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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Childhood

Tom Harris

It was with great reluctance that I accepted the role of the Archangel Gabriel in the school play all those years ago. Our teacher Mrs Yates had decided to re-work Cinderella, the Bible and the song-book of ‘Adam and the Ants’ to produce, what was at the time, a thoroughly modern Christmas play.

The part of Prince Charming went to one of my best mates, Chris, and the part of Cinderella went to a girl in the year above me called Sally Smith. I didn’t know a lot about this girl until that Christmas. It was then that the trouble began.

"I love you Tom…" whispered my leading lady, but these were not scripted words and I could see her true intention flickering behind her eyes. Her amorous advances made me nervous and uncomfortable. There was always competition between actors but nobody told me that she would be after my part. This fledgling femme-fatal followed me around the playground. She watched as I played footy with my mates, a giggling, gaggle of girls grouped around the benches. What the hell did she want from me? Why was she interested in me? Was there a history of glaucoma in her family?
"Mrs Harris? You’re Tom’s Mom aren’t you? I love Tom!"

Even at the Church carol service I was not safe from this ten year old and now she was getting to my family. I knew it couldn’t go on like this. It was time for me to confront the problem head on. I was the Archangel Gabriel for God’s sake!

I hate to admit it but I became truly terrified of Sally Smith. I was sick of the teasing and the taunting from my classmates. "Tom and Sally kissing up a tree…" It had to stop.

I had become the very definition of ‘Embarrassment’ and I cried on my way home from school that lunchtime, on the day of the final rehearsal. Was it too late to change schools? Maybe we could move house? This was my last chance, my final opportunity to figure out how I could get out of the play for good. So, I did what any resourceful ten year-old in my position would do. I decided to throw myself down the stairs.

It was a plan of simplistic genius, as long as I could come up with a way of executing it without causing myself any actual physical harm. No-one would expect me to go in to School if I had suffered such an accident. Maybe all this acting would come in useful after all? My unsuspecting audience were my Mom and my Uncle George who were in the back room, conveniently out of sight of the staircase. I knew that once the drama unravelled that they would bear witness to the aftermath and my plight and my problems would be over.

I don’t recall climbing the stairs but I remember standing on the landing and it suddenly seemed a long way down even though the staircase was no more than twelve stairs high. The plan had to be adjusted. After all, I wasn’t ready to die over this. I moved slowly from the landing to the top step and then down a couple more as I re-assessed the fall. The threat of death now seemed improbable but I still didn’t want to risk breaking my leg over a school play - the sense of irony would have been too great even for a ten year old. I descended again and found myself three steps from the bottom. I would be lucky to get a headache from this distance. I crouched down and allowed myself to gambol to the floor. I let out an anguished cry, of what I believed agonising pain would sound like, and there was no way to disprove that my emotional tears had not been induced by the pain of the fall. I lay there, a crumpled child at the bottom of the staircase hoping that my family would not fail me in my hour of need. Good old Mom, there was no way she would make me go in that afternoon, not after all of this….or so I thought….

Days later, the final performance, and the play was drawing to an end. I was still the Archangel Gabriel. My mate Chris was dressed up as Prince Charming, dancing to the Adam Ant song that was penned in homage to his character. What a sight that was.

As the final scenes played out I was glad to see that Prince Charming and Cinderella were standing hand in hand. Hopefully they had finally found each other and maybe now, she would bloody well leave me alone.
© Tom Harris Nov 2009
Tom is studying for his Masters in Creative Writing

tom.d.harris at

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