A short story by Colin Devonshire
Try, Try, Try…
‘All I wanted, was to be your friend,’ said Butch. He turned to hide his tears. He jogged away, soon tired, then trudged home, slumped shoulders edged through the door.
‘Whatever is wrong with you?’ asked his mum.
‘Why did dad name me Butch?’
‘Would you have preferred Brian? That was our first choice.’
‘Anything but Butch. All the kids at school laugh at me. They go on about fierce dogs and gay men. I am not Butch,’ he stormed to his room.
There was a tap, tap, tap at his door, no answer, his mother popped her head in.
‘I’ve got your dinner ready, do you want it here or downstairs?’
The boy lay on his back with a pillow over his face.
‘Butch, Butch, are you okay?’
She rushed and pulled the bedding clear. Butch was breathing.
‘Stupid boy, don’t play like that, you gave me a scare.’
‘Are you the only one who cares?’ Butch asked.
‘Oh, don’t be silly, we all love you.’
‘And who is ‘all?’ Dad cleared off as soon as he could, and I’ve no brothers or sisters.’
‘You’ve got grandparents and uncles and aunts.’
‘But they live miles away. I’ve got no friends at school or outside school,’ he answered.
‘Maybe if you stopped playing that stupid game and tried to talk to people.’
‘Nobody wants to talk to me,’ he said as he turned to the wall, grabbing for his pillow.
‘Come on darling, what is it?’
Butch clammed up. His mother left him alone without his dinner.
Hours later, he relived his day in dreams.
‘Butch Baker, get to the headmaster’s office this minute. Tell him why you are there,’ the maths teacher was not impressed with his effort at homework.
The girls sitting in the front row sniggered. The boys at the back threw screwed-up paper balls.
‘You again? What was it this time?’ asked the head.
Lunchtime detention was the punishment.
Butch, worried about after lunch. He had deliberately ‘forgotten’ his sports kit.
‘No kit again?’ laughed the captain, ‘Good, we don’t want you, go join the girls’ netball, I’m sure they will lend you a skirt.’
The boys all pushed at him as he sloped to the tennis courts, sliding down the surrounding fence.
‘I wonder if I can make myself so tiny, then no one can see me?’
‘What are you doing?’ A gentle voice asked.
Butch looked up. A girl was smiling at him, not laughing, smiling.
‘Who are you? I’ve never seen you before,’ he asked.
‘I’m Saffy, I’m new here. I only came today to look around with my mum. I will start next Monday. What’s your name?’
‘I’d rather not tell you, you’ll only laugh, like the rest of them,’ he pointed at his football team.
‘No, I won’t, what about my name?’
‘Nothing wrong with Saffy. I like it.’
‘That’s a nickname.’
‘Oh. What is your real name?’
‘My secret, until Monday, then everyone will know,’ she grinned.
‘You’ll have to wait for mine, too.’
They laughed together.
Butch awoke with a smile. He was starving, remembering he had no dinner. Toast smelt great as he joined his mum in the kitchen.
‘You must have slept well, you look happy?’
‘Yes, I had a wonderful dream.’
‘Dare I ask, what was it about?’ asked his mum.
‘The new girl, her name is Saffy.’
‘Is she pretty?’
‘Not really, but she is nice, and she talks to me.’
‘Tomorrow’s Saturday, we are going to your Gran’s house, you can take your game, she has Wi-Fi now.’
‘Great, things are looking up,’ said Butch as he hoisted up his school bag and plodded off.
‘Christ, Butch, that bag is near as fat as you.’ The boy pointed and grinned. The gang pushed and poked his stomach.
Butch, shrugged and smiled at them. Wandering off to the art room.
‘Okay, students, today I want you all to think of your favourite letter. Then paint a design featuring that letter.’
The bully beside him slapped the letter ‘a’ on his paper and turned it into a ferocious ant.
‘Very good,’ muttered the teacher, as she passed. ‘And Butch, what will your ’s’ become?’
‘Still thinking, Miss,’ he answered.
‘S, for stupid,’ said the boy.
‘S, for sex,’ said the pretty head girl. The class fell about.
‘That will do, get on with your work,’ shouted the teacher.
Butch scratched his chin and studied the ceiling, how to turn ’s’ into a work of art to present the new girl on Monday. He finished a winding stream with a canoe paddled by a gorgeous girl. The teacher was amazed. The class was quiet.
That night, Saffy came into his dreams. This time, they walked hand-in-hand home from school.
‘Look at him, quite the young man, he’s even combed his hair,’ said his gran.
‘Yes, I don’t know what’s got into him. He’s never brushed his mop unless I chase him,’ said his mum.
‘Oh, gran, have you any salad? I shouldn’t eat pie and chips,’ said Butch.
The two ladies stared at each other.
‘Yes, dear, whatever you wish. Give me a minute,’ Gran rushed off to the kitchen.
‘Butch, you love my mum’s pie, what is wrong?’
‘It is time I started looking after my figure. I’m going out for a jog, okay?’
When they arrived home, mum asked, ‘Is your game broken?’
‘I thought I saw you reading one of Gran’s books?’
‘I can read you know?’
‘Yes, yes, sorry. Off to bed, you must be tired.’
Sunday was wet.
‘What are you doing?’
‘I’m going running.’
‘In this weather? Wait until it stops.’
‘No, mum I need to get fit.’
In Sunday night’s dream, Saffy leaned across and kissed him full on the lips. The class was speechless, even when the pair were sent to the principal’s office. He glowed with pride.
On Monday, Butch hunted his freshly ironed and pristine uniform. He brushed his shoes until a mirror image of a smiling boy beamed back at him.
‘Come on mum, we’ll be late.’
The children all sat in their usual places. The empty chair was next to Butch, nobody wanted to sit next to him.
Their room teacher came in, clapping his hands.
‘I want to introduce you to a new student who will be joining us for the rest of the term. Meet Saffy.’
The clapping was stifled except for one boy, who stood and cheered. The rest all looked around at him.
‘What’s up with the dork at the back?’ said the new girl. The class cheered.
The sun flashed from her nose stud getting attention from the girls. Her too-short skirt grabbed the boys.
‘I’m not sitting there, move!’ said Saffy to the head girl, who sidled next to Butch.
At four-thirty, the groups of kids separated to find their way home. Leaving Saffy to walk alone. Butch watched the traffic, a bus increased its speed as it pulled away from the stop.
Butch ran towards her, shoulder down as he had seen rugby players aiming for the try line.
Saffy stopped. Butch didn’t. Neither did the bus. Good try Butch.