"Kids can be terribly cruel" adults often say. I should know, as I was one once. A kid, that is. I’m not quite sure about the adult bit. According to my wife, I still am, and was a master at dishing out cruelty. In a fun, loving kind of way.
Ray was cruelty incarnate. He came from a well-off family, but was as spoilt as hell. He had a big mouth, bullied those around him, and was generally an unpleasant little shit prone to throwing hissy fits when he didn't get what he wanted. Which was often. And these were his good points. (Actually, his best point was his older sister. Yowsa!)
Unfortunately, his parents thought the best way to give him a bit of discipline was to run him through the local youth groups. So, after getting kicked out of every single after-school club in the district, he wound up at our Cub pack. Thank you, Lord Baden-Powell, this is all your fault.
Ray spent his entire time in the Cubs generally getting on everybody's tits, shouting, swearing and tying them up with their own string. I, on the other hand, got my Bronze Arrow, learned all the words to the National Anthem and took part in regular 14-0 thrashings on the football pitch as part of the world's worst football team. We were coached by an old fella with a goat. The goat was one of our best players.
It all came to a head when they carted us all off to camp for a few days. We were trapped in a cold, wet field full of cow shit in the pissing rain and told to enjoy ourselves. How? With Ray there was no let up. He threw mud into the the pans while we were cooking. He constantly let down the tents, and the hyperactive little bastard then kept everyone awake for the whole night with his brainless witterings until we clearly had to kill him. Poor Nick - a local farmer's lad who was a tad on the simple side - was given hell, and with a bit of adult supervision with the knots, would probably have had Ray lynched.
We planned revenge. We lured Ray into the woods, and at a given signal, we turned on him and pelted the little turd with great dollops of mud. Then, he was lifted by his arms and legs, and dumped into a huge muddy puddle before the bombardment of filth restarted.
It was all going very well, right up to the moment than an enraged Nick started throwing rocks at him, with unnerving accuracy. Young and cruel that we were, we still knew that dead cub scouts were A Bad Thing, and would probably end up with adults getting involved.
The tables turned. Nasty, shitty Ray was now our best friend, and quiet, reserved Nick was now Cubs' Enemy Number One, and was chased through the woods, up Cubs' Canyon and into the Forbidden Lands, where he made good his escape.
He was not seen for several hours, and he returned cold, wet and had clearly shat his pants. Which was bad news for us, because we were six-to-a-tent.
For the next two days, he was treated as normal, and not a word out of place was spoken in his presence. Even Mad Ray had calmed down somewhat - mostly due to the fact that he was not entirely keen on another woodland encounter - and the rest of the camp was somewhat pleasant.
Then, on the final morning of the camp, as Akela was getting everything packed away a masked gang led Nick away, and one person to each limb taught him the Discipline of The Tree. You know how it is - good run-up, preferably down a slight hill for speed's sake, and one leg either side of the trunk. Even at the age of ten it brings tears to the eyes.
Then we dumped him, curled in a foetal position into the shit pit. Feeling pity for the poor boy at last, and with a certain pack member laughing and shouting far too much over Nick's fall from grace, we kicked Ray into the shit as well.
Like I said, cruel, and typical of the shallow loyalties of youth. It was like Lord of the flies. With real flies. Mostly round Nick.
There was but one flaw to our plan. With all of Nick and Ray's clothes now stinking of shit, we had to sit alongside the shivering loons, squeezed like sardines in a minibus all the way home. A minibus the scout troop used to cart around the horse manure that they dug from the local stables to sell to local gardeners. Even with the windows open the atmosphere was the chewiest I had yet experienced in my young life, and that's coming from somebody whose brother had the nickname "Pooh"*.
Nick's dad picked him up in a mud-brown Land Rover and didn't even bat an eyelid. Ray's mum would't let him into the Daimler until he had stripped to his pants.
Oh, the humanity.
*I promised I would never reveal this. Well, hush my mouth.