I could sense that something was going to go off. I also knew that when it did I would have to move quickly. I realised that none of the lads really trusted me but as I was on good terms with Ingham they decided to tolerate me. Tomma remembered me from school and I think he had noticed how close me and Claire had become, even if Kev hadn’t. When it did go off I wasn’t expecting it but believe me, I moved quicker than I ever have before.
I’d only gone into the Whistle for a quiet pint before the reunion. Hopefully I would get to have a word with Tim. He was at the bar and nodded in acknowledgement as I came in. I suddenly found myself without anything to say to him. He carried a camera around his neck but everybody knew that it had no film in it. At worst the lads saw him as a minor irritation when he was pretending to take photos but most of the time he was seen as comical character, someone to take the piss out of.
This particular Friday had started like any other for them, most of the lads meeting up in the whistle after work for a few beers before hitting the Town.
Kev was missing but that wasn’t unusual, he was probably sorting some business. The lads always had a reputation as trouble but everyone has to have a local and the whistle was theirs, a few high jinks but nothing over the top. Big Dave the landlord used to work with my dad and I was surprised that he tolerated them. He explained that business was business and he couldn’t afford to kick them out. Especially as he didn’t want the repercussions. He also expressed surprise that I would mix with the likes of Ingham. I explained but I’m not sure he believed me.
I took my pint and sat in the corner under the window. A few of the lads nodded in my direction but none really made the effort to speak. I watched them perform their usual antics. Levis copies were sold out of a large holdall, tales of female conquests were relived, loud enough for everyone to hear. Everything appeared normal, except for Tomma. I thought about giving him an invite for tonight then thought again. If he wanted one he could ask. He seemed to be on edge. Tim was taking a few snaps, all the lads were posing, a few of them with spliff in hand others lining up the Charlie in the back room. I don’t know whether Tomma suspected something was up but he took too much of an interest in Tim’s camera.
Everybody thinks that Tim is a gentle giant but if you’ve had the piss taken out of you for the past ten years and haven’t said a word in all that time then you’re going to have some anger building up inside of you. This was the night it was going to come out and boy did it come out!
“What’s that fat cunt taking pictures of?” Tomma knew he should leave it alone, tonight of all nights, but the coke was taking over.
“We’re only having a laugh, Tomma. It’s got no film in it.”
“What are you taking pictures of retard?”
Tomma poked Tim in the stomach. Tim ignored him.
“I’m talking to you shit for brains,” Tomma tried to grab Tim’s camera from round his neck. “Give us a look at your camera fatty.”
Tim pushed him aside. Nothing nasty but to a wannabe hard man being given the brush off by the local fruitcake is a bit of an embarrassment.
“Who do you think you are pushing you fat cunt?”
Tomma tried to take a swing but Tim knocked him flat on his arse. His broken nose produced a stream of scarlet.
“You’re a fucking dead man.”
Tomma produced a knife. I was shocked to see it but I guess that most of the lads are tooled up these days. By now most of them were up and were going to lay in to Tim. I couldn’t stand by and watch it happen. He always looked out for us. This wasn’t in my plans but what the hell? I headed over to the bar, picking up a bottle of Becks from the table and smashed it straight over Tomma’s head. He went down in a heap and I knew he wasn’t going to get up. I saw someone coming for me out of the corner of my eye. I didn’t wait to find out who it was and slammed the remainder of the bottle straight in his face. The adrenaline was pumping now, this is what it was all about, and this is why they all loved fighting. I was rushing! I landed a swift kick in the bollocks to the nearest man to me. I had been like a firework waiting to go off. They all wanted a piece of me but not half as much as I wanted a piece of them. I caught a glimpse of the knife just before I saw the body collapse in front of me, Tim’s huge frame towering above it with a broken stool in his hand, the knife lying hopelessly in the limp hand on the floor.
Big Dave came racing in and stood between me and Tim and the rest of the crowd. The baseball bat in his hand and the damage we had already inflicted deterred anyone from having another go.
“You two get out now, I’ll take care of these little shits.”
We didn’t need a second invitation. Dave had bought us some time and we needed to hit the ground running. Dave dished out one last blow to the image of the Davison’s gang.
“You, pick up the rest of your face and get this fucking mess tidied up before you even think of leaving this pub.”
There was an uneasy tension in the entrance hall. The three mothers eyeing each other with suspicion, not speaking. Eventually my Mam broke the silence.
“If you’re looking for who’s to blame in all of this, look no further than this one here.”
I felt it a little unfair to lay the blame solely on Elvis or Bumper; I thought it was even more unfair when I realised that she meant me. Usually in these sorts of situations the Mothers argue amongst themselves about who was the bad influence on their children. In this case my mother left Elvis and Bumper’s mothers in no doubt that I was the ringleader and I would be suitably punished. They seemed happy enough with this.
My Mam had obviously been on the phone earlier to agree my punishment with Gutteridge. As soon as I sat down his office, he dished it out. I was to be on report for my remaining time at school. After each lesson I would have to get the relevant teacher to fill in a report about how I had behaved in class, turning up was a good start. They also had to comment on my homework and anything else they saw fit. I was then to present it to the deputy head at the end of each day where he would review it and then sign it and keep it on my file. It was going to be a nightmare for me. Not only was I going to have to turn up for each lesson, I was going to have to do homework as well. Add this to the grounding I was going to get and the daily beatings from Kevin Davison and it was quite a punishment.
“We’d like you to sign this,” Gutteridge shoved a sheet of A4 paper in front of me.
“What is it?”
“Just do as you are told and sign it.” My mother had no time for questions.
I glanced at the head of the paper. It was a behavioural contract. I’m not sure if this was Gutteridge’s invention or whether it was common practice in most schools. Basically I was signing this form to say that I agreed to abide by all school rules, attend school when expected to do so and most important of all, treat teachers with the respect they deserve. It was a joke but I had no choice. The paper was worthless anyway so I had nothing to lose.
“Where do I sign?”
I signed the paper and Mr Gutteridge called through for his secretary to photocopy it. We waited in silence for her to return. My mother thanked Mr Gutteridge as we left and assured him of my future good behaviour. I wasn’t so sure.
Another installment to follow same time next week.
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