Milky’s only friend was Wormhole. What a Banana Split ! They went on bike rides together like girls on their ponies, all sat upright and ringing their shiney bells on every corner. Right from the first term at school they’d stand aloof at the coach stop, the only two boys with leather briefcases. They were last to board, seats at the front. We all slung our dufflecoats on the shelf and shoved to the back. Milky and Worm’ole kept their briefcases on their knees like old bags taking their cats in baskets to the vets. They were first off at school, running to class, so eager to do their fractions.
The Worm’oles went to the Family Methodist Chapel down near the village off-license where he lived. I went round there once. One of those things mums arrange when they meet up the shops and waste a whole Saturday morning of their son’s lives because of it. You know, « go and play with Worm’ole, ‘e ain got nobody to play wiv… » This was before Milky took him in. You can’t tell them why he’s got no one to play with. Well, this is why : their tiny house was the sort they put on the lids of Lego sets, green pebbledash, a front garden three strides deep behind a fancy, knee-high wall, crazy paving pink and white, a bay window big enough for two faces and a dog.
Mrs Worm’ole opened the door. Two broken front teeth made her voice phut her words, her tongue landing in the wrong place.
« Hello Thedric. Her’th Thedric, Gwayam ».
Bo-Peep Cottage. There was even a fishtank like a jam jar with minnows and a three-foot high grandfather clock. I was nearly as tall as Mrs Worm’ole even then. Full-size Gwayam was at the kitchen table with his model galleon kit in pools of glue all stuck to newspaper which followed him round the house because Mrs Worm’ole insisted he took my shoes out the back and fetched some felt slippers for me to wear. She’d cut them in one piece from felt underlay and sowed them with waxed string. Gwayam was in a daze.
« Well thun ? » his mother said. « Aren’t you pleathed ? Thedric’s come to help you glue your thip ».
I was given a glass of Lemon Barley water and a chocy digey, unstuck part 7 from 49 and stuck it to part 6. This was all I could manage against Worm’ole’s adonoidal sulks.
« Let me do it, I wanna do it, Marm, it’s not fair, why’d ‘e aff to come an’ shove ‘is nose in… »
Well, I never went round there again. Once, at the coach stop, probably from guilt, the memory of that Saturday when his galleon probably petrified into a wreck once the glue went hard, he actually looked at me and said : « watcha Thedric. »
Daz gave me a queer look and said : »watch yerself, Wormface ».
The Cow’s Gate Gang often held conferences on Milky White. One favourite topic was : What Milky and Worm’ole Do At Bo-Peep Cottage. Skinny reckoned they played snap with those two inch long cards you got in Pullins. Daz said they played miniature travel draughts. Dodge said they played football with a marble.
« Only one way to find out, » I said.
Half the problem with this pair was that there was virtually no chink in their perfection. Once we followed Milky down there, a big box of Scalectrix under his arm. The Worm’oles were strict Methodists too and denied themselves pleasure or anything not considered educational. No TV or electric games. No cartoon comics, no tea or coffee or beer. They all went to bed at 9 o’clock and Mr Worm’ole got up at 5.30 to work at the dairy. We were lucky that afternoon. The biggest room was obviously downstairs so they set the Scalectrix up in the Parlour. It was full of Bibles and prayer books. We decided Mrs Worm’ole was like some of our mums who took it in turns to wash the village football team strip after the Saturday matches. Mrs Worm’ole must’ve brought all the Prayer Books home after the Sunday Service to give them a dusting. Well, heathen Milky made tunnels and grandstands out of them while Worm’ole kept going to the door to make sure his mum didn’t find out.
Milky had a Rolph Harris Stylo-phone too and a Junior Drum Kit. Once we sneaked along the cinders path back of Milky’s house and heard them jamming, Milky shouting :
« No you clot, just go bum, bum-bum…bum, bum-bum. You go bum, I go I, you go bum-bum, I go was born, you go bum, I go under a,bum-bum, star. »
It was hardly the victory we sought, but next time at the bus stop Daz said :
« We know where you were born, White. »
« No you don’t. »
And we all joined in and told him : « You were born, under a bum, bum-bum… »
He was impervious, just straightened his school tie, pretended to polish his school badge with the back of his hand and looked away. Christmas was a fortnight off, so in a loud voice he says to Worm’ole : « when I get my electric guitar for Christmas we’ll rehearse our concert for the Scouts Christmas Party. It’ll be a smash hit and we’ll be on Top of The Pops».
The Cow’s Gate Gang was going to have to do a lot better to get one over Milky White.