A short story inspired by a friend’s concern regarding security of the park.
“Have you heard the news?” said Stanley.
“What’s that, love?” said Gloria without looking up from her sewing.
“They’re going to open the park twenty four hours a day, no security.”
“That’s nice, love.”
“Nice, is that all you can say? Nice? It will be chaos.”
“There, all done.” Gloria picked up the shirt and showed it to Stanley.
“You don’t care about this place do you, woman? I’m off to see Bob, see what he’s got to say about it.”
He took the article from the Echo, folded it up and put it over his shoulder as he set off to see his neighbour. Mumbling to himself as he clambered over the broken glass, he knew that the place was only going to get worse if the teenagers were to get free reign in the park whenever they liked.
He negotiated his way through the small path cut into the long grass that led to Bob’s door and knocked heavily.
“Hello Stanley, how’s tricks?”
“Not good Bob, not good at all.” He tipped the Echo headline onto the floor. “Have a look at this, mate.”
Bob took the glasses that were hanging round his neck and put them on. “We’ve been through worse, Stanley.”
“This is the final straw, I’ve had enough.”
“And what do you propose we do about it?”
“I don’t know, talk to the council?”
Bob laughed. “Come on Stanley, you know as well as I do that we will, quite literally, struggle to get our voices heard.”
“But I have to do something.”
“There’s nothing we can do, Stanley. It’s out of our hands.”
“I’m calling a residents’ meeting.”
“Yes, one hour at the Bandstand, let everyone know.” Stanley stormed off, determined that he was not going to let this happen.
There was a buzz of anticipation when Stanley arrived at the Bandstand. A soft glow emanated from the torchlight, a slight mist added to the atmosphere. He’d deliberately waited until all of the other residents had arrived so he could make a grand entrance.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I am sorry to drag you out on such a cold and damp evening but these are troubling times. Like me, most of you moved here when Barnes Park first opened in 1909. We have seen many changes, some good, some not so good but we’ve always coped. We’ve seen major regeneration recently and we love it but I think we can all agree that this new generation of teenagers don’t have the same respect for the park as we do.”
A small rippled of applause, some affirming nods and mumbles of agreement spread amongst the crowd.
“We can stand by and watch this happen or we can do something about it.” He pointed to the page of the Echo that was pinned to the Bandstand.
“Like what?” A voice shouted from the crowd.
“Direct action. It’s our only option. The council won’t listen to us, I understand that but I won’t stand by and let our home of over a hundred years be ruined by drink, drugs and teenage fumblings.”
The applause was louder this time.
“Are you all with me?”
“Yes,” shouted the crowd in unison.
Gloria shook her head and smiled. She knew that Stanley needed something like this every ten years or so to keep him active. She could see that he was already invigorated by the challenge.
“We’re going to split ourselves into shifts, I’ll lead tonight’s. Bob can take over tomorrow and I’ll be looking at volunteers for the rest of the week. If we get ourselves organised I reckon we can have this sorted in a few days.”
“What are we calling ourselves?”
“Every group that takes direct action needs a name. How about Pixies United For Freedom?”
“I’m not sure that gives out quite the message we’re looking for.”
“Lets keep it simple, Barnes Night Pixies.”
“BNP? I don’t think that’s going to work.”
“Give me a second, I’ll think of one. Pixies Against Night Time Sorrow?”
“We can think of a name later,” said Stanley, “we need to take action now. You six come with me, we’re going to teach those youngsters a lesson.”
Stanley’s group crept up on the group of teenagers unnoticed. Whilst the gates of the park had been locked, the teenagers obviously had no trouble vaulting the fence so they could drink and smoke in peace. The boys were almost dressed identically, tracksuit bottoms tucked into socks, Nike trainers and caps perched precariously on top of their heads. The girls’ uniform wasn’t too different.
There was a clear ringleader and Stanley took an instant dislike to him. His language wasn’t befitting a young gentleman, those around him laughed nervously at his jokes and worst of all, he was making a move on a girl who was far too drunk to know what was happening.
“If that was my daughter I don’t know what I would do,” said Stanley.
“We have to do something to stop him going off with her,” said Tom, one of the younger members of Stanley’s crowd.
“Come on, I have an idea.”
They edged forward in silence, everyone realising what Stanley’s plan was. He indicated for the others to give him a bunk up and he climbed onto the toe of the Nike trainer then ran up towards the laces. He grabbed one end of the lace just as the lad passed his joint onto his mate and spat between his feet. Whilst he didn’t see Stanley, the phlegm engulfed Tom and the rest of the group battled to drag him out of the sticky mess before he drowned. After an anxious few seconds, a soaked but otherwise unharmed Tom gave the thumbs up. Time for phase two.
Stanley took a few steps backwards then ran at full pelt before launching himself off the trainer, swinging on the lace until he reached the other foot where he grabbed for the other lace with his left hand.
A quick look up to check that he hadn’t been noticed and he swung back down to the ground bringing the ends of the laces together. He handed them over to the rest of the group who went to work tying them in a knot as he went to check on Tom. “You ok, son?”
“Never better, lets sort this idiot out once and for all.”
Confident that the knot was securely tightened, the group retreated to a safe distance, waiting for the ideal moment to commit the final, and most risky, phase of their mission.
They didn’t have to wait long.
The ringleader took the drunk girl by the hand “Haway, lets go behind the tree.”
She staggered to her feet and fell into him. Stanley looked on enraged at what might happen if he wasn’t there to stop it.
“You ready, lads?”
All the group nodded.
As the two teenagers headed off across towards the grass, the ringleader stumbled over his tied laces and fell head first into the tarmac, landing with a satisfying thwack.
“Now!” shouted Stanley as the group ran towards the fallen teenager carrying a match between the six of them. As they were parallel with his feet they dipped the front of the match to the floor where it sparked into life.
They kept running until they reached the crotch of his tracksuit bottoms and they held the match until the pants caught on. They dropped the match and ran back behind the bench to watch.
The teenager started to come round, “Help me, I’m on fire.”
His friends, too drunk and stoned to know what was going on, stamped on the flames to put them out, leaving him in considerable pain.
The teenage girl, shaken up by all the excitement vomited over his head.
“Lets get out of here before we are swept away,” said Stanley, noticing a stream coming from the crotch of the young lad’s tracksuit.
They all laughed and headed for home. As Stanley reached his front door he could hear the humiliating laughs of the lad’s friends.
“What happened?” said the teenager. “I don’t understand. I’m not coming back here, this place is haunted.”