I headed up the cold, damp stairwell to Elvis’ flat, it was a depressing walk. I wasn’t sure what I was going to say but knew I had to make amends for last night. I possibly shouldn’t have told Elvis that I was going to approach Bumper but I thought he needed convincing. Marie answered the door.
“He’s in there,” she said pointing to the living room, “nursing a very big hangover I hope.”
“We didn’t have that much last night.”
Whilst we had been at the hotel all day we had paced ourselves. Elvis hadn’t seemed drunk when I left. Angry, maybe, but certainly not drunk.
“You might not have but he certainly did when he came home. He got through best part of a bottle of whisky. I don’t know what you were talking about but you certainly got him wound up. I’ve never seen him like that.” Marie looked worried.
“Do you think he’s up to visitors? I can go away if you like.”
She shook her head and frowned.
“No, fifteen years is long enough. You’re not going to disappear again that easily. Whatever it is you two need to sort out, you’d better get it done. I’m away down the shops,” she removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes. “I’ll be back in about half an hour and you can tell him I’ll expect him to be gone by the time I get back.”
“You can’t throw him out for getting drunk once,” I protested, “it was my fault.”
“Thank you for your concern but I meant I expect him to go to work. He should have been there an hour ago.”
“Sorry, bit of an over-reaction there. I’ll see how he is. See you later,” I said.
“You’re a right pair. One’s as bad as the other. Don’t forget, I don’t want to see either of you when I get back.”
“Message received and understood.”
I walked into the sitting room as Marie left for the shops. Elvis was sat on the couch with a blanket wrapped round him. He hadn’t been shaved and his eyes were bloodshot. In fact they looked that bad I thought he had been punched. He looked rough.
“In the dog house then?” I tried the direct approach.
“Looks that way. I suppose I did go a bit over the top last night.”
“About last night. I’m sorry to have pushed you. I should never have asked you to get involved in the first place. I realise that now. I didn’t take into consideration what you had to lose. Marie and Declan, the flat, you were right to turn me down.”
I sat down in the armchair opposite Elvis.
“Yeah, well I did a lot of thinking last night. Maybe you were right. Maybe I should start sticking up for myself. I don’t want my child to be brought up in this stinking little flat.”
“It’s quite a nice flat…”
“Don’t patronise me, I deserve better. It’s time I fought back. Give Davison a taste of his own medicine.”
“Quite a bit has changed since I spoke to you last night. I’ve got a couple more willing parties. There’s no need for you to get involved if you don’t want to. We’ll manage.”
I desperately wanted him on board but I wanted it to be his decision.
“Has anybody else been stupid enough to agree to your mad plan?”
“Gilbert? Fucking Hell, now you are scraping the barrel. Jesus, you can definitely count me in now. If I don’t come along you are bound to get killed. How did you agree to him coming along?”
“It just sort of happened. I saw Gilbert on the way home the other night. He’d had a bit of a run in with Kev, we got talking and then we headed back to his house for a coffee.”
“Very cosy, I must say. He’s probably forgotten by now. He’s not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree you know.”
“I know, I know but he is going to come in very handy. Gilbert has hidden depths.”
“Hidden depths, Gilbert? I’ll take your word for it. What about banana boy, how did you persuade him to get involved?”
“Strange one Bumper. He didn’t take any persuading at all. Agreed straight away. I think you’re forgetting how many people hold grudges against our Mr Davison.”
“I see your point. Anyway I suppose we’ll be the last people he’ll be expecting trouble from.”
“Exactly. So I can count you in then?”
“I suppose so. It’s not like I’ve got anything better to do with my sad miserable life.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow night then. Half seven at the Ivy House.”
“I don’t think Marie will let me out again after last night.”
“I’ll tell her I’m going to have a serious word with you about your drinking. How could she refuse me? You haven’t seen me for fifteen years. She’ll understand.”
“I hope so because if she doesn’t, we’ll have to worry about more than Kevin Davison!”
Mr Burns had woken me briefly but I found myself drifting again. Burns had decided that Kevin Davison, the least Christian lad in the school, should read out of the Bible. This should have had some strange ironic charm but I couldn’t see it. Instead we had to sit and listen to him drone on in his dull, monotone voice. The sky had gone grey again; it looked like rain.
God I really don’t want to be here.
I thought about far away places, Australia, Florida, anywhere warm and away from Kevin Davison. I contemplated what I had been doing with my life and realised that it didn’t amount to much. I was bored, unhappy and generally depressed. The raindrops started forming on the windowpane. I watched two race to the bottom, silently betting with myself as to which one would get there first. I lost. I needed to start taking some risks, start making a life for myself.
And still Kevin Davison droned on.
“… and Jesus said to the blind man….”
“PISS OFF YOU BLIND BASTARD!”
By the time Elvis got to the Ivy House, Gilbert and me were already there. I was worried that he might have changed his mind again and not turned up. He ordered a pint of Guinness and sat down with us in the corner of the bar.
“Fine mate, yourself?”
“Not too bad. Bumper not here yet?” Elvis pulled up a chair.
“No, he said he might be a little late. Peak time for his stall after office hours,” replied Gilbert.
“So what’s the big plan then?” Elvis looked me straight in the eye.
“I think we should wait till Bumper gets here but you’ll be impressed, I guarantee it. You should see what Gilbert has come up with, outstanding it is.”
“I’m sure it is. So what have you been up to recently then, Gilbert? I haven’t seen you around much.”
“A bit of gardening. I’ve been working down the park. I’ve also been getting a bit fiddle work here and there. Cash in hand. I was working for Kev until the other day. I used to get four pound an hour and I pretty much could do what I wanted with the garden. I quite enjoyed it really. He started to get on my nerves recently though. Constantly criticising. I mean, what does he know about gardening? He was always having a go, calling me stupid.”
“I can see how you were offended.”
Elvis’s sarcasm wasn’t well hidden but it went unnoticed. I shot him an angry stare.
Gilbert continued, “I know people have always called me stupid, even when I was at school. Especially when I was at school in fact. You probably thought I was as well.”
Elvis said nothing but his scarlet face told its own story.
“I’d been left school for about five years when I heard about dyslexia. It wasn’t something that people really mentioned back then. It all started to make sense, the problems I was having at school. Know what I mean?”
We were now transfixed.
“I looked into it a bit further, then I went for some tests.”
“So that was it then?” I asked. “You suffer from dyslexia?”
“No, it turns out I was just thick after all.”
Gilbert looked deflated. Elvis and I were lost for words so I decided to change the subject.
“You never said what happened the other day at Kev’s. How did you lose your job?”
“He’d been arguing with Claire,” explained Gilbert. “Not one of their normal spats either, this was all out war. I normally try and ignore it when they shout at each other; I’m just there to do the garden. This time was different though, I was thinking about going in and stepping in between them.”
“You stood up to Kev?” Elvis was surprised.
“No, I thought about it but once again the coward in me came out, too many years of beatings. I’ve learnt my lesson, learnt to keep my head down. I’m not proud of myself, you probably think I’m pathetic.” His eyes were welling up.
“Nobody would expect you to intervene in one of their arguments,” I tried to reassure Gilbert, “in fact I’m not sure I would intervene either.”
“And you would just stand back and let him hit Claire then would you?”
“He hit her?” My mood changed, I could feel the anger building up inside of me. I was going to explode. “I should go round and kill the Bastard now.”
Another installment to follow same time next week.
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