Taking the Biscuit ( Aged 12 )
Ian Mc Naughton
“Come on Lloyd.” yelled my mother. Iit’s like a post office queue out here. What on earth are you doing?”
Obviously, I hadn’t set my alarm early enough to avoid the morning rush. I had been in the bathroom for half an hour. Ten minutes in the tub, five on squeezing spots, a few on shaving bum fluff, a gel tub worth of hairstyles and the rest trying out various smirks in the mirror. The final touch, a generous dusting of baby powder, a few good slugs of aftershave, gripping the sink until the burning sensation in my face subsided and I was good to go. I laughed at the thought of a long line of old aged pensioners outside the door, down the stairs and out onto the garden path waiting for me to give them their money. The ridiculously sized industrial door bolt dad got from work, clanked across to signal my pending exit from the bathroom. Cheers, sarcastic comments and one rather clever innuendo, greeted my appearance on the landing.
Head down, I threaded my way through the bustle of “me next, me next” bodies while protecting my hair and sort the calm of my bedroom where I carefully slid into my freshly ironed uniform.
In the kitchen, I munched on a Weetabix, had a spoonful of sugar, washed it down with some milk and was off. Smugly Spick and span, and with a spring in my swagger, I left the house and wafted my way to high school. My mind was on my new girlfriend Julie Mitchel. She agreed to bunk off with me after double art this morning. We were going to catch a train to Barry Island, and I was hoping we would go further than a quick snog. Tongues, I hoped there would be tongues.
“Bugger, Art homework.” I cursed as I span around and ran back home to get it.
We were to bring in a piece of family history and paint a picture of it using watercolours. Strict instructions from Miss Devinci to ask our parent’s permission. Too late for that. My Great grandfather: my father had once told me, had been in General Montgomery’s famous ‘Desert Rats’ in western Africa during world war two, and left a pistol to my grandfather who passed it down to him.
Unbeknown to my father, I had discovered the gun ages ago, but It was the first I heard about this and tried hard to raise an unbelieving eyebrow but failed. Dad who is a rubbish fibber, read into my squinty grimace and owned up quickly and said that his grandfather hadn’t been a ‘Desert Rat’ but been labelled a rat for deserting, but was such a truly loveable rogue with a heart of gold, that he got away with it. He went AWOL too from time to time from the Welsh Guards, slinking off to spend time with one of his lady friends. Not far off what I was going to do today.
“Found a hair out of place, have you?” My sister mocked as I ran up the stairs to my parent’s bedroom.
I slid the battered tartan suitcase from under their bed; I will be far more inventive with hiding places if I ever have children.
Sniggering at the box marked ‘poison’, I opened it up and unravelled the pistol from the tissue paper. Not the first time I’d felt it’s cold steal in my hand and imagined its story. It was missing the cylinder but good enough for a quick pose in the mirror.
”Go ahead punk, make my day.”
I slipped it into my bag. The zip broke and wouldn’t close. No time for fixing, I had to get out of there smartish. After replacing the box, I topped myself up with generous splashes of dad’s ‘old Spice’, ‘No pain no gain’, and I was gone.
Back on route, I became aware that I had perhaps overdone the cologne. Dogs and cats in my path were crossing the road to avoid me, people holding their noses and loudly remarking on the overdose of aroma.
“I don’t do humiliation” I smiled and went about my business.
I decided not to meet my friends who I usually walk to school with. Firstly, as they wouldn’t want to walk with me and secondly, I was not in the market for ‘stink’ related nickname that would stick with me for years, not unlike the odour of the brut and old spice I had on.
Having the pavement to myself, I happily went on my way and took a road to school that I had never used before. It was longer and the area was a bit rough. I was buying time for the fumes to dispel while dancing with danger I mused. My mind took me back to Julie and painted me a rather clear picture of what we may get up to in Barry and it wasn’t just the rides, just a glimpse of her bra would make my day. Perhaps if I got her a present or something. It didn’t matter that much though as I did just like being with her. I had a few quid on me for the day out and could afford a little something.
I came across a bright pink corner shop that looked lost amid a grey housing estate. They may have something I could get her. An old Chinese shopkeeper with an eye patch kept the beady good one on me as I did a quick browse. The walls were a mass of mirrors. Everywhere I looked, he was there. I picked up a packet of shortbread. That would do, all girls love shortbread my Nan says. Oh, and love hearts, excellent, a packet of those too.
I went to the counter and placed them in front of the old man. He didn’t say a word as he sniffed the air, pinched his nose and hammered in the prices on a big metal till.
I went into my bag to get my money. Fumbling around while smiling at him. I couldn’t find the pouch that I kept it in. I began to panic; I could sense a cloud of suspicion loom over me. He no doubt thought I was pulling a fast one.
“I have the money.” I told him.
He picked up the biscuits and sweets and placed them on a shelf behind him. It dawned on me that my moneybag might have fallen out. I removed my schoolbooks, last week’s P.E kit, fake dog poo and a left-over onion from cookery class and placed them on the counter, then suddenly, I was holding the gun. The old man yelped and stepped back sticking one hand up. This was not looking good. He handed over the love hearts and shortbread and spoke.
“Here, take them, I don’t want any trouble, get out of my shop and don’t come back.”
“But I, but I, but I.” Was all I could say as he shouted for me to leave, which I did, very quickly.
If I were really robbing his shop, I would have gone for stuff costing more than forty pence. ‘Hold Ups’ seemed pretty easy I considered but brushing away thoughts of repeating the incident for future financial gain. I was going to be a chef in a top London restaurant not a prison. I sprinted the rest of the way to school. Registration was just getting underway as I crashed into the class and took my seat.
“Oh my God Lloyd!” Squirmed Mr Rees. “What on earth have you got on?”
I checked my clothes.
“No Lloyd, your aroma, It’s painful boy.”
Roars of nasal laughter and screeching of chairs. The whole class landed simultaneously on whichever page in a thesaurus the word ‘stink’ was on. I patiently sat there rolling my eyes till they ran out of steam. It didn’t bother me but Mr Rees chipping in with a few of his own was inappropriate I thought. Thank God, Julie wasn’t in my form. I still had an hour to de odourise before meeting her.
Hopefully, she would have the train fare to Barry Island, or it would be the museum. Wander around and poke things, Dark places to hide and kiss and out of the sight of truant officers. Miss Devinci gave me my own desk near the window which, for her liking, could not open wide enough. We all got our relics out ready to paint. It was then I realised that I had left my books in the corner shop. I’d get someone to pop in and get them for me later. I don’t think he would want to see me again; I’d write a note to the one-eyed man explaining everything. Miss Devinci was walking around the class talking to each of us about the piece of history we had brought from home.
I heard Basher Davies telling her that the tin of kidney beans he had on his desk had been in the kitchen cupboard for a good ten years and that was the most historical thing in his house apart from his Grandmother and dog. Basher Davies’s thought process is beyond me and even though he would punch you in the nose for ‘looking at him funny’, as he would say, he did make me laugh, but always to myself.
I was dragged away from my thoughts by a stream of flashing blue lights that were cascading down the school drive. Lots of Police cars. No sirens, just lights. An Ambulance and fire engine muscled to a halt on the adjoining main road. I threw my hand up in the air and with a sense of urgency cried out,
“Not now Lloyd, I will get to you shortly.”
I watched as police in uniform, some armed, piled out of their cars and headed towards various doors around the school. The one-eyed Chinese man from the shop was escorted out of an unmarked car.
“Lloyd, what is it?”
I looked at the gun on my table and felt the blood drain from my face and fill my legs.
“It doesn’t matter Miss.” I was resigned to my fate.
Placing my elbows on the table, I put my head in my hands and watched the classroom door, waiting for it to come crashing to the floor.
“Armed police, armed police. Everyone down, on the floor.”
Screams, mayhem, crying “Don’t move, nobody move.”
None of that though. Just a polite tap on the door and the head teacher Mr Gobb with an armed copper came in, spoke to Miss Devinci and she pointed over at me.
The whole class played head tennis between me and the policeman. Basher Davies was in complete awe. No doubt, this was a dream he had played over in his mind many times, but it was I in the leading role. The copper piped up,
“Hello Lloyd, I understand that you may have a gun with you today.”
Gasps from around the class.
I pointed to the desk. He walked over and picked it up.
“Is this it?” he asked, looking very puzzled.
I am not entirely sure of how I responded. I suppose some would call it an ‘out of body experience’. It was rapid and not always coherent; I caught snippets of what I was saying as I blurted it all out.
“Yes, it’s my great Grandfather’s, he was and wasn’t a ‘Desert Rat, in the second world war or the first. He liked women. I do too, well, Julie Mitchel, although she’s not a woman yet I suppose, or is she? I was hoping for tongues today. I smelt bad, I still do, dogs and cats. I was in the bathroom for ages. Miss Devinci told me to bring it.”
All eyes darted to our art teacher whose jaw dropped and eyes popped.
“Yes.” I continued, my breathing getting faster. “She asked us to bring historical stuff to paint in class, I brought the pistol.”
Loud relief from Miss Devinci.” Doesn’t even have a cylinder. I wanted to see her bra, so I bought her stuff.”
Eyes back to Miss Devinci who repeated her jaw-eye thing.
“I was happy with a snog though to be honest, from Julie Mitchel not Miss Devinci. Sorry Miss. The old man in the shop, He wasn’t having any of it."
"We were going to Barry island together, with Julie, not him, although he looked like he could do with a day out, then I realised how bad it looked with a gun in my hand. Defiantly wasn’t going to bunk off though, no, not me. Wouldn’t dream of it. Am I going to jail?”
“Ok lad, that’s enough, you do realise that this gun apart from having bits missing is fake as well?”
In the headmaster’s room I had time to go over the whole chain of events again in less of a rush. The old man was brought in and was explained the story. He had a peculiar giggle, which went on for an embarrassingly long time. He told me to pop by into his shop anytime where he would give me shortbread and love hearts at half price. It could have gone so many ways, but by morning break word had got out that I was a gun totting serial snogger and was two timing Julie Mitchel and Miss Devinci.
No train to Barry Island, no tongues, no bra that day but the admiration I got from Julie and so many other girls in school was worth more than any shortbread and sweets. I was christened ‘Stinky shooter’ by basher Davies.
I was in the spotlight during family meals that week. Dad bribed me with fifty pence for each time I retold the story. He openly admitted that when the headmaster and police left our house on that day that he wet himself a bit.
Ian McNaughton is a writer from Cardiff. You can find him most days writing short humorous stories at various university libraries around the city. He has recently written a collection about the character in 'Taking the Biscuit' and the unfortunate incidents he has with food while growing up. Ian is the Great grandson of the Welsh novelist 'Jack Jones' and aspires to be like him, but much much funnier .
You can find out much more at