The Power of Love
By James Gray
Mr. Fox wrenched open the door of his black 1985 Toyota SR5 pickup and slung his leather briefcase into the passenger footwell. He made a point of nodding towards a ground floor window of the main building, where the Tweed-clad “Rocky” Lyons was watching from the warmth of the teachers’ common room, cigarette dripping from his mouth.
“You have some explaining to do, young man,” said Mr. Fox, sliding behind the steering wheel, slamming the door shut and inserting the key into the ignition. He glanced across at the mop of thick black hair that danced Muppet-like outside the pickup window as the young boy tugged frantically on the passenger door handle. Mr. Fox rolled his eyes. Give me strength.
“Just pull on the… Gently! You’ve got to… Oh, for Christ’s sake, boy!” Mr. Fox leaned over and sprung the passenger door. “Just get in, will you!”
“Sorry, Sir” said Billy, cheeks ablaze. He climbed in, hauling his Harry Potter satchel onto his grazed knees.
Mr. Fox shook his head. “I’ve already called your mother to explain about the detention.”
Billy sat in silence, clasping his hands on top of his satchel while being careful not to obscure Hermione.
Mr. Fox looked at the clock on the dashboard and added an hour. It would read the correct time again when the clocks went back in a couple of days. He turned the key and winced while the Toyota battled with its smoker’s cough, pumping the accelerator until the engine caught.
“Have a fiddle with the radio, will you, see if you can pick up anything decent.”
Mr. Fox pulled out of the school car park and turned onto the main road, merging with a heavy but steady flow of traffic. “You don’t have to call me Sir outside of school, you know that.”
“Yes, dad,” said Billy.
After a few minutes Martin Fox drew up at a set of traffic lights and flicked on the headlights. The engine note dipped and Martin feathered the throttle to stop the Toyota from stalling. An eighties classic by Huey Lewis began playing on the radio and Martin started to tap the steering wheel, nodding his head to the beat and pouting. He glanced at Billy, who was staring out of the passenger window as the oncoming traffic trickled past in a steady treacle flow.
“So you want to tell me what happened today?” said Martin.
Billy sighed and turned his head, staring straight ahead out of the windscreen.
“I’ve heard Mr. Lyons’ side of the story, now let’s hear yours,” said Martin.
“It wasn’t my fault,” said Billy.
Martin barely managed to keep the engine running as he kangarooed away from the lights, following the signs for the motorway. He switched lanes, diving for a gap without indicating and prompting a symphony of horns. “Sorry, sorry,” he said, holding up his hand. He entered the slip road, filtered onto the motorway and became another link in the chain of red tail lights that slithered into the distance. Coasting up to the bumper of the BMW Z4 in front, its Monte Carlo blue bodywork glinting in the Toyota’s headlights, Martin said, “Take your time.”
“Well, you know Biff Willis and Chippie Chapman, right, well they must have nicked my mobile at lunch time and messed around with my address book,” said Billy. Martin’s eyes remained fixed on the Beemer ahead, and Billy continued. “So anyway, you know how Mr. Lyons stopped me and Chris sitting next to each other in double maths? Well, sometimes we, you know, we text each other.”
“You do, huh?” said Martin, making a mental note for future classes.
“Biff and Chippie must’ve got hold of Mr. Lyons’ number and swapped it for Chris’s and we were doing long multiplication and it was so boring and I texted Chris, yeah, only instead of sending it to Chris…”
“Got it,” said Martin. “So as if that weren’t bad enough, what did the message actually say?”
“I was only telling the truth,” sighed Billy, throwing up his hands. “Everyone knows he smells like cheese.”
Martin looked out of the side window, stifling a smile as the penny finally dropped and he made the connection between “Rocky”, a nickname of which he knew Mr. Lyons to be particularly proud, and Roquefort.
“Nevertheless,” he said. “Tonight you will write a letter of apology and hand it to Mr. Lyons before morning assembly, understood?”
Billy made a sound like the air being let out of a bicycle tyre.
The traffic started moving again and Martin looked at the dashboard clock. “We’re gonna be late, I’ll have to give your mother a quick call.” He activated the hands-free. “Call CELIA GOODWOOD” he said, glancing at Billy. “She’s using her maiden name again, right?”
The hands-free piped up, “Dialling SHEILA DODSWORTH.”
“No, you moron!”
“Dialling HUGH MARONE”.
“Goddamn fucking cellular fucking phones!” Martin glanced sheepishly at Billy.
“I won’t tell,” said Billy.
“You got your cell?” asked Martin.
“It’s not a trick question. Just call your mother and tell her we’re stuck in traffic.” Martin smiled. “Better dial manually.”
Billy pulled his cell phone from his satchel and began dialling the number.
“FYI, I told her it was a class detention,” said Martin, “so just play it smart, okay?”
Billy’s eyes lit up and he smiled as the line connected and his mother answered.