We had been playing football on the field for most of the day when Bumper was called in for his tea. It had been a great game and everyone had turned out in full kit. Bumper in his Ipswich Town replica strip, Elvis in his Liverpool one and me in what my parents had told me was the Sunderland goalkeeper’s strip. It was in fact just a green T-shirt and a pair of black football shorts but I was convinced.
Whilst I sported the goalkeeper’s strip, Elvis still played in goal due to his broken leg.
He asked if I wanted to go round to his for tea and I accepted. I quite enjoyed my little conversations with Mrs Morris and looked forward to one day meeting her husband. Mrs Morris occasionally invited me round for tea. I think she was glad that Elvis had a friend and she had long since forgiven me for Elvis’ broken leg. She didn’t know about the Skip. We could chat about most things, school, television, well we could chat about those two anyway. The one thing Mrs Morris and I could not agree on was currants. She loved them I hated them. She made fruit cakes, currant buns. I think she would have made currant sandwiches if she could get away with it. This was a difference of opinion that no amount of arbitration was going to solve so in order not to upset my mate’s mother I did what any polite young boy would do. I accepted the cakes gratefully and when Mrs Morris wasn’t looking, I picked out the currants and put them in my pocket.
Elvis’ mother had owned the budgie for about five years now. It was called Chirpy and lived in a cage in Mrs Morris’ sitting room. I was never one for pets so couldn’t really see the point in having a noisy, brightly coloured bunch of feathers stuck in the corner of your room. At night, to ensure that the budgie went to sleep, Mrs Morris placed a blanket over the cage. For me, they could leave it on all day to stop it from annoying us when we were round Elvis’ house.
As usual, after some polite conversation and a couple of beef paste sandwiches, Mrs Morris produced the fruitcake. I accepted politely and when she headed back to the kitchen I started to pick out the currants. I went to put them in my pockets then I realised. I didn’t have any! I was wearing my new football shorts instead of my school ones that normally masqueraded as football kit. I started to panic. Where could I put them? Mrs Morris would think I was a madman if I announced that I didn’t like currants after I had been accepting her fruitcake for the past two years.
Then I remembered Chirpy. I had seen a few nature programmes on the television. If I was honest, they had bored me senseless but if I had learnt one thing from David Attenborough it was that little birds like berries.
Mrs Morris was still pottering about in the kitchen and Elvis was lying on the floor watching Blue Peter. I sidled up to the budgie’s cage and stuck a couple of currants through the bars. Chirpy seemed to like them and whilst I wasn’t a pet lover I was happy to be giving a treat to my little feathered friend.
I settled down to watch Blue Peter with Elvis as his mother went over to the corner shop. When the programme finished Elvis asked if I wanted a glass of orange.
I used the opportunity to see if Chirpy had eaten all of the dried fruit. The sight I encountered when I got to the cage, I have to admit, came as a bit of a shock. Chirpy had indeed eaten all of his currants, however instead of perching on his perch as budgies do he was lying flat on his back with his feet sticking straight up in the air.
“They’ve attacked my family, Kev. What’s going on?” Ingham was furious.
“They tried to kill Elizabeth?”
“Fucking bastards. What’s happening, Kev? You better not have anything to do with this.”
“I can’t believe you’re accusing me. We have history but I would never attack a man’s family.”
Tomma shot Kev an anxious glance. The bad blood between Kev and Ingham ran deep. He hoped Kev wasn’t involved.
“Okay, okay. I’m just a bit wound up. If you hear anything let me know.”
“Of course, I’ll put the feelers out,” Kev put his arm round Ingham and led him to the door. “Don’t worry, Joe. We’ll get the bastards.”
“I need to get everyone together,” Ingham looked Kev in the eye. “I want everyone to know how serious I am.”
Tomma looked worried. He could do without this. When Ingham pulled away from the drive Tomma turned to Kev.
“You’re not involved are you?”
“Of course I’m not you stupid twat.” Kev looked worried. “Don’t you get it? If they are willing to attack Joe’s family in their own home, they won’t think twice about coming after us.”
Another installment to follow same time next week.
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