Pea was an excellent shot with a bow and arrow. He'd just released a plastic arrow with a suckered tip, with window putty on it to make it stick, into Mrs Glenville's bottom. It stuck to her right floral-cottoned cheek, which had been a rather large and easy target, and quivered as it settled in its new resting place. Mrs Glenville swung round and swatted her backside with a wet shirt she was about to peg on the washing line, until she realised that whatever it was was attached to her person. She gingerly felt around and pulled the little blighter from her dress with a loud sucking pop, mildly threatening as she did so, “Pea, just you wait 'til I clap my eyes on you!”Pea, in an attempt to suppress his convulses hunkered down behind the upper window ledge and waited for his shakes of laughter to subside.
Mrs Glenville, his foster mother, was a good sport and was known as GT to all 'her boys', after her favourite tipple, but she was getting on and her rearing methods were frowned upon for they were as unusual as her boys, so Pea, soon to be 10, was her last foundling. And he'd proved a rather exuberant handful ever since he'd arrived as a wide-eyed terry-towelled bundle. GT was a pro though and used to boys' capers. She was no sergeant major, but she knew just how to cajole growing boys.
But Pea, from the chubby and terrible age of three, had been more of a challenge, despite fooling everyone by looking like a angel. Nubs of wings had appeared a month after his third birthday – the bony protrusions had torn two small holes in the back of every single one of his t-shirts, so that it had become easier and more cost effective to let him run around bare-chested like one of Peter Pan's lost boys – and had in the space of two months developed into fluffy brownish-grey wings, before slowly darkening to a deep brown-red. They were however a useless appendage, as demonstrated by Pea flinging himself from the tops of trees and out of open windows, or running as fast as he could along a strip of flat land hoping for take-off. And at this early stage, they moulted profusely so that GT even considered starting a trade in old-fashioned ink and quills.
The wings were troublesome, but rather less than Pea's sudden obsession for missiles, where anything round or pointed was seen as a launch-able weapon, and people's large thighs or ample backsides were the perfect target. GT attempted to restrain his interest by training him like you would a guard dog: by showing him how to blow dried peas through a tube, which he quickly excelled at and which made him demand harder challenges for the same reward like a puppy brought to heel or taught to sit and fetch.
GT had unwittingly tapped into this thirst for crude hand-held weaponry so that before long Pea had also mastered the slingshot and moved on to toy bows and arrows. He'd practised on lines of baked bean cans and paper targets; he'd successfully fired countless harmless arrows into the rumps of people, so that GT had had to erect a warning sign for the postman and other visitors. The point had now come where the student was more than ready to overtake the teacher, and GT was ready to over-indulge her winged, tousled-haired foster son. She would be his irresponsible champion, his subordinate.
On his tenth birthday, GT presented Pea with a handsome bow and leather sheath containing twenty-four golden arrows: twelve with a sharp point and twelve with a blunt tip of lead, whose pointed or blunt tip, the salesman had said, could unleash desire or aversion. GT, at seventy, had decided Pea would make an excellent mischief-making Cupid if only she could persuade him to aim for people's hearts and not other body parts! Oh, what plots the two of them could set in motion!
*Inspired by Daphne du Maurier's Rule Britannia