Damian Williams



Damian Williams


How I Met Donovan Figg

How I Met Donovan Figg

11 mins

I knew something terrible would happen. It seemed as though the day was cursed or I awoke on the wrong side of the bed. Or must I say- the wrong bed. Life is hard when you're a new addition to the boarding house. You're the target for every little prank, and my batch mates were no exception. 

It was my second night at Winifred's Cottage and I was already crying to go home. I woke up the day before to find myself tied to the bed with pillowcases and the following morning, I found myself on somebody else's bed. I never really wanted to come here. My mother believed that the boarding school life was the best life for a student and she insisted that I try it. I've always imagined Boarding schools to be dreadful places, where people fought over breakfast and ate bread infested with maggots. It turned out to quite the opposite, where the food I ate was actually quite delicious, but the dormitory I slept in was infested with maggots. 

I got off the bed to realize that the buttons on my night suit were missing and my slippers were nowhere to be found. I've never really understood this imbecile practice of hiding slippers. It caused so much stress and confusion, almost ruining a person's day by giving him such a grim start to his morning. I got on my knees and looked under the bed, when a loud bellow startled me. 

“Mr Lariviere!” 

I recognised that voice immediately- Mr D’Andrews. A person who I'd taken to disliking because of the way he yelled. I learned that he was our warden and was disliked by almost every resident scholar here. He was a tall well-built man, with curly dark brown hair that seemed to be losing its colour. He had a long pink face, that grew pinker every time he screamed at someone and a brown french beard that make him look ferocious and hard. He was known to pick on any student and he had no mercy. And on this ill-fated day, I was to be his new victim.


I stood up and wished him hurriedly, a wish that he paid no heed to.

“Good heavens!” He exclaimed. “What have you been doing boy?” And before I could express my surprise, he immediately burst out into fits of laughter that left me dumbfounded. I thought this man never laughed, but he was laughing, and it certainly wasn't pleasing because I knew he was laughing at me. 

I took a quick glance around and noticed that the dormitory was empty, except for a kid who I didn't know who hurriedly rushed out of the bathroom and ran down the staircase leaving me all alone to face the music. Mean! I was so going to track that guy down! 

I grabbed my story book and rushed out immediately. His laughter still echoed off the walls of the dormitory. What was so funny? I realized then that I had been receiving furtive glances from my batch mates. The corridors and the vestibule echoed with hushed whispers and excited giggles. And I was left in the dark. I knew it was something to do with me. Perhaps they knew where my slippers were hidden and they were laughing at me as I ran around the corridors barefooted. 

It was only when I went to brush my teeth, that I understood what the fuss was all about. The first glimpse at my reflection sent shivers down my spine. An ugly looking beard was drawn on my face with a black marker, and the word 'ASS’ scrawled across my forehead. My lips had been painted red and the artist had even signed his masterpiece with a signature in blue ink on my cheek. What was worse was that the artist had used a permanent marker which meant that no amount of washing and scrubbing would have gotten rid of the marks. It only faded a bit, but I was to be the clown for the day. 

I spent the rest of the morning in the house rooms on a bench in front of my cupboard. I was paralysed with the fear of being picked on again. I had decided that I would spend the rest of my boarding life in this room in front of my cupboard and only go out during meal times. All of a sudden, a loud noise made me jump off the bench. A boy, not much older than me, stepped in. He had just thrown his trunk on the floor beside my cupboard and he was wiping his brow with a hand towel. I noticed that he had blonde hair and a very round face. He wore round-framed spectacles that seemed to match his orb of a face. He reminded me of Violet from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, who swelled up after eating chewing gum. This kid was huge. He was as fat as a cow and even seemed to move around like one too. He swung his hand towel around his neck and flashed me a cheesy smile. 

“Howdy China plate?” He greeted me in an accent that I couldn't quite place, which confirmed that he was a foreigner. He stretched out his plump hand and I shook it. He had a firm and warm handshake and for the first time since my arrival, I recognised a genuine handshake. 

“The name's Figg. Donovan Figg” he said in an all cheerful voice. “You may call me Donnie” 

“Hi” I replied sheepishly. 

“Well then. I presume this cupboard is empty” and without waiting for a reply, he began stacking his clothes in. 

“So Hye. I ‘ope we are in the same class” he said, referring to me as he dumped in the clothes from the box. 

“Um.. It's not Hye…”

“Oh! My apologies. Mr ‘ide is it?” He asked regrettably. 

“Er. No! It's Peter Lariviere” 

“Peter Lariviere!” He seemed almost perplexed. “I could have sworn that yer told me your name is 'ide” 

“No mate. I hadn't told you my name…”

He interrupted me again. 

“Ah! The Cottage is playin’ with my imagination! I must be ‘earing things”. 

Donovan Figg seemed quite the chatterbox, and he was getting a bit annoying. I would have quit mixing with him and called it off at a short acquaintance, but there was something about the air with which he presented himself. He was an absolute loon and a real clown at that. I learned from him in that short span of fifteen minutes that he was from old Britain city and had moved down to India after his father decided to marry an Indian woman. He said that his father described her as “quite the catch” and that she was no less than a Kohinoor to him. 

We chatted all morning and even shared a table at lunch. And by the time I retired to sleep that night, I realized that I had made my first friend at Winifred's Cottage. 

The next morning was no different. I woke up to find my mattress and I on the bathroom floor, my hands and feet marked with obscure words so I was not really surprised to find the word BLOCKHEAD scrawled on my forehead. What really was surprising was that they hadn't spared Donovan. I met him on our way to the dining hall, and he had worn a bandanna around his head. He didn't seem the least bit anxious about the entire scenario and merely seemed to disguise his tattoo well enough. When asked by me, he told me that he was stunned to discover BLOCKHEAD THE SECOND written on his forehead, and now he was quite pleased to have had discovered who the first was. It didn't seem like an earnest matter to him, and he didn't care much. 

I spent the afternoon reading Joy Adamson's “Born Free.” Suddenly, Donovan Figg burst into the house room his face smeared with tomato sauce. He seemed to be in a fit of rage, as he angrily slammed the door to his cupboard shut after pulling out a clean shirt. 

“What's the matter?” I ask him out of concern. 

“What's the matter! Well I'll tell yer what the matter is. I've not come 'ere to get me legs pulled now 'ave I? I'm not going to let 'em lousy buggers get at me now would I? They're all going ter be all Tom and Dick when I show 'em! Just yer wait and see” and he stomped out of the room as I stared after him in wonder. 

Later that night, he met me before we entered the dormitory. He had a huge bag with him and for some obscure reason, he carried a flashlight. He told the warden that he planned to do a bit of 'quick reading under the blanket’, about which the warden wasn't too pleased about. He called me for a glass of cold drink and told me of his plan of revenge and asked me if I would help him with it. His plan was simple, do unto them, what they've done to him. Only difference was that, he'd sneak in later at night while everyone thought that he had left for home. I refused to abide with his plans. I found them totally immoral and unethical. It was absolutely childish to go around hiding slippers, water bottles and backpacks. 

“Well I thought as much” he said. 

“What do you mean?” 

“Eh! I knew yer wouldn't listen. So I put a baby of a Damon hill in yer drink!” 

“Damon hill?” I asked confused. 

“Oh! Sorry. A pill. A sleepin’ pill.” 

“A sleeping pill!” 

“Aye! 'ere. I got us fake exeat slips. One for you and one for me!” 

“Why would you do that” I muttered. I could feel the medicine take effect. I started feeling a bit drowsy and in another few minutes, I was asleep.  

“Wake up! “ I heard Donovan's whispers as I felt a heavy shake. I woke up to find him pulling me by my collar. I looked down from the tree to see that we'd climbed quite high and were secure on a thick branch. 

On a branch! On a tree! 

I had no idea how he managed to drag me all the way up here, and I was furious. 

“Donovan Figg! What is the meaning of this?”

“Shh shh! Not a Dickie bird! You'll wake everyone” he whispers back. 

“Wake everyone? Donovan! We are up on a tree! In the middle of the night!” 

“Ya! Come along!” 

I follow him on what I believe was the toughest descent from a tree ever. I couldn't imagine how he even carried me up there, but climbing down alone was difficult. We snuck into the dormitory where we found everyone asleep. 

“Hehe! The drink worked!” He purred. 

“The what! You put them to sleep too!” 

“Shh! Come on then. 'elp me out 'ere.” 

I sighed! I never knew why I decided to help him out that night, but help him I did. Perhaps it was the excitement of the adventure. Or was it the objective of revenge. I'd never know, but the very next moment most of the students had their counterpanes swung around their chests and tied to their beds. Their slippers were stolen and dumped into the waste baskets. Several water bottles and backpacks were removed from where it should have been. It was quite a night. We felt like the rulers of the night, having the honour of doing what we felt like doing. 

The next morning commenced with a hugger mugger chorus of lads who either couldn't get out of bed, or couldn't find a slipper. Some awoke with silly inscriptions on their hands and foreheads, others were lost in confusion over a missing pillow or a misplaced book. And in the midst of all this confusion, Donovan and I quietly snuck out to get dressed for the day.

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