The Alton Towers Outing (first part)

“Was that your brother, then?” asked Steve as his best friend Danny pressed the button cutting off the call on his mobile telephone. “Is he still coming?”

Twenty-year-old Danny’s face, radiant and beaming as a result of the call, turned to face his friend who was sitting next to him on a bench at one of the bar tables. “Yeah, it’s Pete,” he replied. “He’s at Redford Cross, should be here in a few minutes. Oh, I can’t wait to see him again!” Danny glowed with joy as he contemplated his older brother’s imminent arrival.

“Sweet,” replied Steve, fondly observing the emotion on the face of his friend and fellow Chemistry student. Danny’s deep affection for his brother had been obvious the previous evening too when Steve had seen how Danny had begged Tom, the club’s president, to allow Pete to come along with them for their outing to Alton Towers. Danny’s enthusiastic eulogising of his brother had finally melted even the slightly dour Tom’s heart so that what would normally be a members-only outing would on this occasion include a guest. But now, on the day of their outing and as they awaited Pete’s arrival, Steve once again marvelled to himself at Danny’s obvious brotherly love.

“Has it been a long time since you saw him last?” This was Jonathan, a History student sitting opposite them, who was also watching Danny inquisitively. Jonathan, too, was a good friend of Steve although he had not known him as long as Danny had. The three friends were members of the Real Ale Club at their university, as were all the others in the all-male group of some eighteen students spread over three large tables in the bar. While Danny and Steve had known each other for two years due to their both being Chemistry students, Jonathan had only befriended Steve a few months earlier at the end of this very same Real Ale Club’s annual outing to a brewery. The circumstances of that befriending had involved an incident which had been acutely embarrassing to Steve, and about which he was still sensitive to being reminded, but Jonathan had handled it tactfully and compassionately. In fact only a very few other people had been aware or had found out about it, one of them being Danny, and while it was something which could have resulted in merciless teasing at Steve’s expense, everyone “in the know” was keeping it largely to themselves. Danny himself was not exactly known for tact and discretion, but even he had understood that Steve needed it to be kept secret when he, Danny, had revealed the following morning that he had noticed what had happened despite not having been seated in Steve’s vicinity on the bus. A horrified Steve had immediately begged Danny to keep quiet about it, and Danny had realised that if he wanted his friendship with Steve to continue then he would have to quell his natural tendency to shoot his mouth off, at least on this particular subject.

“Yeah, ages!” replied Danny to Jonathan.

“What, like all of two weeks?” said Steve sardonically. He turned to Jonathan. “Danny went home for the weekend and saw his brother a couple of weeks back, but now he’s wetting himself with excitement just because he’s about to see him again!”

Steve accompanied this with a friendly pat on Danny’s shoulder, but he instantly had cause to regret his choice of words as Danny swallowed his mouthful of Guinness, turned towards him and said: “Yeah, you’d know, you’re the expert.”

Steve flushed, looked down at the table, and replaced the friendly pat on the shoulder with a surreptitious but firm prod with his finger in Danny’s back, almost causing Danny to knock his beer glass over. Steve’s admonishing poke gave a clear if unspoken message to his best friend: “Shut your big mouth!”

Adrian, a tall lad sitting opposite Danny and wearing a smart, pink patterned shirt complete with a tie together with trendy, well-fitting, dark red chinos, smirked and seemed about to add something. He had witnessed Steve’s embarrassing accident a few months earlier in the bus on the way back from the brewery and knew exactly what Danny meant. Mark, a Physics student seated on Adrian’s right, who had been on the same bus but had been unaware of the incident involving Steve, looked blankly at Danny. Ben, a slim lad sitting on Steve’s other side and wearing a black tracksuit, who had only recently joined the real ale club and was attempting to befriend Danny and Steve, then broke the embarrassed silence by asking innocently: “What’s Steve an expert on, Danny?”

Jonathan, who had been sitting next to Steve on that bus and had helped Steve get away afterwards with as few people seeing him as possible and had then taken him back to his own flat to help him deal with his soaking jeans and underwear, now hastily intervened, cutting off whatever Adrian had been about to say and changing the subject. “Steve understands brotherly affection, Ben. We’re all experts on something, aren’t we? Hey, I see you’ve finished your beer, Ben. I’ll get the next round for all of us. Drink up everyone!”

Some enthusiastic noises greeted this suggestion, and various beer glasses were drained in anticipation as Jonathan’s fellow real ale lovers prepared themselves for more draught Guinness and bottled Belgian ale to help wash down the big communal plates of cheese-covered nachos which passed for a “pub lunch” as they waited for their hired bus which would transport them all to the venue of this latest Real Ale Club outing: Alton Towers in Staffordshire. This outing to a theme park was less purely related to their club’s identity than the previous brewery outing had been, but the presence of this pub catering for real ale lovers, ideally located here in the town square where the bus was due to pick them up, gave the outing a suitably thematic start.

However Tom, the Real Ale club’s president, made to pour cold water on Jonathan’s generous offer. He was seated at the table next to theirs, and his sharp ears had been specifically tuned in to any unwise suggestion of a second round of drinks. “Best go easy on the beer for now, lads,” he said, leaning over Adrian to address them all. “How about we all have another beer when we arrive at Alton Towers?”

A simultaneous clamour of disagreement from various students at Danny and Steve’s table greeted Tom’s suggestion. “Why can’t we have one more here?” complained Mark. “You probably can’t get beer there, it’ll be kids’ drinks only!” was Steve’s contribution. “Even if you can get beer, it’ll only be cat’s piss, not the real stuff,” said Adrian, agreeing with Steve. And Jonathan, irked at having his generous offer snubbed in this way, remarked: “If you want to wait till we get there, Tom, that’s your affair. Some of us like the Guinness here and I can buy my friends a round if I want to!”

Tom waited for the fuss to die down, then he stood his ground. “What I want to avoid is another complaint from Buzzy Bus. They won’t have us again if there’s another incident like last year, and they’re the only bus company our club can afford for our outings. I’m not having anyone getting drunk and loutish on this journey and upsetting the driver. Sorry, lads, but we’re on a final warning with them, seriously.”

The incident to which Tom was referring had occurred in the bus on the return journey from the previous year’s brewery tour, the one prior to the recent outing at the end of which Steve had wet his pants. On that previous occasion a number of club members had encountered precisely the same problem which Steve suffered a year later: a bursting bladder, as a result of all the beer tasting, on the return journey in a budget bus with no on-board toilet. However, whilst Steve had suffered in silence (confiding his problem only to Jonathan) and had eventually soaked himself in his seat when he could hold it no longer, the previous year’s group had ganged together and started demanding that the bus driver stop at the side of the road despite their being no convenient, safe stopping place available. The driver had eventually felt forced to give in to the drunken, loutish bellows (“Pull over!”, “Let me out now!”, and “I’m going to piss myself!!”) whereupon most of the occupants of the bus had poured out into the road to relieve themselves on the tarmac.

Danny, however, refused to give in to Tom. “Well, my brother’s going to have a beer when he gets here, whether you like it or not. And if you think me and Steve and Jonathan aren’t keeping Pete company with another drink, you’d better think again, man!” Danny accompanied his words with a defiant stare at Tom.

Jonathan, his tone now more mellow and diplomatic than before, added his agreement in an attempt to win Tom round: “None of us is anywhere near drunk, Tom. The beer’s not that strong. Come on, let’s all have a quick one for the road when Danny’s brother gets here. I’ll help you deal with anyone who gets boisterous if you want.”

Danny immediately picked up on Jonathan’s offer. “Oh, Pete can help you with that. He’s twenty-four, dead mature and real strict when he needs to be!”

“Keeps you under control, does he?” asked Tom.

“Yeah, he does,” replied Danny. “Won’t let me out of line for a moment. Oh he’s co-o-o-ol!” Danny’s eyes were shining as he sang his brother’s praises.

“Well, he must be strict if he’s got you under his thumb, little tear-away that you are,” said Tom. “Alright then, if your brother promises to help me make sure you lot behave yourselves in the bus, then I’ve no objection to you having another round. Do remember, though, that the journey’s an hour and a half in a cheapo bus with no toi…”

But Tom’s warning was drowned out by the sudden noise of a motorbike drawing up outside in the street. Danny was on his feet in an instant, supporting himself with his hands on Steve’s back as he excitedly craned his head for confirming evidence that the noise was heralding the arrival of his older brother. All eyes turned to look out of the window as a tall, slim biker in a black leather jacket and light blue jeans drew up outside the pub. The new-arrival cut the noisy engine dead and pulled off his helmet revealing the face of a handsome young man in his twenties with similar spiky blond hair to Danny’s. Danny whooped in delight, clambered excitedly off the bench and sprinted out through the door to throw himself into the outstretched welcoming arms of his brother who had not yet even had time to dismount the bike.

“Wow, looks like Danny’s all set up,” said the lad in the black tracksuit sitting next to Steve. “Talk about brotherly love!”

Steve turned from the engrossing spectacle of Danny and his brother hugging and ruffling each other’s hair, with Danny literally jumping up and down in his joy, to smile at Ben. Steve was aware that Danny’s brother Pete was going to be serious, probably decisive, competition in the stakes for company with Danny on this outing, and having someone else for comradeship at Alton Towers might be the order of the day. Jonathan was another good friend of Steve, but Jonathan had spent most of the last hour in deep conversation with Adrian and Mark, and Steve, who found Adrian in particular a little less than completely friendly towards him, was now concerned that he might find himself a bit isolated on this trip. Steve did not know Ben, the slim guy in the black tracksuit, very well, Ben being a new member of the club, but he seemed a pleasant, sporty looking lad. Since the start of the day when they had all walked to this pub from their university in a large group, Ben had been trying to make conversation with Steve and Danny. While Danny had shown little interest in Ben and had directed his incessant chatter mainly at Steve, Steve now decided to return Ben’s friendliness.

“Yeah, that’s right,” replied Steve to Ben. “He goes on and on about his brother. Thinks the world of him. Looking at the two of them out there is almost making me feel jealous. Don’t you feel the same?”

“Yeah, Pete must be a pretty cool guy to have as a brother,” nodded Ben with a smile at Steve. “I guess those two will be going round the rides and attractions together all afternoon.”

The subsequent introductions and greetings with Pete were orchestrated by Danny who led his older brother round each table so that Pete could become acquainted with the entire Real Ale Club. When the brothers got as far as Tom and the subject of helping to keep a potentially rowdy group of lads under control in the bus was broached, Pete readily agreed. And when Pete finally shook hands with Jonathan who asked him what he would like to drink, all other conversation died and all the real ale connaisseurs gazed at Danny’s cool brother in the leather jacket to hear what his tastes in serious beer amounted to.

“Well, I don’t have to ride the bike again till we get back this evening, do I? Okay, I’ll have a lager and lime please,” said Pete.

Various smiling faces glazed over. Danny, his previously joyful expression now abruptly altered to one of mortification, broke the silence. “Pete!”

Pete burst out laughing. “Ha ha, that got you worried, didn’t it little bro?” he crowed, pushing playfully at his brother who grinned again in relief. “You thought I was going to embarrass you in front of your club mates, ha ha! Yeah, alright, I know you lot are into the real stuff. I’ll have a pint of whatever strong beer you recommend, thanks,” he replied to Jonathan.

As Danny and Pete squeezed onto the bench together next to Steve, Jonathan ordered drinks for everyone at their table and various club members at other tables also ordered seconds. As the drinks were brought to the tables and everyone savoured their freshly drawn brew with its perfect head and mellow after-taste, Pete responded to some questioning from Adrian about his motorbike, and Danny, Jonathan and Mark all listened with evident interest, Danny particularly revelling in the attention Pete was getting and basking in his brother’s limelight. Steve attempted to butt in at one point, adding a question to Pete, but received a haughty, almost hostile glance from Adrian who cut Steve’s intervention off with more of his own line of questioning to Pete before the latter had any chance to respond to Steve.

Steve sighed to himself as Pete’s attention, which had momentarily been on him, switched back to Adrian. Steve clearly had a problem with Adrian who, for some reason, seemed to find Steve beneath contempt. Steve was unsure whether this had something to do with having accidently wet himself in that bus in full view of Adrian who had been sitting nearby. It had been Adrian who had stopped Jonathan from going to the front and persuading Tom that they really had to ask the driver to stop for Steve when Steve had become frantic in his desperation, so Adrian had in any case been completely unsympathetic to Steve’s plight. Another reason for Adrian’s attitude might also be Steve’s slightly threadbare t-shirt and well-worn, faded blue jeans, since Adrian, probably due to having well-off, generous parents, seemed to be able to afford much trendier clothes than Steve could dream of wearing. Adrian’s current attire of smart patterned shirt, red tie, and maroon chinos might all have been bought yesterday specially for the Alton Towers outing, Steve thought, as he felt the blood rush to his face with the humiliation of Adrian’s snub. It would not have mattered if Adrian had been part of some other group, but Steve’s good friend Jonathan was being particularly friendly with Adrian and Mark right now, while Steve’s best mate Danny, obviously on a high and enjoying Adrian’s interest in his brother, was similarly paying no attention to Steve.

Steve drowned his feelings by taking a long swig from his bottle of Trappist beer, then turned away from the rest of the group to face the lad in the black tracksuit sitting on his other side once again. Ben, chugging away on his second pint of Guinness, had not apparently been paying much attention to the talk about motorbikes in which the others at their table were still engrossed, so Steve started a new tack. “Are you planning on jogging round the park at Alton Towers while the rest of us are on the rides, Ben?” he asked, gesturing at the black tracksuit. “Those trackies do look good on you, by the way,” he added hastily, in case Ben should take it the wrong way.

Ben smiled, pleased at the compliment and the fact that Steve was being friendly. “Thanks. Well, no, but that’s not a ridiculous idea because underneath I am actually wearing the sports kit I use when I’m running on the treadmill at the gym.” He pulled the waistband of his soft black tracksuit pants down a fraction and simultaneously unzipped his tracksuit top slightly, showing Steve a white soccer shirt and a pair of orange shorts. “It’s actually my kit for five-a-side footie too. I just pulled on the first things that came to hand this morning,” he explained. “Didn’t realise we were supposed to dress up,” he added with a subtle nod in Adrian’s direction. Adrian, oblivious to this, was still quizzing Pete about the motorbike.

Steve grinned. “We’re not,” he replied. “He always dresses like that. Hey, which gym do you go to? I sometimes use the one in the Easton Building on campus, but I’ve never noticed you there.”

“Beckers sports centre on Corporation Street,” replied Ben. “The facilities are quite good there, better than on campus I think, and you get a student discount if you sign up for at least six months…”

Steve and Ben launched into a detailed discussion of their sporting aspirations which continued right through to the moment, twenty minutes later, when the Real Ale Club’s hired bus turned up outside. Pete, who was several years older than almost everyone else there, had been roped in by Tom to help bring everyone into line and was herding his new acquaintances from the Real Ale Club outside, while Tom himself rounded up a handful of stragglers who had gone to the toilets for a quick last-minute pee. Still chatting about training programs, Steve and Ben mingled with everyone else as the entire nineteen-strong all-male group hastily downed the remainder of the beer, wandered outside and filed onto the bus. Ben selected a seat near the front by the window, and Steve slotted in next to him. Tom and Pete assisted each other with a quick head count, and without further ado they were all on their way.

The first half hour of the journey passed quickly for Steve as he chatted with Ben about his own training program at the gym and listened to Ben’s amusing anecdotes concerning the five-a-side football team. But gradually Steve noticed that Ben was becoming slightly less spontaneous in his contributions to their conversation, showing gradually less interest in Steve’s chat and staring out of the window at the road more often. Then suddenly Ben turned sideways so that he was facing inwards towards Steve, propped his weight up on the seat with one knee, and turned right round to stare over the back of his seat towards the rear of the bus. He held this position for several seconds, his eyes searching keenly, causing Steve to turn his own head and glance behind as well in an attempt to see what Ben was looking at. Steve saw only the expected rows of real ale enthusiasts, some chatting with their friends, some watching the progress through the windows of the bus, and one or two staring back at Ben and Steve.

Steve turned back round and looked at Ben who also finally abandoned his kneeling position, sat back down on the seat and faced the front again, only to turn his head once more and check behind again. “You lost something?” asked Steve after staring at his new friend for a few more seconds.

Ben turned to Steve. “I can’t see where the loo is on this coach,” he replied. “Do you know where it is?”

“The toilet?” said Steve. “There isn’t one. This is the cheap bus company we always get landed with, and their buses have no mod cons at all.” Steve glanced at Ben’s face and added: “Why, do you need a pee or something?”

Ben made no reply, avoided Steve’s eye and looked out of the window. His face betrayed no emotion, but his manner was now introspective which was in marked contrast to the friendliness with which he had been chatting to Steve up until now.

Steve decided to change the subject. The topics of football and fitness had perhaps been overdone by now in any case. “Well, I reckon we should be there in an hour or not much more,” he said conversationally. “Do you know what the best rides are at Alton Towers? I’ve never been.”

“Nor ‘ve I,” replied Ben in a monotone.

“They’ve got several really brilliant roller coasters, I know that,” said Steve. “And big wheels, that sort of thing. I’ve been looking forward to this outing for weeks!”

But Ben’s reply was again minimal, this time merely a grunt of acknowledgement. His head was now leaning against the window, his eyes directed vacantly at the road and surroundings outside, his demeanour apparently disinterested. So Steve decided to leave the lad alone for a while.

Extracting his ipod from the pocket of his rucksack, Steve attached the earpieces, switched on his favourite selection of tracks, settled back in his seat and closed his eyes.


Steve awoke with a start. His ipod, still playing as he had left it before drifting off to sleep, had by now cycled back round to the first track again which indicated that he must have been asleep for almost an hour. Steve switched the small electronic device off, removed his earpieces, rubbed his eyes for a moment, then sighed as he felt his bladder complain. Shifting his position to ease the pressure which had built up during his sleep after the two beers which he had consumed in the pub, Steve directed his gaze to the front of the bus and tuned into a heated discussion which was going on there and which had probably been responsible for waking him up.

“Look, it’s not as if anyone’s going to piss their pants. They’re not four years old, for goodness sake. Just tell them to hold it!” Tom, seated right at the front behind the driver, was replying to something the newcomer, Danny’s brother Pete, had been saying. Pete was standing in the aisle, evidently having walked there from the back of the bus. Tom, grateful for the help which Pete was prepared to give in keeping the large group under control, was making good use of him.

“Well, they’re not happy,” said Pete. “Most of them are complaining they need a piss, and one of them says he can’t wait any longer.”

“Who?” demanded Tom.

“The guy in the white jeans, the one sitting behind Whats-his-name in the shirt and tie,” Pete replied.

Tom glanced back, identified the lad in question who was seated behind Adrian, and snorted in contempt. “Oh, Gary. Huh! Well, he’s just trying it on with you. That lad always plays up. He can hold it in if he has to, I assure you.”

Pete nodded. “Yeah, I guess so,” he replied. “My little brother’s moaning that he can’t wait till we get there, too, but I know he can hold it. I guess it’s the same with Gary. Alright then, I’ll tell them all to hold on.” He made to return to the back of the bus.

“I’ll come with you and back you up,” said Tom, getting up from his seat.

Steve glanced away from the scene for a moment see what his new friend was making of it all, but Ben’s gaze was directed introspectively down into his lap and he was apparently paying no attention to Tom and Pete. Seated slightly forwards on his seat, Ben’s hands were rubbing continuously on his knees as if he was obsessively trying to dry them on his black tracksuit pants, and the balls of his feet were repetitively pushing his lower legs up and then letting them fall back to the floor again as if to help with the knee-rubbing operations. Steve was unable to catch Ben’s eye, so after a moment he turned back to the aisle of the bus to watch the events unfold.

Pete was soon addressing the group at the back of the bus. “Right, guys, well we’re not stopping till we get there, so my advice to you is this: stop moaning, stop behaving like pathetic schoolgirls, tie a knot in it, and…” He glanced at various pained faces before uttering his next four words emphatically. “…THINK ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE!”

The lads in the back greeted Pete’s advice with a clamour of voices, some of them clearly amused and laughing raucously, others protesting or simply swearing in anxious frustration. The centre of attention was the somewhat loud-mouthed Gary in the white jeans, and while he was not the only one with a pained expression on his face he was the one being ribbed the most for his apparently serious need to relieve himself. While he protested to everyone around him about how badly he had to go, those of his friends who were within arms length were prodding him playfully to accompany the general jeering which was being directed at him. This good-humoured ribbing was soon broadened by some singing which started up spontaneously amongst some of the club members in Gary’s vicinity, gradually drowning out the general clamour as more lads joined in. The tune was one more usually associated with a familiar hymn, increasing in its volume as more lads added their voices, and the words were:

    Stop the bus, he needs a wee-wee,
    Stop the bus, he needs a wee-wee,
    Stop the bus, he needs a wee-wee,
    He’s going to PISS HIS PANTS!

This was repeated several times as more singers gradually got to grips with the tune and words and took the opportunity to demonstrate that they had done so. Meanwhile Tom and Pete, still standing in the midst of it all at the back of the bus, had been ignoring the impromptu choir and were both now poring over a map of the theme park which Tom had produced from his back pocket. Tom seized a moment between verses to speak to everyone, and the clamour died down as the lads stopped singing and prodding at the hapless Gary to listen to him. “Right, lads, if I’ve got it right we’re heading for this coach park here at this entrance to Alton Towers,” Tom announced, pointing at a corner of the map. “And as soon as we’ve checked in with our group ticket we can all head straight for these toilets which are over here,” he continued, his finger tracing his anticipated route on the map, “since I understand that some of you have misjudged how much beer your bladders could hold on this journey. Yet again.”

“But how long is it till we arrive?” This was a large, slightly overweight lad in a red t-shirt and grey sweatpants.

The lad’s question was greeted by fresh laughter. “Ha, ha, Toby’s pissing himself too!” was one comment, and Adrian leaned over to address the pained looking Toby directly: “Listen, Tubs, you heard what Danny’s brother told you. Tie a knot in it and think about something else!”

“Shouldn’t be more than about twenty minutes to half an hour,” replied Tom to Toby.

Steve finally turned back from watching the scene behind him, ignored the fresh groans from various people on hearing Tom’s estimated arrival time, and turned back to Ben in a fresh attempt to re-ignite the previously friendly atmosphere between the two of them. “Sounds like some of them are pretty desperate after all that beer,” he commented. “I must admit I could do with a leak too. Good thing we’ll be arriving soon, isn’t it?”

To Steve’s surprise and disappointment, Ben hardly even acknowledged that Steve had said something. A merest grunt, slightly high pitched, was all that Ben emitted, and he failed to make any eye contact. Steve stared at him for a moment, frowned slightly to himself in irritation, then reached once more for his ipod. Steve was aware that the beers which he had consumed in the pub were starting to make him need the toilet rather badly, albeit not as badly as some of his club mates in the back of the bus evidently needed to go, and if Ben was not going to provide the distraction he felt he needed for the last stage of the journey to take his mind off his bladder then it would have to be the music instead. Shifting his seated position and willing himself to ignore the pressure in his nether regions, Steve settled back in the seat and closed his eyes. The chorus of “stop the bus he needs a wee-wee…” had ceased by now, its entertainment value finally exhausted, and even the noise of Gary and Toby being generally teased about their desperate situation had abated, to be replaced by a slightly uneasy silence from the back, leaving Steve to listen to his music in relative peace. Steve started to doze once again as the bus rumbled on along the road.


“Oh come on, open the door!!” The bellow from the back of the bus jolted Steve awake. “Oi!” shouted Tom’s reprimanding voice from the front in reply. Steve rubbed his eyes and then took in the scene both inside and outside the bus. They had evidently arrived at Alton Towers, and the air was filled with the sound of huge numbers of people shrieking with excitement on the rides. The bus had pulled into a parking area for large vehicles and was now manoeuvring in between two other coaches to head for a space over by a concrete building at the far end. But progress across the busy coach park was slow: the driver was following hand signals from a man outside in a fluorescent yellow overall, and the man’s stop signal now indicated that they should wait for a vehicle which was crossing their path. The shouted demand for the doors to be opened had come from someone, Steve could not see who, in a group of lads who had all left their seats in the back and were now crowded round the rear doors of the bus in anticipation of being let out.

Steve then looked at Ben in the window seat next to him. The instant Steve set eyes on his new friend in the black tracksuit, he could see that something was wrong. Instead of sitting properly on the seat, Ben was perched precariously on the edge. His whole body, Steve could sense, was trembling. Both of his hands, visibly shaking, were jammed in between his tightly closed thighs and were pushing upwards into his groin. Several spasms seemed to rack Ben’s body as he struggled. His forehead was glistening with a sheen of sweat.

As Steve stared at Ben the pieces of the puzzle suddenly slotted into place and he realised in an instant what Ben’s trouble was. Ben’s sudden search for the non-existent on-board toilet when only a short time into the journey, the abrupt change of attitude from previously friendly and chatty to uncommunicative after Steve told him that such facilities were an unaffordable luxury for the Real Ale Club, and now, more than an hour later, Ben’s tense posture and the trembling hands pushing in his groin, all added up to one obvious conclusion: Ben was in the last stages of pee desperation, using all of his willpower to avoid letting go of his brimfull bladder and soaking himself and the seat, trying his utmost to wait the final remaining seconds before he would be able to get out of the bus and deal with it.

It was unnecessary because the evidence before his eyes was plain, but Steve still asked the question, leaning to murmer into Ben’s ear, his voice low so that only Ben would hear. “Ben, do you need a piss?”

Ben’s reaction was limited to a brief, teary-eyed glance at Steve’s concerned face. If he had been in any state to say anything, Steve might not have heard it anyway because another shout of anguish (“Aaagh, let me out!!”) emanated from the back as the bus, having stopped briefly, now started forward again at the direction of the parking official. Various club members, who had been anticipating being let out then and there, were now unexpectedly required to wait a few more seconds.

Steve, seeing Ben’s agonised expression plus the fact that they were now turning to head for their parking spot alongside the small building, rose slightly from his seat, turned towards Ben and motioned to him to get out of the seat. “Come on, out you get,” he hissed. “Go and stand by the front door.” But Ben remained seated, his hands still trembling in their positions between his thighs. As Steve stared, Ben then bowed his head back down and bent right over forwards so the he was almost scrunched up in a ball where he sat.

The swearing and shouting continued from the vicinity of the rear doors, and Danny’s brother Pete responded with a firm rebuke of his own at the rowdy group who seemed unable to wait for the doors to be opened, backing up Tom’s previous reprimand to them. But the bus driver continued to ignore the rumpus as he pulled slowly forward next to the concrete wall. With a hiss of the brakes, the vehicle finally stopped with its front half alongside the building and leaving a gap of just a couple of feet between the front doors and the concrete wall. Steve tugged at the crook of Ben’s arm which was still poking out from his scrunched up position, Ben’s hands being still wedged deep in his groin. Ben resisted for a few more seconds even when the sound of the opening doors was heard, unwilling or unable to move, but Steve’s firm pull on his arm and his repeated urge of “Come on, Ben, come on!” finally brought Ben into action.

The spreading wet patch on the crotch of Ben’s tracksuit was fully apparent to Steve as Ben allowed himself to be hustled out of his seat into the aisle of the bus and then forwards to the now open front door, but it only confirmed to Steve what he had already realised was happening to Ben. Ignoring the other alighting club members, Steve guided his new friend as he staggered forwards and then out into the carpark. Still gently pushing Ben by his shoulder, Steve hustled him to the wall, and Ben’s trembling hands pushed the front of his now soaking black trackies and orange football shorts down and continued peeing, now against the wall instead of into his pants.

Ben was clearly oblivious to the others around him, but Steve was fully aware that he and Ben were by no means alone in what they were doing. As Steve, too, unzipped and let loose against the wall next to Ben, he could hear gasps of relief from several others who had moved in between the bus and the wall from the rear doors. One of these was Gary in the white jeans. Another was big fat Toby who was standing right at the end of the wall, blocking the access of any others who might also have considered trying to get through to relieve themselves from the direction of the rear doors. This did not, however, stop Steve’s friend Danny from pushing roughly past the pissing Toby, almost making him fall forwards against the wall, passing the slimmer lads who were peeing next to Toby, trotting to stand next to Steve, and turning to the makeshift urinal to add his own forceful contribution which he accompanied with a sigh of relief.

Danny took no notice of Ben who was still squirting away on Steve’s other side, the fact that Ben had not quite made it in time and that his pants were saturated known only to himself and Steve. But Danny acknowledged his friend Steve and looked sideways at him as they stood there peeing together. “Hey Steve, I see you had the same problem!” he commented, then continued with a lengthy, almost hyperactive monologue on the same theme as his urine mixed with that of everyone else, soaking into the ground where they stood. “Crikey, I nearly didn’t make it! Mind you, I thought Gary over there was actually going to piss himself. He couldn’t sit still in the last five minutes. Squeezing himself and all. Must have been the beer! Phew, looks like everyone just about made it with dry undies. Mine are dry, but only just, another five minutes on the bus and I’d have pissed myself. Just like you did that last time in the bus. Oops, sorry, I keep forgetting, forget I said that, mate. Oh yeah, big Toby too, he was bouncing about in his seat, I thought he might wet his pants but he didn’t. He was moaning and groaning that he couldn’t wait by the time we reached the turn-off for Alton Towers. Say, isn’t my brother cool? Don’t you think Pete’s brilliant, Steve? All these blokes yelling at him that they had to piss, and he was just dead strict with all of us! We all had to obey him and hold on till we got here! Pete’s so cool, I reckon they’re all a bit afraid of him, he’s even stricter than Tom! Pete just told them they should tie a knot in it and think about something else. Dead impressive. Mind you, Adrian was giving some of the desperate blokes a hard time too, especially Toby. Or Tubs, that’s what he calls him. Cor, I can’t remember when I’ve had to piss as bad as that before. What a relief. It’s still coming out though, I just can’t believe how much was in there! Hey, I’m gonna check out the rides. There’s some brilliant things here, I can’t wait! There’s at least three roller coasters, some dead scary ghost trains, huge ferris wheels and stuff. There’s this brilliant ride called the Thirteen …”

Incredibly, Danny was still in full conversational flow to match his equally voluble urinary contributions. The account of various lads’ desperation in the back of the bus together with his brother’s abilities in controlling them all had now switched seamlessly into an excited run-down of the theme park rides which they would be experiencing today. After listening for a while, Steve gave up trying to follow it all and glanced once again at the guy on his other side to see how he was doing. Ben was still trembling visibly, still peeing in fits and starts, and Steve could plainly see that the lad’s tracksuit was wet to the knees down both legs. Meanwhile Danny was finally zipping up and heading back out with a parting “see you later” to Steve as he returned to rejoin his brother and the main throng. Other lads further over had also finished watering the ground between the bus and the building and were pushing past the still peeing Toby to return to their other friends, and Steve too finally zipped up and turned to face Ben properly.

“Ben, are you okay?” he said in a low voice.

Ben, evidently deciding that the erratic spurts of urine from his tortured bladder had finally dried up for good, shakily pulled his sopping wet shorts and tracksuit back up into place and turned to look at Steve properly for the first time since he had stopped conversing with him in the bus. That had been the moment when Steve had told him there was no onboard toilet. “Not really,” he replied. His voice sounded cracked and slightly squeaky, and his throat was tight as he spoke. He was on the verge of tears. He accompanied his reply with a glance downwards at himself before looking back at Steve’s concerned face.

“It hardly shows, man,” said Steve, looking at the evidence. “Honestly, it’s almost invisible.” Steve was exaggerating slightly in this positive assessment of the apparent damage to Ben’s clothing, but it was true that you had to look hard at his tracksuit to see the extensive wet area.

Ben looked down again, trying to convince himself that Steve was telling the truth. But his assessment was interrupted by the bus driver who had completed a check of the vehicle’s interior, ascertained that all seats were dry despite the protests from many of his passengers about full bladders during the latter half of the journey, and was now ready to secure the bus. “Could you two lads move on now so that I can close up, please?” he asked politely to the pair still standing outside by the front doors.

Steve and Ben hastily moved away and joined Toby, the last of the lads to have finished peeing, and the three of them made their way to the main group which was gathered around a set of turnstiles at the entrance to the park. Ben kept himself behind Steve, evidently unwilling to have his wet pants spotted by anyone else, but no-one was paying him any attention in any case. Pete, his arm now wrapped round his younger brother’s waist after re-uniting with him following the latter’s emergency toilet break by the wall, was completing a quick head count and reporting the result to Tom. “And three makes nineteen. That’s everyone!” he called out.

Without further ado, the entire group followed Tom through the turnstiles. The uniformed attendant was counting everyone as they went through, checking that their number agreed with that printed on the pre-paid group ticket, and Ben instinctively covered his groin with his hands as the man set eyes on him. Noticing this, Steve pulled Ben aside for a moment as Ben came through the gate while the rest of the group re-formed inside the park area to listen to Tom’s instructions.

“I promise you, Ben, you don’t have to worry about it,” Steve urged quietly. “Covering your groin like that just draws attention to it, but no-one will notice if you just act normal.” Ben still looked upset and unconvinced, so Steve continued. “Look, you’ve done two things right. Firstly, you’re wearing black which doesn’t show the wet. And secondly, that tracksuit material will dry quickly out here in the sun…”

“That includes you, Steve, pay attention!” Tom was calling out in their direction. Steve and Ben hastily turned to face him and listen. “It’s best if we all stay together as one group, but if anyone does get separated then please make certain you are here for the bus back to college by seven-thirty this evening. Seven-thirty, and no later! Now, I’m aware that some people need the toilet very badly, so I suggest we all head that way first of all…”

“Yeah, and some neanderthals here haven’t even heard of toilets, let alone basic manners. They just peed on the ground by the bus!” This was Adrian, the slightly haughty lad in the smart pink shirt and tie and red chinos. “Mentioning no names,” he added, but nevertheless made pointed eye contact with Toby, then shifted his piercing gaze to Steve as well.

“They probably couldn’t wait, Adrian. I think we’re all in need after the beer and the long journey” said Jonathan diplomatically. He glanced over at his friend Steve as he said this, and Steve smiled back at him, acknowledging the subtle support. Ben kept himself hidden from the rest of the group behind Steve, still unconvinced that his accident was as invisible as Steve had assured him. Jonathan continued: “I, for one, really need a leak now. Where do we go, Tom?”

Tom was already studying the map which he had printed out from the internet page as Jonathan was speaking, but his initial attempts to correlate the details in the picture with the physical surroundings were not immediately successful. And it was Adrian who, having given similar haughty glances at various other lads who had succumbed to the necessity of relieving themselves between the bus and the concrete building, seemed to lose patience with Tom now. A gasp of irritation revealed that Adrian was in no mood for standing around while Tom puzzled. Leaning over several others, he reached to snatch the map from Tom’s hands, snapping “Oh come on, let me work it out!” as he did so.

Steve nudged Ben urgently and nodded in Adrian’s direction. “Ben, look at Adrian!” he hissed. As Ben followed his gaze he could see what Steve meant. Adrian, while reaching impatiently over several others to grab the map with one hand from Tom, was using his other hand to squeeze the crotch of his red chinos in several short clenching motions. One of his legs was additionally wrapped slightly round the other, almost causing him to overbalance as he leaned on the lads in between him and Tom. As various faces then turned towards him instead of looking at Tom, Adrian instantly reverted to his casual, super-cool stance, accentuated by his jaunty smart clothing, expertly concealing his bladder spasm as he studied the map and indicated the direction of the nearest conveniences.

Ben acknowledged the shared glimpse of Adrian’s concealed desperation to Steve with a slight roll of his eyes, but he still seemed much too upset to return Steve’s smile. That figured, thought Steve, as he and Ben followed behind the large group, all walking in the direction now indicated by Adrian. Since Ben had actually lost the battle at the last minute and wet his pants just before he could get relief, he was hardly likely to be consoled by the fact that others were in need but had still managed to control themselves and would therefore not be suffering the same terrible indignity as he was now suffering. Steve, stuck for any further words which might make Ben feel better, limited his further contact to a gentle rub of Ben’s back as they followed their group round another corner. All the time Ben continued to walk awkwardly, almost right up against Steve, in an apparent effort to keep his wet tracksuit pants concealed from anyone else’s glance.

Ben’s attention, previously limited to dejectedly watching his own and Steve’s feet as they walked along behind the main group, feeling the soggy material of his tracksuit chafing uncomfortably against his legs, was briefly attracted by Danny’s excited yelling: “It’s the Thirteen! Oh look, Pete, it’s the Thirteen that I was telling you about! Oh let’s go on that one now! Come on, Pete!!” Danny’s boyish excitement would have been infectious to Ben if his private disaster had not still been so crushingly at the forefront of his mind.

The object of Danny’s attention was a corkscrew rollercoaster in a forest environment. The high-pitched squeals of terrified exhilaration which filled the air were coming from the occupants of the carriages which were now passing by high up and in full view of the Real Ale Club members and hundreds of others in the vicinity. Danny’s identification of the attraction was confirmed by the presence of a sign proclaiming the “Thirteen” attraction and pointing in the direction of a long queue of punters at the start of the ride, many of whom could be seen to be just as beside themselves with anticipation as Danny was and obviously quite prepared to wait a long time for their turn on this particular ride.

Steve turned and grinned affectionately at Danny, watching how he was now jumping up and down as if he was just half his true age, pestering his older brother to be allowed to go straight for the roller coaster and enticing various others in the group at the same time. But the issue immediately caused a babble of disagreement amongst various club members. “Yeah, let’s go on that one!” “No, I need a piss!” “Why not split up? Those who need the toilet go now, the rest of us can go on the Thirteen, meet here afterwards!” “Best stick together, guys. Some of you are pretty intoxicated, I don’t trust you to behave yourselves.” “Where’s the gents? Which way do I go?” “It looks brilliant, come on, let’s join the queue before it gets ridiculously long!” “Oh, for goodness sake hurry up, I’m busting!”

Tom, seeing the division of opinion together with an obvious solution, addressed Danny’s brother. “Alright then. Pete, will you take charge of those who want to go on the ride now. Keep everyone together if you can, and make sure no-one steps out of line, because I don’t want us all thrown out of the park before we’ve even started enjoying ourselves. And I’ll find the toilets for those who need them.”

All eyes turned to Pete, but he hesitated for a couple of seconds. Danny could not contain his enthusiasm and filled the silence, backing up Tom’s suggestion. “Oh yeah, come on, Pete. You’re brilliant at that. And I wanna go on the ride!”

A clamour of agreement greeted Danny’s encouragement. But Pete had another suggestion for Tom. “Or I could take the lads to the facilities if you want to do the ride,” he offered.

Danny instantly disagreed. “Oh no, Pete, come with us on the Thirteen, please! You’re so cool, don’t let us down!” And Tom added: “Well, that’s generous of you Pete, but to be honest I really need a leak myself so I’m going to take a timeout.” A third lad called Doug, one of those from the back who had succeeded in reaching the makeshift urinal between the bus and the wall before big Toby had blocked everyone else’s access, remarked “Come on, Pete, you’re not scared of the ride, are you?”

With Pete’s acquiescence thus forced by popular demand, the group then split into two parts of approximately equal numbers. Danny, delighted and beside himself with excitement, turned to his friend Steve, still ignoring Ben who was cowering behind. “You’re coming too, aren’t you Steve?”

Steve glanced at Ben but received no reaction from him, so he nodded at Danny. “Sure, I’ll come with you,” he replied. And while Jonathan, Mark, Adrian, Tom and some six other lads made for the toilets in one direction, agreeing to meet up with Pete’s group as soon as possible by the finishing area of the ride, Danny, Steve, Ben, Toby, Gary, Doug and a couple of others joined Pete to head for the queue for the roller coaster.

However, a few minutes later when their half of the group had almost reached the back of the long, snaking queue, Steve suddenly changed his mind. Another glance at Ben, who was still looking like death warmed up as he shuffled along behind him in his soaking tracksuit, melted Steve’s heart. “Danny, sorry man, but I’m going to sit this ride out after all,” he said to his boisterous, excitable friend who was bouncing along next to his now much quieter older brother in the black leather jacket and light coloured jeans. “I’m going to sit over there and wave to you as you go past on the ride.” He indicated a low wall on which various people were sitting in the sun near the front of the queue by the start of the ride.

“Okay, suit yourself,” replied Danny, hardly glancing at his friend and fellow Chemistry student as he gazed excitedly up at the rails of the ride above them. As long as his brother was coming with him, Danny seemed indifferent to Steve’s lack of participation.

Steve spoke to Pete next. “Ben and I are sitting the ride out, Pete,” he announced without bothering to check this with the dejected Ben. “We’ll be over there,” he continued, indicating the wall.

Pete merely nodded at him. Steve had anticipated some resistance from Danny’s brother since Tom had asked him to keep the group together, but Pete now seemed quieter and more withdrawn than he had been earlier. His silence was more than compensated by his younger brother’s infectious excitement, however, and the other members of the group, who were prattling amongst themselves, seemed equally indifferent to whether Steve and Ben would be joining them.

Steve turned to Ben. “Come on, man,” he whispered. “Let’s get you dried out in the sun.” He accompanied this exhortation with an arm round Ben’s shoulders as he hustled his meek companion over to a space on the low wall where they were out of earshot of anyone else. Steve sat down and patted the space next to him, indicating that Ben should sit there. Ben lowered himself uncomfortably down onto the wall, sighed heavily and buried his face in his hands. A slight scent of fresh urine wafted up from his lap. There was a silence for a while.

Then Steve spoke gently. “You did incredibly well, you know, Ben.”

Ben took another deep breath, lifted his head back out of his clasped hands and stared uncomprehendingly at Steve’s sincere and compassionate face. “What do you mean?” he asked.

“I saw how full you were by the time we arrived in the bus. You were literally trembling with the effort but you just kept on holding it in. You must have been in incredible pain. You know, when precisely the same thing happened to me a couple of months ago I just let it go in my jeans long before it would have got so bad as that.”

Ben stared. “It happened to you?” he asked.

“Yes, on the bus back from the club’s outing to the brewery. Just before you first started coming to our meetings. The difference was that I just let it go in my jeans with half an hour still to go on the journey. I just knew I wouldn’t be able to last out, and when it got so painful that I couldn’t stand it I simply wet myself on the seat.”

“Did the others see you?”

“A few, yes. Danny saw my soaking jeans later after I got off the bus, but he’s promised not to tell anyone. Adrian saw too, unfortunately, and he’s been snotty with me ever since. One or two others who were sitting near also saw. And Jonathan, of course, because I was sitting next to him. He was really brilliant, he helped me and all. But most of the club doesn’t know, and that’s how I want it to stay. You’re the first person who didn’t see it that I’ve told, so consider yourself privileged.”

Ben was silent for a while as he took this account in. Then he offered: “Then I guess you know how I’m feeling now.”

“Yes,” said Steve. “Pretty upset, just like I felt. But there’s another difference. I was wearing these jeans.” He indicated the light blue jeans he was wearing, a style which Danny also wore and which Ben recognised as a type which many male Chemistry students like Steve and Danny were currently wearing on campus. “They showed my accident for all to see. Whereas you’re wearing a black tracksuit which shows nothing. And it will dry quickly in the sun if you let it.”

Ben heeded the last piece of advice by leaning further back and opening his soaking legs slightly so that the sun shone straight into his lap. He accompanied the motion with another anxious glance down at the evidence of his recent mishap. Steve did the same. “Hey, it hardly shows at all, does it?” Steve offered. “Well, I guess those orange football shorts underneath must be a sight, but no-one’s going to see them if you’re not planning to do a striptease.”

Ben laughed for the first time in a couple of hours and felt his spirits rising. As he relaxed on the wall and let the warming sun do its work on his wet lap and legs, Ben told Steve a story of a male student from the year above him who had wet himself during a three hour exam because he had been too shy to put up his hand to be escorted out of the examination hall, and Steve responded that he had seen this nearly happen to one or two guys during his own Chemistry exams too. And finally, when the subject had been exhausted and Ben was feeling so much better that he was wondering why he had needed to feel so humiliated at all, the two new friends returned to their previous discussion about fitness and sport which they had been conducting in the pub and during the first part of the bus journey. Occasionally the rollercoaster set off from high above them with a new group of screaming people, but the two students paid more attention to developing their new friendship than to the ride which they had opted out of.

After some twenty-five minutes Ben glanced behind him suddenly. “Where is everyone?” he wondered out loud.

“Well, goodness knows where Tom’s group has got to, but I think Danny and the others must be still in the queue for the ride. At least, I haven’t spotted them in any of the trains up there so far,” replied Steve who had been glancing up at each new departure of the ‘Thirteen’ as it headed in its corkscrew motion down into the forest and out of sight. “It’s odd though, isn’t it? Maybe we’d better check.”

He and Ben rose from the wall and wandered back round the corner. Ben no longer felt any need to hide: confident now that the still slightly damp tracksuit showed no visible evidence, he walked easily along next to Steve as the two of them headed for the queue of excited would-be rollercoaster riders. They heard Danny’s loud voice even before the front of the queue came into sight.

Danny’s voice was earnest and more serious than was usual for him. “Just ask him, Pete!”

“But I can’t. It’s their private area.” This was Pete’s voice. As Steve and Ben rounded the final corner they could see the group of seven, headed by Pete and Danny, almost at the front of the long queue. A train had just left, and the group would clearly have their turn on the very next departure, but it would be about five minutes before that would happen.

“Don’t be a wimp, Pete. Ask him and see if he’ll let you!” was Danny’s insistent reply. The other five lads were staring at the two brothers as they discussed what was evidently a new problem. None of them noticed Steve and Ben standing on the other side of the barrier watching them.

Pete, looking rather discomfited, nodded at his younger brother and stepped out of the line to walk up to the door of a small office area for the ride operators which was next to the entrance to the boarding area. Various people in the queue were watching him. The door was open, and he poked his head in, addressing someone inside. “‘Scuse me mate, sorry, is there any chance I can just use your toilet? Before I get on the ride?”

“No, it’s not for public use,” came the reply from the unseen man inside, who followed this up with some directions to the nearest public toilets, the very same ones to which Tom’s group had headed and from which that group had yet to return.

“Cheers,” muttered Pete in slightly sarcastic reply as he wandered morosely back to where his brother was standing.

“Well, you’re not leaving the queue now after we’ve stood here all this time,” said Danny in some irritation. “How badly do you need to go, anyway?” he demanded.

Pete just looked awkward and shrugged his shoulders, standing uncomfortably and not completely still, one knee swaying slightly in and out, as he resigned himself to the necessity of continuing to wait. But Gary, the loud-mouthed lad in the white jeans, had some advice. “What was it you told us, Pete? Back in the bus? Oh yeah, I remember. Tie a knot in it and THINK ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE!” Gary spoke the last four words with the same emphasis as Pete had used earlier that afternoon. Toby and Doug, to whom Pete’s advice in the bus had also been directed, smirked and tittered at Gary’s accurate recall.

Danny scowled in frustration at seeing the impressed respect which the others had earlier shown for his cool brother now reduced to this teasing. “Oh for goodness sake, Pete,” he snapped. “Just hold it till we’ve done the ride. It’s only a few more minutes!”

In his exasperation Danny turned away from his brother for perhaps only about the third time since reuniting with him at the pub a few hours earlier, and this brought Steve and Ben into his field of vision. Delighted at the opportunity which this afforded to distract the group’s attention away from his beloved brother’s sudden degradation from cool-guy-in-charge to pathetic wimp, Danny called out to his best friend and nodded in friendly fashion to Ben too. “You two gonna watch us on the ride?” he asked when the appropriate greetings had been dispatched and the attention of Gary and the others had been successfully diverted from Pete’s embarrassing display of moving about on the spot with one hand in the pocket of his jeans, the pocket failing to conceal the massaging motion of his hand. “You should have joined us, you know, it’s going to be brilliant!” Danny added.

“Yeah, we’ll go and stand where you’ll be coming down,” said Steve. “We’d better get going otherwise we’ll miss you. See you down there.”

“Have fun, you guys,” added Ben who had cheered up and completely regained his self confidence after his chat with Steve. His tracksuit pants were now virtually dry, and the soggy state of what he was wearing underneath them was not visible to other people.

A few minutes later, as Steve and Ben were walking towards the area where Danny, Pete and the others would be arriving after their hectic sixty seconds of being hurled around, twisting and looping in the confines of the rollercoaster train through the forest and out again, they were suddenly hailed from behind by a voice which was familiar to Steve. “Hi, you two!”

“Hey, Jonathan!” greeted Steve, pleased to see his other good friend who had spent the earlier part of the day with other people. Looking past Jonathan, Steve also spotted Mark and a small number of others from the remaining group all making their way over. “Where’ve you all been, man?” demanded Steve. “You’ve been gone ages! Not everyone’s here, are they? Did you get split up? Where’s Tom?”

“It’s a long story,” replied Jonathan mysteriously, “but they should be joining us again later. Did you go on the ride? Where’s Pete and the others?”

“We opted out, but that should be Danny, Pete and the rest up there right now,” replied Steve. He indicated the train which could be seen in the distance being hauled to the top of its runners, its compartments full of people trapped in their confines. “They only reached the front of the queue a few minutes ago. We’re just off to watch them come down. You coming too?”

“Sure,” replied Jonathan who turned to call out to his friend Mark. “Come on, Mark. Danny and the others are about to come down the roller coaster!”

Mark and several other lads who had split off with the now absent Tom to find the toilets all now joined Steve, Ben and Jonathan to make their way to the point where the tracks of the ‘Thirteen’ ride emerged from the forest and finished. Mark and Jonathan joined up with Steve and Ben as they walked, but the other four, Graham, Tommy, Richard and Chaz, formed their own group. Steve was aware that they were discussing something amongst themselves which they were finding excessively amusing, Chaz and Tommy especially squeaking and snorting with mirth at times, and that both Jonathan and Mark evidently knew what it was but were much less amused about it. Steve considered asking what they were laughing about, but when Mark called “Oh, shut up you lot, it’s not that funny!” in a tone which suggested that he had had enough, Steve decided not to bother. The roller coaster could be seen setting off down its ramp at this point in any case, drawing everyone’s attention to it as it gathered speed and then spun its screaming occupants around, plunging down into the forest out of sight. The lads hastened to where it would shortly re-emerge, bringing their exhilarated fellow beer connaisseurs to the end of their white-knuckle ride.

The club members on the ground barely made it to the finishing point before the airborne members did. The screams and yells, which had faded from earshot when the train plunged out of sight into the forest, could soon be heard again, this time accompanied by the clatter on the rails of the now much more nearby rollercoaster as it brought its ecstatic passengers to a controlled, if jerky, halt on the safety of solid ground. “Hah, there’s Tubs!” remarked Chaz, drawing everyone’s attention to big Toby who could now be seen scrambling out of the front carriage. The joke which he and Tommy had been sharing with Graham and Richard had clearly been forgotten for the moment as everyone strained their eyes to identify the intrepid arrivals.

“That’s Gary!” shouted Richard. “There, in the front with Toby.” Various other clubmates were similarly spotted as they emerged, slightly stunned, from the open carriages of the train.

“There’s Danny and his brother too, behind Toby!” said Steve. Danny could be seen typically beside himself with joy and excitement, gesticulating to the older lad with the same spiky blond hair who was seated next to him.

Story continues here:

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