I hadn’t spent much time at the other club, the amateur one, but I’d been there with Hansie a few times. James Hamilton has him coaching there twice a week. He’s a good coach, Hansie, although of course to me it’s a bit Piet-and-water; still, he takes it all very seriously, and the boys like him. There are half a dozen girls who play too – one of them’s really good. She hasn’t got the mass to frighten the boys (well, of course at this age it’s not a contact sport anyway) but she runs like a hind and she’s got safe hands. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her drop the ball. Anyway, Hansie rang up on Wednesday looking for help.
“Phil? Have you been police checked?”
“Piet and me both, and half a dozen of the others too. We did the schools visits in the spring and we had to have certificates before they would let us in. Why?”
“Because there’s a nasty flu bug going round, ja? And I need somebody to help with the training tonight. It’s the little ones, the thirteen and fourteen year olds. They don’t do anything very complicated but I need another couple of adults. So if you would come. . . and maybe you could bring one of the other guys, hey?”
“Piet will come, Hansie. We both will.”
“Ach, it’s a bit basic for Piet. They’re babies, Phil. They wouldn’t take his sarcasm.”
I laughed. “Have you ever seen Piet with kids, Hansie? He doesn’t turn into the Viper with anybody under eighteen. I’ve seen him tackled by a seven year old and allowing himself to be brought down. We’ll both come. What time?”
“Six o’clock start. It’s an hour and a half. I’ll buy you a drink after, hey? And we’ll get a curry on the way home.”
“Deal. See you later.”
I enjoyed myself, and I think Piet did too. The girls were there, and I saw Piet spot the talented one, and when I went past later, I saw him explaining to her a simplified version of his ‘make the play’ theory. She was sitting on the grass looking up at him, giving him her undivided attention, just as he was giving her his. They had an hour’s technical training, and then Hansie divided them up into teams and let them play. At half seven he blew his whistle and chased them off the pitches, praising liberally as they passed him. The Viper was more sparing with his comments, but Ruth got a smile and a word of approval, and went off with a huge grin and a spring in her step.
I was first changed, and went to wait outside for the others. Tim emerged from the carpark and I waved at him and then did a double take. “What have you done to your arm?”
“It was so stupid, Phil, I was trying to carry too many things at work, and I gave the fire door a shove to make it swing long enough for me to get through, and misjudged it. It banged me on the elbow and I’ve chipped the bone. It’s not serious, but it hurts like hell, and I can’t bend it. Hence the strapping.”
The first group of teenagers came out, twittering like starlings. A couple of them peeled off and came to ask me for my autograph, and I’ll admit that it’s still new enough that I’m flattered by it, even when it’s only kids. Still, any tendency towards swollen head was quashed by Ruth, who came over and said seriously, “Mr Cartwright, if I waited, would Mr de Vries give me his autograph?”
I assured her equally seriously that he would, ignoring Tim’s giggles, and sure enough, when he came outside he professed himself honoured to be asked. Hansie and Mr Hamilton followed, swinging the keys and we all went to the Crown for a drink. Mr Hamilton tried to bolt when he got into the bar and saw who was there, but he had been spotted.
“Oh, God, it’s Graham Havelock. The most boring man in the county. And he’s seen us.”
He had. He came over and we had to be introduced. Fortunately he hadn’t the faintest idea who Piet and I were, but he knew Hansie and Tim, and he elbowed his way into the circle, and Mr Hamilton had, in common courtesy, to buy him a drink and make conversation. Well, you wouldn’t call it conversation, more a monologue. Havelock wanted to talk about his car. And talk, and talk, and talk. Presently I fled to the loo, and Hansie followed me.
“I never realised there was so much to say about a differential, and so little of it interesting, hey? He goes on and on about this blasted car every time we see him. And what is a differential?”
“I think it’s the thing that allows the wheels to go round at different speeds when you corner. Is that his car over there, behind the Volvo?”
“The little bottle green one, ja.”
“That’s not bottle, Hansie, that’s British Racing Green.”
“This is different, is it?”
“It is in MGs, yes. Nice little Roadster, actually. I had a friend in college had one. But it’s abominably parked.”
“Ach, that’s quite good by his standards. He can’t drive the thing. Aren’t these little cars supposed to be nippy?”
“Well, Marnie let me drive hers a couple of time, and it went like shit off a shovel. I mean, look at it! It isn’t even accurately between the white lines! Those little things are dead easy to park. It would go in the other way if he knew what he was doing.”
“What, backwards, you mean?”
“No, I mean sideways. It’s so small and light, it’s easy to manoeuvre.”
We looked at it for another moment. Then Hansie said slowly, “It would fit between those two trees the other way round, but he’d never get it out again. How light would it be, exactly?”
We looked at each other. “Piet and Tim would not be pleased.”
He sighed. “I’ve just done a management training day, about cost benefit analysis. They said you should learn to weigh up the risks and rewards of what you do, hey? So if we were to put that man’s car between the trees, the rewards would be that he might shut up for a bit. And the costs. . .”
“Hansie, the costs would be a spanking for each of us. Is it worth it? And Piet had Things To Say on the subject of you leading me into mischief, if you recall, and me running after adventures.”
He winced. “He did, didn’t he? You think it’s not worth it, hey?”
I made a face. “Probably not.”
We went back inside. Graham Havelock gave us another fifteen minutes about changing the head gasket, and when Hansie caught my eye again, I nodded and we eased out of the group and fled to the car park. I started to unfasten the top of the car. “Look, they’re just press studs. Undo a couple more and I’ll be able to get the door open and the handbrake off. Let’s hope he hasn’t got an alarm. Now, on Marnie’s car the steering lock wasn’t brilliant: it held, but there was a bit of play. O.K., push. Straight back. A bit more. Enough. We can get it to turn a little bit, and then we’ll have to heave it.”
“Bounce it,” suggested Hansie, whose face was alive with mischief. “Look, hold on under the bumper. Turn her this way. Ready? One, two, three, go!”
It only took us ten minutes to work the car sideways between the trees, all the way up to the chainlink fence. Then I put the handbrake on again, and we fastened the roof back down, and went back inside, and began to make frantic, ‘let’s go home’ gestures at the other two. Hansie kept having to turn away to hide his giggles, and Tim was giving him some very hard stares. Unfortunately, when we all got up, the party broke up, and Mr Hamilton and Graham came out behind us. I was trying to bustle Piet to the car when we heard the anguished howl from the other side of the car park.
We hadn’t a hope of getting away with it. Not a prayer. The minute he saw it, Piet gave me the Look, but I saw the corners of his mouth twitch, and Tim, who was giving Hansie a similar Look, was sniggering as well. Mr Hamilton at least could afford to laugh outright.
“Och, no, Graham, look, there’s no harm done. They’ve not even marked your paint. It’ll just take you a little time to work it out again. It’ll be teenagers, I make no doubt.”
“No doubt,” agreed Piet, throwing me the Look again. We leaned on our various cars for fifteen minutes and watched Graham not manage to retrieve his car, and come perilously close to losing his temper. Even Piet laughed, and Hansie and I were all but incapable. In the end, Mr Hamilton and Piet and Hansie and I lifted it out for him, one to each corner, while Tim made helpful remarks about how lifting an old car could make the floor pan fall out. He drove it away without saying thank you.
“Teenagers, did I say?” asked Mr Hamilton, rhetorically. “Well, I hope somebody will be seeing that those ‘teenagers’ get what they’re due. What do you think, Pieter?”
“I quite agree with you, James. I’m sure somebody will.”
Mr Hamilton went home at last, leaving the four of us still sniggering in the car park. Piet recovered first. “Phil? Do I need to ask if that was you and Hansie?”
“Probably not. Can we deny it, Hansie?”
“Ach, nee. No point.”
“I thought, Hansie, that you had given up leading Phil astray. I thought I made it clear to you last time what I thought of it.”
“Ja, but he’s such a boring man, Piet. We thought we would just throw ourselves on your mercy.”
“Ah yes? And did you think there would be any mercy?”
“Oh, ja. Because Tim isn’t fit to do anything to me, because of his bad elbow, and you wouldn’t punish Phil if I were getting away with it.”
We all looked sideways at him at that. He grinned back at us. He was absolutely high on mischief.
“Forgive my stupidity,” enquired Piet carefully, trying not to laugh, “but what is to stop me punishing both of you?”
“Ach, you don’t want to do that. At your age? Two of us? Far too much like hard work.”
I fled to Tim and hid behind him. “Piet, that’s nothing to do with me. I am definitely not saying that you’re too old to deal with two of us. Hansie's on his own here.”
“Well, but Phil, he might be right. There is no denying that I am older than any of you. I shall have to think about this. I think you and Hansie should go round to get the takeaway, while the old man and the invalid go back to Hansie's house and think about how weak we are.”
So we did that, and I said to Hansie on the way, “You don’t seriously think we’ll get away unspanked, do you?”
He shook his head. “Doubt it. Is it worth it? To see him run the car to and fro between the trees?”
We laughed so much that we couldn’t make ourselves understood in the takeaway. . .
That’s a good curry place Tim’s found, and we ate pretty much the lot when we took it all back to Hansie's. And afterwards, we sat about talking about nothing in particular until Tim looked over at Piet, and said with a grin, “Well, Piet, what about these ‘teenagers’? Twocking, that was. Serious car crime.”
“Twocking?” enquired Hansie. “What’s that? I’m sure I didn’t do that. That sounds like something immoral to do with animals.”
“Taking Without Owner’s Consent,” I elaborated for him. “We didn’t take it very far.”
“No,” agreed Hansie. “About twenty feet, hey? Hardly moved it at all.”
“Ah, well, in that case,” said Piet, helpfully, “it need hardly be any payment at all. Just a spanking. And since Hansie is so careful of the infirmities of my age, I will look to him for assistance. Hansie will spank Phil for me.”
“But really, Piet, we can’t let Hansie get away with that,” objected Tim, with a wicked grin. “I have absolutely no doubt that it was Hansie's idea. And I can’t spank him because I’ve got a bad arm, and he thinks you can’t because you’re too old, so Phil will have to do it for us.”
Now you’re talking. . .
Hansie turned to look at me, with that expression of mischief again. Honestly, he’s what, eight or nine years older than me? Sometimes you would say he was twelve years younger. “Should we run away? I cannot think why we continue to live with these two cruel monsters.”
“Neither can I,” I agreed mournfully. “Piet is dreadfully unkind to me. Never lets me have any fun.”
“No, and I’m not going to now, either,” confirmed Piet, trying hard not to laugh. “Go on, Hansie, put him over your knee. You decide how hard to spank him. But Tim and I will decide for how long. Don’t worry. We are the owners and we consent.”
Well, I struggled a little. Pride requires it, don’t you think? But not much. Hansie had my sweats stripped down my thighs and my boxers after them, and me examining the carpet without too much difficulty.
“Don’t spare him, Hansie,” recommended Piet, heartlessly. “He hasn’t been spanked for a week, and he’s been asking for it.”
Thank you very much, I don’t think. Well, Hansie took him at his word. He’s very conscientious when he puts his mind to something, and he set his palm on every inch of my backside, hard enough to smart. Still, I didn’t see why I had to make things easy for him, so I squirmed and wriggled, and Tim and Piet called encouragement to Hansie, who didn’t in my opinion need it, because the evidence under me was that he was feeling encouraged quite sufficiently, specially when I writhed.
I was decidedly hot behind, although both of us were fairly heated in front, when Piet said, “All right, that’s enough. Now, Phil, are you conscious of your sins?”
I slid off Hansie's knee, and rubbed my arse theatrically. “Well, I’m conscious of something!”
“Ja, me too,” giggled Hansie. “But don’t we get to kiss and make up?”
I thought so too, so we did that, with an eye to the other two, until there was some pointed coughing and enquiries as to whether they should throw a bucket of water over us. And then I got a turn, although I wanted a cushion to sit on, and Hansie lost his trousers and his briefs and I tipped him over my lap.
“I haven’t got a great deal of experience here,” I confided to Hansie. “But I’ll do the best I can.”
“There’s nothing wrong with your best,” said Tim, fairly fervently. Well, he should know, he’d felt it, after all. And Piet agreed, “I told you how to do it, so let’s see how much you can remember.”
Actually, when I thought about it, I could remember quite a lot. So I told Hansie what Piet had told me, and showed Piet what I thought he had meant, and Hansie wriggled as unconvincingly and provocatively as I had done, and with much the same effect. Mind you, he was hot and scarlet when Tim said I could stop, and I ran my hand gently up from his thigh and he quivered.
“You want cold cream on that,” teased Tim.
“Yogurt is supposed to be good to take the heat out of a burn,” I suggested helpfully, “and there’s some of that raita left, look.”
“Oh, no,” said Hansie smartly. “Next thing, you’ll be wanting to cover me with the remains of the lentil thing, and it’s got ginger in it.”
“So it has,” said Tim, advancing on him with the dish. I don’t think he and Hansie actually noticed when Piet and I went home.
Subject: Smart Alec remarks
O.K., you were the man who knew how to treat overheated skin with yogurt. Now tell us, domestic scientist, how do you get yogurt out of the carpet?
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