The four cheerleaders danced, two each side of the stage, one of their routines. The teachers all filed in and finally Mrs Denham, the head teacher. She welcomed everyone to the last assembly, grand meeting, of the school year.
“Let’s all sing the school song. The cheerleaders led the singing. “A big thank you to Chelly, the leader of our newly-formed cheerleaders.” The head teacher continued and gave out prizes for sports and academic success.
“Our four football teams have done well: two first prizes and a second and a third in the Avon County League. And we all know who is responsible for this wonderful result, don’t we?”
Everybody in the hall knew that this was the cue, except me.
“Let us thank the dragon who plays football, our wonderful coach.” On cue the members of the school upper boys football team grabbed me and hoisted me up above their shoulders and carried me around the hall four times. Everyone sang and the cheerleaders danced and I was extremely embarrassed.
“And the big surprise is last. Next year we will have in our school a top class. That means that no one has to leave this school to do college entrance exams. No, stay here and do it here.”
“So I say to all of you who are waiting to receive your exam results: KEEP YOUR NERVE! And to everyone: ENJOY YOUR HOLIDAY! And until next term: GOOD BYE!”
That evening a crowd of us were down the pub. Both Rod and Chelly were claiming me as theirs. “The best thing since sliced bread.” “Wonderful, really wonderful, her plonkers are almost so big as mine.” Rod was not so brash.
Chelly was drinking too much, she thought that she had failed all her exams. Rod said that she needed more discipline in her life, she should join the army and toughen up.
“Oh, yeah! I need to join the army like I need to get a job at the zoo as an ersatz penguin.” Chelly could be very obtuse at times.
The three of us sat at a table with me in the middle, squashed in the middle, there was enough room, but Chelly and Rod were making a great impression on me, or at least physically.
We all drank too much. Suddenly Chelly stood up and stumbled round the table to Rod. She put her arm out to do something to Rod. But what, no idea. She passed out and fell on the floor.
Someone threw some cold beer into her face. Rod and I helped her to her feet and walked her home into her own bed. Rod fell on the bed next to her. Did he want Chelly that badly? No, he grabbed me and pulled me down on top of him.
I knew well enough that Rod was too drunk to do much. However he did manage to remove most of my clothing. I told him his rod was not up to it. Very effective, but big mistake. He was very offended, he said so, he said that he was called Rod because his name was Roderick and that he was going to... He did not finish the sentence.
I woke up about an hour later on top of Rod, Chelly and Rod were fast asleep. I put my clothes on and left. I hoped that Rod would have forgotten the insult before the next day. Some hope.
A week later I went down the pub again, Chelly put her arms around my neck, Rod ignored me. Chelly drank too much, but this time she took a ride in an ambulance to have her stomach pumped.
Josephine and me went to visit Chelly in hospital the next day. She was very quiet, I think she was drugged, she was very confused, I think she thought that I was her mother.
We went the hospice nearby to visit Mr Cronby, however he had “passed away” the previous night.
“His name is Roderick, that’s why people call him Rod. I keep bumping into him wherever I go. He talks to me, I like him.”
“I’m sure that he’s a nice guy, Jo.”
I took a bus to East Drayton, I had a suitcase packed for two weeks with my aunt.
“Hello Miss Candlefoot, fancy meeting you here.” I got into her car and we drove all day to reach the moors.
The cottage was small, but it had electricity and running water, and was certainly cosy enough for the two of us. We went for long walks and played silly games together, like mouth-to-mouth eating and drinking.
It was perhaps our honeymoon.
There they were, on time too, our exam results on the notice board. I got Cs and Bs, which is what I wanted, and one A. Great! Chelly did OK too, mostly Cs, but good enough. And of course Josephine got straight As.
I walked past the woodwork room, but no hands flew out to grab me, no Miss Upham. And no sign of Chelly and Rod.
So it was settled: I would stay at the same school and take college entrance exams in the new top class. Miss Candlefoot was as pleased as I was.
It was Mrs Denham’s idea. Invite everyone at the school for a kick-about on the Saturday before the start of the new school term.
“Hello everybody! And a special welcome to those of you who start at our school this Tuesday. I’m the dragon who plays football and the coach for the four school football teams. Mrs Denham, the head teacher, has appointed a new sports teacher.”
“We’re going to start the day with a warm-up – how many times can I run around the sports field before I get bored. LET’S GO!”
I was thinking: Chelly had joined the army to become a paramedic, Miss Upham had left the school for another teaching job somewhere else, and Rod was so upset because I had criticised his “rod”. I suggested to him to try his luck with Josephine who looked so pretty now.
Perhaps all the complications in my life had left me and I could concentrate on the love of my life, Miss Candlefoot, football and passing my college entrance exams. I had discovered that if you study sports at college you had to study a second more academic subject too. Apparently you can’t teach sport when you are over 55. I’m going to concentrate on history and geography.
I remembered the second evening in the cottage on the moors, Miss Candlefoot was sitting on the edge of the bed, I suddenly knelt on the floor in front of her.
“I want to say something. I have loved you, I do love you, I will always love you. I think that you have loved me, I think that you do love me, I think that you will always love me. We will be together for always.”
Miss Candlefoot said nothing.
“When I go to college, to a town far from here, you can come with me and share an apartment with me. I want to be with you.”
Miss Candlefoot said nothing.
“I long for the day that we can be free, that we can tell everyone about our love, that we can marry and maybe have children. I can wait, but not forever. I have said what I wanted to say.”
Miss Candlefoot said nothing, she took my head in both hands, fingers in my hair, and pressed my face gently into her lap. She said nothing.
I am the dragon who plays football.