The Great Guzz-Store Robbery

a true story



David Westenfield wakes me up
with urgent, improbable news.
He has been…unwell on the cracked lino
next to his bed and while collecting
streamers of shiny loo-roll from
the bog at the end of the corridor,
he happened to notice that someone
had left the Guzz-Store open…
And he is feeling much better.

Normally we have an allowance of
One and six a week for sweets:
we queue up after breakfast
at the cupboard in the corridor
and make our careful choices,
while Matron records things in a book.
But tonight there will be no book, no record,
for it is four a.m. and David Westenfield,
who was sick and is well,
has found the Guzz-Store open.

First dilemma: do we let the Prefect in on this?
We decide to wake him and explain the situation.
What does he think we ought to do?
He struggles, but he is twelve and the lure
of unlimited Flake and Malteser
is more than he can bear.
Leaving responsibility to lie in
he comes over to the side of the pillagers.

Four others are selected, those deemed
least likely to crack in the morning
when the heat will be on; and so,
for the next three hours until
the rising bell, we take our fill!

We avenge ourselves for all the years
of prison-grey school meals:
the sausages of alien sliminess;
black puddings like sculpted dog turds;
tight, pulpy oranges – impossible to peel;
powdery hunks of yellow cake; limp, anaemic
rhubarb with what is known as ‘Pustard’
and once a week, on Thursdays,
the awful, slug-like Macaroni.

But now, for one night only, we are Kings!
We remove an entire box of Rolos;
there are Chocolate Buttons sufficient to
do as the advert says and ‘last us all the day;’
Swizzel’s Fizzers (little pastel-coloured pills)
we cram in whole handfuls until we can
hardly breathe for gargling sugar and soda;
Holland’s Toffee – Penny Arrows,
we scoff about a pound’s worth each
and Chews of every shape and colour
until jaws ache and teeth begin
to prophesy of fillings yet to come.

By six o’clock we are only bothering
with hard-core chocolate: Jelly Tots
and Opal Fruits just don’t interest us any more.
As the rest of the dormitory begins to stir
we share the remnants of the secret.
Then someone is put in charge of litter
and when we step casually into the corridor
the Head Boy and Matron are keeping back
a crowd of onlookers as word goes round:
‘Somebody’s raided the Guzz-Store!’
‘Move along please, there’s nothing to see here…’

We pause for a moment in the best tradition
of villains revisiting the scene of the crime
before going down to another breakfast
involving watery, slain tomatoes.

We waited for the Inquisition.
A favourite trick of the regime
was to suspend all films and trips
‘Until those responsible have owned up.’
But this time, amazingly,
absolutely nothing happened.