A Midnight's Disguise
A Midnight's Disguise13 mins 164 13 mins 164
Donovan Figg certainly was a very queer character. He never really intended to be naughty. It was just him being himself. His mind worked out all the mischief and I always got dragged in. The other lads never really got along well with him, probably because of his offbeat accent. He even uttered words that I never really understood (I learnt later that he spoke a bit of cockney that he picked up while staying with his father, which is perhaps the reason why I never caught on to most of what he said).
Like many others, it took me a while to understand him and soon I managed to pick up on a few of his 'rhyming slang’. Sadly, most of the time this would get him in trouble and he just couldn't help it. On one such occasion, Donovan had to report a missing shirt. He walked into the school's office with his complaint, but that didn't really turn out too well. I remember him storming into the office complaining,
“I lost me Uncle Bert”
The office fell silent and I knew that this wasn't going as expected.
“Did you talk to the principal?” Asked a worker.
“Nope! I could not. He was with ‘is trouble and strife!”
“I mean… ‘is wife. ‘e was with ‘is wife”
The office gasped. Did he actually refer to the boss's wife as his 'trouble and strife’!
An officer managed to compose himself and said “Well, in that case, would a local guardian be coming over to pick you up?”
“Er. No! Me pop's Moby Dick, and me cousin's broken his Plates of meat”
There was another loud series of gasps.
“That must hurt!” Exclaimed the officer.
“I don't think they understand you” I whispered... I knew I couldn't.
“Aye!” He whispered back.”I think they're all Mutt and Jeff”
He sighed and strolled out of the room leaving everyone startled. Needless to say, this wasn't the only time poor Donnie got into trouble. Thankfully I had his back and I explained to them that all he wanted was to order a spare shirt.
In time Donnie and I became the best of friends. The midnight incident had taught the fellows not to mess with us, and we were left alone. Of course Mr. Andrews wasn't pleased about the entire show that morning, and needless to say, we were now on his blacklist. Which meant, that we had to be extra careful about what we did. Unfortunately, with a friend like Donovan Figg, it was very hard to watch our footsteps. He was known to be a blighter and teachers had their eyes on him… and me. For some reason, I always found myself getting into trouble because of him, and I never understood how or why I ended up being his sidekick in mischief. His brain worked wonderfully when it came to planning his mischievous schemes, but he would never have a backup plan. I would be bluffing if I said he was clever. In truth, Donovan was a complete buffoon. Most of his planned operations ended in outright disaster.
I could never forget the first time we got suspended because of his ‘unsuccessful ploy’. I remember it all started when he expressed his desire to watch the then featuring movie “Avatar”. He talked about it all week and he had made up his mind to visit the cinema on the following Sunday. Of course, he wanted me to accompany him and so I did. However, this was a day of complete and compulsory attendance and we couldn't get an exeat. No exeat slips were being issued and we were forced to stay home that day. Donnie was upset and I felt kind of bad for him, after all he waited the entire week for this movie and now there was nothing we could do.
“Cheer up old pal, we'll see it some other time,” I told him as I landed a slap on his back.
He groaned and said, “To 'ell with this Hampton Wick, I said I'll Scapa Flow and I mean it!”
“Hampton Wick? Who?”
“Eh! This prick I mean!”
“Huh! You still wanna go?”
“Aye! And I do. And I will!”
I knew then that I was going to be in some deep trouble.
Throughout the day, Donovan seemed lost in his own thoughts. He'd been walking around the premises, and I followed him in silence. I knew him well enough by now to know that he was up to no good, especially because he was exceptionally quiet which clearly meant that something was cooking.
“Do yer 'ave a fifty to lend?” He asked me suddenly.
“Yes. I do” And I handed him the money. “What are you going to do with it”
“Hehe! You'll see me ol’ China Plate, you'll see!”
Later that night, I was woken up by a heavy knock on my head. I sat up rubbing my head and looked around to see everyone fast asleep. From below my bed, I heard a, “psssst pssst… Pete! O'er here! “.
I look down to see Donovan squatted on the floor with a butter spoon and a plate. He was doing something far from ordinary, because no sooner than I sat up, I felt my nostrils fume and my eyes began to feel teary.
“What are you doing Donnie?” I ask “It's late! You should be asleep!”
“‘ere” he said, thrusting a sock at my face. “Wear this”.
“Would you let me sleep if I do?”
“Aye”. So I wore the socks and laid down to sleep again, but he was there beside me again.
“'err” he ordered “rub this under yer armpit and tie it”
“What is it?” I ask. I was starting to get a little creeped out. Donovan never really acted so strange. He seemed determined to get me dressed up in the middle of the night.
I look at the lotion he gave me and I took a sniff at it, and immediately I felt a burning sensation down my nose and throat. My eyes screamed to breathe.
“What is this Donovan Figg?”
“Whoa! Ye.. Easy! It's jus’ some onion”
And before I could say anything, I was attacked by him. He pushed me back and I landed with a heavy thump on the metal headboard. I gasped and tried to scream, but I found my mouth clogged with an onion and the next moment, I witnessed what Iater put together as the most disgusting and the most gross act ever. He sat on my back, ripped my shirt off and with one swift movement rubbed as much onion as he could under my armpits. He got off me, laughing hysterically as I stood up and kicked his face. I had no idea what the entire exploit was all about, and I was in no mood to ask. Luckily for him, he simply wished me a good night and strode off to his own bed.
I awoke the next morning with a strange nauseous feeling. I flung the covers aside and tried to stand up, but the headache pushed me back down. My body felt hot and I had a running nose. I felt weak and feverish!
Oh goodness! What if I had a fever?
I tried walking and something tickled me under my foot. I realized I was still wearing Donovan's ugly sock. I pull that out and it smelt strongly of onions.
So the previous night actually did happen! It wasn't a dream.
I looked around for Donnie, and I learnt that he left early that morning to the infirmary, complaining of fever and a headache. I just couldn't get it. Something certainly smelled fishy (or of onions) and I knew Donovan had something to do with it. Also, how could we both be sick? Something was definitely wrong!
I made my way to the infirmary after breakfast. I still felt feverish. The hospital matron wasn't too pleased to admit me in. She was aware of Donovan and me, and she knew just too well that we shouldn't have been kept together, but the poor lady had no choice. We were both having a fever, and we had to be admitted in for the night.
“'ello me ol’ China plate” greeted Donovan as I entered. On seeing him, I immediately lunged at him, pulling him by the collar
“What'd you do huh?” I growled as I tried to wrestle him down.
“Easy buddy. Was jus’ some onions! They give yer a fever!”
“Why! Why would you do that?”
“Eh. Relax. Sit back and watch!”
A few minutes later, the ward boy entered and handed Donovan a large bag. Donovan paid him with the money that I lent him earlier.
“Donovan! Please! What is going on?”
“Shhh! You'll see” was the only reply I got.
I was woken up at midnight. The ward boy who was clearly bribed took the initiative of waking me up. I look around wondering what was going on when suddenly a thick, heavy cloth hit me right on the face. I made a grab at it and threw it on the floor.
“Well! Wear it!” I heard Donovan's voice in the darkness.
“Donovan what is the meaning of this?”
“Do yer wanna see the movie or not?”
“I do, but….”
“Wear the burka” he ordered and walked out.
I obeyed meekly. I had no idea why I was doing this. I didn't even want to see the movie! Getting into the burka in the darkness was tough. I had to first slip my hands in, then grope my way down the cloth and find the opening to slip my head in. Then I had to find the hijab that covered my face so that only my eyes could be seen.
“So 'ere's the plan. Yer goin’ disguised as Ali's trouble and strife and I'll go out as his skin and blister.”
“Oh! Sorry! Yer goin’ as Ali's wife and I as his sister. Good? C'on then laddie. Follow me”
And turning to Ali he said, “Thank yer trouble and strife for the clothes”
“But… but, she doesn't know!” he stammered. Clearly, he wasn't too comfortable with the plan.
“Ah! Shame!” Remarked Donnie and strolled out in the dark night.
“Donnie! Where are you going to find a movie hall in the middle of the night? Don't be stupid!”
“Ah boy! Yer worry a lot kiddo! Lookie ‘err. We leave now because you won't be able to 'ide in the morning now innit? We wait at the 'all. Watch the first show and get back to the Cottage. Easy as pie!”
The air outside the infirmary was chilly, but I was sweating. I was very nervous and scared. I've never bunked school like this before, whereas Donovan, he was as cool as a cucumber. He didn't seem the least bit tensed.
“Are you sure there'll be no trouble, Donnie,?” I asked, my temples started to throb and I could feel myself panicking.
“No China Plate! No Barney Rubble at all”
Presently, we were stopped at a gate. A guard questioned us.
“Where are you going?” He asked us in Hindi. There was an awkward silence. I look at Donnie for an answer and nearly kicked myself! Donnie didn't know Hindi! That's why he needed me to do this with him
*I'm returning…. “ I started and felt a heavy elbow on my ribs. I should have kicked myself again. We were dressed up in burkas and I was failing to disguise my voice.
“We're returning home sahaab” I answer in my best feminine impersonation.
The guard nodded and he opened the gate for us. We were free! As soon as the gates shut behind us, Donovan and I took to our heels. We dashed down the Winifred's Cottage road and didn't stop till we reached the end, the road which lead to the main Street.
Panting and laughing, we made our way in the darkness.
Suddenly, Donovan halted. A car could be seen in the distance, and by the size and shape, I recognised the car. Donovan seemed to have recognised it too because I watched as he took a step back and tried to hide in the darkness, but it was of no use. The car stopped right in front of us. The window was rolled down and Mr. Evans the principal called out to us. Trembling we walked towards him. I must have gone through an entire excuse book for the hundredth time that night, but there was no way I was going to get out of this one. There was nothing to say and just as I opened my mouth to confess, Mr Evans asked- “So, going to give Ali his dinner aren't you?”
I nearly fainted. The principal didn't recognize us, which was a good thing. However, Donnie's heart broke when he invited us to ride back in his car.
I couldn't possibly explain the five-minute tension that grew in the car. Neither Donnie nor I spoke a word. I could only sit back and pray that I returned safely, and I promised myself that if I do, I'm gonna kick Donnie so hard and I wouldn't talk to him till the day I left the Cottage. We stopped outside the principal's house and immediately, we opened the doors and prepared to run.
“Uh uh! Hold it” said the principal. We stopped midway. Our legs still dangling from the car.
“You sirs are suspended till I say so. Tomorrow morning I want you standing in front of my office with your books. Goodnight lads. See you tomorrow”
Not a word passed between Donnie and me. We strode back to the infirmary and spent the night in absolute silence. The next morning after assembly, we were made to kneel down until tea time and study. This carried on for about a week, till Donnie and I had to write a letter of apology and promise that we'd never bunk again.