Elvis reluctantly agreed to the fight and wrote everybody’s name on a piece of paper. As it had been my idea, I got to draw first.
“Who’ve you got?” asked Bumper, who was shadow boxing against the wall.
I unfolded the small square of paper and read the name to myself. A look of relief spread across my face.
Gilbert had a reputation for being soft so I was quite confident that I could take him.
We took our shirts off and stood in the middle of the field. Gilbert was far bigger and heavier than me but I was quicker and brighter. I would defeat him with cunning. Everybody crowded round.
“How do we start?” asked Gilbert.
“I’m not sure.” It was at this point that I realised that I had never been in a fight before.
“Most of the older lads just shout come on then,” said Elvis.
“You could just hit him,” suggested Bumper.
“What do you mean hit him?”
“It’s a fight. That’s what you are meant to do. Punch him,” said Elvis. “Go on. You can’t have a fight without hitting each other.”
I threw a wild punch at Gilbert and he hit the ground like a ton of bricks.
“He’s out cold.” Bumper stood back and looked on in amazement.
“What are we g g g going to do? His Mam’ll kill us.” Elvis started to panic.
“Get some water.”
“Throw water over him. That’s what they do with boxers.”
Just as Bumper said this, Gilbert came round to relieved cheers from everyone.
“I’m not sure I want to fight, ” said Bumper.
“Me neither, ” said Elvis.
Nobody had considered the fact that you could actually get hurt fighting.
“Fancy a game of football?”
“Bags eye I’m Gary Rowell!” shouted Bumper.
When Elvis had gone chasing down the bank after the ball I took Gilbert to one side. “You took a dive didn’t you? I never touched you.”
“You won’t tell anyone will you?”
“Course not, but why did you do it?”
“Who wants to be known as the ‘Hardest Lad in Southwick’ when Kevin Davison finds out?”
“Kev?” I was gob-smacked.
“Fucking hell mate, how are you doing? It must be four, five….”
“Fifteen, Kev. It’s been fifteen years since I’ve seen you.”
“Well you might as well come in then.”
Despite his earlier greeting and previous form he was being quite sociable. I wondered if he remembered what had happened at St Patrick’s. Then I realised; what had been a huge deal for me, engulfing my life for the last fifteen years, probably meant nothing to him. Judging by the size of the house he was obviously doing very well and had bigger things to worry about.
“What are you drinking? I’ve got just about everything.” He opened the lid on his globe drinks cabinet. It looked antique but most probably wasn’t. “Straight from Nelson’s drawing room,” he said pointing at the cabinet.
I hoped it was a strong one. I needed it.
“What was it you said you were selling?”
“I’m not. I was just back here for a couple of weeks. Thought I would look up a few of the lads. I was planning a bit of a reunion. You know, a party?”
“Alright, I see and you were wanting me to organise the security?”
“Yeah, I know a couple of lads who’ll watch the door for you, good lads. I’ll do you a canny deal, being old mates and that.” Kev poured a generous measure into the tumbler.
“Bloody Hell, Kev. It’s a school reunion not the Hells Angels’ summer bash.”
“You’re probably right, maybe one lad will be enough.”
“No Kev, I think we’re at cross purposes here.”
“I was just wondering if you fancied coming along.” The words nearly stuck in my throat. This had been quite an unwelcome surprise. I fumbled in my pocket for the invite.
“Yeah I see, I suppose if I was there nobody would dare cause any trouble. There will be drinks on won’t there? I couldn’t stand it if there wasn’t any booze.” Kev stared at the invitation. “Fucking Hell, is that who I think it is?”
“Yes, the legendary Mr Burns. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it. Fucking class isn’t it?” I was annoyed at myself for swearing; I was already sinking to his level.
“You’re telling me? There’s a lot of money in blackmail these days. I bet Mrs Burns hasn’t seen it.” Kev examined the invitation carefully.
“I hadn’t thought of that. Anyway, most of the invites are out now so half the town will know soon. What do you reckon then?”
“Blackmail is always an earner.”
I could see the cogs moving round in his head.
“Not about that. Do you think you’ll come along? It will be good to see how all the old lads are getting on.” I hated this man but started warming to the idea of the overgrown orang-utan showing himself up and proving what a Neanderthal he had become. Just as me and everybody else had thought he would.
“Most of the lads work for me now anyway in one way or another but yeah, I’ll be there,” Kev scratched his arse. “Our lass would love a night out as well, she doesn’t get out much. She’s in the kitchen, I’ll give her a shout.” Kev left the room and headed for the kitchen. I took a big swig out of the whisky he had given me. I was confused maybe I had got the wrong house.
“Pete?” The voice was just as I remembered. I went red again.
“Claire?” I could feel my face burning up. The whisky started to have an effect. What had earlier been a dream was suddenly turning into a nightmare.
Another installment to follow same time next week.
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