It was obvious from the way Gordon remained standing, as the others found chairs and settled down, that he was keen to tell his story. He launched into it straight away with a comment which made everyone laugh.
“I was a bit of a pyromaniac as a kid. When I was eight or so, I decided to burn the garden rubbish in the wheelbarrow and it burnt right through the bottom of the barrow.
“On another occasion, I cleared out the fireplace and put the hot ashes in the trailer, ready for my father to take to the dump. It seemed silly to me to put them on the ash pile and then have to move them all again. That little escapade took me six months of pocket money and lots of extra jobs ‘free of charge’ to pay for the bottom of the trailer to be replaced. And I had thought it was such a good idea …”
His voice faded dramatically as if he was considering the quality of the idea again. People chuckled. Gordon had a good sense of timing and they were in the mood for a laugh.
“I had arrived at the class in time to hear the story about Gideon and his blazing torches in jars. I loved that idea and went home keen to try it out. My adopted brother Mpo, who had joined my family a year before and who was, by now, my best friend, seemed an ideal candidate as an accomplice.
“The story provided us with endless fun – lapping like dogs from the fishpond, creeping down the garden in the dark trying to terrify one another. That was until I had the idea of making the torches and putting them in jars. I decided the best jars to use would be the clay preserving jars my mother had inherited from my gran. They would be better than the glass jars my mother used herself, for they would hide the light – which was the whole point.
“But I couldn’t get our home-made torches to light. We had wrapped newspaper and then rags round sticks and tried to set fire to them, with Mpo ready to cover the jars straight away. After a while, he wanted to give up, but then I had a brain wave. There was some fuel in the shed, which Dad used for the lawn mower. We could put some on the rags. That would get them going.
“By the time the fire brigade left, my father was beside himself with anger. Mom’s precious preserving jars had exploded and lay in a thousand pieces amongst the debris. The shed was a pile of smouldering timber. The paint tins had also exploded, glass shattered, tools twisted out of shape with the heat. Dad had said we were lucky to be alive. But the beating he gave us both did give me cause to doubt that … Luck wasn’t the word I would have used …
“Now I was hooked. The fire brigade had been awesome! I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I left school. My family did not agree. They wanted me to be something boring like a maths teacher or a solicitor.
“But Dean’s final story confirmed my dream for me. This is what he told us.”