Tempting as it is to sweep one’s shamefulnesses under the carpet, no reminiscent soul-baring would be honest without some shame.

While in the Navy, just after basic training, I had to go back to Pretoria to re-write matric maths, which I had failed. I took the train. As none of my math books were with me, I had not prepared anything before arriving back at home and had only a week of study leave in which to do so. As the venue was my old school, it was natural for me to stay with an old home friend, Arnie Lambrecht, who had a room at his step-father, Ken Gibson’s place.

He, Kees Corndorffer and I went into Pretoria City Centre that evening to celebrate. Brylcreamed, ducktailed-hair days, they were. Arnie carried a flick knife. He gave me his bicycle chain.

‘Hey, Pete, my mate, this is not the farm, hey! There’s dangerous men in this city.’

I protested. The bloody thing was uncomfortable and so heavy, it was pulling my jeans down, but Arnie insisted.

At closing time the three of us staggered off along Church St, Pretoria’s main drag. The parking meters along the kerb looked to me like one-legged Martians with faces on both sides of their heads.

If I flicked the chain right, I found that I could smack both faces with one hit as the end flicked around the corner. After about ten Martians were rendered harmless, a police van picked us up and took us to the nick.

Kees claimed diplomatic immunity, to which he was in fact entitled as his father was a member of the Netherlands Consulate. His mum came down to fetch him.

She gave me a murderous glare, smacked him across the head with her handbag and dragged him away by the collar.

After a night on a mattress on the cell floor, with pounding hangovers, Arnie was bailed out by Ken Gibson, and, to my eternal gratitude and surprise, so was I! In the days that followed, he got us one of the best lawyers in Pretoria – reputedly the one that cops in trouble would use – who got me a suspended sentence with the plea that I was a farm boy who’d armed himself because he had heard that ‘there’s dangerous men in this city!’ That was for carrying a dangerous weapon. The malicious damage to property charge miraculously disappeared. My parents never got to hear about it and neither did the Navy. But I failed maths, again.

Martian murder never entered the picture.

About peterjearle

Writer of thriller novels. 5 Published: 'Purgatory Road', 'The Barros Pawns', and the Detective Dice Modise Series:'Hunter's Venom - #1' 'Medicinal Purposes Only - #2', and 'Children Apart - #3; all from Southern Africa.
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