dubiously true stories and cartoons

Sunday, September 30, 2012


AUTHOR'S NOTE: I would like to think that I am a very different person to the one that I was back in 1964 - unfortunately, owing to the fact that almost fifty years later I still find this incident amusing, I must therefore conclude that I am not.

Maureen Lazenberry wore an orange plastic patch over her right eye that concealed an empty socket which, when the days were warm enough, would exude a pale green puss that seeped out from behind the patch and ran down her cheek like a tiny river of toxic waste. A mass of swollen spots covered her face and seemed to shift around like an army of red ants. Extreme myopia forced her to wear spectacles so thick her right eye look like it belonged to a bush baby. Her teeth appeared to belong to someone four times her size, sprouting from her gums like the rocks of Stonehenge and setting her mouth into a permanent grimace. Her hair hung limply and greasily from her head, making it resemble a rugby ball adorned with a thousand strands of thin oily string.

The unfortunate Miss Lazenberry

Not to put too fine a point on it, Maureen Lazenberry was hideous.

Even her name, when spoken slowly enough (Lllllll-aaaaay-zzzzz-ennnn-berrrrry), sounded ugly.
I was eleven-years old at the time and a few months away from taking the Eleven-Plus exam. This exam was designed to separate the wheat from the chaff and, depending on your results, it determined if you were grammar school material or one of the thickies who were to be consigned to a secondary modern education.

Underachievement came naturally to me, and I fell easily into the second category. As far back as I can remember school and myself had very little in common – in fact, after completing my first day at Rosehaven Primary School, I was met at the gates by my grandma, who gave me a beaming smile and a hug and then asked if I had enjoyed myself. “Yes,” I replied, smiling back at her, “but I don’t think I’ll go again.”

During school hours Maureen was avoided like the plague but if, by chance, she happened to touch you, you were deemed to have Lazenberry Germs and the only way of getting rid of them was to pass them quickly onto someone else. 

Two rules had to be observed when passing on Lazenberry Germs.

The rules concerning the passing on of Lazenberry Germs

Only by strictly adhering to these two tried-and-tested rules could Lazenberry Germs be successfully passed on from one person to another.

By far the most terrible thing about Maureen was that her hideousness was absolutely impossible not to look at. She was so ugly eyes would be instinctively drawn to her, and new boys would stare at her, transfixed by her unbelievable ugliness.

One morning, when Maureen's good eye caught me staring at her in class, she gave me a little smile and waved her fingers coyly at me. I immediately looked away but found it extremely difficult not to look back. I could see that she was still looking at me with a doe-eyed (in the singular sense) expression. My classmates were sniggering behind their hands and I knew I was in trouble.
During morning playtime Maureen followed me around like a love sick puppy. Everywhere I went she seemed to be two steps behind. I couldn't get rid of her. I even ducked into the toilets and hung around in there for a few minutes hoping she'd get bored and wander off, but when I came out I found her outside waiting patiently for me.

Lunch break was even worse. I had to endure a whole hour of her following me around and grinning at me with her hideously toothy smile. She sat opposite me at the dinner table and grinned at me throughout the meal and, when my appetite had completely deserted me, she moved right up to me, smiled and said in her deep, gruff, almost manly voice, "I fancy you, Steve."

Oh God, I thought, she’s got a deeper voice than my Uncle John!

The word uncle became a regular part of my vocabulary after my mother was divorced. As far as I was aware I only had one uncle, my mother’s brother Charles, but after she moved back in with her parents the number of uncles I was introduced to increased exponentially. Some I only met once, others two or three times. Uncle John was the latest and had been around for about six months. He wasn’t as good-looking as the other uncles I’d met – he was bald and his nose had been broken at some point in his life, but what separated him from the rest of the pack was simple – he had a car. Mum didn’t drive and had never expressed any interest in learning how to, but she was quite content to be chauffeured around by Uncle John.


I liked him when he was mum’s boyfriend and, although my opinion of him changed after they were married, at the time when Maureen Lazenberry was making advances towards me he listened intently, before roaring with laughter at my predicament.    
I didn't say anything to Maureen after she told me that she liked me. I was terrified and all I could do was grunt at her and move away, hoping this rebuke might have the desired effect and put her off, but it only served to make her more determined. My lack of any kind of response (grunting excepted) had appeared to convince her that I was playing hard to get. They say that beauty is only skin deep and, underneath the veil of unbearable ugliness, Maureen was probably a really nice girl with a fascinating and pleasant personality. That, however, didn’t alter the fact that I wouldn’t have been seen dead with her under any circumstances.

I wasn’t playing hard to get. I was playing impossible to get.
Whatever designs Maureen had on me needed to be quickly crushed and so, during afternoon playtime, I focused my mind on the difficult task of breaking the bad news to her in a subtle but firm way.

After summoning up the courage, I strode purposefully across the playground to confront her and tell her, in no uncertain terms, that any relationship she had in mind that involved me was completely out of the question and, as I advanced towards her, I saw her eye light up in dreamy anticipation.
"Hello," she said when I reached her, "I’ve been waiting for you.
"Piss off, you ugly cow!" I screamed in a subtle, but firm voice, "Stop following me around! I don't fancy you, and I never bloody will!"
Maureen's looked at me in horror and her lip started to quiver. "B...but you sent me a note," she sobbed.

“What? I . . . what?”

She reached under her v-neck sweater and pulled out a folded piece of lined paper from the pocket of her school blouse. “Here,” she said, unfolding it and handing it over to me, “I found it on my desk this morning.”

I read through the declaration of love written on the note and immediately recognised the handwriting.
Apparently, Pete Webster, my best friend, thought that it would be extremely funny to fool Maureen into thinking that I fancied her. He also thought, judging from the smirk that had been plastered across his face all day, it would be rather amusing to watch her following me around like a love-sick puppy.
I smiled at Maureen and placed my hand on her shoulder. "This note’s not from me, Maureen,” I said. “It’s from Pete Webster. He's the one that fancies you. He’s always talking to me about you."
Her manner changed suddenly. 

"Really?" she asked.

"Honestly – he'd never admit it to you – it’s probably the reason why he sent you this note and signed it with my name. He just wants to worship you from afar. Haven’t you noticed him looking at you in class? He’s always doing it."
Maureen glanced over at Pete. "Mmmmm, he's quite nice isn't he." she said.
"Yeah. See you later Maureen."
I strolled over to the other side of the playground to where Pete was smoking a cigarette behind the bike sheds. The smile dropped from his face and he gave me a look of panic as I rubbed him once with the back of my hand and once with the flat of my hand before saying with a grimace, "Yeeerrrch, you've got Lllllll-aaaaay-zzzzz-ennnn-berrrrry Gerrrmmms!"

No comments:

Post a Comment