Prejudice (1988)

I wrote this when I was 13. I’ve copied it out exactly as it was written in 1988 (in pale blue fountain pen on A4 paper), including spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes and crazy paragraphing.

The substitute English teacher who set this assignment gave me an A and wrote “A very sensitive and mature story. Well done.” I remember being disappointed at this and thinking that my usual teacher would have been much harsher with the mark (she never gave As) and given me a more critical analysis that I could have learned from. In hindsight this is quite pretentious.

I’ve written about finding this story again in a blog post called “On (not) writing“.

Prejudice

It was funny, Jo Lewis thought, as she passed the school gates – she didn’t feel in the least bit guilty. She had planned the whole thing carefully, from the time she left class 3J the day before, right up to now, walking down Beech Road as if nothing was wrong. But inside her, Jo knew full well that things were wrong – very wrong. She was sick of life and everything in it – her parents, her maddening brother, her ex-best friend Mandy and especially, the worst person, the most sickening weirdo in the class, the school, the world – Daniel. Ever since the first day of the third year, he had totally changed. He’d suddenly started picking on Jo for no reason – well, no reason except that she was black and he was white. He’d got all his mates joining in too – and you name it she’d been called it – ‘cadbury’ was an especially popular one. It wasn’t as if she was totally black either – infact only her dad was. Her mother, she had realised with a jolt the previous day, was one of Them. So Jo had packed her school bag the night before, on the pretence that she was ‘getting her books ready’, with her jeans, favourite jumper, denim shirt and extra underwear. And now… now she was leaving.

She stopped at the corner of Beech Road and Horseshoes Lane, and wondered which way to turn in order to get as far away as possible from the school, and the possibility of getting found out. She decided to turn right and stop off at the shops to get supplies – she’d missed her breakfast and forgotten to bring any paper with her, except school books – and Jo did not want to be reminded of school at that very moment. Luckily, ‘Preedys’ and ‘Jack’s fish’n’chip bar’ were in the same row of shops – she bought a pie and chips, and a reporters note book and pencil to use as a diary. All the time she kept looking over her shoulder, just incase…

“Lookin’ out for the bus are y’love? Next one goes… ’bout ..ooh, least five minutes y’got yet. Y’know, it only seems a week or two since the last school ‘olidays – blimey, the time they give you kids off these days…”

But Jo wasn’t listening – a new idea had formed in her mind,… if she did get the bus… she could go almost anywhere! She had her buspass… She muttered a quick thankyou to the gossiping cashier and left hurriedly to sit in the dark bus-stop. Jo didn’t have to wait long – a number ‘2’ bus came within two or three minutes and she climbed on gratefully, showing her bus pass to the black driver, with a half-smile of relief. She was surprised to notice that he smiled back at her.

“I wouldn’t go upstairs if I were you, love – rowdy lot…” Jo nodded in reply and walked up the aisle of the smelly bus. She could hear a lot of bumping and shouting upstairs and observed a few old dears glance upwards nervously. Minutes later, there was a smash, and a tinkling of glass… and silence. The driver stopped the bus straight away and radioed through to control. Jo watched as the driver muttered into the small microphone and listened impatiently. He got slowly out of his seat and took a hesitant step towards the stairs. Jo glanced around and saw that there was no-one on the bus that could help him – no burly business men or strong-looking lads… now she could hear the driver telling the kids – she presumed they were kids – to leave the bus or he’d ‘call the cops’.

“Hear that lads?” she heard one of them shout – “He’ll buzz the fuzz!” and then, in a more threatening voice, “Hey, little black sambo, you do and we’ll throw you threw that smashed window…” Jo saw that two elderly ladies were helping one another to clamber off the bus, muttering something about the ‘youth of today’. Suddenly there was a thump, and a groan, and a leg appeared at the top of the stairs. It was followed by a body and two arms… the body and limbs of the black driver. His face soon followed – and it was not the same face that had smiled at Jo minutes beforehand – it was a face full of pain and blood, which looked across at Jo, who was the only person, except for a mother and her two small kids, who were sitting there saying “When will we get to Gran’s, mum? Oh, mum, I’m bored..”

Suddenly, two boys in black jackets and ripped jeans leapt down the stairs. Instinctively, Jo picked up her notebook and scribbled down descriptions of them. As she did so, they jumped off the bus, and were followed by about five or six more skinheads, who each kicked, punched or hurt the driver in someway as they left, running up past the shops. The bus was silent except for the crackling of the radio. The driver half-sat, half-lay on the stairs, bleeding. Jo got up and walked over to him. He was muttering something under his breath.

“Radio… call the cops… please…” Jo jumped up and went over to the radio. She had no idea how to work it, but grasped the microphone and listened, trying to make sense of the crackly voices. Eventually she heard someone say “Al… Al… you OK? Still trouble? Al…?”

Jo spoke into the microphone.

“Can you call the police please? The driver… Al… he’s hurt. This is bus number…” (she glanced up) “2124”

“‘Ello love… 2124 did you say? Thanks love…” Don’t call me love, thought Jo, and went back to the driver.

“Not as bad as it looks,” he was saying. “Cops coming? Good,” Jo stepped off the bus and looked up and down the road. A police car was coming. As it stopped, two policemen got out. One was black, one was white. Jo suddenly realised that she was supposed to be at school, and the policemen would want to speak to her. So she tore out the page with the descriptions of the hooligans and a scribbled account of what happened, and ran back the way the bus had come, all the way back to school. And as she ran, she realised that Daniel was nothing compared to the boys on the bus, and who was he to talk anyway? It was as if a great burden had been lifted off her mind. She could cope.

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