Darren Bignell stood at the bottom of our driveway, and called me a choker. “If ya pants were any higher you’d choke,” he said. “What’s wrong with ya? For Christ’s sake pull ‘em down a bit.”

I was totally shocked. I’d always thought I wore my shorts at a reasonable height. After all, just under my armpits was the height Mum told me to wear everything at. I couldn’t believe that only two days earlier I had my fifth birthday on that very driveway, where I’d felt the sheer jubilation of riding my tomboy friend Sarah’s bike without training wheels, or at least without them touching the ground. I didn’t even really know Darren. He was just a kid with hair as white as toothpaste, who lived up the road and always looked like he was grumpy about something, but didn’t know what. That didn’t make it any easier though. I can’t explain why I felt like I did. There was just this sickness in my tummy like I had gorged myself stupid on musk sticks and Easter eggs. I stood and stared straight at him, secretly hoping that if I smiled long enough he would say he was only joking. But Darren didn’t take well to this silence — his fists forcing down my shorts as he punched me in the nose and barked in my ear, “You’re a fuckin’ little poofter aren’t ya Choker?”

(Extract from Stephen’s ebook The boy who could tickle clouds.)

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Photo by Natasha Blankfield