Angela took Anthony’s hand and squeezed it tight. They were stood at the bottom of the stairs a few feet away from the door to the front-room where the party was in progress. The door was closed and voices could be heard above the music. It was clear everyone was enjoying themselves. Apart that is from Anthony who trembled with embarrassment. While everyone at the party was wearing their best casual clothes, just like Angela standing beside him wearing a lovely pale green dress bought especially for the party, Anthony, to his immense shame, had been put into pyjamas.
Horrible enough as it was for Anthony to be stood outside dressed in his little boy winceyette pyjamas; bad enough to be listening to the noise of boys and girls enjoying themselves beyond the door; it was simply awful for Anthony to be wearing his humiliating pyjamas standing next to Angela, the girl for whom he had a schoolboy crush. Of course Angela suspected as much if only from the way Anthony blushed every time she caught him looking at her. Angela even admitted to herself that she had a soft spot for the younger boy. She thought him rather sweet, cute even, but what girl could ever take seriously a boy who she had helped undress and put into pyjamas; a boy who she had plainly seen was not even yet possessed of any body-hair. It was simply laughable to think of a boy like Anthony as anything other than the little boy she knew him to be; a boy who would, she strongly suspected, need to be looked after by his mummy for a good long while to come.
Anthony’s mum stood behind them at the bottom of the stairs holding Anthony’s Lederhosen, which he’d been wearing earlier, over her arms. Mrs Green had been very impressed at how helpful Angela had been when Anthony was undressed, washed and made ready to be put into his pyjamas and she had also noted with considerable interest her comments about her older brother Ryan’s views on the subject of short trousers.
During the few brief moments Angela made Anthony wait outside the door, Mrs Green thought about what Angela had said. She remembered that she had been told how Ryan considered short trousers to be beneath his dignity; how he loathed wearing the very brief scouting shorts which were a compulsory part of his scout uniform and how, as his seventeenth birthday was only a week or so away, he had announced his intention to give up scouting altogether, simply because he would be expected to continue to wear proper short scouting shorts! She remembered that Angela had told her how, when she and her brother were younger, she’d assisted at Ryan’s bathtime and wondered how old Ryan had been when Angela stopped helping her mum, or did she still help out when an extra pair of hands were needed? Ryan, Mrs Green knew, had an inflated sense of his own importance… a common enough failing in boys, teenage boys in particular.
Anthony stood waiting, a bundle of nerves, dressed in his blue and white striped winceyette pyjamas. His tartan slippers with their fluffy white lining began to tickle his feet and he longed to let go of Angela’s hand.
“We’ll wait until the record finishes before we go back in,” Angela explained, “We don’t want to interrupt the dancing…”
“Er… no, Angela,” Anthony replied. He wouldn’t have minded if the record never finished, he was in no hurry to go back into the room.
“Anthony, I think it would be nicer if you called me Miss Angela now that you’ve been put into your pyjamas,” Angela explained.
“I… er, yes… um…” Anthony couldn’t believe what had just been asked of him, after all Angela was barely a year older than he was! He stuttered, unable to look Angela in the face. Then he capitulated… “Er… um, yes, Miss Angela…”
Angela gave Anthony’s hand a extra little squeeze which seemed to say, ‘that’s a good boy.’
All of a sudden Mrs Green spoke: “Good heavens! I almost forgot…” Anthony’s mum made him nearly jump out of his slippers as she shot back upstairs. She returned a few moments later holding something behind her back.
Angela was as excited as Anthony was shocked when, with the flourish of a master conjurer, mum produced Teddy and held it out in front of her son.
“Oh look, Anthony… it’s your Teddy! That was most thoughtful of mummy wasn’t it… say ‘thank you’, Anthony,” Angela said as she gushed with enthusiasm at Anthony’s latest humiliation.
“Please, please mummy… I don’t need Teddy…”
“Don’t be silly, darling… Teddy’s come all this way to be with you especially. Teddy will be very upset if you don’t want him to go to your party…”
“Of course Teddy will be upset,” Angela chipped in.
“Please, mummy…” Anthony pleaded, “Please… can’t you look after Teddy?”
Angela would have none of this talk and insisted that Anthony take Teddy, “... and no more nonsense…”
“Oh please, Miss Angela… Please, can’t I leave Teddy in the hall?” Anthony was beside himself and the fact that he was pleading with Angela did not go unnoticed by Mrs Green.
“Don’t be silly, Anthony. Teddy wants to come to the party…” and Angela leant over and ‘listened’ to Teddy, “Yes, Teddy says he wants to come and say hello to everyone at the party, so that’s settled. Now come along, Anthony…. thank mummy and take Teddy.”
Anthony did as he was told just as the music stopped. Angela reached out and turned the door-handle. Anthony was trapped. In one hand he held Teddy, his other hand was held by Angela. And he felt the gentle pressure of mum’s hands pressing against his back, pushing him forwards.
“Go on, Anthony,” mum said, “Don’t be shy. You were having a such lovely time earlier. It’s not every boy who gets a pyjama-time extension… Go on… Angela will look after you…”
With a last look over his shoulder, Anthony pleaded with mum: “Please mummy… I want to go home…”
“Don’t be silly darling. I thought you wanted to come to the party…”
“... yes, mummy, yes… but mummy I didn’t know I’d be put into pyjamas…”
“... Anthony, you’ve had a long enough pyjama-time extension as it is. You can’t expect to have your pyjama-time extended indefinitely… can he Angela?”
“Of course not, Mrs Green,” Angela replied, “Anthony’s been very fortunate to have been given a pyjama-time extension at all!”
“Quite right!” mum agreed and with these words Angela opened the door to the front-room.
Anthony was mortified to be led by Angela into the middle of the room; the room full of boys and girls, most of them younger than he was and all of them dressed in the sort of trendy clothes Anthony could only dream about being allowed to wear. Among the boys there was not a short trouser in sight. Dressed in his boy’s soft cotton winceyette pyjamas, Anthony felt completely out of place as the party-goers turned to look at him. In his hand Anthony was clutching Teddy. He glanced back towards the door in time to see it close as his mother returned upstairs to join the other parents.
The moment the door was shut, the laughter started and Ryan stepped forward to mock Anthony’s pyjamas: “Whoa! Pyjama-Boy!”
Ryan walked around Anthony and looked him up and down: “... and you’ve brought your teddy bear too… even tenderfoots don’t bring teddy bears with them to scout camp…”
The younger boys and girls thought this hugely funny, but of course, as Angela well knew, Ryan was just showing off.
“That’s not fair, Ryan,” she said, “Anthony can’t help it if the party has gone on past his pyjama-time… Why don’t you put on another record so we can have another dance?”
“But Angela, Anthony looks a complete dork in his pyjamas… little boy pyjamas at that!” Ryan said.
“I don’t think so,” Angela said calmly, “besides they look a lot more grown up than the ones mummy makes you wear when you’ve been naughty…”
It was Ryan’s turn to blush: “You promised you wouldn’t tell…”
“Then you shouldn’t have been so spiteful towards Anthony. Now put a record on, or I’ll tell mum to put out your naughty pyjamas tonight…”
Ryan didn’t need to hear any more and turned his back on Angela to go and put on another record. He was fuming, desperate to think of a way to humiliate Anthony further. The idea that he might be digging a hole for himself never entered his head.
As soon as Ryan’s back was turned, Sean stepped up and snatched Teddy from Anthony’s hand. Sean teased his cousin, shaking and then throwing Teddy into the group of party-goers. Teddy was tossed from one pair of hands to another as a bewildered Anthony tried to to catch Teddy before someone else. Anthony ended up rather like piggy-in-the-middle as he tried to get Teddy back. Much as he had felt ashamed of being given Teddy to carry into the room, he was afraid of what the consequences might be if mum found out he’d not been looking after Teddy properly.
“Teddy’s over here…!”
“Throw Teddy to me…!”
“Throw Teddy this way…!”
“No… Teddy’s over there now…!”
Anthony turned this way and that, lunging forwards every time Teddy seemed to be within reach, but he remained empty handed as the boys and girl’s had lots of fun.
Then, just as it looked as though Anthony was about to get his hands on Teddy, Edward crept up behind his cousin and with a meanness that defied belief, knelt down, reached up and tugged at Anthony’s pyjama-bottoms!
It only needed a sharp tug and Anthony’s pyjama-bottoms tumbled to his ankles. Edward dived out of the way so as not to be seen to be the culprit, a manoeuvre for which he’d had plenty of experience.
The cheer was deafening.
Somehow among all the excitement Ryan had ended up catching Teddy. He was still holding it when the door opened and his mother, Laura Price, entered the room closely followed by Anthony’s mum.
“What on earth is all this noise? Ryan, what’s going on. You’re supposed to be in charge of things… and what’s Anthony doing with his pyjama-bottoms around his feet?”
Ryan’s mouth opened, but before he could say anything, Mrs Green had a few words to say too: “It looks to me as if you’ve let this party get completely out of hand…” she paused as if to take stock, then passed her judgement, “Ryan, this is nothing short of a disgrace!”
Again Ryan tried to speak but was cut short by his mum asking why he was holding Teddy, but instead of waiting for an answer from her son proceeded to compound his woes by adding: “... and besides I don’t know why you want Anthony’s Teddy when you know perfectly well you’ve got your own Teddy at home…”
Finally Ryan managed to squeak: “... but, mum…” but it was clear to everyone in the room that he was in disgrace. When his mother heard these words she pursed her lips and gave Ryan such a hard stare that he was forced to correct himself, “... err, mummy…”
“That’s better… now give Teddy back to Anthony and tell him that you’re sorry.”
Anthony was bewildered and, unsure of what to do, left his pyjama-bottoms at his feet as Ryan walked across the room to give him back Teddy. Very aware of everyone looking at him, Ryan apologised to Anthony and as he glanced back towards his mother for approval, Ryan couldn't help but notice the boys and girls looking at him with their hands clamped to their mouths to stifle their giggles.
Mrs Green was the next to speak: “Were you showing off, Anthony? Did you take down your pyjama-bottoms on purpose to show off?”
It was time for Ryan to do the right thing and to be fair the soon-to-be-seventeen year old did his best: “Please Mrs Green, they must have slipped down while we were playing. Anthony didn’t do it on purpose…”
“Are you saying that I didn’t put Anthony’s pyjamas on properly?”
“No, Mrs Green… I didn’t mean…”
“Angela… you helped me put Anthony into his pyjamas. Do you think we didn’t dress him properly?”
“Oh no… I remember we tied up Anthony’s pyjama-bottoms nice and tight, so they can’t have slipped down by accident,” Angela replied earnestly.
“Well what happened?” Ryan’s mum asked her son, “You were left in charge… you were responsible…”
“... but mum, err mummy… it’s not fair…”
“What’s not fair, Ryan?” Anthony’s mum asked, “If you ask me it’s not fair that you were put in charge of the party when you were clearly quite incapable of looking after Anthony. Look at him, Ryan… Anthony’s pyjama-bottoms have been deliberately pulled down and you say you don’t know what happened…”
To say Ryan was embarrassed was an understatement. He hadn’t been this humiliated in ages. To be torn off a strip by both his own mother and Anthony’s was bad enough, but for be told off in front of all the party-goers; boys and girls younger than he was, was on a higher level of shame altogether.
For the children, however, the sight of Ryan being ticked off was a delicious one indeed. To see him taken down a peg or two was something for them to relish. Ryan had always been a bit too stuck up for their liking; too quick to dismiss them as ‘little kids’. They all knew Ryan didn’t want to have anything to do with the party; that he only came under sufferance.
Ryan stood open-mouthed as he was berated by Anthony’s mum.
“So, you’ve nothing to say, Ryan… no explanation… no reason why Anthony had his pyjama-bottoms pulled down? Can you offer me any reason at all as to why you lost control of the party; why you allowed it to descend into such… such depravity?”
Hearing the word ‘depravity’ caused more merriment among the younger children and the unmistakable sound of snickering from some of the boys. It was as though Ryan had been accused of overseeing an orgy, a word that in the minds of young boys conjures up images of wild abandon far exceeding the mere debagging of a pyjama-clad boy such as Anthony.
Ryan’s mother looked at her son and fumed. How could he so irresponsible as to bring the family, her family, into disrepute? She had to be seen to be doing something about her son’s behaviour; to make sure that her friend, Mrs Green, Anthony’s mother, understood that she would not tolerate such misconduct from her son. However, she concluded this was neither the right time nor was it the right place. She would give Ryan something to think about; something to dwell on. She spoke:
“Ryan you are to go home right now… this minute. You have let yourself down badly,” she said in a voice that Ryan knew it would be foolish to argue with, “We are going to have a little talk about what has happened today… It will not happen again. Do you understand Ryan?”
“Yes mummy,” Ryan said in a voice not much louder than a whisper. What else was the poor boy to say? And with that he left the room to go home and ponder his fate.
“I knew I should have put Angela in charge of the party in the first place,” Laura Price said to Hetty Green, “I really can’t apologise enough for the way things have turned out…”
“Please don’t upset yourself, Laura. I know how proud you are of Ryan, but after all boys will be boys and Ryan, old as he is, is still just a boy. I’m sure once you’ve had a little word with him, he’ll soon buck his ideas up…” Hetty Green turned to her son, “Anthony, are you going to wear those pyjama-bottoms or are you going to leave them in a puddle on the floor?”
Angela stepped forward: “Please, Mrs Green, let me help,” she offered.
The mothers both smiled broadly. Angela was such a helpful girl, the smiles seemed to say. Angela would never loose control and let things get out of hand like her older brother had done. Angela was far more sensible. Angela could be replied upon. She was the answer to every mother’s prayer… every mother who has a wayward son to deal with, that is.
As the mums stood and watched, Angela pushed her hands under Anthony’s armpits and scooped the startled boy up, swung him round and stood him on a nearby pouffe. Needless to say Anthony’s pyjama-bottoms fell from his slippered feet and remained on the carpet to the obvious and unrestrained amusement of the remaining party-goers.
“It’s long past your beddy-byes time, Anthony,” Angela said as she held Anthony steady. The pyjama-top had rucked up leaving Anthony’s waggling boy-bits on show for everyone to see. This didn’t cause Angela the least concern, but Anthony felt very embarrassed. He could do nothing to stop this display as Angela moved her hands and had gripped Antony’s upper arms. Besides Anthony knew from past experience that any move to cover himself would only result the accusation that he was ‘playing with himself’.
Suddenly Anthony felt a blast of cold air on his bare bottom as the door opened and his Aunt Gladys strode into the room to announce the arrival of various mums come to take their children home.
“Has Anthony been naughty again?” she asked, as she peered at her nephew’s semi-nude state.
Why is it, Anthony thought (and not for the first time), why is it that everyone straightaway thinks that I’ve been up to something and that it’s all my fault? However he was sensible enough to leave it to others to answer Aunt Gladys’ question.
“Anthony managed to have his pyjama-bottoms pulled down in some silly prank… no doubt showing off in front of the young ones,” mum replied, “You know what Anthony’s like, always showing off…”
Anthony couldn’t believe his ears. Now it appeared that as far as his mum was concerned , he deliberately set out to have his pyjama-bottoms pulled down!
“He probably wanted to show the boys and girls his willy,” Laura Price offered by why of explanation.
“Goodness me! Why Anthony should think anyone would want to look at his willy is quite beyond me…” Aunt Gladys laughed.
This observation caused renewed merriment among the young party-goers and in the end Aunt Gladys was forced to call a halt to the laughter as she explained that mums were waiting.
As the children left the room Anthony felt a sense of relief, but he also knew his humiliation wasn’t over yet.
Angela was still holding onto Anthony’s arms as his mum came over.
“Why is it that whenever I take you out you always go out of your way to show me up,” she admonished him, “I really don’t know what to do with you sometimes, Anthony. I specially allowed you to wear your nice Lederhosen to the party and you did nothing but complain… but that’s what comes from spoiling you, Anthony. You always used to love wearing your leather shorts. Now I’ve a good mind not to let you wear them ever again…”
Anthony could hardly believe his good fortune. Mum refusing to let him wear his stupid little Lederhosen that were far too small for him and almost cut his bum in half… wow! that was the best news he’d had in ages.
“... oh, don’t say that, Mrs Green,” Angela interrupted, “Anthony looks so sweet wearing his Lederhosen. There’s lots more wear left in them… Anthony would be most upset if he couldn’t wear his little Lederhosen outfit again,” she concluded and smiled at Anthony which caused him to blush.
“Well… I’ll think about it,” mum conceded, “As you say, Angela, boy’s Lederhosen are designed to last…”
“There’s no reason for Anthony not to wear his Lederhosen for a good long while yet…” Angela added.
“They do say the more a boy wears his Lederhosen, the more subtle the leather gets and the longer they last,” Aunt Gladys observed, “That’s why I was so surprised to find out that Anthony hadn’t worn his for such a long time. I’ve been told Lederhosen can last a boy all the way through his teenage years, if properly used and cared for, so there’s absolutely no reason Anthony can’t carry on wearing his for many years to come…”
Angela pleaded with Anthony’s mum: “Oh, please let Anthony carry on wearing his Lederhosen, please… He’d miss wearing them so much… wouldn’t Anthony?”
Anthony looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming car as, wide-eyed, he looked from Angela to his mum and then at Aunt Gladys. He looked back at Angela who was smiling up at him so sweetly, then gasped out the words: “...yes… err… Miss Angela...”
Angela was thrilled: “There… what did I say… you simply must allow Anthony to carry on wearing his Lederhosen Mrs Green… please!”
Anthony, of course, was horrified at this turn of events. Embarrassed as he was to be standing on the pouffe still bereft of his pyjama-bottoms, he had for one all too brief moment thought he had worn his ridiculous little boy’s Lederhoson for the last time. But now, thanks to the combined efforts of Angela, the girl for whom he had such a passionate schoolboy crush, and his Aunt Gladys, it looked as though the tiny leather shorts would be part of his wardrobe for a long time to come. It was so unfair!!
Aunt Gladys had raised an eyebrow when she heard Anthony address the girl holding his arms as Miss Angela. However she was far from disapproving and thought it only proper her nephew showed some respect to Angela, who she knew to be a responsible young girl. Aunt Gladys then looked around the room: “Now what’s become of Ryan?”
“Ryan,” Laura Price informed her hostess, “is in disgrace.” These few simple words were spoken in such a forbidding tone, that it was probably lucky for Ryan he wasn’t still in the room. As it was Mrs Price’s words sent a shiver down Anthony’s spine; he knew what it was like to be in disgrace. He clutched Teddy more tightly than ever.
“Did he take off Anthony’s pyjama-bottoms?” Aunt Gladys enquired. “I’ve heard about older boys who gain pleasure from doing that sort of thing…”
“I don’t think so, Gladys,” Anthony’s mum said, “At least… well he was holding Teddy when we came into the room, wasn’t he Laura?”
“That’s correct,” Ryan’s mum replied, “but whether or not he actually pulled down Anthony’s pyjama-bottoms is immaterial; Ryan was given full responsibility for seeing everyone was on their best behaviour during the party… a duty he singly failed to fulfil. He may just as well have stripped Anthony of his pyjama-bottoms and pyjama-top, his slippers too for that matter…”
“... Ryan even had the gall to try and blame Hetty and Angela, saying they hadn’t tied up Anthony’s pyjama-bottoms properly and they had just ‘slipped down’ of their own accord,” Laura Price added.
Aunt Gladys was shocked at this revelation. She assured herself that thankfully her boys had not been involved in the debacle… Yes, once more it looked as though Edward and Sean would get off scot-free.
Poor Anthony just wanted to go home. He knew it wasn’t Ryan who’d pulled down his pyjama-bottoms. Ryan had been on the other side of the room. Cousin Sean had been too busy throwing Teddy about… but where had Edward been? Try as he might Anthony couldn’t remember where his older cousin had been, but he wouldn’t put it past him to have been the culprit. The more he thought about it, the more certain Anthony became that his debagging was Edward’s doing… but he also knew that his Aunt Gladys would never believe Edward capable of doing such a thing. Anthony wisely remained silent on the subject.
“The… why I’ve never heard such cheek,” Aunt Gladys said, “To think that Anthony’s mother doesn’t know how to put her son into pyjamas properly… why, the idea is preposterous!”
“I quite agree, Gladys,” Laura Price replied, “And one of the reasons I shall be having words with Ryan… I don’t intend to let him simply carry on as if nothing has happened. I shall see to it that Ryan is made fully aware of how seriously I view this matter.”
Even though he was the innocent party, Anthony shivered at the thought of what Mrs Price might be capable of. He could see how upset she was with Ryan. Even though Ryan was no friend of his, Anthony felt sympathy towards the older boy rather than revenge for the teasing to which he had subjected Anthony. What thoughts for revenge Anthony did entertain were directed towards his cousins Edward and Sean. Surely there must come some time when these boys would be called to account? It simply wasn’t fair they were treated differently to every other boy Anthony knew. Why were they allowed long trousers when he was kept in shorts, some of them, like his Lederhosen, extremely short indeed? Why were Edward and Sean allowed to choose their own clothes; their own bedtimes and bathtimes. Even more galling was that as far as he knew Anthony’s cousins were even allowed to bath on their own! Anthony had never in his whole life been allowed to bath himself. It just wasn’t fair! Now he was fourteen he felt entitled to some privacy… Edward and Sean were both younger than Anthony and that made him even more aggrieved. But Anthony knew from bitter experience how futile his resentment was. For now he would be happy just to get his pyjama-bottoms back. The embarrassment of standing half-nude and on display, balanced on top of the pouffe, was making him anxious and when he became anxious a certain part of his boy’s anatomy was liable to get him into trouble.
“Well I think it’s high time we got this little boy home and tucked up into his bed,” mum said to Anthony’s immense relief, “If you’ve quite finished playing you can kiss everyone goodnight and we’ll be going. It’s well past your bedtime, Anthony.”
Anthony was helped from the pouffe by Angela who then held his hand as he went to kiss his Aunt Gladys and then to give a night-night kiss to Mrs Price, who leant down and gave him a special ‘goodnight’ hug.
As mum took hold of Anthony’s hand she said: “Angela, would you be dear and pick up Anthony’s pyjama-bottoms…”
Anthony was led out of the room. He shuffled along the hallway in his slippers towards the front-door and as he did so he looked over his shoulder to see Angela. She was still holding his pyjama-bottoms.