We used to call Liam Hehir, Hairy. He went through puberty way too early. At fifteen he seemed to have more pubic hair than any man could ever need. He was one of those guys that had an abudance of body hair but no hair on his head. He was the first guy in his year to use a condom and he told everyone that the hardest part was fitting your balls in. This piece of misinformation spread through the entire year level and most students took it as gospel. When I think about it now I just wonder about how many young men turned their awkward first sexual encounter into a disastrous one all because of a little anecdote told by a balding adolescent.
St Patrick’s College was an institution renowned for raising boys to be terrified of women in an atmosphere of religious propaganda. An all-boys school is a testosterone factory. While the sexual tension is usually displayed in low-level mock violence, occasionally it erupts in some perverted mutation of sexuality. We had a sexual education class one year taught to us by the local priest. Father Francis who was ostensibly a chaste man, explained to us that condoms were not only useless but also dangerous. Sure, we were kids but we weren’t stupid and so the general consensus was that he was lying – but Hairy agreed with Father Francis. Hairy even said that his left nut was bald thanks to the rubbery bastards. Surprisingly, it was our chemistry teacher who was most horrified to hear about this lesson. She told a few of us about the family planning center in town, which would supply us with condoms if we needed them. Her intentions were so genuine, this wonderful, left wing, caring woman who believed that giving people access to the right information equips them to make the right decisions.
Hairy and I went down to the clinic after school. He wanted me to ask for them but when we got inside I choked. My face boiled red and I couldn’t speak so he had to take over. When he asked the lady, he said the word ‘condom’ in a whisper and then looked around as if he was asking her for something illicit. I was trying so desperately not to laugh that I let out one of those noises from the throat, you know that sound of trapped laughter trying to escape suppression. Once Hairy knew that I was on the brink of a laughing fit then he too couldn’t stop making the throat noise, as he tried not to laugh. We bounced this energy between us until we popped, grabbing the condoms and quickly leaving the joint before the lady could hear our hysterics.
When I think about that moment now I can’t avoid feeling remorseful. There was probably someone there who had just been told they have the clap, or herpes, or maybe even both. Or there might have been someone watching us, someone who was going through something really shitty, like dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. And they had to do so while two kids, one of them weirdly balding, high fived each, while laughing their way out the door with a shopping bag full of dingers.
Hairy didn’t want to take them home so I had to. I was terrified for some reason my mum would want to look in my school bag, despite the fact she had never done so in the past. I knew that she could smell them on me –that sickly, distinctive mix of latex and powdery lubricant that just screams condoms. There were 186 condoms, all of them regular size and plain. These objects represented something that I didn’t quite understand. Sex education at school didn’t translate to the real personal experience of sex. The way they taught us was so sterile and scientific. It’s when the teacher has an anatomical picture of a flaccid penis next to a women’s pelvis and basically says, put the pieces together. It’s the way they say ‘making babies’ as if the word sex itself is too provocative. It’s as if the only way teachers can feel comfortable enough to talk about sex is to remove any traces of humanity from it. There was no talk of love and certainly none of lust. Not to mention revenge or hatred, or really the entire range of emotion that can motivate us to fuck one another. With the condom in my hand all I knew for sure is that you roll it down your Johnson: after that my knowledge was absolutely speculative. My mum would tell me to treat women with respect but I couldn’t even conceptualize a vagina let alone an entire person. I was having trouble understanding what my dick was meant to do without even considering any governing stipulations or rules. How do you have sex respectfully? How can this cock be more respectful? That night it took me four condoms to finally get my balls inside and the pain was oddly satisfying. I didn’t want to put the used ones in the bin at home so after dinner I went for a walk and threw them down a drain.
The next day St Patrick’s College was decorated in rubbers. They hung from every doorknob and rested on every windowsill. Inflated condoms lined the hallways as if the school was ringing in the New Year. This was rubber country. Most teachers were angry but one in particular, Mr Kozminski, really took it to heart. He was probably the nicest man you could meet. The very presence of contraception was an affront to his values as both a Christian and an educator.
That day Mr Kozminski got himself into such a rage that he snapped a one-metre long ruler on his desk – but instead of instilling fear amongst us it only elevated the boisterousness. In the midst of clamor someone blew up a condom and let it sail across the classroom like a blimp. But this was nothing; this was only the beginning of 10th grade and was only child’s play compared to what was to come.
On 15th July 2002 we found the Beast. It was on the back oval near the cricket nets right on the school boundary. It was Garland that found it, him and Bricky. The rest of us were on the other side of the oval playing jerks and we watched as Bricky bolted in a beeline towards us. He was hysterical and just kept screaming, you’ve got to see this, you’ve got to see this. He pointed over to Garland, who was waving both hands in the air for attention as if waving down a rescue plane.
We stood around it in a semi-circle; our eyes fixed on it, none of us quite sure how to react. Garland was on one knee and was assiduously poking at it with a stick. It was filthy, pink and big. We sort of knew what it was but no one wanted to vocalize it. Skinner couldn’t stop repeating with an idiosyncratic authority this one was a Beast. It was when Garland hit the on button and the Beast sprang to vibrating life that we started to understand what we had found. That moment was reminiscent of the infamous scene in space odyssey when the apes find the monolith. After a moment of hesitant curiosity we all went berserk.
Turks used a piece of rubbish to pick it up and then chased Banwell. He tossed it at him and nailed him between the shoulder blades. Banwell squealed as Skinner yelled, He’s been Beasted, and everyone agreed that Banwell had indeed been Beasted. Banwell grabbed the Beast off the ground and identified Squida as the closest target and made after him. This of course just turned into a more adult version of tag and the person who must be avoided it was the one wielding the 9-inch pink dildo like it was a broadsword.
Later that day the Beast turned up in Skinners locker with a note that read, You have been Beasted. Over the next week several people had been Beasted – I’d been done twice. The second time I Beasted someone I stuck a piece of cheese to it. In retrospect I think it was the creative additions that made the Beast-ing so great. Adding Nutella to the Beast became so common that it ended up having its own name; instead of getting Beasted you got ‘Browntowned’. Getting ‘Brown-towned’ was particularly shitty because Nutella is really hard to get off books and clothes. My personal favourite modification was when Turks glued a raw lamb chop to the Beast. For some reason, in what was some kind of perverse bastardisation of a childhood image, this ended up been called getting ‘Bambied’. Getting Bambied was kind of fucked up because if you didn’t get to your locker for more than a day the lamb started to rot. Charlie Bree had the German measles for a week and when he got back to school he got Bambied so damned hard there were maggots in his locker. When Charlie started to cry, there were murmurs that we might have gone too far but no single person said so, it was just a shared remorse or an atmosphere of mutual self-disgust.
When we had Mass we exchanged the word God for Beast. When we shook hands we said, Beast be with you, and also with you. We’d say, Our Beast, who art in heaven, or the Beast is my Sheppard. In a crowd of 1000, fifty students saying beast instead of God is barely audible. So you’d have to look at one another and read lips to be sure that other people were saying it. I doubt the teachers ever caught on and if they did they would probably be more concerned about the growing anti-religious sentiment rather than what the word beast meant.
Once the regular Beast-ing became repetitive then we created the ‘Beast Master’. The Beast Master was the person who at any given time was in possession of the Beast. The Beast Master was not a term of endearment – anyone who got stuck with the Beast would automatically try to fob it off to someone else. The only way to get rid of the Beast was to trick someone into taking it from you, hand to hand. At first it was easy. You could just wrap the Beast up in a newspaper and ask someone to hold onto or hide it in brown lunch bag and offer your friend your banana. But after a while it became almost impossible to hand off the Beast. Especially when everyone knew who you were the Beast Master. Toohey bought one of those Russian fur hats to school and for a while we made the Beast Master wear the hat. Eventually, the principal confiscated the hat because apparently it bothered Mr Kozminski who apparently upon seeing the hat requested a personal leave day.
Luke Studd was Beas tMaster for the better part of three months and only got rid of it because Bergman didn’t have a sleeping bag to bring on camp. As Bergman slipped in to the bag, he let out a hollow groan and then we heard Studdy’s voice emerge from the darkness: Sir you have been Beasted.
Bergmen was Beast Master for so long that everyone practically forgot about it. I think he liked being Beast Master; the power kind of went to his head. He used to just eyeball people and say things like, just you wait, your time is going to come. He was like the Colonel Kurtz of Beast-ing. But the way he Beasted McGlade was a stroke of genius. McGlade was running second position in the relay and as he reached out behind him to grab the baton off Bergmen instead of feeling the cold aluminum of the baton he felt the sticky rubber exterior of the Beast. McGlade only realized about 50 metres into his sprint. Luckily for him there was one more runner ahead of him so luckily he was able to hand it on. When Hairy, that bearded, bald adolescent, took hold of the beast he knew exactly what had happened. He was a really good runner as well and wanted to bring the race home and so he did. But not knowing what to do after passing the finishing line with the Beast in his hand he just kept running until he disappeared out of sight. He didn’t know how to explain this to the teachers so he just went to sickbay and told the nurse he had diarrhea.
It all started to fall apart when the Beast made a journey home with Hairy. Hairy’s mum Helen was really Catholic and accidently found the Beast. Hairy was suspiciously vague on the details but said that she was going through his bag to get out his lunch box. She must have been horrified and probably confused when she whipped out the 9-inch long dildo. And by that stage the Beast had its name scratched onto it on one side and a lightning bolt drawn on the other. Hairy stupidly told his mum that he was being bullied. Helen then made a complaint with Dr Dutton the principal, who, to put it in our terms, freaked the fuck out. I suppose I can empathise with the Doctor now. He probably thought that this incident could finish his career. He was the head of a Catholic Boys school, which had a checkered past of sexual abuse, and now a student was getting bullied with a 9-incher.
He went on the offensive. He held a year level meeting. He asked the perpetrators to come forward and if they did, punishment would be light but appropriate. When that didn’t work he started singling out kids. Banwell, Turks, Ozzy, Squida and Bricky all got called up and didn’t say a thing.
I got my call up shortly after them. Dr Dutton, or the Doc as we referred to him, sat behind his desk whilet the Vice Principal walked around me like a film noir detective. They had been told that I was involved and told me that the consequences were going to be serious. I was threatened with suspension and then expulsion. At the time it was intimidating, but now I just remember two middle-aged educators emulating TV cops to find out which kids had been playing with the dildo. They held me for so long I missed my bus home and my Dad had to pick me up.
I told my Dad about the Beast on the way home. He found it particular funny that on one occasion we had placed the Beast in the top draw of Mr. Kozminski’s desk for a whole lesson. Dad couldn’t quite get over how peculiar that class must have been from Mr. Kozminski’s perspective, how suspicious he must have been looking down at thirty boys on the absolute brink of comic meltdown.
Garland finally got pinched. He was suspended for a week. A second year level meeting was held by the Doc to discuss the ramifications. He never once referred to it as the Beast, nor did he call it a dildo. Instead he called it a device. He wanted to distance the Beast from anything sexual, yet as the principle, he really should have known that for a teenage boy nearly everything could be viewed sexually. In the meeting he explained we were all victims of sexual abuse and many of us were also sex offenders. At the end he asked if anyone had any questions and it was Squida who opened it up by asking if counseling would be provided. Mr Moore, who I can’t imagine was pleased by the appointment, promptly told us that his door would be wide open. Bricky asked if Garland was going to be charged with sexual indecency, to which the Doc responded that this situation was being dealt with ‘in-house’. He then pressed the Doc and said he would like to press charges but the Doc insisted that dealing with this situation ‘in-house’ was for the best.
Banwell stood up and timidly started telling everyone about the nightmares he’d been having. Everyone went quiet and a perceivable, however entirely artificial, atmosphere of empathy developed. He said in his dream he runs from a giant dildo, but the dildo keeps gaining on him and gaining on him and eventually the dildo launches upon him and that’s when then he wakes up. Mr. Moore explained nightmares were a normal way of dealing with trauma. He then asked if anyone else was having nightmares to which everyone raised they hands. Turks said that he has been screaming in his sleep and Squida added that he keeps wetting the bed. At this point all of the blood had run from the Doc’s face. He was absolutely horrified. Deep down the Doc was a compassionate man and here he stood in front of a group of young men traumatized by mature themes they didn’t understand. Worse still all of this horror occurred on his watch, right under his nose.
But it was when Skinner stood up and asked if counseling would be also available for those students who had been Bambied that we all started to crack. The Doc was perplexed and probably didn’t want to but had to ask what ‘Bambied’ meant. Skinner explained that it was like getting ‘Brown-towned’ but with a piece of meat instead of Nutella. This obviously did not register as anything more than nonsense to the adults in the room who just looked at him puzzled. He was holdinga lifetime’s worth of laughter in and tears started to fall down his cheeks. Skinner dropped his head into his hands and started to weep. The Doc and Mr Moore were speechless. The room went silent and in eerily it was almost as if we all had truly been sexually abused.
Then that sound started: the one that slips out from the throat when you can’t suppress laughter anymore. It’s like a miniature internal grunt, or the sound of choking on air. It was that sound, emanating from somewhere in the crowd that started the wave of laughter. Every student erupted in laughter and this laughter was like thunder, everywhere you looked someone was red-faced or crying, some students looked like they were suffocating while others seemed to be dry heaving. I thought that I was going to vomit or faint. After the meeting Squida admitted that he had pissed his pants and then went to the sickbay. The Doc tried to regain control by threatening those who had been Bambied with detention but this only made it worse as if punishing someone who had been sexually assaulted in the most heinous way was even more hilarious. And then an inflated condom went sailing over the crowd like a beach ball and at this point the laughter had turned into something more like a war cry. Mr. Moore, who was a reasonable guy, started laughing because, who couldn’t, laughter at this scale is too infectious to avoid. When the Doc then noticed him laughing, against all of his better judgment, he had a chuckle himself. It was a release of 2000 years of pent up homophobic, Catholic angst.
Many still believed that Helen Hair had destroyed the Beast. There were even rumours that she still has the Beast. On his suspension Garland had been properly disciplined, though his Dad was notoriously hard and so it was implied that his punishment at home had probably been much worse than not being at school. He wanted to move on, No more Beast-ing, he said, no more fooling around. But a few of us knew that when he opened his locker upon returning, the Beast would be waiting for him. By then we had painted the Beast black. Garland had the opportunity to start it off again, but he didn’t. Something had been learned, I don’t think anyone could articulate what but we just knew that something was different now. Maybe we had matured. Together a few of us in the inner circle decided to put the Beast to rest.
If you find yourself at St Patrick’s college, go to the second floor of the oldest building. There you’ll find room 207. Room 207 was Mr Kosminski’s room in the early noughties. If you go searching for the truth you should walk to the very back of the room. Stand in the middle and look directly at the white board. Then raise you view up and you will find a black holy crucifix hanging on the wall. From that distance it will look normal, just like the crosses in every other room, but if you take a few steps forwards without breaking your gaze you will begin to see. You will see the real nature of what is at the heart of any Catholic boys school. You will see that this particular crucifix is not a wooden cross at all. Up there on the wall, camouflaged in the most audacious way to look like a crucifix, the big dirty bastard remains a spectacle for those who go in search it. In the name of the father, the son and the holy Beast. Amen.