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The Dominic Effect - 5




When you’re in infant school, it’s not that easy to get rid of your friends.  You have years left of being in the same class for a start, and even with the limited social awareness that I had, I knew that it wasn’t right just to ditch the kids whose mother had recently died.  Six year olds don’t go through the gradual drift that adults do – either they’re friends or they hate each other.

            I initially tried to ignore Dominic at first, which made him cry and Miss Pawson angry with me.  For a few days I carried on as if nothing was wrong, whilst I struggled to work out how to stop being his friend.

            The answer came to me from television.  One evening, Mum and I were watching one of the soaps.  I remember that it was on at half past seven because I always had to get into my pyjamas before it started so that I’d be ready to go straight to bed when the credits rolled.  For three nights a week this would be my bedtime story and each day would end on a cliff-hanger that I could hardly have understood.

            In the programme there was a fight in the pub, preceded by the silence that real drama commanded.  The fight was caused by one man saying something horrible about another man’s wife.  Mum liked me to ask questions about the things that I saw as it backed up her belief that these dramas were educational.  She had become engrossed by the soaps herself and would have struggled to stop watching them if I’d suddenly lost interest. 

            Dad still had no idea that Mum and I did this.  He was busy working at the hotel in the evenings and setting up a restaurant with Charles Proctor during the daytime.  I saw him often enough, but my time was predominantly spent with Mum whilst he went out to build a life for us all.  It was all harmless, but Mum just didn’t think that Dad would approve, especially as they had strived to keep me away from television during my infancy. 

            “Why are they fighting?” I asked. 

            “Because that man was mean to him,” Mum explained.  “Not that you should do that, even if you hate someone.”

            “Does he hate him for what he said?”

            “Yes, because he said something that he knew would hurt him.”

            These moments were my fables.


I went into school the next day armed with a plan and a killer line.  I said little to Dominic all morning, pretending instead to be fascinated by everything that Alex and Lauren said.  Understandably, by morning play-time Dominic was a little concerned and asked me if I was alright.

            “I’m not sure I want to be friends any more,” I told him, exactly as I had planned to.

            Dominic’s eyes welled up as he asked me, “Why not?”

            “I don’t know,” I shrugged and said nothing else.  Dominic turned to walk away from me before he started to cry properly.  “That’s right,” I called after him, “go tell your Mummy!”

            Upon hearing my line, Dominic turned from distraught to implacable in seconds.  He ran at me and began hitting me in a flailing fashion that came from nothing but pure rage.  Someone yelled ‘fight’ and suddenly seven years worth of schoolchildren were gathered around to witness what could only have amounted to some wrestling and a couple of kicks.

            Mr Poulton – who would be my third year teacher – was on playground duty that morning, and it was he who broke up the fight before sending Dominic and I to the head-teacher.  We received stern words, but there were no serious repercussions.  I insisted that Dominic must have misheard me and the dressing down was diffused.  We shook on it and promised to make friends, make friends, never ever break friends, but this was merely an aesthetic gesture.  Dominic and I had little else to do with each other for the remainder of our time at Gregson Lane Primary School.

            I felt no sadness about what had happened.  All I could think about was the fight.  The fight!  It had been something special.  It was my introduction to aggression, and the first ‘bad thing’ that my parents had been unable to shield me from.  Walking back from the head-teachers office, my heart was pounding and I was grinning from ear to ear.  I tried to compose myself as I went back to class.

            “I think you just love the drama,” Miss Pawson sniped at me as I walked back into class.  I didn’t quite know what she meant, but I liked the sound of it. 

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