Sunday 7 February 2016

A Valentine's Day Story, Chapter 2 - The Boy

Previous Chapter

This is Chapter 2 of a multi-part story.

[This part of the story is what I call the post-build-up. We have set the scene, and readers who venture this far are now hopefully beginning to feel sympathetic for the characters. In introducing Joshhound, the intention was to set a picture of the sort of guy who can be found at all schools - well-built without being particularly talented at any sport, and with a world-view formed by a narrow experience of people, the sort who doesn't need a good reason to fall in love.

The tomfoolery comes in, of course, with the interaction between Jormund and Pete-Pete, the recurring character, as well as with Joshhound himself.

Joshhound goes on to play a major role in a later story, "The Election", which I consider my most complex piece.]

Chapter Two - The Boy

“You look troubled,” said Pete-Pete, as we munched our dumpling-stuffed buns at the school shop, located about twenty meters down the road from the School Gates.

“I am,” I said, “I’ve agreed to talk to that Joshhound Prawnson. In fact I’m waiting for him to come out right now, fellow’s probably putting up Party Decorations in the Biology Lab.”

“Talk to him? What about?”

“Oh stuff,” I muttered, “something Arabella told me to do”

“Arabella Radayevna?” he asked in awed tones.

“There’s only one Arabella in the school, you nut.”

“I’d do anything for her. Anything, man….and you freak out about something minor like talking to Joshhound! What a girl! Wow!” Pete-Pete's face took on a particularly lecherous expression.

“You’ll be doing something for her soon enough, no doubt,” I said, casting a disgusted look at his drooling tongue.

“What do you mean? What do you take me for…” he began indignantly, and would have continued for some time, I don’t doubt, but just then I spied Joshhound step out of the main school building and trudge slowly towards the crossing. With a muffled apology to Pete-Pete I stuffed the rest of the bun into my mouth and raced after him.

“Joshhound, wait up!” I said, as I caught up with him.

He stopped and waited for me. Joshhound Prawnson was about my height, but had none of the slender elegance that characterised yours truly. In fact he was built like a wrestler on steroids. His face, however – no matter how hard Arabella or her friend Rita denied it – closely resembled that of a chimpanzee.

“Thought some company would do no harm,” I said, putting on a bright smile.

“Oh yeah. Whatever,” he said, contorting his already contorted face to make it clear that he wasn’t exactly euphoric about the idea.

For the first half-kilometre we walked in silence. The road to the Houses from the school's main building is a long one, and involves walking through several amateur football, cricket and basketball matches. There's a safer way, but that involves walking around both the Football field and the newly-laid Cricket ground. I'd have preferred it though. It’s hard enough to know how to approach a subject like the state of Joshhound's romantic entanglements without having to watch your step around the fields of Midgard-Caledonia, where you could get hit at any time by a stray ball made of cork, leather or a combination of the two. Arabella had made it clear that she didn’t want Joshhound to know that I was acting on her behalf. On the other hand, for me to ask anything personal ex-parte to a chap I hardly knew would have been dashed presumptuous. Much to my relief, I didn’t have to open the proceedings.

“You used to like Talmyra Kringle didn’t you?” he asked, out of the blue.

“Me? Ah…well, no. I mean yes. But that was a long time ago,” I added hastily.

“Did she even look at you?” this in a mournful tone.

“Well, we’ve been in the same class for years, so we did talk. But no, she didn’t have any feelings for me, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“Ah,” he said and subsided back into silence. But this short exchange had given me just the opening I needed.

“So, Joshhound,” I said.

“Yes, Jormund?” he asked.

“I hear you’ve been kinda down lately? Anything you might care to share?”

He seemed to give the matter some thought. Finally he said,
"The thing is, Im in love."

“Yes, Jormund. The thing is, I’m in love.”

I thought about it for a while. People in love generally were bouncy, blithe fellows declaring their love to one and all, behaving generally like songbirds on weed. This kind of morbid reaction on the part of Joshhound could only mean one thing – his was a posthumous love.

“With Marilyn Monroe?” I asked sympathetically.

“What!” he almost shouted. If we hadn’t been walking through a makeshift cricket pitch and in the midst of being shouted at by a bowler who was threatening to throw the ball at Joshhound's face and a batsman who was swinging his bat in the direction of my knees, he might have reeled.

“What have you been drinking?” he asked, “What’s that in your bottle? What is it, huh? Scotch? Rum? Brandy? Absinthe?”

“Just water, you ass!” I said, once he had run through the list of alcoholic beverages he was familiar with. “I mean, I figured you were in love with someone dead from your depressed state, you know. It’s all right; lots of guys were in love with Marilyn Monroe. Good chaps too – Joe DiMaggio for one. Arthur Miller, for another. Even Frank Sinatra. Strong lads all of them. You have nothing to be ashamed of. But she’s dead, you know. She isn’t coming back. You’d best move on to someone more…alive. Pamela Anderson, for instance.”

“Would you STOP drivelling?” he yelped in anguish, “My head will explode! I like Pashiella Murky!”

“Oh,” I said, “I’m sure she’s a…nice girl.”

Actually, I remembered Pashiella as an awfully stuck-up creature with oversized spectacles and a leering smile. Her sole purpose in life, it was rumoured, was to score more marks in the next revision test for the practice test for the Unit Test to be held the following week than anyone else in the class.

“She’s perfect. She’s so demure and so shy and so modest.”

“Ahhh yes.”

“She appeals to all that’s fine about a chap.”

“Uhhhh of course.”

“Unlike some who appeal to the carnal instincts.”

“Hmmm no doubt”

“But she won’t look at me.”

I could hardly blame her for that. Dashed sensible of her, if anything.. So I held my tongue and hemmed and hawed noncommittally.

“Valentine’s Day is coming up, you know!”

“I know. We’re having a party aren’t we?”

“Oh yes….it will be great. The decorations are just purrfect.”

“So why the Hardy-esque expression?”

“I want to give her a card, man. A valentine card. I’ve even bought it. I just don’t know how to give it to her! She won’t even look my way. You gotta help me, man. You must.”

We were now approaching the point from where the straight road led to my house, Haddow and the right lane to Joshhound’s house, MacGregor. I was wondering how to worm out of this new predicament... Helping a chap I hardly knew deliver a Valentine’s card to a girl I didn’t know at all was something I had no intention of doing. I mentally cursed Freyja for endowing Arabella with more oomph than any five Item Girls put together. Without that, I’d never have gotten in this situation.

“I really don’t see how I can help, old hound,” I said shiftily, “and anyway I should be getting back to the house. Rout gets pissed if we aren't on time for Cricket practise.”

My clever attempt to sidle away was arrested by his grasping a hold of my arm.

“Do you want to see the card?” he said, in a voice filled with near-religious fervour.

“Don’t you think something like that should be…erm…private between you and her?”

“It’s a beautiful card! Don’t you want to see it?”


“Do you think you’re too good to see the card? Do you? Are you a snuffle-headed elitist snob? Are you? Would you rather I punched your nose off-axis? Would you?”

I followed him obediently to his study. 

He left me standing, sat down on a chair and fished around for a longish while in his study cabinet before locating a Chemistry Journal. Out of this journal came a red envelope, and out of that came a card heavily infested with pink balloons and purple hearts. With trembling hands he put this in my hand.

I won’t go into the detailed contents of the card. It was as sappy and as trite as such cards are wont to be. Besides, I don’t remember the words. What I do remember is that Joshhound  had scrawled an inscription in his large, ill-formed hand, informing whoever read it that he was her (Pashiella’s) ‘most devoted, passionate, desperate, unfortunate, servant.’

'How do I get it to her?"

“How do I get it to her?” he half-sobbed.

“She’s in your class, not mine,” I pointed out, “surely you can slip it to her sometime.”

He stood fingering the card for a while, turning it around in his hand.

“Is it a decent card? Will she like it?”

Why on earth he thought I should know what a snooty female like Pashiella would like, I have no idea. I said I was sure she would, partly to be polite and partly to facilitate my getting out of this madman’s clutches as soon as possible.

“Maybe I’ll drop it in her bag,” he said doubtfully.

“Yes, it’s a good idea. Can I go now?”

I believe, if he’d suggested stuffing it down her throat I’d have said the same thing. 

Next Chapter


  1. Thoroughly enjoying these bits :)

  2. A humorous, adorable, love-ly delight, it is :D

  3. Songbirds on weed! What a brilliantly funny allegory that is! Very well-constructed and immensely delightful to read.