Monday, February 26, 2007

Chisels of the Long Streets

He couldn’t have known, back then, that he would eventually become a notorious homosexual, battered to death in a shit-stained back room, bleeding to death on a piss-stained mattress, becoming the embodiment of what you used to get for being a homosexual, if not dead, then at least shamed in public toilets, caught with your hands down a teenage boy’s pants, a bigger shame perhaps even than death. How many of them, back then, knew that he was a homosexual? How many would know now, would care now, now that things are different, better?

He had a brother called Tank, back occasionally from the army, who we would glimpse at the scullery window, from his waist up to his chest, scrubbing himself with carbolic soap on a Friday evening, his crisp white shirt behind him, hanging from the knob of the door. His brother Tank hanging over us, and most especially over anyone who crossed him, as a threat, as a man who, naturally, could kill another man with one deadly blow, using special techniques known only to soldiers.

Whether he would have carried out the threat or not, there was the understanding – by all parties – that he at least had the right to gently press the pliers against the boy’s nostrils and whisper, as low as he could, that those same pliers would be firmly rammed up his nose the next time he, the boy, threw stones at his door or kicked his milk bottles over or whatever it was that caused him to wait behind the door, night after night, pliers tight in his hand.

Big, glassy eyes, came all the way down from Hartlepool, a dead dad or something, with his littler sister who, not looking so much like Peter Lorre as he did, nor as snivelling and as wretched, could coax out of some of the boys a little money on every day of the school holidays in return for a flash of her fanny, as they called it then, its pale, perfect mystery holding them in thrall until the next day’s sixpences or pennies came tumbling out.

Hands reaching for hands beneath desks, in dinner queues, through the fence, what the hell. He sang If I Fell for her, in the back entry, as she listened, or giggled, on the other side of the gate. He sang it high and soft in the same way as he sang it for her at night, alone, his mother listening from the bottom of the stairs. She lived on Birkin Avenue, with no apparent father.

It was well-known and much commented upon that his mother had taken a lover who somehow lived upstairs, with her, while his father was trapped downstairs battling whatever illness it was that prevented him from rising from his bed of pain, from doing anything at all about the intolerable situation above.

Demanded a croggy from Tukes, ordering him to carry him to the bottom of the hill but didn’t make the bottom of the hill on account of being struck by an emerging car. Massive head injuries, six months lying in hospital, touch and go for a long while and nobody, it seemed, cared. There were those even who were pleased, who, further, loudly, stated their wish that he had died: he was an odious cunt after all. When he returned, however, he was visibly not quite the same, slower somehow, his eyes emptier, definitely not the same, not so much of a cunt.

The quiet ones, as they always say, are by far the worst. The photographs doing the rounds, her happily sucking and happily being fucked, with a group of older men, it clearly being her in the pictures, at some legendary party, according to the select few who had actually held these photographs, had seen them with their own eyes. This quiet, well-spoken girl, top in everything, clean, careful, something of a snob.

Discarded fabric in the giant skip at Farmer Faggots provided the perfect fuzzy felt adventure park except for the times when a) the lid, the caged roof, came crashing down and narrowly missed his head by millimetres, landing on his shoulders, cracking his collar bone and b) the time when the security guard kept him in there, taunting him, stamping on his hands whenever he tried to pull himself out, forcing his head beneath the lengths of fabric, swallowing the felt, the suede, the velvet like the velvet of his dad’s jacket.

In later years, due to his giant size and his quadriplegia, he succumbed to what his wife had warned the police about, choking to death, his heart stopping while in custody in his cell, the police at a loss with what to do with this ridiculous man who, with compensation money, built up his tiny little drug empire that was enough, despite its size, to cause pain and misery to a good number of people who already had their share of pain and misery. This ridiculously fat, immovable man who, like so many before him, had dived into the kids’ pond at Highfields, had not heeded the warnings and had landed crack on the top of his head. He was lucky, or unlucky, that he didn’t drown there and then.


Blogger Shannon Forbush said...

I still stumble a bit at the graphic sex, naive girl that I am, but I like the piece nonetheless. It's like a character list for the next Terence Davies film!

8:22 AM  

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