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Medicine Ball

November 20, 2016

I thought it was about time for another short story, so here goes.

Although fiction, I did attend a private grammar school in Bolton, Lancashire, back in the 50s/60s…


By Paul Beech

Bates and Fisher were best friends until one day during the Autumn Term when, at the tuck shop, they fell in love with the same girl.

Janet from the class below was not exactly pretty but had a quiet aura that appealed somehow.

She offered them each a sherbet lemon and both accepted with thanks. Fisher gave her a chunk of cinder toffee in return but Bates, reaching deep in his pockets, turned crimson.  He had only a couple of bob left for bus fares.

He pulled out a coin but Janet stilled his hand. “No, don’t leave yourself short,” she whispered.  “It doesn’t matter.  Not at all.”  Her brown-eyed smile nearly dropped him on the spot.

Fisher might ordinarily have given Bates a chunk of cinder toffee too but didn’t this time.


They managed not to speak of Janet for nearly a week. They did have a scrap in the Boys’ Locker Room with Fisher forced to submit, but this was all in good sport, as many times before, no malice in it at all.

Then out of the blue Fisher said, “I don’t get it. I’m the brighter one, better looking by far, more manly too.  So why’s it always you, Bates?  Always you Janet makes eyes at when she thinks I’m not looking?  It’s not fair.”

Bates, suddenly flushed, shook his chum by the lapels. “My dad lost an arm in the war.  He cannot drive.  Yours ponces about in a Bentley.  Is that fair, Fisher?  And what d’you mean, ‘more manly?’”


The final straw was the note. It was slipped to Bates by Janet’s friend Elspeth after lunch.


Darling, how it pains me every time to see you at a distance, wanting you so, your arms around me, your kiss. Please ring – you have my number.  Let’s meet again soon. 


Your loving Janet xxx


Fisher sneaked the note from Bates’ blazer pocket as they climbed the spiral staircase to the Geography Room.

“You dog,” he said, and Bates kicked him back down.


It was bloody. And exercise with a medicine ball should never be that.  But Bates and Fisher were not in the Gym to improve their upper-body strength.  No, at the final bell they’d headed straight down to settle the score between them.  It would be a dual, their chosen weapon PICKLES 3, the heaviest medicine ball on the rack.

Fisher was the taller, the stronger, but with his left ankle swollen from the kick it was an unequal contest. After many a dirty throw from Bates, he now lay gasping on the floor, blood bubbling from his nose, with Janet bent over him sobbing.

She turned to Bates with hate-filled eyes. “How could you?”


Fifty years on, an ageing jazz musician in America found a vintage medicine ball for sale on the internet. It was British, well stuffed, marked PICKLES 3 in fading white paint, and he bought it for $160.  His name was Bates.


Copyright © Paul Beech 2016




  1. A beautiful story of young first love. Adults call it puppy love but who is to say it will fade? First loves can last a lifetime and get memorialized in ones heart forever. It can make or break friendships as this one did. Many of us have walked that path only to tuck the first love away wrapped in a velvet memory in a corner of our heart.
    So well written it takes us on an emotional roller coaster ride from start to finish. Did Janet really want Fisher from the start and just used Bates to make him jealous or did she really like Bates better until she saw the result of his temper in the blood of his best friend. It leaves me wondering how life turned out for each character. Did Janet and Fisher wind up happily ever after or did she wind up living in America with a jazz musician husband. My final thought is; was PICKLES 3 purchased in memory of a lost friendship over a brief first love that turned out to be just a memory for all three of them. Well penned Paul as usual.

    Best Regards.


    • Hi Pat,

      Writing ‘Medicine Ball’, the mists of time parted for me and I was back at my old school, a private grammar, in those distant days when masters wore caps and gowns and threw chalk at pupils for whispering in class.

      Bates, Fisher and Janet certainly lived for me in the telling of their tale, and I’m chuffed they lived for you in the reading, so much so you’re curious how their lives panned out. I’ve a pretty good idea but will keep it to myself so others may ponder this too.

      Your words, lovely as ever, are so encouraging and mean a lot to me. I feel now that my trip down Memory Lane was not only enjoyable but most worthwhile. Thank you.

      Fond regards,


      • Your stories and poetry are always beautifully written one can not help but feel and understand the underlying emotion it conveys.
        You are truly a master of the written word.

        Fond Regards,


  2. Dear Pat,

    Your kind words humble me, yet I know the source of any talent I possess: my Grandad Dawson.

    Decorated for bravery in the trenches, where he was known as “Gerry” Dawson, he became a policeman in peacetime, guarded the King on a train journey and rose to the rank of Chief Inspector. A gifted self-taught violinist, he was also a brilliant storyteller who held his grandchildren in thrall.

    Never will I forget his rich Northern tones and turns of phrase as he sat in his favourite chair, profile in silhouette in the gathering dusk.

    Aye, my Grandad.

    Thank you so much.

    Your friend, Paul

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