Gallstone School was a grim heap of black stones and bare dirt fields. It was not like my old public school where loving parents sent their best sons with high hopes they would be educated for shining futures. Gallstone School was where unwanted children were sent to get rid of them. The few teachers were failures who found solace in drink and flogging. The headmaster was the cold type who looked like a prophet from the Old Testament, appearances being all, for in fact he was a vicious sod. The boys were a peeking order of clicks and gangs of big or little thugs , vicious bullies, scheming sycophants, bootlicking toadies, whining cowards, cunning knaves, or venal villains. Torture was institutionalized. Flogging was the universal punishment by the officials. The clicks and gangs exacted their own punishments in trickery, ambushes, mugging, tormenting, jeering, ridiculing, bullying, beatings, jabbing, and as a novelty, burning with fire pokers.
I was the bottom of the peeking order and fought back against everyone. I was in continuous fights. It always somehow was turned against me so only I was punished. And I was punished continuously. I learned to endue pain. I jeered my tormenters. I would snarl “Is that the best you can do?” I learned to be just as mean and brutal and vicious. It delivered the pain back to my tormentors in spades. I found that I was good at fighting, Fighting was somehow oddly fun, or at least releasing. A good fist and a good bloody nose was a perfectly good replacement for happiness or love or even friendship.
“I hated sports because it was a lie. For the good of the team. Fans in the sidelines cheering on the home team. Win the goal for the team. What bullshit! Why the fuck should I win the fucking goal for the fucking team when the fucking team hated my guts and the teachers on the sidelines flogged me bloody? To win each team needed big bruising hunks and my ever growing body was just that. So every team wanted me for football. Battles in the mud masquerading as sportsmanship. But after every game the team turned on me. No one was under any illusion my big body earned me any genuine popularity, much less genuine friendship. Between football games I was jeered as the Gorilla of Gallstone. My body kept growing you see. I was now heads above nearly everyone. It was so grotesque. I could not stop growing. And I was starting to … well… Anyways. Gorilla was my official insulting name at school.
Solitary confinement in the freezing basement was considered a luxury as far as I was concerned. No one actually learned anything but then that was not the point. I made only one friend but only because he was even lower than I was: a boy called George Singh Taylor. He was the son of a Sikh lady and a British officer in India. Most parents in India suffered from the tragic delusion that a few years in Britain ‘finished’ their dear child for social promotion into social success. Rich, poor, successful, nor not, they struggled to pay their dear son’s way to a finishing school in distant, far away, romantic old England. Poor Singh. His parents had absolutely no idea what hell they pinched rupees to send him to. He stared at me warily. I stared at him warily. Thus was born a most unlikely friendship.