He’s known only as Exploding Boy now, retrospectively, of course. For most of last year, he was known only as Ticking Boy, which wasn’t nearly so dramatic and led mainly to teasing by us, I’m ashamed to say. It would certainly have won him more friends had he been known as Exploding Boy from his first day, instead of from his last. You wouldn’t steal the lunch money off someone called Exploding Boy. The bigger boys wouldn’t have made an Exploding Boy dive for goldfish in the toilets. Being called Exploding Boy could have made him the most popular kid on the playground.
But Ticking Boy? That’s asking for it, really. And it wasn’t like it was a quiet ticking either. Sometimes, in lessons, you could see that even the teachers were irritated with him, as they raised their voices to be heard.
It would be fair to say that his transformation from Ticking Boy to Exploding Boy was sudden and unexpected. Peter Mathers was certainly caught off-guard, engaged as he was in sticking chewing gum on Ticking Boy’s back. It took the caretaker three weeks to clear Peter from the walls of the sports hall, standing on his ladder and reaching with his mop as high as he could to get the last of the bits off.
Talk of Exploding Boy is now chiefly laced with awe and wonder, and with estimations of how far away the blast could be heard. Some say as far away as Bloxwich even. We mutter silent prayers of apology for our cruelties, and are lobbying the teachers for a Detonation Day, in commemoration.