Mirth and Woe: Manhunt II
I have already, on these pages, regaled you with the sordid story of a bunch of spotty youths, a large country park, assorted airguns and the painful consequences thereof.
Down the gravel pits Matt and Squaggy went with their low-powered firearms, taking pot-shots at each other through the long grass, until they came home and bled all over the carpet.
"Wow!" said Matty excitedly as the physical and mental scars finally healed, "You've got to come down the pits with us. It's MEGA!"
Mega it may have been, but I didn't fancy getting shot up the arse by anybody, and still had the IRA-style gammy knee from the last firearm-related episode to prove it.
After days of arm-twisting, I - and several others - finally caved in. With solemn promises that they wouldn't shoot anybody up the arse ringing in our ears, a gaggle of like-minded, combat-jacket wearing idiots trooped down to Twyford gravel pits for The Second Great Manhunt (No Shooting People Up The Arse, Promise).
It was to be an evening event, for the idea of stalking people in the dark with fifty feet of freezing cold water lurking round every corner somehow appealed to us.
Not actually possessing a shooter of my own, I raided my long-retired fishing box and tooled myself up with a bait catapult and a selection of lead weights. Tying two particularly chunky specimens together with a length of fishing line, I made myself a particularly deadly set of bolas, which would almost certainly have decapitated anyone if I knew what the hell to do with them.
It was a gambit that had worked well before, having invested a great deal of time pelting a kid called Geoff with the contents of my bait catapult, until his scary mum told me to stop.
Crossing the bridge from the Wagon and Horses car park into the gravel pits, we split up knowing that the Great Manhunt would not start until the signal was given.
And given it would be - by the cutting-edge technology of Citizen Band Radio.
"1-4 for a hairy copy - 1-4 for a hairy copy. Die you scum!"
The war was ON.
So, not wanting to die, I hid.
Every now and then, like some dreadful war movie, my radio would crackle into life as another of my buddies succumbed to death by red-hot lead: "I'm hit! I'm hit!"
And the frighteningly homo-erotic: "You bastard! You promised not to shoot me up the arse!"
Fearing for my life as the darkness closed in, I crept from my hiding place and skirted round the lake back to the relative safety of the pub car park and civilisation.
As I rounded a bend in the path, I saw, crouching down by the water's edge, two inches of arse cleavage toward me, the unmistakable figure of Andrew "Squaggy" Davis.
Never in the history of mankind had one teenage boy been met with such an inviting target.
A target of opportunity, and the shot-of-a-lifetime that would be talked about whenever two or more men came together in the name of cocking about.
I filled my catapult with a handful of lead shot, and just for comic effect, a great wodge of mud.
SPANG! went the catapult.
THWUP! went my guided missile, a direct hit down the Death Star's exhaust port.
There was no yelp, no cry of agony. Squaggy simply tipped over forward and fell headfirst into the drink.
Let me rewind a couple of hours. Enough time to, say, witness a young man of a certain reputation winding down from menacing pencil-necked geeks around the school playground, smoking behind the music block, and skiving off reading pornography in the loft space above the boys' toilets. This young man has a reputation so feared and admired that he is known only as "Bozzer", even by the head of PE.
Bozzer might be as hard as nails, but he also enjoys the quiet life. A quiet life that involves a Friday evening of night fishing down the gravel pits, getting away from a less-than-appealing home life and quite possibly expecting a late-night bunk-up with one of the local slappers who knew of his regular pitch. Or not. He probably just liked punching fish.
So, the last thing Bozzer would want was falling victim to some idiot's inability to tell the school thug and his third best friend apart, resulting in a handful of lead shot-and-mud up the bum and toppling head-first into the cold, cold waters of Twyford gravel pits.
He rose from the waters, enraged and rapidly turning into the Incredible Hulk. Not wanting to face the wrath of the second seed in the infamous School Fight Club, I did what any sane young man would do under the circumstances. I went and gave him a hand out of the water, apologising profusely, offering my warm, dry jacket.
Fuck that. I ran away.
I ran away as far and fast as I could, stopping only when I was on the other side of the village, vomiting rich, brown Marathon Bar-flavoured vomit into a hedge in Twyford Rec.
My CB radio crackled into life.
"Scary? Where the bloody hell are you? It's Bozzer! He's gone menta..."
The radio went dead. All was static and the distant chatter of truckers on the motorway. I never saw Matty and Squagg again.