I looked out over the garden.
“This all your work?”
“You’ve definitely got a skill there, Gilbert.”
“Can I ask you something, Pete?”
“It’s just that … it doesn’t matter, it’s not important.”
“No, go on.”
“Well, you’ve been away for fifteen years.”
“You’ve just come home and you’ve got me, Elvis and Bumper breaking into houses for you. Getting into some pretty heavy shit.”
“I gave you the choice.”
“I know. I wasn’t having a go. Look at it from my point of view though. You’ve obviously done quite well since you left school, made a bit of money. What I’m trying to say is that if this goes wrong, you could walk away. Disappear again. Nobody would know where you had gone. We would still be here though. We’ve nowhere else to go. Elvis has a family. Bumper has his business. Admittedly I don’t have much to lose but Kev is a killer. How do we know that you’re not using us to get what you want? Planning to disappear into the night. Leaving us to pick up the pieces.”
I was hurt but I could see where he was coming from.
“You don’t, Gilbert. You’ll just have to trust me. Is this all you want for yourself? Gardening for someone you’ve hated since the age of twelve? You’re better than that, Gilbert. I know I couldn’t have done this without you but it doesn’t mean I’ve used you. We’re in it together all of us. We’re all doing this for the same reason. We owe it to Davison. We owe it to ourselves and he’ll get what’s coming to him. You’ll see. Just imagine the satisfaction in being the one who brought his empire crashing in around his ears.”
I was sat in the yard having my lunch with Gilbert. I didn’t want to be seen with him as it might have affected my relationship with Kev so we sat slightly round the corner near to the woodwork block. Kev and the rest of the gang were smoking near to the bike shed that backed on to the old garage. We were facing the lower schoolyard where the younger kids played. It ran alongside the main road towards the heart of Southwick.
There were three lads walking across the yard but I didn’t take much notice. A lot of lads went down to Sweaty Val’s chip shop for their lunch and walked back through the lower schoolyard. It was only when they got within a few feet of me that I noticed they weren’t St Pat’s pupils. The badges from their blazers were missing, as were the ties, but they were wearing white shirts that nobody wore in our school. I suddenly recognised a face, Ingham. He looked straight at me and then must have decided that we posed no threat so walked straight past us. He was heading towards Kev who had his back to us.
Everyone was watching the fifth year girls in netball practice and nobody noticed who was coming. I wanted to shout as I saw Ingham pull a black football sock from his pocket but something stopped me. He raised the battery filled sock and swung it towards Tomma’s head. There was a crunch like a heavy ceramic pot being dropped and Tomma fell to the floor instantly. Everything appeared to be in slow motion. Ingham replaced the sock in his pocket and, along with his two accomplices, walked straight out of the far gate and away.
Nobody reacted for a few seconds, not even Kev. A large pool of blood had now formed around Tomma’s head. Everyone stood and stared.
Until he started shaking.
The monitor reflected in Elvis’ glasses. He tapped away with a satisfied grin on his face.
This’ll teach the Bastard.
Nobody knew what to do as Tomma’s arms and legs flailed.
“What’s happening?” Shrieked one of the girls.
“He’s swallowed his fucking tongue. He’s having a heppa!”
Bumper pushed through the crowd and elbowed Kev out of the way; a move that would normally have resulted in a hiding but Kev was just staring in disbelief. He had gone white. Tomma had now turned blue and was choking. Bumper knelt beside Tomma and steadied his head as he removed his tongue from his throat.
“Get a fucking ambulance,” shouted Bumper as he cradled Tomma’s head.
By now the teachers had come streaming out of the staff room to see what the commotion was about. Miss Shipp came running over with a cushion in her hand.
“Here use this,” she said as she handed it to Bumper.
“Can’t we put it in a carrier bag or something?” Mr Gutteridge the Headmaster was right behind her. “We don’t want him to bleed on it.”
“Fuck Off,” Bumper screamed as he snatched the cushion from Miss Shipp. “Can’t you see that he’s fucking dying?”
Gutteridge tried to protest but he was ushered away by Miss Shipp.
Whilst all of this was going on nobody had moved. Bumper stayed with Tomma until the ambulance came and eventually the teachers restored some semblance of order. I went back inside with everyone else and went to the toilet to splash my face. Whilst I was drying my hands I heard somebody throwing up in one of the cubicles.
“Are you alright in there?” I said as I knocked on the door.
“Yeah, I’m ok.”
I waited until Kevin Davison came out to make sure he was really ok. He was as white as a sheet.
“Ok, mate?” I asked again.
“You won’t tell anybody about that will you?” It wasn’t a request.
“Don’t worry, I won’t say a word. Come on, let’s get back to class before somebody misses us.”
“I’m going to have to finish this.” Kev wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his blazer.
“How do you mean?”
“That was a challenge. He could have taken me out easily if he had wanted to but he chose to take out Tomma instead. He wants to see how I will react.”
“It’s going to have to be a one on one. It’s the only way, Ingham and me. I’m going to need some back up though.”
I knew, by the tone of his voice, that there was no way out of this one.
“When people tell you that you can’t or shouldn’t do something, what they really mean is that they don’t want you to do it. Think back to every time that someone has told you that you can’t do something. You can guarantee that they will have been looking after their own self interests.”
Gilbert nodded as if he understood what I meant.
“What I’m saying is that when Kevin Davison tells you that you will never be a successful gardener or a famous photographer it is because he doesn’t want you to be. He wants to be the only successful one around here. If you were successful he would lose you as a gardener and wouldn’t be able to pay you buttons anymore.”
I was on a bit of a roll now so I continued.
“When someone tells you that you can not or you should not remember this. If you unravel a knot, what have you got?” I didn’t wait for him to answer. “A piece of string. And how long is a piece of string? It’s as long as you want it to be. You’re the master of your own destiny. You can become whatever you want to. It’s your choice.”
“Pete?” interrupted Gilbert.
“I haven’t got a bloody clue what you’re talking about.”
“Yeah, sorry. I seem to have rambled on a bit. I think what I mean is don’t let people walk all over you. Make sure you get paid what you are worth.”
“Shame you don’t have a garden at the lighthouse. I could have done it for you and charged you a fortune.”
“I could always get a window box.”
Another installment to follow same time next week.
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