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Monday, August 8, 2011

The last battle: a matter of honour

The one story that Christian wanted me to write about on this blog concerned my fight with Tommy Fittler. Rest assured, this is the last ‘fight’ story I will tell, because I simply don’t have any more. Once this is done, you will have my entire pugilistic career before you, in various stories you probably can’t locate again even if you wanted to.

  Christian is the pacific type and I think he got vicarious pleasure from my telling him about this story when he was a kid. For him, maybe it was like it was for me reading the account of the fight between Tom and the great bully Flashman in Tom Brown’s Schooldays. I must have read that a hundred times when I was about 11.

  Lest you fear this is going to be a blow by blow account of my longstanding feud with Tommy Fittler, I hasten to reassure you that it is not so. There will be no jolly old Diggory cracking his knuckles and watching for foul play from the execrable Flashman as their seconds sponge their faces between rounds.

  This was just Tommy Fittler an’ me. The fight itself occupies only a small portion of the tale, though if there’s huge demand, which I doubt, I can give a blow-by-blow version of the fisticuffs. Reading the phone book would be more instructive, and possibly more exciting.

  For me, as for Tommy Fittler, it took place in Year 10. At Rugby College, as indeed at Gladstone State High School, that was what was called the Junior Year. The comparison between these equally venerable institutions of learning ends here. There was a public exam which, in those days, decided who was going to leave school and enter the work force, and those few who would go on to the last two years at High School as Seniors.

  It all started in Primary School. We didn’t even go to the same school to begin with. He was a Gladstone town boy and I was in Grade 7 at Calliope State School. There was an annual sports day at the Gladstone Showground where all the schools in the district sent their better athletes to battle out the points. Unlike the Boyne Valley Sports where Killer George and I had the high jump battle now forever part of blog fame and glory, the competition was a bit lop-sided as far as the points were concerned, as the Gladstone schools were much bigger than the country ones.

  Anyway, during a break in the proceedings, I was chasing another kid, and he disappeared through a hole in a wall between the pavilions at the showground.

  I burst through there after him, and ran slap-bang into Tommy Fittler. He was flanked by a group of acolytes, who grabbed me and slammed me up against the pavilion wall. I don't know what they were doing there, but it probably involved smoking, which was about the most exciting illegal activity primary school boys could get into at the time.

  I had no idea who he was. Unlike in Tom Brown’s Schooldays, where Flashman was much bigger than my hero Tom Brown, Tommy Fittler was almost exactly the same size, shape and weight as I would have been. Pinned against the wall as I was by his minions, that comparison was irrelevant.

  He walked slowly up to me and eyeballed me as only boys and tough guys in movies can.

  ‘Yeah?’ he said.

  There’s really no answer to that. If I’d known what the right answer was at the time I would have given it, as I was experiencing physical and mental discomfort. But there was one thing I wasn’t going to do, and that was to apologise. Boys don’t apologise to each other for an accidental near-knockdown. That’s... well, it’s piss-weak, apologising. Only word to describe it. This is why international diplomacy run by men is always in such a mess.

  He knew I was from Calliope by my school colours - gold and black.


  He spat the word out. Cold contempt. Insert any other cliché you like – hey, I’m not Patrick White or the brilliant Arundhati Roy. I’m just telling the story, and my inspiration has run dry just now.

  ‘Bloody hick.’ I heard you the first time, I did not say. I was hardly in a position to discuss the sociology of Central Queensland with him just then, so I said nothing. He had blond wavy hair, creamy olive skin and those pale blue eyes villains just have to have. If he ever went to jail he would have been called Pretty Boy, and God help him then.

  ‘Who are you, Hick-stick?’

  These days he would have called me worse, but that was the best he could come up with on the spot. I told him Who I Was. You have to compromise a bit with your pride in some situations, especially when your arms are pinned against a solid hardwood wall. It was hardly a critical revelation. It’s not like I was a spy and he was a Soviet agent.

  He just stood there staring at me.

  ‘I'm Tommy Fittler. Don't forget that, 'cause I’ll remember you.’

  He mustn’t have felt like a fight right then. I certainly didn’t. I still had the long jump to compete in.

  ‘Throw him out.’

  Such an inglorious exit. It was thoroughly humiliating, being hurled out bodily through a hole in the wall by three smaller henchmen, overseen by the Pretty Boy himself. I burned up every time I thought of it for long afterwards. Still do, occasionally.

  One of us had created a nemesis on that day, and I hoped very much it was him and not me. ('He and not I' then, grammar freaks! Which looks better, I ask you?)

  No, that’s not the end of the story. If it were, you’d be wanting your money back. There’s a bit to go yet. (cont.)

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