Despite his injuries and the blood streaking down his face, Gareth wasn't in agony; he was more concerned about his new jeans.
"I started givin' 'em a bollockin', I said 'Don't cut me jeans!'"
His friends huddled round, not so much out of sympathy but curiosity: they wanted a glimpse of the gore—as did the cameras.
If it bleeds, it leads, and Jason's blood-streaked visage, with a fat bandage on his head and a brace around his neck, provided the opening shot for the local TV news.
"Just 30 seconds earlier this teenager was in perfect health. Now he has a fractured hip"—the reporter paused for effect—"and head injuries. Another casualty of the annual Cooper's Hill cheese rolling races."
Cut to the reporter interviewing the winner, a mate of Gareth's, as the paramedics swarmed over the prostrate body in the background.
"That could've been me. You just don't know," the boy shrugged.
"It doesn't bother you that this sort of thing happens."
"Well, yeah," he conceded. "It's unfortunate for him. But you take that chance."
The callousness of his friends—their car-crash curiosity—didn't upset Gareth. Truth is, he probably would have said the same if it had been one of them.
As the medics lifted him into the ambulance, Gareth gave his mates two thumbs up, pumping his arms in the air. "I'm sound as a pound," he shouted.
Unfortunately, his mother didn't know that.
Barbara had watched the debacle from a distance, through binoculars—she didn't think Gareth would run, but she didn't want to miss it if he did.
To her horror, the boy in the black T-shirt flopping down the hillside looked a lot like her son. "I had a feeling it was him—call it mother's instinct."
Mortified, she ran the uphill mile from her home to the racecourse in a matter of minutes.
The medics assured her that Gareth was all right, and Craig Carter soon joined him in the ambulance, having injured both his ankles.
Gloucester hospital had refused to accept cheese-rolling casualties—on the grounds that their wounds were self-inflicted—so the two teens were carted off to Cheltenham instead.
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