He milked his victory till teatime. He said he wouldn’t let the likes of us have a go on any of his things : « Not on my nelly ». He wouldn’t even bring them out to show us, saying we’d seen them come out the lorry so we didn’t need to see them again. Neither was he the slightest bit interested in our own belongings, so we took him down the pond, our half-acre paradise.
« There’s tench ‘n roach, » we said, pointing through the scum and oil slicks into its few stinking feet of green water. We loved our pond, its rats and stunted fishes, moggies, frogs and sticklebacks.
« Well, whaddya fink ? » we asked, genuinely hoping his clever tackle might hook its best.
« It’s just an old dump, he said. « Christ, I’ve fished in bigger puddles than this dirty old rat-hole. Look, it’s full of rusty prams. »
« So what ? » we said, not bothering to mention Don Ham’s stock car parked on the bottom.
« Jeepers creepers, » Milky said, « I’m not fishing here for a start. I bet it’s full of disease. I can fish in Moat Park Lake in Maidstone whenever I want. It’s over a mile long… »
Milky wasn’t even a seven-day wonder. By teatime even big-heart Skinny loathed Milky’s guts. Milky called him a clot and shot him up the arse with his own catapult, snapping the elastic and saying it wasn’t much cop if it wasn’t rubber, like his own toy-shop window Diawa.
It wasn’t his place to humiliate and criticize like that. Our village wasn’t his place at all and the sooner we found a way to show him the better. We tried not bothering with him, but childhood knows few resolutions. Boys spin like weathercoks and have more faith in the moment than the principle. By chance our everyday life excluded him by nature ; fishing disease ridden ponds ; « exploring » which meant wading up a two mile stretch of sewer stream where you weren’t allowed to put your welly on the bank till the end. Anything mucky and he’d stay in the garden polishing his bike with Turtle Wax.
But he did join in now and again, and he was impervious to our own efforts at swagger. He just wearied us with his ball-hogging and wild shots at simple goalies wearing spectacles, his unsporting yorkers, his boasting about his famous past. He never produced anything which impressed us for its actual skill, and any obvious fluke or mis-kick was met with his pet bluster : « I did that on purpose ».
Once or twice he got up a bike ride or a fishing trip of his own, but I never went along. Daz said he rode like Cycling Proficiency, barking out the rules of the road, coming home alone, abandoned and ostracized after reaching the destination regardless, like a missionary. He never did fish down the pond, but he started to spoil Ockley Pool instead. This was a tiny mill-stream waterfall full of wild trout and eels which we all shared with good grace, more or less. But Milky started getting bites everytime we weren’t looking. Then one day he caught a two-pounder, only none of us were there at all. The biggest we’d ever seen was about 12ozs. Down Bodiam he lost a biggun, somehow right under our eyes without any of us noticing. Anything we caught he called a tiddler. And meanwhile his superiority gleamed in the sun as our cane rods warped, our unoilable reels clacked like a flock of ducks. Him and his ball-bearing precision world was even having our dopey mums say : « Why can’t you behave like that nice Melvyn for once… » What, lie and cheat and mock ?
Mocking he shone at.. « Old Egdod Makchap » he’d call Dodge Packham. I was Cirdec Yill, to become Sir Deck Yill. I didn’t get it so he called me a « gib loof ».
« Ask me where my Dad’s been working », he’d say.
« Where ? »
« No, not Ware, Hoo » and he’d howl at our ignorent expressions. We’d heard of none of these places. We’d been nowhere. We didn’t want to go anywhere, but Milky’s strange language mocked our village world. He was beyond us and he knew it.
« Ynnicks tog a wen skid-lid morf retap Ynnicks… »
We had no use for this sidewinding language. We spoke directly in our own tongue which till then had never let us down. Milky made us doubt ourselves, like our flies were always undone and he was looking down and catching us out. His dad even let him say « bloody » as long as it was in that cowboy drawl, said in humour and never in anger. And he’d point at Skinny’s feet on the turf and say : « Sod », with intended results, the English lesson which always followed hurt arguments.
It was August Bank Holiday, and Secondary Modern was a week away. We went up the crossroads to watch all the cars back from the coast jam on Highgate Hill. Dodge’s big brother Malc was jossed up astride the railings with a massive radio on his shoulder like a coal sack, the music scraped out into the hot, dry leaden dust as Malc jerked his neck and shoulders like a chicken, half chewing, half singing :
And they called it…purppy lur-ur-ur-urve….
Then Milky went by with his fishing rod, put away in the cloth bag, a green fishing harversack on his shoulder.
« Cawt any old boots lately ? » Malc shouted out.
« I caught a one and a half pounder ».
« What wazzat then, a surgical boot ? »
« No, a brown trout, fathead ».
Malc shoved the radio at me and went to leap off the railings at him. But it was hot, there was a wave of glaring Anglias and Cortina’s all inching forward and everyone was watching. What a time for Milky to drop his bombshell on us. I had to admit, that ponce had nerve.
« My dad’s complained to the council », he said. « About the pond. He said it’s dangerous and unhealthy, so they’re going to fill it in… »
« We’ll fill you in first, » I said, knowing it wouldn’t do any good, knowing that this time we’d better do something or Milky White was going to ruin our lives.