The judge in his chambers was gloomy.
He had just put away two boys. They had viciously attacked a party of sixth-formers leaving the Rugby Club, killing Lloyd Gardener, on the eve of his eighteenth birthday.
Lloyd was beaten first with a house-agent’s For Sale sign and then repeatedly kicked in the head.
“In a rapidly deteriorating society this sort of incident is becoming endemic”, he had said.
Now he is waiting for an old friend from London to arrive at the station. I can tell he is thinking about his herbaceous borders and a nice weekend at the big house with the cobbled stable yard, the grey stone out-buildings, the roof tiles the colour of faded rose petals.
Maybe one of his well-educated children will be down from London, too.
His assistant was still there, Maureen, tidying things, listening in to the conversation.
I think of the streets those boys came from, the streets with the supermarket trolleys on their sides in front of the houses.
“Fighting is what they think about all the time, those kids. A few drinks and there is nothing to stop them going for the adrenalin rush that verifies who and what they are”, said the judge. “After all, we are a tournament species”.
“What stopped them before?” I said.
“I don’t know”, he said. “Wars, patriotism, duty, maybe. Maybe, in some cases, a god who watches your every move. In the past young men followed in the steps of their parents. They knew what certificates they had to get.”
I googled “tournament species” when I got home. A tournament species is where males fight other males for the right to mate and where the winner gets all the females. Actually, we are a mixture, somewhere between a tournament species and a pair-bonding species. I liked how an American professor put it: a “tragically confused” species, he called us.
So the judge was wrong, strictly speaking.