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Walter Roberts

They say that what goes up must come down. Try telling that to the guy whose back went in mid-bonk in the rear of a Ka. They also say that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Now that Marcus Barclay would not dispute.

Marcus Barclay is not his real name by the way (though his nickname of ‘Marky’ is). None of the names in this book is real. Well, they may be real names but they don’t belong to the persons to whom they’ve been attached here. It’s to protect the innocent, or maybe the not so innocent.. But don’t get too excited. There are no juicy court cases here past or pending.

The anonymity is just to prevent identities being discovered and to avoid embarrassment. If I say that our hero’s name might appropriately have been Dick, Willie or maybe Roger, you might get an inkling why.

The pseudonyms have been selected at random, with little rhyme or reason. Well, no rhyme at all in fact. You wouldn’t really have wanted to see handles like Pat and Matt, or Jill and Phil, would you? On the other hand, the choice of Lana is deliberate but only because backwards it is Anal. That has no relevance to the individual concerned or the story. It’s only a personal indulgence. And now you will wonder what to read into that. Nothing really. Just call it a pervarse - to coin a phrase - sense of humour.

I haven’t even used my own name on the cover. But then I never would, being a shy, sensitive soul. Not all journalists are tabloid toerags, you know. At least not yet but methinks there might be a lot more dumbing down still to come in the old, and famously ignoble, profession.So now you know what I am, if not exactly who I am. You might recognise me from the byline “Francis Driscoll” above numerous meaty, erudite features in our superior Fleet Street publications. (Come to think of it, Fleet Street itself is now a bit of a misnomer for the press - how many papers are based there nowadays?). Don’t be alienated if your daily news intake comes from papers with more pictures than text. I have earned a fair crust from them too, though under another name which modesty, or shame, forbids my divulging.

Ironically, I suppose you might say that I’m a bit lacking in imagination. I have always been fascinated by written words. Hardly a unique distinction, I know. It’s just that most other people get beyond that and find other attractions too - like art, engineering, science, drug dealing, whatever. Not me. So I have had to turn my interest into my occupation.

I had my journalistic baptism on a local rag before graduating to a regional broadsheet in the same geographical area and then to a daily national. Never having had an aptitude for doorstep verbal mugging of the recently bereaved/accused/assaulted, I begged, cajoled, bribed and even earned my way into feature writing. Well, anyone with half a brain wants to express an opinion rather than just report the ‘facts’, though it can be difficult to distinguish between them nowadays. It’s hardly original for a writer to say that they used to read everything. In my case it included the writing on the wall. I credit myself with having had the foresight to anticipate the cutbacks in permanent newspaper staff. So I established as many editorial contacts as I could in the written medium world and launched myself into a freelance career, for want of a more apposite word.

Between commissions from newspapers and magazines and income from some comedy writing for radio and TV series - thanks to that pervarse sense of humour - I have not had to trouble the State for income support, or whatever the People’s Party call the dole nowadays. There’s a lot of competition out there, however, and nothing is guaranteed. That is why I have been on the lookout for a ‘scoop’ in the sense of a story that would make a book and/or a serialised piece for one of our major publications.

I thought I had it when I got wind of Marcus’ story from a mutual friend and then...... well, that’s what you’re about to find out.

I have spoken about me partly because I’m human and people like to talk about themselves. More importantly, I’m trying to establish some credentials and credibility because Marcus’ fate takes some believing. I’ll try to present it as accurately as possible as it was told to me by those involved. However, this is not a verbatim report. For one thing, people seldom remember exactly the words which they used and heard.

For another, there are always little gaps or inconsistencies in witnesses’ recollections that have to be judiciously ‘doctored’. Also, for the sake of confidentiality, I have avoided dialect and accent (not that I’ve ever been sure of the difference anyway). So the language and the grammar are, I hope, a bit more precise than the original but that does not detract from the essence of the tale. If I told you that the whole saga started on April 1 and ended on June 24 (Midsummer night and dreams thereof, in case you don’t have one of these ‘significant dates’ diaries) you would not believe me. And you would be right. However, the action occurred over a period between these two dates. In just a few fraught weeks, Marcus was given, then deprived of, probably the greatest gift known to man and I was handed, then robbed of, my elusive scoop.

I’ll have a word again at the end of the book. In the meantime, away with the first person vein/vain, and on to the main subject.

What follows is not a minute by minute commentary of events. It’s more recorded highlights, if you like. But that’s what life’s mainly about, isn’t it? 

“There goes the monster,”

It might not have been the worst of times for Marcus but it certainly was not the best of times. A couple of days earlier he had developed cold-like symptoms and a slight fever. It was not flu. If it had been, there would have been no story at all. What was definite was the swelling round his salivary glands. In medical speak - and for the time being Marcus could not speak, medical or otherwise - he had contracted epidemic parotitis, or mumps to the layman.

The experience was not pleasant for three main reasons. First, despite, or maybe because of, producing more saliva than usual, he found it very painful to swallow. If you can’t swallow properly, you can’t enjoy food. And being a healthy, normal nineteen year old, he enjoyed food, without there being anything of the Sumo wrestler about him.

Second, there was the effect on his appearance. You might not describe him as drop-dead gorgeous but who wants to make people drop dead, unless they’re into necrophilia? He was in fact a fairly good-looking guy. Nearly six feet tall, with thick dark hair, long eyelashes and Latin-like brown eyes, he could not complain about having been short-changed in the looks department. His ears, were a bit on the large side, though no competition for Prince Charles’, and he had a slight scar under his left eye - the result of a childhood accident - but, if anything, that tended to add to his allure. He was definitely fanciable, to the opposite sex at least. So it was more than a bit depressing at his age for him to find his ailment giving him the appearance of having an extended, almost-square head reminiscent of Frankenstein’s monster.

Not that he had to worry about being gawped at much. He had been confined to barracks as soon as his contagious condition had been diagnosed by the family GP, Dr Urquhart. Besides, his main mates, Brian ‘Wideboy’ Douglas, Francis ‘Fourpence’ O’Connor, and ‘Jocko’ McLean, had steered well clear of him. Their absence was not so much a case of mates behaving badly, as fear of the genital misfortunes popularly associated with the illness. 
That was his third concern. Not the absence of his mates - he was a pretty self-contained individual - but the hazard to the old, or rather young, meat and two veg. Dr Urquhart had carefully explained to him that, at his age, there was an outside chance of a swelling and tenderness - known in the trade as orchitis - occurring in the testicles. It was unlikely to happen and, if it did, it would be of short duration and of no serious significance. Besides, the infection usually only affected one testicle. One thing in his favour was that it was more likely to affect smokers than non-smokers. Yes, it was just possible for both gonads to be affected and er, um, yes, there had been cases of impotence and sterility ensuing. But, och, the likelihood was as remote as the prospects of the Queen being the next Miss World. And anyway there were antibiotics and other treatments available, so there was nothing to worry about.

Without being ungrateful to the doc, he thought it was easy for him to be reassuring - he didn’t have the mumps. It was pretty unfair, Marcus thought, to have to suffer the discomforts of the illness and still have the threat, however remote, of a non-surgical gelding hanging over, or under, you as well. 
It was good that Marcus did not know about some of the opinions being expressed by his mates; they would have made the hairs on his neck, and elsewhere, stand on end. Fourpence was convinced that everything shrivelled and maybe even dropped off. Jocko had heard that there was a 50/50 chance of impotence. Wideboy was prepared to believe that the facts lay somewhere between these two dire predictions.

It was left to the Proof to pronounce on the more prosaic truth. The Proof, or Jervais Cockroft to give him his registered appellation, was not a full member of the fraternity, though he had gone through comprehensive school with Marcus and Wideboy. (Fourpence had been at the same school but a year ahead, though not in intellectual development). Jervais was different from the others. He was gay. Not that you would instantly know. He was no raging queen or lisping limp-wrist. Yet there was something indefinably distinctive about him - perhaps it was his air of cool refinement. Of slim build with a wan complexion, fine fair hair, pale blue eyes and drooping eyelids, he had a slight resemblance to the effete, but ‘straight’ character Niles in the American TV comedy “Frazier”. Nevertheless he was positively homosexually oriented and did not participate much in the pals’ general activities.
That did not prevent them from liking him and engaging with him socially, particularly in their local, “The Left Winger”. Their relationship was not hindered by his being some sort of half cousin of Fourpence, who manifested a protective familial attitude towards him.

With that creative, arty flair not uncommon among gays, Jervais had headed straight for a career associated with drama and was an assistant stage manager in the principal local theatre. His sobriquet ‘Proof’ was not indicative of any particular occupation or pastime; Jervais did not have a connection with the law, on either side. Nor did it relate to his alcohol intake. His nickname was a laddish play on both his extensive general knowledge and his sexual proclivity; it was an abbreviation of Professor and Poof.

Despite Jervais’ explanation of the facts of the matter, the mates preferred to dwell on the darker possibilities. So Marcus was in no danger of hearing ribald remarks from them on his bloated appearance. It is doubtful if they would have watched him through a telescope never mind touched him with a barge-pole.

Not that Marcus totally escaped the addition of insult to the injury he was feeling. His father, John, couldn’t help making, though not unkindly, the obvious comparison with the classic film freak. Marcus’ slightly younger sister, Susan, made the same comparison but, as is a sibling’s way, with malice and a great deal of mirth.

“What are you like?” she chortled then proceeded to answer her own question. Marcus’ gurgling, incoherent attempt at a riposte just heightened the comparison and made Susan laugh the more.
That is how things stood after two days of Marcus’ subjugation by the mumps virus. The third day saw a radical change. When Marcus awoke he was immediately aware that he could swallow normally. There was no longer a need to let his saliva collect and try to slide it gingerly down the back of his throat. That was his first surprise. Then putting his hands to his neck he found that the swelling had gone - surprise number two but the biggest had yet to come.

His astonishment at these discoveries had temporarily diverted him from his normal morning examination of his mildly threatened genitalia. An incipient smile of relief at his release from the other symptoms of his ailment became stillborn. Things were not as they should have been in the basement.

His head swiftly pursued his hand under the sheet to verify that his manhood, as the tabloids coyly describe it, was extraordinarily swollen. This was not the result of matinal self-abuse; bed was not one of the locations Marcus favoured for that indulgence, even unconsciously. No, this was something pretty abnormal.

Marcus’ eyes had dilated like a cervix with a heavyweight child coming through. His mind was accelerating in auto drive, prey to a confused mixture of excitement and fear. He had been suddenly endowed with the sexual equivalent of the holy grail. But what if there was a downside? Maybe it wouldn’t function properly in all respects; or even in any respect. Maybe it was the harbinger of some great malfunction of his body in general. Bloody hell! What if it was only the start of something big? What if the inexplicable growth continued? He seemed to recall some childhood tale, maybe it was about Pinocchio though he didn’t think so, in which some poor sod had had to carry his nose around in a wheelbarrow because of its exceptional size. God forbid that he would have to wheel his hose around! If that was the price of his new-found fortune, he couldn’t afford it. 
In times of stress a lad’s first thoughts turn to his resident social worker, his mother. But, even in these liberated times, a major augmentation of the crown jewels was not a subject that could casually be broached with the old girl. Besides, he thought with a sinking feeling, it might only be a fleeting phenomenon. Maybe it was just a swelling, though it was on the scale of a hot air balloon swelling. Maybe he had been bitten by something - but there was no pain or heat in it.

With fear descending and hope climbing in his emotional chart, Marcus decided to test out his dimensional development. Shrugging on his dressing gown, he hurried down into the kitchen of their three bedroom semi, grabbed a bag of ice cubes from the fridge and shot out again. His father, who had a very early start in the morning, was long gone to his Post Office work. His mother was lingering over her second cup of caffeine stimulant before heading for her receptionist job at the local medical centre. She vaguely sensed through her maternal radar where, but not exactly what, he was at and said something encouraging about his trying to reduce the swelling, though she did not mean the kind that preoccupied Marcus. Susan, displaying her usual sisterly concern, whooped, never realising how appropriate her words were. In their early morning lethargy neither noticed that his face had regained its normal contours.

Having scuttled back up to his room, Marcus suppressed a yelp as he applied the ice bag to his distended dick. After the initial shock of the low temperature, he found the quaint tourniquet induced a mildly sensual sensation. Another time, he might have been keen to prolong that feeling but he had something to sort out here urgently. Apart from the normal initial effect which cold temporarily has on the male genitalia, nothing extraordinary occurred. Once the freeze-inducing agent was removed, the appendage regained its new amplitude. Soaring hope suddenly reached number one in the emotion chart.

While the rest of the family spent the day uneventfully at work, Marcus was engaged in research on his personal growth. You could say he had his hands full. Measurement confirmed almost a doubling in limpid length to 9 inches. (We may have gone all metric in other ways but that’s one item for which imperial measure remains sacrosanct). Remarkably, Marcus had not plotted his circumference before mainly because he had never had a tape measure handy and he did not have one now. He couldn’t help noticing that while the meat had expanded, the two veg did not seem to have altered significantly. He was worried in case they might have shrunk but concluded that that was a false impression from the comparison with the new monster.

What mattered was that the equipment as a whole performed just fine on a test of both its essential functions. The real bonus was that when the monster was made to stand to attention it gained nearly another third in length. It meant that Marcus now had to wield a two-handed broadsword instead of a rapier, but he wasn’t complaining.

Marcus wondered briefly whether his altered state was a divine recompense for the discomfort and worry induced by the mumps, which were rapidly becoming a diminishing memory. His mood was jubilant but he knew that what had developed was hardly normal and might yet have untoward repercussions His altered state would have to be looked at physically and metaphorically.  
Not being sure quite what to do, he consulted his father on his return from his postal duties. John Barclay just managed to suppress an exclamation of “Are you sure, son?” realising that this was not the kind of issue on which any lad was going to make a casual mistake. He had not been called upon to testify to the well-being of his son’s genitalia for many a year now. So he was almost as embarrassed as Marcus when the monster made its first public appearance specially for him.
“I see what you mean, son.” In his voice could be detected awe, wonder, a touch of pride and a little amusement. “It’s a whopper right enough”. John asked the kind of questions laymen do, as if they could do anything about it anyway, about the fall of the mumps and the rise of the monster. He then concluded unsurprisingly that the family medical adviser, Dr Urquhart, should be apprised of the situation ‘to be on the safe side’.

John made the call to the surgery on Marcus’ behalf and asked for his wife. With some difficulty, he persuaded her of the genuineness of the matter without her becoming hysterical with mirth or fear, or both. It was clear that professional medicine men would be even more sceptical so they agreed that she would simply report that there had been complications, involving a growth, arising from the mumps. Despite the common view about delays inherent in NHS services - and having nothing to do with the perks of Mrs Barclay’s employment, of course - it was arranged that Dr Urquhart would call that very evening. 
 © Walter Roberts 2001
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