Authors: Ross Gilfillan
First published by Lodestone Books, 2014
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Text copyright: Ross Gilfillan 2013
ISBN: 978 1 78279 366 3
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The rights of Ross Gilfillan as author have been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
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Design: Stuart Davies
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for Harris, Gilly and Bagel
My thanks to Lorna Read for her time and comments
By the same author:
The Snake Oil Dickens Man
The Edge of the Crowd
I am seventeen years old and I think I am about to have sex for the first time in my life.
Oh. My. God.
‘You’ll have to help me with this,’ she says.
Pink-painted fingernails fiddle with the brass button on the skater jeans Mum got me last Christmas.
‘I can’t get it undone.’
I lie there, skinny chest bared and arms outstretched like I’m about to be crucified.
She sits astride me, her shirt open and her perfect breasts jiggling as she struggles with my flies.
‘Brian,’ she says. ‘What’s the matter with you? Give me a hand here.’
Here we go, I think, and undo the button.
She shuffles down the bed and begins to pull them off. Down they go, over my thighs and knees until all I have on are my Spiderman underpants which look so cool riding up over my low-slung jeans but look painfully silly right now. I’m staring at a cobweb on the ceiling, not daring to glance down my body at what she must be looking at now. I so want this to happen. I so want to have sex. I want to go back to school with that knowing look that says you’ve finally got your end away. But I know it’s going to come at a price.
The moment that I have always dreaded and wanted at one and the same time has arrived and it is excruciating. She takes the waistband of my Spiderman pants between her slim, cool fingers and begins to pull them down, slowly revealing my long-kept and often disguised secret if not to the world, then to the one person in it who matters right now.
Because it’s all a matter of size, you know.
I close my eyes and think of England.
Going down 3-1 to Germany, probably.
Get Myself Arrested
‘Will you get off the fucking bonnet, Diesel? I don’t want to have to beat out the imprint of your fat buttocks.’
Faruk is talking. He’s done most of the work on the car.
‘Bollocks. This is the warmest place my arse has been all day.’
Clive is doing a circuit of the car, looking at it the way a bomb disposal team might view an empty vehicle in a market place in Kabul. We watch him, noting the pursed lips and the little flick he gives his floppy yellow hair whenever he’s unsure of something.
‘Is this it? I mean, is it finished? Or haven’t you started yet?’
There’s a pause while Faruk and Diesel exchange glances. ‘Can’t you see it’s finished?’ Faruk says. ‘That, my friend, is fine art on four wheels.’
Clive looks the car over one more time, as if he can’t decide what to complain about first. ‘I don’t like the colour,’ he says at last.
‘Fuck me, Clive, what did you want, pink?’ That’s Diesel.
‘No, of course not, but purple? And it’s not even purple is it? If you look at it from another angle, it goes slime green, or a grungy grey. It’s completely, irrevocally tasteless.’ Clive’s squeaky voice rises an octave. And the word is
‘It’s two-tone green, you pillock. You like it, don’t you, Diesel?’
‘A1 fucking babe magnet,’ says Diesel, sliding heavily off the car and onto his unlaced trainers. He’s bathed in the headlights and front fogs, which Faruk has flicked on to max the drama. For the same reason,
Also Sprach Zarathustra
from 2001 is blasting from the stereo. ‘It’s the bollocks. What do you reckon, Brian?’
The back of the two-tone Ford Escort looks like it’s just been involved in a spectacular accident involving an R
Tornado, but I’m ninety per cent sure that the enormous fin jammed on to the
boot lid isn’t the wing of an aircraft. Well, eighty-five percent, then.
‘What’s that?’ I point.
‘It’s a spoiler.’ That’s Faruk.
‘I can see that,’ I say. ‘It’s totally spoiled the car. And no offence, but the interior looks like a prostitute’s bedroom.’
‘A dead one.’ Clive, being unusually caustic.
We all peer through the windows at plastic bucket seats, an awful lot of purple felt and a pair of fuchsia furry dice hanging from the rear view mirror. ‘That is truly fucking hideous,’ I say.
Clive backs me up. ‘It’s a crime against the laws of ascetics,’ he says, but I think he means
. Ascetics are people like hermits who abstain from life’s normal pleasures and I don’t think that’s us.
‘Fuck me,’ Diesel says. ‘Are you and Brian going out now or what?’
I can see we’re going to have one of our differences. We spend so much time in each other’s pockets that tiffs, spats and the occasional dead-leg or even a bit of a fight are inevitable. But I can’t be bothered to argue. I’m too disappointed.
‘Did you seriously think I would let myself be seen in that thing?’ Clive says. ‘While I was still
He flounces over to where Faruk’s brother (a Middle-Eastern Elvis, according to Clive) is spraying a Vauxhall Cavalier, orange. He looks up from his job, takes off his respirator and sticks his own oar in. ‘I wouldn’t get in that if it were the last taxi out of Middlesborough. And I helped build the bugger.’
Diesel says, ‘Do you know how long it took to pimp that ride?’ Diesel and Faruk are tight, always looking out for each other.
‘Not long enough?’ I say, which is a bit mean but I am seriously let down. I know that Faruk and Diesel have spent weeks making the car roadworthy, getting it through its M
and carrying out these bonkers improvements. (Faruk and his
brother did the actual work, to Diesel’s specs.) In all that time, they’ve not let Clive or me near the project, because they wanted to surprise us, they said show us what they could do. Well, now we’ve seen what they can do and I’ll give them this: we’re both surprised.
‘Fucking hell, Brian,’ Diesel says (we think that swearing all the time is fucking brilliant). ‘What’s the matter with you? I thought Clive might have the odd minor objection, with him being a bit…’
‘A bit what?’
‘You know what.’
‘Oh that. A bit of a rainbow warrior, you mean.’
We’ve lowered our voices so that Clive, who is checking himself out in a chrome bumper hanging on the garage wall, doesn’t hear what we’re saying. We’re not a hundred percent certain he knows he’s gay yet. Always the last to know anything, Clive is.
‘They have their own ideas about style,’ Diesel says, hands on hips, Lady Gaga tee shirt riding up to expose his podgy white belly. ‘But from you, Brian. I expected a little support, you know. I’m telling you straight, I thought you would love it. I really did. You’re my mate, you know.’ (Diesel can make his eyes well up at will. He’s doing it now). ‘I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think you’d love it. Now, come on, look at that body kit – it’s the bollocks, really, isn’t it?’
‘No,’ I say.
I turn my back on the metal monstrosity in Faruk’s family garage and see a couple of girls about to enter the Casablanca, the luridly-lit kebab shop over the road. The girls are laughing like maniacs at something, our car, probably. There is nothing I can say. It’s just the latest entry on a list we really should compile of. Plans We’ve Made Which Have Gone Tits Up.
This idea, just like all the rest, seemed brilliant, that afternoon
we first heard it. We’d all passed our tests this year, all except Clive anyway, who’s dragging things out because he obviously fancies his driving instructor. So clubbing together to buy a drop-dead sexy car, which we’d all use on a rotation system, seemed a spot-on idea. Diesel assured us we’d have fanny queuing up to be shagged in the back of his Uncle Lol’s BMW, which he said we could buy for an amazing £600. If we got the money together by that evening.
We’d heard funny things about Diesel’s uncle Lol but we’d seen the car, too, a sharp-looking black coupe with windows tinted so dark they were probably illegal. It was getting on a bit, but I had to admit, it looked the business.
What business his relative had used it for Diesel didn’t specify, but there were times when Uncle Lol flashed big wads of cash, peeling off twenties or fifties when he bought his fags, or did a little business with one of the dodgy or ill-looking characters who were always turning up at Diesel’s door, asking for him; and other times, like now, when he was flat broke. Diesel said he was in trouble and needed the money fast to fund some new business venture. We’d be helping out his Uncle Lol and bagging ourselves a sweet deal at the same time. We didn’t need persuading. We knew that everything would be fantastic once we had bought that car. We all said that, one way or another. We’d go places together or drive off on our own, taking with us whichever bird we’d selected for the privilege that evening. How cool would that be? Could we see ourselves cruising past the girls at the bus stop in a blacked-out Beemer with drum and bass pumping from the subwoofers in the boot? Of course we could.
Me especially. Some days, I’d drive it to St Saviour’s, drawing envious looks as I stepped out and fired the remote lock. I’d pretend not to care that Rosalind Chandler’s eyes were burning into my back as I cut my way, like a star through paparazzi, up the (red carpeted?) steps and into the school. I’d be well endowed with confidence if nothing else.
Now all we had to find was £600, which according to the calculator on my phone, was £150 each, by that evening. It’s worth repeating, this. We had a matter of hours to come up with six hundred pounds. That or we’d see the sweetest dreams we’d had all year evaporate before our eyes. Six hundred quid may not be much if you’re a celebrity chef or an MP or something, but to four sixth form schoolboys, it might as well have been a lottery jackpot on rollover week. We’d all jumped at the offer, recognising a bargain and thinking the others must be able to find the cash, because they were nodding and agreeing, just like we were. How easily we had deluded ourselves. It looked like we were fucked before we had started; everyone was broke, with no one they could borrow something from.
Everyone except Clive, who spoke up now, demanding to know why we hadn’t asked him if he had any money. In fact, he bragged (incautiously, in my opinion) he could come up with his share without any problem. He had £350 stashed away in the building society, which he’d apparently saved up working at the hair salon last summer. We could have the lot, he said, if we gave him 5 percent interest and one of us acted as his chauffeur until he passed his test. £350 wasn’t much more than half the total we needed. But, as Faruk suggested, maybe it would make a down payment. We could pay Diesel’s Uncle Lol and Clive the rest in just a few weeks, we reasoned, if we took weekend jobs.
So Clive coughed up, and armed with £350, we were soon slavering over the wax-shiny Beemer parked outside Diesel’s pebble-dashed council house. Uncle Lol was staying over a few nights ‘until things cooled down’. We lusted over its clean lines, fat tyres and leather upholstery while Uncle Lol himself sat in the driver’s seat, gently depressing the accelerator so we could appreciate the smooth hum of the engine. It was early evening, but Lol was still wearing his vintage Ray Bans. With his shades on and dark tinted windows, I guessed that he probably relied on his sat nav more than most people. We stood there, waiting for
him to say something but it seemed that Uncle Lol was the silent type. He just chewed his gum, sniffed a lot and drummed his fingers on the wing mirror. After he’d given us a chance to admire the bassy quality of his premium sound system, he switched it off, sniffed a bit more and then peered over his aviators at Diesel and me.
‘Like the car, then, lads?’
We nodded dumbly. I waited for Diesel to broach the matter of our revised proposition but Diesel seemed suddenly reluctant to open the negotiations. It was left to Uncle Lol to get the ball rolling. ‘Got the money?’
That was when Diesel told him we could only raise half of the agreed price.
‘You are fucking kidding me’ — the growl of a Rottweiler you’ve forgotten to feed — ‘tell me you’re having a laugh, Dennis?’
Diesel shook his head and stepped back from the car. Uncle Lol had visibly tensed, his knuckles white where he gripped the wheel, his expression indecipherable behind the dark sunglasses. There were probably times when he got himself like this and sprang from the car, for one reason or another. Diesel seemed to think so, because he had stepped back. Clive and Faruk had backed off too and I was edging towards them. ‘It was all we could get, on my life,’ Diesel said, glancing back at us to see if we were all set to back him up and then looking up the road and down the road like he was working out which way to run.
But Lol wasn’t going anywhere just at the moment. In fact he appeared to be doing some complicated calculations in his head. The veins at his temple twitched like he was trying to relieve some log-jam in his bowels. He wasn’t so cool now; in fact he appeared to be sweating. ‘You fucking idiots,’ he was muttering.
Well, that was that, I thought. I was fairly sure we had blown it with Uncle Lol, who I could see would be in no mood to contemplate taking a down payment, not unless it was made in
a currency of blood and human parts, anyway. But that showed how much I knew. Diesel, being Lol’s nephew, knew him much better than we did and could obviously read body language, which was inscrutable to us. When Lol had stopped growling to himself and was only hitting the steering wheel with his forehead, Diesel hitched up his jeans, went over and leaned into the Beamer, rather like a circus tamer putting his head in the lion’s mouth, I thought. Negotiations went on for a while but I had no idea whether that was a good or bad sign, though I had stepped closer to the car to see if I could catch any of their conversation. Odd phrases such as
we’re blood or just this one time then
have your bollocks
didn’t mean much to me at the time.
Then it was done. Lol stepped out of the car and, amazingly, incredibly, dropped a set of keys – I could see the BMW fob hanging off them – into Diesel’s waiting hand. I looked back to where Faruk and Clive were standing, gobsmacked, behind a neighbour’s raggedy hedge. I watched impatiently as Diesel counted out the £350 and handed it over to Lol, who folded it into a clip and stuck it in the pocket of his leather coat. Then, just after Uncle Lol had spat on his hand and sealed the deal with a shake of Diesel’s, he seemed struck by a thought. ‘Fuck me,’ he said, smiling ruefully. ‘I’d forget my head if it wasn’t screwed on! The fucking car documents. They’re over at my place. Don’t worry, lads, I’ll just pop over and get them and be back in a twinkling.’
But we wanted to be in that car and off right now and we told him so, nicely, of course. ‘I understand totally,’ Uncle Lol said, plucking the keys from Diesel’s open palm. ‘She’s a beautiful motor and you want to get your spotty arses in her as soon as. But without your V5, you’ve no proof of sale. The car’d still be mine, by law. I know you trust me, but I’m thinking of your peace of mind. You’ll need that and the MOT, too. Stay right where you are and I’ll be back in ten.’
Then, with a lazy wave from the window and a blast of Colonel Bogey on the air horn, he was gone, the car rocketing up
the residential street at about sixty miles per hour before slewing around a sharp right-hand corner at the end and disappearing from view. We could hear him careening down the next couple of streets before the sound too had gone and we four were left standing on the pavement, looking at the space which had so recently contained our beautiful black Beemer. No one wanted to be the first to say it. Diesel wouldn’t, of course, because Lol was family. Clive probably wasn’t saying anything because he had more of a shock to deal with than we did. Faruk was usually tight with Diesel, so it was left to me to say what we all were thinking, to state the bloody obvious.
‘He’s fucked off with our car and Clive’s money, hasn’t he?’
Nobody said anything for a moment. We all looked down to the end of street, where our dreams had sashayed around the corner and out of our lives.