Elvis pedalled up to the front of the tower block and freewheeled to the foot of the stairs. He never took the lift. The smell of urine was even more overpowering than it was in the stairwell and along with cycling to work, taking the stairs was his only sacrifice to fitness.
He placed the bike over his shoulder. The old Raleigh racer wasn’t as good as the mountain bikes people favoured these days but it did the job it was intended for. It was also cheap, £20 from the classifieds in the local paper. The bike had probably been stolen like most of the items featured in the classified ads but he didn’t care. If you can’t beat them join them, he thought.
As he reached the stairwell of the fourth floor he had to push past the local gang of teenagers stood smoking on the stairs in their brightly coloured Kappa tracksuits and ill-fitting baseball caps.
“Nice bike. What is it, a penny farthing?”
Elvis chose not to answer the junior comedian having long since learnt the lesson from entering into a debate with his sort. Fucking little prick. he thought and carried on along the corridor to his flat.
“Hiya love, good day?” Marie wasn’t really looking for an answer and was already heading back to the kitchen where she was preparing the tea.
“Yeah, great now that you ask.” Elvis removed his glasses that were now held together with sticky tape and rubbed his eyes. “First I found the rent for the shop had gone up, and then a couple of our friendly local insurance men came for their monthly payment, reminding me just how important it is to pay them on time. More important than putting food on the table it seems.”
“What was that, love? I couldn’t hear you, the kettle was boiling.”
“Nothing, just saying how busy I’ve been. Nothing for you to worry about.” Elvis picked up the paper and slumped into the armchair, realising that Declan had been sat alone on the couch.
“Alright son? Good day at school?”
“Got any homework?”
“Finished it,” said Declan.
“Already? You’d better go and check that it’s right seeing as you’ve finished it so quickly.” Elvis flicked the remote control and after a few seconds, the television came to life. Declan trudged into the bedroom and slammed the door behind him.
“Mind that door, you’ll have the bloody hinges off soon.”
Elvis scanned the channels on the television without anything registering.
Declan took his sopping wet exercise book from his bag and threw it against the wall where it left a damp stain. He lay face down on the bed and began to cry.
You haven’t got a clue what it’s like dad. Not a clue.
“Give us a swig of that will you?” Gilbert asked for the bottle of pop. “I’m absolutely knackered. Can we have a rest?”
“We just have.” Bumper jumped up and took a swing at the ball. “Come on, you can stay in goal if you’re still tired.”
“No chance. I’m not running down there again.”
“You can have the bush end this time.”
This offered a little protection as the ball would normally lodge in the hedge rather than roll down the bank.
Each goalmouth, as was the fashion in the late seventies and early eighties, was either a mud bath or baked hard by the sun. This accounted for numerous cuts and grazes and even more telling offs from our parents for coming in caked in muck.
Elvis, Gilbert and myself were ever presents the 1980/81 season, playing football every day during the holidays and most nights after school. Bumper made up the quartet when he moved into the neighbourhood that Christmas. He was of similar build to Gilbert and Elvis and was a bit of a joker but harmless with it. The lads liked him and so did I.
Whilst the four of us were involved in nearly every match there was a group of about ten other lads who joined in the games from time to time. During the holidays each match lasted a full day from when you got up until we were called in for tea. Half time was when we went for lunch. Occasionally we would have extra time that lasted until it got dark. Boots and shin-pads were optional although they were generally for the rich kids so it pretty much ruled out any of us from Southwick. It was also essential that you assumed the persona of your favourite footballer. We quite often had Johan Cruyff, Kevin Keegan and Gary Rowell all on the pitch at the same time. I always chose to be Mario Kempes, Argentine star of the 1978 world cup.
It wasn’t long after we had kicked off again when the ball shot past Gilbert and into the bush.
“It’s bust,” he said as he retrieved the ball.
“Not again.” My dad had already repaired the ball twice by heating a knife on the electric ring of the cooker and melting the plastic over the puncture. I wasn’t sure if it would hold up to another restoration.
“Why don’t we call it a draw and start again tomorrow? I got a ball for Christmas and I haven’t had a chance to use it yet.”
Everyone agreed with Bumper as we left. All of us as deflated as Emlyn Hughes’ now sunken cheeks.
“Fucking stupid cow.”
“Will you stop that?” Marie was annoyed and Elvis knew she was right. He had sworn at the television an average of three times an hour tonight. It wasn’t his worst performance but he could tell that things were getting on top of him.
“Well she is a stupid cow, the twisty faced old bat.” Admittedly, Deirdre Barlow wasn’t the normal target for a vitriolic attack but she was winding him up.
“It’s make believe, Elvis. It’s only a TV show,” Marie laughed as she stood up. “Do you want another can, love?”
“Yeah, go on,” he said, slightly embarrassed at his outburst. “We need a holiday Marie but I can’t see when I can get the time off work, or the money to pay for one.”
“Don’t worry love. We’ll manage.” Marie headed into the kitchen.
“Boring old Twat,” said Elvis as Ken Barlow walked onto the screen.
Another installment to follow same time next week.
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