses and made zombie-like noises at the tourists from the neighbouring towns walking the boards above them who had come to visit the Foetus Museum or to watch the nuclear power plant being built out across the mudflats.
Huge cranes littered the sky.
Their arms swung preposterously, afraid of no one, not even Godzilla should he choose to appear.
There was just one genius amongst the Stranglers, Brains. He did the tactics on the back of a Lucky Strike cigarette packet. He could smoke one of those slender sticks with his anus, puffing out perfect rings while whistling a theme tune of your choice. That’s how he had got his nickname. It was quite a trick, not for the feeble-minded.
Ginny peered out from one of the Mystery Machine’s windows but secretly was staring at his own staring reflection.
His mother had called him her beautiful boy and saved his long eye lashes when they fell out in an old humbug tin. She had had a fascination with eunuchs, books about men who had been born without their private parts, or who chose to have them removed in expensive Swiss clinics.
She liked to watch the Olympics on television but was only interested in the Soviet teams, pointing out the athletes who had undergone hormone treatment or something she called ‘its opposite’.
“Like me?” thought Ginny.
They were entering Poulton-le-Fylde, the skyline of this mega city dominated by factory buildings, their chimneys pumping out thick smoke, each stack adorned with big white letters, reading downwards, always a duplicate word:
E V A N S
On the High Street it was the same thing.
There was EVANS SAUSAGE ROLLS, EVANS ROLLMOPS, EVANS KEBABS, EVANS FISH & COSTUME SHOP, EVANS GIFTS. Even on the church, a poster outside, EVANS WILL SAVE YOU, APPLY WITHIN.
The bus moved slowly through the Friday night crowds, boys in leather jackets and girls on heels so high they looked like they were on stilts.
The game was in a stadium shaped like a goldfish bowl. The car park was full of Standard Vanguards and Vauxhall Crestas with flame designs on the bonnets. Programmes (16p) were available from carts on either side of the entrance, along with rolls of wallpaper featuring a basketball player design (89p), replica basketballs with the name EVANS stamped on them (£1), key-rings in the shape of slick sports shoes (32p), tiny plaster busts of EVANS (£1.01p), team stickers (3p each), opera glasses (66p), t-shirts with an image of LeRoy Dwayne Lefebvre (Poulton-le-Fylde’s most famous player) (89p), snow globes (23p), fridge magnets (24p), rattles (50p), maracas (50p), paper cups (2p), notepads (9p), ‘crack’ scratchers (23p), a set of ten tokens for EVANS TRAMWAYS (£1.60), maps of the stadium (59p), kazoos you could put up your bum to make your farts loud (12p), hand knitted willy warmers (45p), sets of commemorative postcards (8p for 6, 10p for 10), stink bombs (53p), LeRoy Dwayne Lefebvre face masks (14p), commemorative bangles (33p), visitor guides to Poulton-le-Fylde (99p), a history of EVANS INDUSTRIES (£3), a collection of Arthur D Clarke short stories (76p), a quasi-religious powder you could put on your willy to make it glow in the dark (99p), inflatable basketballs (50p), a basketball board game (£1.56), EVANS odour eaters (£1.26), EVANS china tea cups and saucers (£2.50), a guide to Japanese WW2 aircraft (76p).
Ginny watched the other boys get changed into their kit and then said to Lomax he had taken a turn for the worse and would sit this one out.
Lomax shook his head sadly and took out a handkerchief shaped like a kipper.
“If I find out,” he said threateningly. “I’ve got a pony riding on this one.”
Ginny waited until he heard the roars for the home team, the boos for their team and then he went around the changing area and collected up the underpants.
As instructed he put each pair in a separate paper bag.
This was to stop cross contamination.
It was on the train on the way home that Ginny felt himself turning into a girl.
He went to the toilet and locked himself inside. He usually liked to be asleep when it happened because it wasn’t a pleasant sensation, like being turned inside out, or when you let a stranger at the cinema put his fingers up your bum in return for a Choc Ice or a Chelsea bun.
After it was all over Ginny took out the bags containing the underpants and held them up to the light one by one.
He was trying to see if he had any sexual inclination towards them.
If he was a girl then he supposed he should… Or maybe that would mean he was a boy who liked other boys.
He had heard of such things at school.
Boys who would pledge themselves to each other one day and then turn up the next day their bodies connected to each other by numerous lengths of string.
He put his hand inside his shirt and felt his breasts. They were both soft and firm at the same time, and the feeling was not altogether unpleasant. One day he would use them to breastfeed. He sat on the toilet and thought of names for his baby:
He didn’t mind if it would be a boy or a girl.
Read Part 3