Doc Martin Fanfiction: 8 - 109. Chapter 109
The characters, places and situations of Doc Martin, are owned by Buffalo Pictures. This story makes no claim of remuneration or ownership, nor do I make any attempt to infringe upon any rights of the owners or producers.
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“Stay with me,” she’d implored me in the car. “Stay – with – me.”
I looked at her across the kitchen table, where she helped James maneuver a spoon loaded with mashed potatoes and gravy into his mouth.
“Yum,” she was saying, smacking her lips. “Yum, yum!” as he ate.
James laughed and waved his spoon hitting me with the dregs of mash square on the tie.
“Spot on,” I grumbled. “Goal.”
“Well how you do know he wasn’t aiming for your face?” she teased.
I scraped the gooey morsel off my tie. “Perhaps I ought to wear a bib when he’s eating.”
That made her laugh. “Oh dear,” she giggled more. “Maybe he should hit you with more food? Made you tell a joke at least.”
I flashed back to the school dining hall, my school; the boarding school I attended. Meals were to be eaten in silence, and they were or the offenders would suffer the switch.
One day we were all tucking in, heads down over our plates, when someone threw a hard roll which bounced off my head. I sprang to my feet and shouted, “Who did that?” It had been a hell of a day, and from getting thrown into an icy shower by the senior students, having my math homework stolen, a tripping on the football pitch, plus the usual snide comments and slights, I had now blown a fuse.
The tallest boy stood up and stared at me from across the room while a staff member scuttled into the fray. It was Gabriel, Thomas Duncan Gabriel, and there was no worse tormentor than he. I had suffered any number of shoves and punches from him plus many other forms of torment. He was thirteen and tall for his age, and I was ten, and a small ten at that. It was only much later that I grew to my adult height of six foot three, and a weight of fifteen stone but at that point in my life I was small and made an easy victim.
“Gabriel!” the dining monitor shouted. “You have detention and five demerits!” Then teacher whirled on me. “Ellingham! Why must it always be you? You are our professional victim, aren’t you?”
It was always the victim’s fault in those days and not the bully, for the victim was weak and needy; an easy mark, and if he’d only stand up for himself… the echo of my father’s voice rang in my head. How many times had I heard that phrase from him?
“Be a man, Martin! Have some backbone! Grow a pair! Must you always be the one to be picked on? Don’t expect me to fight your battles for you! Now go away,” went his usual address.
I dashed from my table, swerved around the outstretched hand of the teacher, who made a half-hearted grab for me, and made straight for Gabriel for all I saw was the red of rage. His name should designate him as similar to the Archangel Gabriel who was said to be a messenger of God, yet as far as I was concerned, my adversary represented the Devil himself.
Gabriel laughed and pulled up his sleeves, ready to give me a good one. The hall was filled with all the boys shouting “Fight! Fight!” like medieval serfs gathering around a bear’s pit where they’d drop fighting dogs in one-by-one to be crushed. Gabe was the bear and I a very small and scruffy dog.
The teacher ran for reinforcements, so in a few seconds I was facing my tormentor, alone, inside a ring of pushing and shoving classmates.
Gabriel scooped up his plate and flung it on me and mash, gravy, and the typical horrid unchewable meat, along with spouts, sprayed over my face and chest.
I wiped the food from my eyes and flung my hand, spraying him with some of the muck.
“Come on then Ellingham! Let’s get this settled!” Gabriel shouted and he lunged for my shoulder, but I ducked under his flailing arm, whirled and gave him a swift kick to the backside.
To my amazement, he screamed, fell to the floor and grabbed his bum. “Jesus! Oh my God! He’s killed me! OH! OW!”
That afternoon I dressed in the hard boots which Uncle Phil bought me when I arrived at the farm the previous summer holiday. After football that day, I’d found that some unfriendly person had soaked my best shoes in urine and they were unwearable. So bowing to the likelihood of being caught wearing improper footwear to supper, I had shined them best I could and put them on my feet. They were superb for farm work, having hard soles, high sides, and a quite hard and thick toe to resist wear and tear among the stones and tussocks of a working farm. My Uncle called them brogans, and they were fit for farm work – but sadly lacking in sartorial elegance.
In the ring of a hundred and fifty jeering and shouting boys, Thomas Duncan Gabriel cried and blubbered, while his fellows laughed at him. “Marty Ellingham sure kicked your arse!” his best mate laughed.
“Beaten by the smallest boy!” cackled another and somehow I knew that at least his friends would not take revenge upon me.
Swiftly four teachers came running, shouting dire threats of punishment and the laughing ring dispersed, leaving my victim writhing and crying on the floor while I stood there stiffly waiting for doom to fall upon my head.
The oldest teacher, Mr. Rupert, put his hands on hips. “Now, what’s all this!” He poked the foot of Gabriel with the toe of his brilliantly shined shoe. “Having a little problem, Mr. Gabriel? Lost something!”
He turned on me then. “Well Mr. Ellingham?”
“Sir! He threw food at me, and on me sir and I went after him! Sir!”
Rupert was of the old school and probably imagined he was still on parade for His Majesty somewhere in North Africa, chasing Rommel, so we were required to have a military bearing. My father loved the thought of a well-disciplined school, and so it looked that way from the outside, but it was rotten and soft inside, like an aged melon. Fights and pranks were common and of course too often I was the chosen victim.
Two other teachers sat Gabriel up and he screamed all the more. “He’s done broke something!” he screamed. “It hurts! Hurts a lot! In my tailbone!”
Rupert glared at me. “Well? Explain!”
“Sir, Mr. Rupert, sir, he grabbed for me but I ducked and I kicked him sir! With these! In the bum!” I raised my pants legs to show the heavy brogans on my feet.
Rupert peered at them. “Ah! Gave him some savate?”
I nodded. “Yes sir. I may have shattered his coccyx. I… I felt it give sir.” It had felt like stepping on a dropped piece of burnt toast when I struck him, and the shock had rolled up my leg to my knee and hip, which were still aching.
Now the room was silent but for the sobbing of my adversary and the heavy breathing of more than a hundred young ruffians waiting to see what devilish punishment awaited ‘Marty’ Ellingham.
Mr. Rupert bent forward at the waist and began to laugh. It was the sort of laughter which brought down the house in a theater, but he was the only one laughing, his voice echoing in the large high-ceiling room. After a full twenty seconds (I counted) of this, he stood up straight and wiped his teary eyes. “May have shattered his tailbone?” he chuckled. “Oh I dare say, you likely have. I did that to a Jerry back in the War and the poor blighter needed a full ampoule of morphine to stop his screaming.” He turned to his assistants and snapped his fingers. “Infirmary for this little sod.”
I braced myself.
He turned back to me. “Been egging you on, has he? Like always?”
Rupert knew full well that Gabriel used all of us as boxing bags and footrests day and night.
I nodded. “Yes, uhm, yes, sir.”
Rupert leaned close and whispered so only I could hear, “Good for you. We’ll speak no more of this.” He straightened and bellowed to the room, “Pity that Mr. Gabriel slipped in some spilled gravy and fractured his tailbone! Right?”
A hundred and fifty boys answered him in unison. “Right sir.”
Rupert looked me up and down. “Shame you got gravy and mash over you as well.” He clapped me on the back. “Now go clean up!”
It was not the only fight I ever won, just one of two, and it was hardly a fair one, but I marched to the dormitory feeling both letdown and buoyed up at the same time. Fight or flight I’d read in the Human Health textbook – fight or flight. That time fight won.
“Penny for ’em?” Louisa was saying to me.
Boarding school, the thought rung in my head. “About school, for James; I think Portwenn Primary ought to serve him well.”
She sat up straighter. “Really? We’ve talked about that but… wasn’t sure if you still agreed.”
“It’s very small. Not very well disciplined and the Head Teacher can be… prickly… at times.”
I shook my head. “I don’t think that going away would be best. He should live at home… with us and I do believe our school has a fine Head Teacher. I know her; always doing her best.”
“Thanks for saying so.” Louisa smiled. “Sure. Deal. He stays with you and me.”
I looked at the gravy splotch on my silk tie. “This can be cleaned.”
James giggled since he had kept eating.
“James, throwing food is a no-no,” Louisa instructed him. That’s when he let fly with another spoonful and hit his mother right in the forehead.
I went to the sink, got a tea towel and went ’round the table and dabbed at it. “It’s not too bad,” I told her as I swabbed the food out of her hairline. “Mm. Oduer du pomme du terre,” I sniffed. “Interesting along with Kenzo Flower,” I sniffed.
“Your French is horrible,” she giggled.
I shrugged. “Not my strong suit.”
She pulled me down so our eyes were level. “Mash, gravy, and schools. A fine meal.”
“Uhm, there’s that fruit thing that Bert gave us as well.”
She shook her head. “Not what I want for afters husband.” She licked her lips and smiled.
I sighed. “You’re persistent.”
She cocked an eyebrow. “Somebody has to be.”
“Uhm, not planning a trip to Spain any time soon, are you?”
She shook her head. “Only if you’re going with me.”
I pursed my lips. “We’ll see.”
Stone – Old English unit of weight equal to 14 pounds, or 6.35 kilograms, commonly used to measure human body weight. Fifteen stone = 210 pounds.
Sabot – The art of Savate – kick boxing.
And in addition, a kind reader pointed out that the word ‘fanny’ has a vulgar meaning in the UK. Therefore, that word has been replaced by ‘tailbone.’ Thanks!