Well that was rather dark. A bit like the middle episode of a trilogy, the second part gets a little depressing. I am glad to say that my early years weren’t all doom and gloom. There were some great memories. I took up the clarinet and took part in some interesting orchestral experiments which I remember fondly. My parents got me into Ju-Jitsu, to help build my confidence, which it did… eventually. I also go my first taste of theatre.
Not all Gloom
The year seven production was to be Oliver! (yes the musical) and I recall being asked to audition for Oliver, which I was really excited about. The lead role. I drilled myself with the audition piece, “Where is Love?”. That’s right, that incredibly high boy-choir like number. The day of the auditions, I was nervous with both nerves and excitement. When it came time to actually perform, I got up there, and for a while completely forgot where I was, fully immersed in the song. It was towards the end, approaching the key note in the song, when I heard a snicker from the somewhere. I opened my eyes to see all my peers, the bullies, teasers, and antagonists, watching me, grins glowing at me. I faulted and my voice cracked, just when I needed it the most.
I was cast as an extra, and was then teased for months thereafter for my attempt. My first theatrical was rather dreadful. Interesting that the desire to try again stayed with me for many years until I had a second chance.
I also join Cubs, learnt piano, built my first gaming computer with my father. When I say built, I mean completely. While we used a Dick Smith kit, in the days when Dick Smith actually sold electronic components and kits. In the days when Dick Smith Electronics was a REAL electronics shop. I had to draw out the circuit board using a special acid resistant pen, burn the rest off in an acid bath, solder all the components to the board, and program the chip using an E-prom unit my father had made. The programming was done is raw Hexadecimal, and took an age. The graphics consisted of blocks about 1/2 a centimetre across, and where back and white, but it was all mine. This was before PCs even became a concept. I built a lot of his kits when I was young.
The Hero and the Wiz
I became a bit of a Maths wiz in year 6 or 5, not sure which. We had a regular contest where the class was divided into two teams, and a member from each team would stand at the board and with a piece of chalk, answer simple math questions. The quickest stayed, and the loser was replaced by another contestant. I was tough to beat returning to my seat only once in the year.
During a game of softball in year seven, an incredible fluke happened. I just happened to be standing in the right place at the right, and paying absolutely no attention to the game, which was probably a good thing. Had I been paying attention, I may have flinched and been hit by a low flying ball moving at incredible speed. I had been place between the pitcher and second base, where absolutely nothing happened. The safest place to put the kid with no coordination or sporting skill what-so-ever. I never expected the pitcher to duck when a massive hit sent the ball his, and my way.
It landed neatly in my hands before I even knew what was going on. I looked down at the strange object in my hand. I then turned and tossed it casually to the girl holding second base. In that simple move, we got two of the opposing team out. Seeing as we only needed one out, and they only needed two home to win, we won. For a little while, I was the hero.
Yet, even though there were these moments of great things, I felt incredibly alone, unwanted, and unworthy. To my young mind, I couldn’t do anything right by my peers, my parents, and to myself. I felt foolish, and ignorant much of the time. Not about school things. Personal things. Other kids my age appeared to know more, be braver, stronger.
The Straw that Broke
Then came the end of Primary School. At this time, I had one good friend, and a few friends, but we were all going to different schools. We were to be separated, and my good friend changed. In the last days, I was suddenly friendless, and facing the prospect of going to high school with those same kids who saw me as their punching bag.
One in particular probably had a good reason not to like me very much, and it was his own fault. While it led to further pain, this memory I recall with great fondness. During class activities, we play dodge ball. I was a bit of a menace both inside and outside. I seemed to have better peripheral vision than most of my peers, and my Ju-Jitsu helped me with the dodging. I was like a gazelle, and when I was throwing the ball, I was able to make it look like I was aiming in a completely different direction to where I threw. This annoyed a certain someone, who decided to seek revenge.
He ambushed me on the oval after school with a small gang. He had a cricket ball with him, and he proceeded to try to hit me with it. It was vastly easier to dodge that, and try as he might, he simply could not hit me. As his cronies fetched the ball back, over and over again, this game of endless tag went on… until, in frustration, he threw the ball with as much energy as he could muster, at my head. Thank my parents for Ju-Jitsu lessons. I reactively ducked, and the ball stuck the foot-ball goal post, rebounded with all the force that had been given it, straight back at my attacker, hitting him smack in the forehead.
As amusing as this was, what sticks the most was the size of the “gang” that had formed by the time it ended. about 30 to 40 boys all crooning for me to stop moving and let the ball hit me. He, and most of the others, were to be a class mate in high school.
I didn’t know if I could face that. It was the last reason I needed. I knew where my father kept his rifle.
A view down a barrel
I don’t remember where everyone was. My brother may have been asleep in bed, or he was with my parents. Either way, I was effectively alone in the house. My dad had taught me about his rifle, which was not that different to the bolt-action, magazine-fed rifles used in World War One. I also knew what different bullets could do to a person. He used to take it with him when he went bush for work, before his accident.
I got myself set up. You could load a single bullet through the bolt hole, or through the magazine. I loaded a single hollow-point round through the bolt, and then turned the barrel to face me. I placed the end into the pit of my throat, then reached for the trigger. I couldn’t reach it. My arm was not long enough. I strained as much as I could, choking myself in the effort, but I simply could not reach the trigger.
In frustration, I sat and cried. I bawled, but quietly, because I didn’t want anyone to hear. I slowly became aware of the time. My parents would not be much longer. I couldn’t let them catch me like this. I almost panicked, but managed to unload the round, and replace both the bullet and rifle as I found them.
As far as I am aware, to this day, my parents never knew. That will change if and when they read this.
I was 12. I was committed in that moment. Fear and frustration, and short arms, saved me, and I am still here to talk about it. This is not the end however. While I have never consciously tried to take my life since, the experience affected me deeply, and now that I have started down this path, I feel the need to continue that tale to its conclusion.
I’m glad you had short arms.
Today, so am I. At the time…