From the coming novel The Morning After- leave your email for updates and more
Friday June 23rd 1981
Friday 11am to 12pm
The kid was scrambling back up the slope. Sammo had stepped out and started moving toward him.
“Sammo,” Macca shouted. “Wait. What are you doing?”
Vinny and Macca watched Sammo as he started to run to the top of the slope. Macca shrugged. “Fuck it. Come on.” He and Vinny followed Sammo.
Sammo reached the top of the slope and started collecting the kid’s books. He picked up his bag and put the stuff back in, as the kid was near the top of the slope Sammo reached down to give him a hand. Vinny and Maca joined them.
Macca spoke first. “Why did the bizzies throw you out here?”
“I don’t know.” The kid was around their age. He had a brown freckled face and a small quite loose afro. His clothes and shoes were muddied from sliding down the slope.
“Bastards,” Sammo said, then asked, “Where did they pick you up?”
“On my way to school. I was going in late, and they pulled up next to me. Then they searched my bag, and when they didn’t find anything, told me to get in the car.”
“What did they say in the car?” asked Sammo.
“Nothing, they were just calling me nigger, laughing and saying I would have a long walk home.”
“Bastards,” Sammo said before asking, “What’s your name?”
“Jaime,” the boy said. He picked up his bag back and checked the contents.
“Where are you from?” Vinny asked.
“Toxteth.” He looked around. “Where am I now?”
“Speke.” said Vinny.
“Oh, fuck. I’ve never been to Speke.”
“Well, you have now,” said Macca, and pointing up the lane. “You’d better get going.”
“Have you got any money for the bus?” Sammo asked.
“No. I’m skint.”
“No dinner money?”
“On free dinners,” Jaime said.
“Snap,” Vinny and Sammo both said.
The three boys smiled.
Sammo dug around in his pocket and brought out a Marathon bar.
“Here, are you hungry?”
“Thanks.” Jaime reached out for it.
“You’d better get going then,” Macca repeated. “You go back up Dungeon Lane, you’ll get to the estate, and you can find a bus stop in there.”
“He doesn’t know his way,” said Sammo.
“Not our problem, we have a mission to complete,” Macca replied
“He can come with us,” Sammo said. “When we get to Garston we can show him the bus stop.”
“He’s not part of our group. He’s not even white, he’s a wog,” said Vinny. His face flushed as the word came out. He drew circles in the dirt with his foot.
“He can be in our group if we want him to. Do you want to join us?” Sammo asked.
“I don’t know,” said Jaime. “I don’t fancy walking through Speke.”
“I don’t blame you,” said Vinny, trying to undo the word he used.
“And I’m not a wog,” Jaime added.
“I didn’t mean anything,” said Vinny. “It’s just a word Isn’t it.”
“Well, you’re not English,” Macca said. “We can see that.”
“Of course, he’s English, he’s from Toxteth,” Sammo said.
“My dad’s from Gambia and my mum’s Chinese,” Jaime said, “and I was born in the women’s hospital on Myrtle street.”
“Wow, that’s fucking amazing,” said Sammo.
“Being born in Myrtle street?” Macca asked.
“No, China, and the other place.”
“Gambia,” said Jaime.
“It’s not so special all your family was from Ireland.” Macca gave Sammo a push.
“Well, China’s a bit further than Ireland.”
“My dad’s a sailor,” Jaime said.
“Well, sailor boy. You’d better get on your way,” Macca said.
“I vote he comes with us.” Sammo looked at Vinny.
“Yeah me too.” Vinny half-smiled at Jaime.
“This is not for voting,” Macca said. “I’m the leader here, and I say he’s not coming with us.”
“Right then, I’m going to show him.” Sammo started walking off toward the lane. “Come on Jaime, I’ll show you the way to go.”
Jaime moved after Sammo.
“Stop, you can’t go. You’ve got the treasure.”
“I’m going.” Sammo turned.
Macca rushed forward and grabbed the back of Sammo’s shirt. He spun him round. “Don’t make me do it.” Macca formed a fist.
Sammo pulled his head away and tried to get free. Macca punched him hard in the upper arm.
“Oww, fuck. That hurt,” he complained.
“It was meant to, now do as you’re told.” Macca pushed him in the direction away from the lane. “Get going.”
“What treasure?” Jaime asked.
“This.” Sammo reached into his pocket and pulled out the watch.
”You bastard.” Macca launched himself at Sammo, who dodged to the side.
Vinny moved forward to get between them, his palms raised. “Let’s all calm down, eh?”
Macca reached around Vinny.
“Yeah, why don’t you back off,” Jaime said.
Jamie moved forward, he and Vinny were now between Macca and Sammo.
“Yeah, back off,” said Sammo, holding the watch high.
Macca took a step back, he held his hands up. “Ok, Jaime can come. He’s seen the treasure now, anyway, hasn’t he?”
“Really?” Sammo asked.
“Yeah, you can come if you want.” Macca directed this at Jaime.
“And when we get money for it, we’ll give him the bus fare, right?” Sammo looked at Macca expectantly.
Macca made a show of thinking about it. “Yeah, that’s ok. Fuck them bizzies, eh?”
“Might as well, then,” said Jaime.
“Come on then, let’s get going.”
Macca led them off along the path. The path followed the top of the embankment. The Mersey was tidal and the tide was just coming in, the river had retreated to a glistening silver stream in the centre of the mudflats, but now the water was rushing back in from the Irish Sea.
The path along the shoreline ran all the way to Garston Docks a walk of about three miles. As they walked, the scene to their left was the wide-open river basin with Stanlowe oil refinery clearly visible on the opposite shore.
They walked in single file. Macca was in front, next was Vinny, Sammo, and Jaime. The sun was warm, the wind was blowing lightly off the river, seagulls screamed and squawked overhead.
“We should have a marching song like the marines,” Vinny said.
“You make one up then.” Macca said.
“I got it, are you ready?”
“Yeah, come on everyone march in time.”
“Left , right, left.” Vinny called. “Left, right, left.”
The boys fell into the rhythm.
“I just know what I’ve been told, you have to say it back. I call it out. You say it back.” said Vinny.
“I just know what I’ve been told.
Jamie, Macca and Sammo shout out in harmony. “I just know what I’ve been told.”
“We’re gonna sell this watch of gold.” sang Vinny.
“We’re gonna sell this watch of gold.” The boys voices carried over the river.
“Left, right, left.”
“Left, right, left.” They answered.
“I just know what I’ve been told.”
“I just know what I’ve been told.” they answered.
“We’re gonna sell this watch of gold.”
“We’re gonna sell this watch of gold.”
“Left, right, left.”
“Ok enough.” Macca said. Everyone fell out step. “Who wants to be in the fucking army anway?”
“Whoah, look.” Sammo pointed. A plane was coming in to land. They followed the plane through the sky, gently turning through the clouds swooping down over the river, growing in size and sound as it neared. The roar of the engines flooded over them like a wave surrounding them as the plane touched down. They all stood hands gripping the chain link fence as they marvelled at the power and beauty.
“Wow.” said Macca. “Maybe the airforce though.”
“How far is it to Garston?” Jaime asked.
“Not far, about half an hour,” Sammo replied.
The plane turned off the end of the runway and taxied toward the terminal and control tower.
“Does this go all the way to the Pier Head?” Jaime asked.
“Yeah, but the docks at Garston are in the way, so you can’t go by the river there.” said Vinny.
“That’s a shame, I could get all the way home.”
“It would take you forever though.” said Sammo.
“What’s all this about the treasure and the watch then?”
Vinny turned round and replied. “We can’t tell you, we swore.
“Not about telling we didn’t,” said Sammo
“Doesn’t matter we’re not telling anyone anything, right?” Macca insisted. “Sammo, come here,” he continued.
Sammo edged past Vinny on the narrow path.
“Give me the treasure.” Macca held his hand out.
“I don’t have to tell you why. I’m the leader. I decide. Give it to me.”
Sammo looked at Vinny, Vinny shrugged. Sammo slowly reached into his pocket, pulling out the links first and then the round shining watch. Macca snatched it off his hand. The chain caught on Sammo’s finger and snapped.
“Look what you’ve done, you arsehole.” Macca pushed Sammo, he lost his footing and fell down the embankment toward the river.
Macca held up the two ends of the chain for inspection.
“It doesn’t matter, they can fix that easy,” said Vinny.
“Yeah, he’s right,” Jaime moved over the edge of the embankment and offered his hand to Sammo, who was struggling back up.
“Well here, it’s your turn.” Macca gave the watch to Vinny.
Vinny held it up to his face, looking at his distorted reflection in the smooth gold. He went to the front and took the lead. “Come on then, we need to get moving or it will take us all day.”
Vinny led the way, setting off at a steady pace, with Macca behind him, then Jaime with Sammo making up the rear.
“We need to stick together more,” Vinny said. “You know all for one and one for all.”
“That’s for fairy tales and stories, it doesn’t happen in real life.” said Macca.
“It can if we make it,” Sammo shouted from the rear.
“We’re not all together though, are we?” Macca said.
“Why not?” asked Vinny.
“Don’t be stupid, we’ve got him with us, Jaime.”
“I don’t care what you do. I’m not interested in your stupid games. I just want to get home.”
Macca turned to face Jaime. “It’s not stupid.”
“What talking about ‘treasure?’ You sound like kids playing at pirates.”
“No, it’s not like that,” Macca insisted.
“So you robbed a watch, big deal. Hardly crime of the century.”
“Yeah, but someone died,” Sammo added.
“Fucker, why did you tell him that?” Macca glared.
“You killed someone?” Jaime asked.
“No, no, someone just died,” Vinny said.
“How?” Jaime looked shocked.
“I don’t know – natural causes, got too old, heart attack cancer what the fuck do I know?” Macca snapped.
“But you were there, right?“ Jaime said.
“Macca was.” Vinny shrugged.
“Hey, what happened to all for one?” said Macca.
“He’s just telling the truth,” said Sammo.
“That could be manslaughter, that’s when you don’t kill him, but he dies anyway.
If they wanna get you for it, they will, they can do anything they like.”
“No, they can’t,”Vinny objected. “It doesn’t work like that.”
“Yeah, it does. When they came for my grandad, there was nothing anyone could do.”
“What do you mean, came for him?” asked Sammo.
“One day, he was here, next day gone. That’s what my mum told us. She was only young. She remembers him, but not much. She always talks about him. So she tells us, be careful they can do what they want.”
“Did he do something?” Vinny asked.
“No, he was a sailor, came over during the war a lot of them did. Worked on the boats cos all the English men was off fighting and that. Not just him, there were loads, hundreds of Chinese sailors.”
“Let’s have rest,” Vinny announced.
He moved off the track to the grassy area near the airport fence.
“Who made you the boss?” Macca asked.
“This did,” said Vinny holding out the watch.
Macca slumped to the ground. “Whatever.”
They sat, backs against the fence, looking across to Ellesmere Port.
“Did your ma see him again?” Sammo asked.
“Nah, right after the war it was. The police come and took some men from houses, put them on a ship. But me, mam said her dad just disappeared, went off to do a job never came back.”
“He could’ve just left her,” said Vinny. “I think mine did.”
“Nah, they were Shanghai’d.”
“Who’s talking about pirate shit now.”
“It’s not shit, it’s real, you can see the photo in my mam’s, a Chinese sailor and a baby, the baby’s me mam. It’s got a date on it, my mam and my nan go down the pier head every year on that day to throw a flower, a rose or something in the river.”
“To remember him, I guess. He came from the river, and when they took him he went out through the river.”
“Fuck, that’s not right,” said Vinny.
“That’s shit,” Sammo agreed.
“Yeah, well, it shows if they want to do something, they can.”
“Like they threw you out in Speke. What was that for?”
“Cos they can, they have the power.” Jaime pulled a blade of grass and split it, he blew air through it to make a whistling sound.
“Well, fuck’em we have power too.”
Macca picked up a stone and threw it toward the river. “Power to fuck em up, get into their posh houses and steal their shit.”
“But you didn’t though, you robbed someone in Speke,” Vinny said.
“Not this time, I know, but I want to, that’s what I’ll do – like a cat burglar – diamonds and shit. Like the Pink Panther.”
“The Pink Panther was the cop. Clouseau.”
“No, Pink Panther was the jewel thief.”
“You could be a black panther,” Macca said to Jaime.
“Yeah, that’s cool by me.”
Sammo said, “I’d be—”
Macca didn’t let him finish. “You’d be a raggedy arse stray cat.”
“And you? A Pink…” Sammo put on an effeminate voice. “A Pink Panther?”
“What’s in Garston? Why are you guys going there?” Jaime interrupted.
“We gonna sell the treasure,” said Vinny. “Come let’s get moving.”
Vinny led the way and they walked in single file. The embankment had eroded and the grassy path they were walking on had crumbled away. They went down to the river’s edge. The ground became sandier, dried silt and mud from the river bed. They walked on in silence.
“Eeww. Look at that,” Vinny said as the head of the group spotted the carcass first. Bulging eyes and bared teeth in the distorted face produced a hideous effect. Half buried in the mud a cow’s shoulders head and neck were exposed to the sunlight, the rest of the body was half submerged. It lay in a shallow channel of water, one of many that were rapidly being filled as the tidal waters lapped against its body. It would soon disappear again as the river filled and what was left of marine life devoured the creature. Sammo picked up a stone and threw it at the head. He missed. The water splashed. Macca tried next and scored a direct hit. “Bullseye,” he shouted arms raised.
They took turns using the cow as target practise. The smell thrown up by the disturbed water began to reach them.
“Ewww, who was that?” Vinny asked and put his hand over his nose.
“That’s the cow. It stinks.”
“Wonder how it got in there?” Jaime asked.
“Probably went for a swim and got tired,” said Macca.
“Really?” asked Sammo.
“No, it must’ve fell in, somewhere up near Widnes when the tide was high and got washed down here,” said Vinny through his hand.
“It’s disgusting,” said Jaime.
“That cow was happy as Larry a few days ago, walking round, eating grass, mooing to his mates,” said Sammo. “Llook at the poor bastard now. Just goes to show.”
“Show what?” asked Vinny.
“Show that we all end up as stinking mush,” said Macca.
“Or that things change quicker than we think,” suggested Vinny.
“No wonder you went to grammar school,” said Macca.
Vinny picked up a stone and threw it. It hit one of the cow’s eyes, which exploded on contact, producing a small spray of blood and eyeball.
“Now that’s a bullseye,” said Sammo, to cheers and laughter.
Jaime led the line next and noticed something up ahead. “What’s that?” He pointed forward.
He stopped and the others joined him. “Look up there.”
A short e distance away, the sun glistened off something on the shoreline. The path they were on, turned to the right away from the river and into Garston. This was the furthest they could go. Ahead, they could see the cranes of Garston Docks. A little way out into the water was a rusting hull, neither ship nor wreck, but a partially destroyed carcass being eaten away by men from the breakers yard.
“That must be the glass bottle shore,” said Vinny. “I’ve heard of it but never seen it.
“It looks cool,” said Sammo. “Look at the colours.”
The shoreline from water’s edge up the wall of the bottle works, was composed of green, brown, clear and even some orange pieces of glass. They weren’t spread out on it or covered it, but for a stretch of fifty yards, they were the shoreline.
“Can we get to it?”
“Yeah, come on.”
They had to leave the path that swung round to the right. At the water’s edge the incoming tide was pushing the river in, rising up the shoreline. They picked their way across the broken ground. The shore was a couple of inches deep in glass, fragments and pieces of all shapes and sizes. The erosion from the tide and constant friction meant the sharp edges had largely disappeared, in some places leaving smooth coloured pebbles of glass. The lapping tide and sunlight created a sparkling water’s edge.
“This is crazy.” Sammo filled his hands with the glass and threw them into the air in a shower of colour.
“Like jewels,” said Jaime, inspecting the pieces, rejecting some and putting others in his pocket.
“What are you doing? asked Vinny
“These are smart. I’m gonna give some to me mam. She won’t believe where they come from.”
“Ok guys, come on. We’ve got real treasure to sort out, remember?”
Macca led the way off the shore and back on the path to Garston. Vinny turned to look back at the almost magical scene behind him. Leaving it he didn’t yet know, but he was leaving friendship and youth with it.
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