“It’s sad the way he’s turned out.”
Elvis and myself were sat in the Bungalow Café having a coffee. I looked out over the harbour and towards the lighthouse. The sea was quite choppy but inside the harbour walls it remained calm. Tim was stood outside taking photos of the sea. He had changed since I went away. It was rumoured that he had spent some time in Cherry Knowles mental home.
“What happened to him?” I asked. “He was great when we were kids, always looking out for us.”
“I’m not sure. He lost his job down the shipyards and just seemed to decline from there. He went silent on us, barely ever speaks.”
It really was sad to see someone we all looked up to as kids turn out like this.
“Do you remember this?” I said as I removed a ticket from my wallet.
“Newcastle City Hall, Eleventh March Nineteen Eighty One, ” replied Elvis. “Still the best concert I’ve ever seen. Why have you kept the ticket?”
“Memento I suppose, a reminder of how things used to be.” I replaced the ticket in my wallet.
“In the years before Kevin Davison you mean?”
“Maybe. Anyway, is there nothing we can do to help Tim? It hurts me to see him like this.”
“I tried a few years ago. I offered him a job in the shop, lugging boxes and stuff. I could barely afford it but I think I owed him that much. He turned it down. Although he’s gone silent, he hasn’t lost his marbles, far from it. He’s just decided not to bother with anyone, decided to opt out. Don’t let anyone tell you that he’s been in Cherry Knocker, it’s not true.”
“If that’s how he wants it I suppose there’s nothing we can do but keep an eye out for him.”
I watched Tim adjust the camera lens and take a photo of the lighthouse.
“Do you want another coffee mate?”
I nodded as Elvis headed to the counter. There was a fishing boat returning into the harbour, riding the waves like some giant bucking bronco.
“He drinks in the Whistle if you want to see him,” Elvis had returned with the coffees, “I try to avoid it because Davison’s gang drink there.”
“I might pop in to see him, I’m sure there must be something I can do for him.”
“You could help him with his dress sense, look at him.”
We watched Tim for a few seconds.
“Do you think he’s under the impression that he looks smart or is he just taking the piss?” I was glad that Elvis had lightened the mood a little.
“I think he has it sussed. Shirt and tie, v-neck jumper, suit jacket, different coloured trousers and a pair of trainers. Fucking trainers. I ask you,” I said.
“Looking forward to tonight?” Elvis asked.
“Yeah, should be a good laugh.”
“We’ll see. I’ve got to get home for my tea and then I’m going to have a look for my old sta-press. I’m sure I’ll still fit into them.”
“Can’t wait to see it. Catch you later.”
I watched Elvis leave, Tim was still snapping away. I sat back, looked out towards the lighthouse and contemplated what I was about to do.
Luckily the passengers on the bus didn’t care much that I had been in a battle with their classmates. As it appeared that half their school were at the fight I could only assume that this was the half that were non-violent and were possibly more scared of me than I was of them.
I got off the bus after two stops and I was now half way in between St Pat’s and Southwick Comp. I removed my tie, ripped off my badge and headed back to school.
When I got back to the school everybody wanted to know what had happened. Paul Loftus was already back and had been filling them in. A couple others returned bruised and battered but generally ok. Stephen Ford didn’t return that day, or for the next six weeks as he was too scared to come out of the house. A special assembly was held that afternoon to warn us of the dangers of violence. I wasn’t listening as I had my eyes planted firmly on the police officers in the entrance hall and the van outside. They were taking this seriously. Kev took a right beating he could even be dead. We were in real trouble. After the assembly a number of names were read out and told to stop behind. Mine wasn’t amongst them. Most of the names had been the usual suspects who were called upon when this sort of thing happened. On this occasion they were innocent.
“Why didn’t you help him? Why did you run?” Sara grabbed me by the arm.
There was no point explaining that I was the last to run and there was nothing I could have done. I shrugged my shoulders and walked away.
While I was walking out of the assembly I noticed a face I recognised talking to the police in the entrance hall. The face was swollen ridiculously and he resembled a cabbage patch doll but it was definitely Kev.
He was alive.
“For years, all I ever wanted to be was popular. Then I realised that it would never happen,” I explained, “nobody can be truly popular.”
The sun was reflecting off the ripples on the sea. The downpour had gone as quickly as it had arrived. Seagulls circled above us as Claire and me sat on the balcony of the lighthouse. She had popped round to make sure I was still going to the reunion tonight.
“In your lifetime you’ll have two, three if you’re lucky, people who really like you, people who genuinely think the world of you,” I continued. “Everybody else will just treat you with varying degrees of contempt. There maybe some who say they like you but nine times out of ten, they don’t know the real you. It’s just a superficial show that’s put on for the crowd.”
“That’s a very cynical view of life,” said Claire.
She had covered her bruising slightly with make up but you could still make out where Kev had smacked her. She seemed slightly on edge.
“Life gets you like that. You can be respected, that’s one thing. Unlikely but it is an option. Then you can be feared. Fear can be dressed up however you like it. Fear can look like respect and it is often passed off as popularity but it is only when you know the difference that you can control it. I’ve decided, popularity is unobtainable, it’s time to be feared.”
“So is this just you, or have you written off the whole human race?”
“Everyone. Go on see if you can name one person who is popular. Someone who isn’t despised by as many people as those who claim to love him.”
“Santa Claus. “Claire had a satisfied grin on her face. ”Everyone loves good, old Father Christmas.”
“Too easy. The Catholic Church hates him. They think he’s the Devil.”
“All right then, The Pope. The Catholic Church can’t hate him.”
“He is the Devil, head of the biggest criminal organisation in the world. Do as I say or go to hell. I think that one qualifies as fear.”
“Fair enough, you have a point. It doesn’t mean that you should give up. I still like you.” Claire tried to lighten the conversation.
“You haven’t seen me for fifteen years.”
“Well, that means that you haven’t done anything in the last fifteen years for me to stop liking you.” Claire grinned. She knew she was beginning to get the upper hand.
“Give it time.”
“That’s no way to treat an old friend.”
“Best to know now to avoid disappointment later.”
“I’ll take my chances. Come on you grumpy old bugger. Walk me home?”
Claire took my hand and led me to the spiral staircase.
“You can try all you like, Peter Wood. You’re not going to be feared. You’re too likeable,” Claire laughed.
“Can I ask you something?” She looked straight into my eyes. “Why did you come home, Pete?”
“Come on, let’s get you home before your incredibly popular husband notices you’re missing and decides to spread some fear around.”
Another installment to follow same time next week.
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