Day 7: One a day: View on Life
The picture I took for this piece (and which was accidently deleted) was off four teenage lads behind a warehouse. They were standing in a circle and two of them were bare-chested. I took the picture from a train on the way from Carlisle to Stockton. I imagine that there was a fight of some sort going on.
View On Life
“Give Andrew a kiss would you please, Gareth, there’s a good lad.” Mam nods towards my older brother. I pucker my lips. Andrew loves it when I do so, and grins. I blow a raspberry on the back of his wide neck. “I said a kiss, not a slobber fest.” But Mam is laughing and more to the point, so is Andrew my angel faced boy.
“Oi! Your brother is the one who had the spack attack in Asda and knocked over a shelf of Birthday cakes, isn’t he?” It’s been going on like this for years now, every morning before school, during school, after school, this arsenal of abuse from bag heads with Homer Simpson socks.
“Do you fuck him up the arse and then does your Mam have a go? Then your Dad? Oh no, he wouldn’t would he, because he left with that prossie he picked up from outside the Bongo! Where did they go again? Grimsby? Can’t remember what the Gazette said. How is the court case coming along with him and your Mam?” I can’t hit him one here. I’ve just started to tidy up my act and Mam would be devastated.
“I want to settle this.” Mark, the main bag head with the car crash for a face smirks. Blood pounds in my ears.
“Hear that lads? Twat wants to settle it. Finally. After eleven years he wants to settle it.”
“Tomorrow, round the back of Lidl. Hands only. If I win, you keep your gob shut about my family, especially my brother.”
“And if I win?” It’s the only time I’ve seen this shitty excuse for a human being look interested. In anything.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Mam used to video Fun House for us. It’s still Andrew’s favourite, closely followed by Fireman Sam and Noddy. He hasn’t noticed the three dimensional advancements. I used to wonder what the situation with the twins was all about. Then, while I wondered what the tingling in my groin was, Andrew learnt how to fast-forward and rewind so he could watch the action in the ball pool and on the racing track over and over and over again.
“Fun House Gar, Fun House!” Andrew shakes my shoulders and I drop my biro so I don’t scrawl all over my English coursework. Sometimes I forget how strong Andrew is. It’s usually realised when he has me in a headlock during a play fight session. Sometimes his anger can produce big, negative effects and lead to the house looking like a hurricane has balled its way through. I watch three episodes of Fun House with him. I ask Mam if we can have mash and fish fingers and Andrew loves me more than ever with his colossal arms. I help him with his bath, and encourage him out with his husky teddy when the water is icy and his lips are turning purple. When he’s asleep, I go downstairs and Mam is sweeping hair cuttings from the floor into a dustpan.
“Mam! What the fuck?” She’s cut her hair into a severe bob.
“Your brother has taken to sucking and biting it, so it’s for the best.” I can see she’s been crying. Mam’s hair has, all in all, received more attention when out and about than me and my brother put together, even when she dressed us in matching Buzz Lightyear costumes.
“So, fuck wit,” Mark grunts. “This is it. Do you know how long I’ve been waiting to take you down?” I feel as though I have just woken up from a cloud. I’ve been a dopey mess all day. I try and remember if I said bye to Andrew this morning before I left for school and this. I see loads of packets of cheese pocking out from the top of one of the massive shop bins. I should maybe nab some of it when all this is done with. They might have some of those chocolate Easter bunnies left. Andrew goes ape over those.
“Yeah. This is it.” I roll up my sleeves. I reconsider and take it off. Mam would tan my arse if she saw anything on this school shirt. She splashed out this year and went to M&S instead of the discount school wear shop in town. Some berk I’ve never met before shouts at us to stand opposite each other. We do. He blows a whistle he probably nicked from the gym cupboard. I dodge a fist then Mark gets me in the stomach. It feels almost as sore as when I fell in love for the first time. I launch my fist out but it meets nothing but air. I see it, a flash, just before I feel it part the skin. The pain is hot and deep, but I knew today would be a little bit dangerous, a little bit crazy. It was never going to be black and white; the world just doesn’t work like that.