In the old days, before Lorraine Primary built the new section, the school was basically just a quad with classrooms running around it.
The kindergarten classes were in a wing running off the one side, and the headmaster’s office opposite that. So it was really like a big capital A. But if you write a A like the Germans do, with a square section at the top.
And we were in the corner where the right-hand ascender meets the crossbar. Standard One. Miss Jonker.
Break times, well, they happen in the quad, mos. In the netball court. Girls playing that game where they loop a length of pantihose around their legs, and the other girls jump over it. The boys play stingers.
Well, most of the boys. This one little kid didn’t play stingers. He wore his blazer buttoned up, even in the middle of summer. And he was a bit chubby, so we called him Bacon.
He just sat there on the benches, watching us. He must have been Sub B.
We were merciless. “Come on, Bacon. Why don’t you come play stingers? Are you scared? Bacon! Bacon! Why don’t you go play pantihose with the girls!”
Until he ran off and cried into Mrs Bruwer’s dress.
We were like assassins. Like torturers. Mass murderers, we were that cruel.
Bacon was new. Within weeks of his arrival, we’d been called in by Mr Van Rooyen and told to stop calling him Bacon. We didn’t. We smelt blood and we went in for the kill. We were like sharks circling our prey, there in the corner of the quad near the netball net, where Bacon used to sit, all by himself, in his blazer.
“Hey, Bacon! Are you coming to rugby practice after school? Or are you gonna play netball? Did you remember your netball skirt, Bacon? Hey Bacon?”
We were just stabbing him in the heart, this little boy who’d come from Sunridge, or Rowellan Park, or Kabega or wherever, without any friends. And we just broke him down.
Bacon didn’t come back for the second term.
And I know it was because of us. We broke him down and chased him away. We never even bothered to learn his name. It might’ve been Grant, but it probably wasn’t. We were such little arseholes.
And perhaps we were afraid of him. We’d never seen individuality before. Never seen anyone resist the peer pressure to conform and go along with the group. So we looked at him, found something distinctive and picked at it until we chased him away.
I just hope it didn’t last.
I hope moved to Charlo, and it was a hundred times better and he made lots of friends and he grew up well adjusted and happy.
And most of all, I’d like to say sorry to you, sir, the boy we called Bacon. I apologise. We didn’t know how much we’d hurt you. But rest assured, we got our turn later in life, and we learnt our lesson.
Crumbs, man, Bacon. You’ve haunted me all my life.