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The first time Alfie Wickers met Frank Grayson was in the library. This was, as Mr. Wickers would soon come to know, not typical of Grayson (or of Mr. Wickers). Grayson was more likely to be found, as Mr. Wickers would later discover;

-smoking by the bins, or, well, wherever he fancied, really, so long as A) it wasn’t anywhere near Pickwell, and B) someone in the near vicinity had cigarettes on them.

-in the bogs… sometimes in there for actual reasons, but mostly in there to beat up little Year 7s… or Year 9s… or Year 11s… In fact, since Grayson was 21, nearly everyone in the school was in fact smaller than him. Sometimes he also used the walls of the bogs to ‘get creative’ with his marker pens.

-on the school field (taking part in sports, not taking part in class, or for those times when he needed privacy, such as that time his cronies had snuck in a bag of heroin, and then had found heroin was actually illegal.)

-in the canteen, having usually entered without money.

-in the off-license over the road… having usually entered with money… but not his own.

-in Miss Pickwell’s classroom

-in other classrooms (rarely)

-at home

In fact, Grayson frequenting the library was such a rare event that the librarian – an intelligent, dark-haired thirty-something – still called him ‘dear’ and occasionally asked him to quieten down.

There were various reasons Grayson went into the library. One of them - an activity he was now absorbed in - was decorating the margins of books.

It was like this that Mr. Wickers found him.

“Hello,” said Mr. Wickers, grinning awkwardly. He held out his hand. “I’m Alfie. D’you know where Class K is? I’m… er, lost.”

Grayson raised his head, looking bored. His pen-hand stayed where it was: at the point of adding pubic hairs to a rather detailed penis in the margins of ‘Victorian Children’s Toys – Illustrated Edition’.

“Then you’re fucked,” said Grayson, “ain’t yer?” With a flourish, he finished adding the hairs.

Alfie continued grinning, slightly falsely, now. “No,” he said, adding in a chuckle as if to say ‘hah, silly!’. “There are signs on the doors and everything. They’ve even got names on the lockers. I mean, it’s practically a nursery compared to the University I was just at, like, a couple of months ago. That was huge!” He laughed, confidently. “And I found my way around that, in, what? Three years? Some of the ones in the class above me were still walking around with maps... and they were wanting to teach geography!”

Grayson looked at him. “It’s geography, you fucktard,” he said, flatly.

“Yeah, I know!” sniggered Alfie. “Amateurs.” He elbowed Grayson playfully in the shoulder.

“Don’t touch me,” said Grayson, into the margins of his book.

“So what year are you in, anyway?” asked Alfie.

“Year 11 fifth time round,” said Grayson, not even looking up from his doodling.

“Fifth?!” squeaked Alfie. “That’s like… That’s… That’s more times than I’ve had tattoos!”

Frank looked disbelieving.

“Five times more,” muttered Alfie, reluctantly. “I mean, how old are you, anyway? That’s like, that’s like nearly older than me!”


“What do you do around here, anyway, then?” asked Alfie. “If you’ve been held back five times, you’re obviously not doing the work!”

Frank stood up. There was a moment of silence as the one about to do the sizing up realised he was about a foot too short for the role. He did the sizing up anyway, like a bulldog to a daschund. Alfie’s smile went from slightly-genuine to bewildered to forced in a matter of seconds.

“Doing work’s for pussies,” said Grayson, and spat right onto the floor between them.

“Right,” said Alfie. “Erm… I’m just going to, erm, find my class now… Bye!”

He turned and started towards the exit, then turned back round and started back towards Frank.

“Um, like I said… do you happen to know where form K is? I walked in here by accident, but, erm, it’s obviously not here, is it?”

Grayson glared.

“No,” said Alfie. “No, it isn’t.” He turned back round to go, and then changed his mind and spun round again. “Ooh,” he said. “Erm, one more thing? Where, er, where actually is the classroom, because I really have no idea.”

“It’s right along the corridor, then right again, then it’s the first room on the fucking left,” said Grayson.

Alfie’s grin brightened, and he flounced happily out of the door.

Into his desk, Grayson grinned. Miss Pickwell would shortly be getting a nice surprise.