“Hello Geordie, long time no see.” Mike Teale welcomed an old friend.
Mike was in his late forties, overweight but immaculately dressed. His black hair was slicked back; he wore grey slacks and a navy blazer over a pale blue shirt and yellow tie. His brand new Mercedes SLK was parked outside.
There was a small crowd gathering now. It had been a long time since all of the faces had been seen in the same place. Junior Carling, Ingham’s right hand man, came in blocking out the sunlight from the door momentarily. At six foot six, he was easily the largest man in the pub and also the only black man. His muscles filled out his tight, white polo neck jumper. His hair was receding but tidy and he had a large black moustache. He was one of the few people who could carry it off. Both the jumper and moustache did little to cover the large white scar he received when he was at school.
Ingham was in amongst the group sitting alongside Teale. He had offered to introduce me but I had politely declined explaining that I just wanted a quiet pint and to watch the match. Ingham had gone back to the crowd, seemingly not offended and carried on with his conversation, occasionally nodding in my direction.
The group of ‘Businessmen’ took up most of one corner of the pub. The greetings were all loud and exaggerated. Mobile phones rang incessantly, constantly interfering with the picture on the televisions. The regulars were clearly annoyed but said nothing. After about ten minutes the younger crowd arrived, Davison’s gang.
Aged between early twenties to early thirties they looked altogether more aggressive. Most had short, cropped haircuts and sported tattoos. The younger ones wore Stone Island jumpers and jackets, the uniform of the football hooligan. They stood on the outskirts of the crowd, not sure how close to get. Handshakes were exchanged and drinks were purchased, the mood became a lot less jovial and more business like. I couldn’t hear what was said but did observe that the one noticeable absentee was Kevin Davison.
As quickly as the crowd had arrived, it dispersed. Mike Teale was the first to leave. None of them knew me but must have heard about me from Ingham. A fleet of Mercedes, Porsches and BMW’s screeched away from the seafront pub. The only group remaining now, along with the regulars, was Davison’s gang. They tried to look moody and aggressive but failed to impress the fishermen and lifeboat men that frequented the pub. I laughed to myself and wondered if they still called themselves the ‘St Pat’s casuals.’ I drained my pint glass, and still thirsty, headed back to the bar.
“At least we don’t have to wear short trousers anymore.”
Elvis and I were making our way to St Patrick’s for the first time. My mother had wanted to walk me to school but luckily she had to go to work so I avoided the embarrassment. On arrival we were ushered into the hall where Mr Burns, head of first year, greeted us. I sat cross-legged on the floor as he introduced himself and told us how proud we should all be to be there. Elvis had been given a chair to sit on, as his leg hadn’t properly healed yet. I searched along the row looking for familiar faces and smiled at Bumper and Gilbert.
Mr Burns told us all to stand for the first hymn. As he was booming out the first few lines, the door to the hall opened. I glanced round to see who it was and was horrified to see the familiar face. Whilst he was slightly taller now, there was no mistaking Kevin Davison. I tried to attract Elvis’ attention but it was no good. Sitting with the teachers, he had no choice but to sing along. I was convinced that Kev was going to be sent to Maplewood special school after the fire but was obviously wrong. I looked to Bumper. He looked straight ahead but I knew, through the lack of colour in his face, that he had also seen him. My mind raced with excuses for the fire. I’m sure he would understand that it was all a big accident. My heart was racing and I began to feel sick.
Karen Walker nudged me.
“Mr Burns. He’s just said your name.”
“Well then, Peter. Do you not want to be in the top class?”
“Wake up Wood. I’m reading out of the name of people who are going into ‘Class A’ and you are first on the list. Come up to the front, son.”
I stood but my legs were like jelly and I nearly fell straight back down again. I headed shakily to the front of the hall where Mr Burns ruffled my hair.
“We’re not afraid of the big school are we, Peter?” The hall echoed with the sound of laughter. I didn’t like this man.
Elvis had been drinking heavily since his meeting in the Ivy. He wasn’t a big drinker usually. A couple of cans on a weekend, maybe a trip to the local every once in a while with Marie. He couldn’t really afford it. Marie hadn’t seen him this drunk in a long while and she was worried. She knew he was having a couple of pints with Pete, after all he had been working hard and he deserved it but she wasn’t expecting this. He’d been drinking all weekend. Music was blasting out of the Hi-Fi and Mrs Corby was already banging on the ceiling. Elvis was oblivious to the thumping from upstairs.
“I can’t stand up for falling down…” he sung along with the music then realised the irony of the words. “Did you hear that pet, I can’t stand up for falling down?” He then stumbled onto the floor in a fit of hysterics, taking the contents of the table with him. “Do you get it? I can’t stand…”
“Yes, I get it. Now are you going to be quiet? The neighbours are complaining.”
“Let them complain. The only reason the piss stained old bag is moaning now is because it’s us. Don’t you see if it was any of the other hundred and one families on this estate she wouldn’t dare? Too scared of the consequences.” He tried to stand but just ended up breaking the chair.
“What are you talking about? Mrs Corby’s never complained before. The music is too loud.”
“Yeah take her side. Just like everybody else. It’s only because you know I’ll not fight back. I’m a coward. Didn’t you know? Scared of my own shadow, that’s me.”
“What’s Dad doing, Mum? He’s not still practising for ‘Stars In Their Eyes’ is he?” Declan had wandered into the sitting room.
“Go back to bed, Declan.”
“I heard him singing. I thought he was practising. He is good enough Mam.”
“I know pet. Now go back to bed.”
“Yes that’s right, son. I’m practising, practising being a doormat, letting everybody walk over me.”
“What does he mean, Mam?”
“Nothing. Now get to bed, this is your last warning.”
“Goodnight son, sleep tight,” Elvis waved at his son.
“Night Dad,” Declan went back to his room but stood listening at the door.
“I hope you’re proud of yourself, scaring the bairn like that.”
“Well, he’d better get used to it because it gets a lot scarier the older you get.”
“I don’t know what’s got into you lately. You’re moody, you never listen to your music anymore….” Marie shook her head in disgust.
“You’ve just told me to turn the fucker off.”
“You know what I mean. You haven’t been the same recently. What happened to the old Elvis?”
“He’s gone. He got trampled on and died. This is the new Elvis and you’re going to have to get to like him.”
Elvis opened the door of the cupboard and started raking through the mess that lay inside.
“Maybe I don’t have to get to like him,” Marie shouted at him, “maybe I want the old Elvis back.”
“You can’t have him. It’s new Elvis or nothing.”
A pile of boxes now lay behind Elvis as his backside stuck out of the cupboard.
“Well it might have to be nothing. If you don’t buck your ideas up you’re going to lose Declan and me. You think about that when you’re trying to get over your hangover tomorrow. I’m going to bed now. You can have the couch.”
Elvis backed out of the cupboard and slumped against the wall. In his hand he held a plaster cast that appeared to have come from a child’s broken leg. He laughed as he read the names of everybody who had signed it. He also studied the map that had been drawn in red felt-tip pen. Everything was there, the field, Pritchard’s house, Tate’s and most importantly, Inkerman Print. It had been over twenty years since he had broken his leg. A tear formed in his eye as he remembered when they were kids. ‘Man out of time’ was now playing on the hi-fi. As always, Elvis Costello’s timing was perfect.
Another installment to follow same time next week.
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