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A BOY WITH POTENTIAL by Rosalind Minett

© Rosalind Minett

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I leave the blinds open at night. The little lightening of the sky stops my deepest sleep and catches my dreams as I wake. I think I once killed a man and I don’t know why.

It was back then, before I had muscles, before I had balls. The bloke lay at my feet, dead. I don’t think I knew him but I couldn’t look at his dead face and they didn’t make me.

They took him away on a stretcher. I remember that bit. Under the sheet his shoes with the black stud soles poked out. I hadn’t seen those shoes before, that’s for sure. His hands, thin hairs on the back, veiny, grey stuff in the nails, I might’ve seen them. I always looked at hands first.

Some time later, someone came to see me. I was reading Goosebumps, ‘A Shiver in your Shoes’. It was for homework. The grey raincoat man came with one of the carers. She smiled at me and sat on my bed to let me know it was all right to speak to him.

The man stared down at me, his chunky hands on my bedrail. ‘Jake, I’m a policeman. I need to ask you some questions.’

My eyes were on my book. The two boys were just escaping from the gloomy cave on the remote island . . .

‘You were in the church today.’

. . . when they heard a ghostly sound. Suddenly . . .

‘Weren’t you?’


'Weren't you, Jake?'

'I'm doing my homework.'

The carer said, ‘He’s ten, go easy.’

‘He looks a lot more. You’re a large lad, Jake. And you were in the church today.’

‘Mm. I’m a choirboy.’ I closed my book. I wouldn't enjoy it nearly as much later. I stayed looking at its cover.

He said loudly. ‘A man died, Jake. And you were in the church.'

I said, ‘I just found him like that.’

The policeman went on talking, asking. He had a moustache and I knew he was a detective. But I didn’t remember finding that body, just it being there. I got fed up saying it.

The man looked at my face. ‘What’s that round your mouth?’

I wiped at it. ‘Dunno. Chocolate? I had a bit just now.’

‘When? In the church?’

‘No. When I was running.’

‘When you were running.’

‘Yes. No. I can’t remember.’

‘Why were you running?’

‘Just was. Dunno.’

‘It’s funny you can’t remember anything but your carers told me you’re the cleverest boy in the Home. Clever boys remember things well. So, how long had you been in the church when you saw the man?’

‘Dunno. Just sort of noticed him.’

'That's not good enough. You're not helping me.'

I stared and stared at my book cover. ‘I’ve got Goosebumps.’

The detective stepped forward but the carer said it was enough questions and took him away. Then I finished my story. The two boys rescued someone and escaped from the cave and got rewarded. Stupid. That'd never happen. They'd just get a roasting.

That detective didn't give up. He came again with a lady one and she tried. She pretended she was interested in my book but I didn't believe her. They just wanted to ask those same questions. For days after, all those questions from everyone. I kept saying ‘I don’t remember.’ I puckered my forehead and shrugged. People would look irritated, but then leave me alone. *I don't remember* is like a wall, a curtain, a shroud. It’s my only support.

Then a lady in a blue/black dress with pointy nails had me in her office and asked me about my dreams. I told her, but they were stupid things like ice-creams and mountains, robots and spacecraft, theme parks and empty playgrounds, houses with no fronts, schools with high walls and hardly any people. She looked at me. ‘No people?’ I told her I couldn’t dream about people I don’t know. She said, ‘Dreams can tell you things. Try to remember them when you wake in the mornings. It might help us find out what happened.'

My dreams didn’t help me find out anything about that man’s death, but I have kept a dream record since, like she said, just in case. But I didn’t tell any of the carers, not then, not now. There’s no knowing what they’d do with your dreams.

There were lots of carers in that home, and they stayed in with you all evening. You could get them to play something like Pool, or Monopoly if the bits weren’t lost. You got to like some of them. Sometimes you thought you were a favourite and sat beside that carer as often as you could, like at meal-times. But then when you mucked around some time she’d say, ‘Right! No TV tonight. Sorry, but it’s the same punishment for everyone. No favourites here.’ So then you’d know.

My first year there, we were allowed pets. I mean, not one each, but things in cages, like birds people found hurt on the road or under our windows. And guinea pigs. But guinea pigs don’t live long. A carer once bought a ginger dog with long ears. All the kids would run up and down the drive with him, bring him in for his dinner, mess his fur, roll on the floor with him, let him lollop all over them, panting and licking. He never licked me. One Sunday he was found dead. Someone had done him over good and proper. So then we couldn’t have pets any more.

You have to be careful with animals. I remember my Nan saying that when I was little. They used to leave me with Nan day-times because she didn’t snort nothing. She’d shut me up in the yard where she put her washing and the bird-cage and said I could play. When I’d had my crisps and coke, there wasn’t nothing to do. I played with that bird in the cage. I played with its feathers, blowing them round the yard. When they blew right away, I’d pick out more.They were blue and yellow, some of them really tiny. One day the bird had none left. Its skin was whitey and pinkey with pimples. It fell over right onto its feeding dish and stayed there. I touched its curled up feet and it didn’t do nothing. Not even when I pinched its pimply neck. I found out later it was dead.

After the bird died, Nan stopped having me at her place. I didn’t see her no more. I can’t remember what Nan looks like now. She might have got another pet.

I couldn’t have a pet at the Home, but we had treats like going to the theme park. The carers took us in a Sunshine van and told us how much money we were going to have each and where to meet if we got lost.

The rides were scary and made you yell. Other kids had Mums or Dads who stood by the rides and waved; our carers just stopped you leaping off rides or shoving. You can do a lot of damage on those rides. Like, you shouldn’t push. Up the top of the Hells Leap, if you pushed, a person would splat so hard when he landed, he’d probably be flat. His forehead would stove in if he fell face down.

I didn’t look that time the kid we called Snotty Swotty got run over when we were crossing the road for school. But they said his face was all flat after the bus wheel went over it. He shouldn’t have run off the traffic island. He should’ve stayed standing by us lot. Or was he pushed? Some kid said he was asking for it. The others said ‘Shut the F*** up'. It was true, though.I remember he was a pain in the butt and he had a school bag just like a teacher’s. We ran off before the ambulance came. There were three men with the kid, bent over him so it was OK to leave him.

But he wasn’t OK and died. The police came in soon after we got into school, but I just walked off. There were lots of other kids who wanted to talk about it all. The police had them in the detention room for ages. Lessons were really late starting and one teacher went off crying. Weird. It wasn't as if she was the kid's Mum or anything. I went to the library and changed my books.

After school, all the younger kids rushed off the transport and told the carers about the dead kid. The carers already knew. They'd heard it on the telly. They said we mustn’t be upset, so that was all right. Anyway, I had a new library book on slugs. I like reading and I read a lot at that Home.

The carers looked out for things you could do after school or at weekends so that you had hobbies and it was like a normal life. They sometimes took me to the library or bought books for me from Oxfam. And I could sing, so they took me to the big church and a fat gent in a check tank top sat at the organ and played this note and that and I had to sing it. Then I was in the choir and I didn’t want to be. I had to get up early on Sundays and go to practices two evenings a week, no time for telly afterwards.

The other boys, choristers we were called, asked me questions I couldn’t answer. I didn't know their games. I tried to hang around with them after choir. I swung from the overhead bars all the way across in seconds. I showed them how I could swing round and round the high metal pole with straight arms, like I was made of metal too.

‘Yeah, yeah. You’re a - moron.’ They meant ‘Dick-head’ but they were choristers. They reckoned I was Nothing. I looked at them.
‘You’ve got weird eyes,’ they said. And they ran off.

But when I found that man dead, I was like a pop-star. At choir the next day the others crowded round me. ‘Was it really you who found him?’ ‘Did he say anything before he died?’, ‘Had he gone stiff and blue?’, ‘Was there loads of blood?’, and ‘Was it you killed him?’ Then they laughed a lot and so did I.

Then the choirmaster came in and said to leave me alone. The others stared at me and made faces at me behind his back, doing dead and tortured faces. I nearly laughed. We started on the Dei Sancti and it took till break.

‘Why were you there?’ the choirmaster said. He’d taken me into the vestry before the police got at me again and he made me a milkshake. I drank it up before he changed his mind. It was pineapple. ‘It wasn’t even choir practice,’ he said.

I don’t know why I was there. I was asked lots of times. Someone must’ve brought me to the church and left me inside. Probably the carers got the wrong evening. Relief carers don’t even know your name though they pretend to, like you’re their best friend or something, like you don’t know they’re only here for the week or summer holiday or even Work Experience. I wished I had someone to get everyone off my back.

I do have parents. But they take stuff, so I was taken off them. They snort it and steal for it, deal it too. They have to, to get enough money for their next snort. I hadn’t seen them for yonks but they came to the Home after that man died. The Home phoned them on their mobile. Anyway, the police said they knew their number.

My parents came to visit me then, but someone sat in supervising. So Mum didn’t say anything much, and I didn’t. Dad talked to the carer mostly, saying if I'd been left be at home that wouldn't have happened to me. They brought me chocolates, a mega box. I bet they nicked that from the corner shop. There’s no security guard there.

I remember that visit. It was the first time they’d given me anything. And the last.
The carers said I had to share the chocolates with kids who weren't so lucky. So I ate the coffee creams and the whole nuts before I got out of the Visitors' Room.

At the door, Mum said, ‘So you’re in the choir. That’s nice. Can you sing nice, then?’

Dad said, ‘Clever, that bloke, whoever done it. Got away with murder. No clues. And you were there. You could've been the last person seen the victim alive.’

The Supervisor told him to change the subject.

He said, ‘Police all right to you, Jake? No-one duffed you one?’

I shook my head. Dad was thinking I’d get a rough ride from the law because of them two having form. But the police had nothing on me. I reckon Dad thought I was going to be the same as him. The Supervisor said to say Goodbye. I think I did.

At school, the Head told me to concentrate on my lessons, take my mind off. So I did. I would've done anyway.

There was this teacher with dark green trousers who took special classes. They were often in lunch-times or after school. He said I could be what I wanted to be.

I said, ‘What is there?’

He held his arms out wide. ‘The world’s your oyster.’

I looked at him.

He said, ‘You’ve not heard that saying?’

I shook my head. I didn’t know what he was on about.

He showed me a video of big waves, then sea coming into land, right up to sandy shores, muddy bottoms and grit. These ridgy whitish shells were stuck on rocks at the bottom of the water, some of them in twos one above the other, clinging together like they couldn‘t cope apart.

This teacher told me they were oysters. They grow up first as males, and after a year they’re females. There’s two halves to an oyster shell. The top half, that’s the one that shows, is rough and funny shaped. The bottom half is hidden underneath.That half’s all flat. The little pearl is deep inside. The oyster makes slimy shiny stuff that slides round all the bits of grit and rubbishy fragments and stays there. So it’s a gleaming pearl in the end. It’s precious.

The teacher said to me, ‘You see? The world’s like this big oyster shell, and you’re the little pearl inside. You have to come out of the shell and show the world how much you’re worth.’

‘Uh. How show?’

’Think - what have you done, that’s clever? You do that, something you’re good at. Then you do it some more, and better. Then you do it in different ways and different places. Until you’re an expert, a right pearl.’

I thought about that, being that shiny precious thing, with all the shit inside it hidden. Then I thought about what I had done that was clever. I decided to do it again, better. I didn't say nothing.

The teacher put his hands on my shoulders and said I had potential. I must work at it. I must fulfil my potential. That was what started me thinking that way.

At the Home they were so used to people being useless. If the carers found me doing homework, they were half pleased and half confused, like I was a freak.

The school teachers were extra nice to the Home kids. That’s what it seemed to me. So school was sort of comfortable. That oyster teacher, I saw him looking at me often and he'd smile and put his thumb up. I'd feel like smiling back and once I put my hands up to feel whether my mouth was smiling.

My parents have never seen my school. They don’t even know what it looks like or what I do there. Once, way back when I was little, they took me to a school. It might’ve been my first day or something. It was scary. They didn’t stay after the teacher had written down my name, and when the day was over I was the last kid to go home. A teacher took me home in the end.

Someone came to see me at this school once. But not in class. I was just coming out of the gate. The transport was waiting and this guy says, ‘Hi, Hi, how you doing?’

I kind of grunted ‘All right,’ but swallowed it so it didn’t seem I was answering him.

‘Remember your old mate?’ he said. He wanted something, I knew that. I didn’t have any dosh on me. School dinners got paid by the Home. I put my hands up, like, empty.

He got my arm round my back. I wanted to holler but I was scared.

He pulled my face up to look at him. ‘Shame about Smitty, in 'it?' (Or did he say ‘Stiffy’?) ‘Happened in that church.’ He held my face harder. ‘That church where you're in the choir. Strange in 'it?’

I wriggled.

‘You got anything for me?’ His mouth was wet and his eyes had red in them and round them. He put a hand in my pocket. Nothing there, only bubble gum.

I said, ‘Our driver’s watching you.’ He wasn’t. No-one was looking out for me, but it worked. The guy’s hands went slack, I wriggled away and ran to the minibus. I got in and sat up the back. I looked out at him. I’d probably have known him once. I don’t know how he found me at that school. It was miles from where I’d lived at home. He’d have said, ‘We have ways.’ And they do. If they think you’ve got stuff on you they can smell it miles away or just know that you’ve been with someone using.

I shouted to the driver about the radio, so the bloke thought I was telling on him. He belted off round the corner before he was seen, his black stud soles kicking up behind him. I can’t remember him now, so I couldn’t tell anyone anything.

When I got back to the Home, I found I’d won a prize for some Safety poster about road crossing, so I didn‘t think about that guy for quite a while. I got a twenty quid note and a card. The carers put the card in this folder that had my name in the front.

All the kids who come here get a folder which tells you things about yourself in case you’ve forgotten. There’s photos and letters people have written you saying how much they love you, but you haven’t seen them for so long you know they don’t mean it. There’s stickers too, and bits about prizes and certificates if you win them.

I’ve got certificates for school things like Maths, Athletics. I won a trophy once for boxing but they couldn’t exactly put that in the folder. It was easy to win anyway. You just went for their heads, on the side, where they get dizzy. Simple. And I did it clean, got the arm lock, hurt’em but let go when the Ref said. Almost at once.

‘You’ve got brawn as well as brains‘, the carers said.

But this was the first time I’d got a note. Pocket money is just coins.

Long ago, when I was living at home, I used to see notes all the time. Folds of notes stuck behind the TV with Sellotape, notes folded up into tiny squares and put in matchboxes or fag packets or earring bags, or just pushed over the table in lumps. Sometimes they got pushed into my pocket on the way home from school and then someone would hold my arm tight and watch me go into the house, and Mum’d push her hand into my pocket then rush out and sometimes we’d have a takeaway.

Sometimes after a Delivery, I’d get set on. I’d have to scarper over walls and through alleys the back way home and Mum would say, ‘It’s your fault, you’re not careful enough. Give it here quick.’

But I didn’t get to see notes once they got taken off me and I’d never had one of my own.

The police come again and again. They used to come at home about drugs, and then at The Home about death.

They said the man had been drowned first. I said we weren’t near sea. Then the senior chorister let on it was the font. The font was low so the vicar, who was short, could hold the baby over without worrying too much that he’d drop it. You have to be careful with babies. I remember that because we had one and it died. The night before it was screaming and screaming on the settee, lying by Mum who was so stoned she didn’t hear it. I couldn’t stick it any longer so I put the blanket and the cushion over its mouth and then it shut up. I felt it twitching through my hands. I spread them out and the twitch went right through me, jerking more. It was a nice, electric feeling right through my middle. The baby was still asleep in the morning when I went to school and so was Mum. Then when I got home, it wasn’t there and they said it suffocated because Mum was lying on it. She should’ve been careful. My Nan said once, you can’t get babies just like that.

I saw lots of babies christened because people often wanted a choir while they did it. The babies had the back of their heads put right near the water by the vicar and they were held down low while he wetted their foreheads. The babies didn’t like it. It looked a bit risky, but people trusted him.

I heard the police talking to the choirmaster. They said that the man’s head was pushed into the font and held there. So he drowned. The choirmaster said it wasn’t possible, it wasn’t deep. The policeman said it was deep enough, if the head was pushed down hard after the man had lost his balance. There was no proper way for the rest of the body to fight back, head bent over low, arms hanging over the sides and knees pressed up against the font. So he drowned.

But that wasn’t all. Other things were done to him. He’d tried to get up, his hands grasping at the plinth thing. The scratches are still on it. The blood washed off in the font. And some of his parts were seriously damaged. He must’ve deserved it.

Once I had a little sister. Perhaps somewhere I still have. It was after the baby died and Mum had another one. She said I could choose her name. So I did. Lally. I used to give her a bottle and take her out in the buggy. She used to smile at me. She’d look up when I got home from school and stop crying. Mum said, ‘You take her off me, Jake. Give me a break. Get her a bottle. Take her to the park.’ And I did.

Lally grew bigger until she had quite long hair and it curled.

People kept visiting her, usually when I was at school but not always. If they were there when I got home, they’d act all friendly. They were always weighing her. Once they weighed me. I had to take nearly all my clothes off, so then I hated them. And that was before they took the little sister away. She didn’t deserve it.

I came home from school one day and there was no crying, no bottle. Mum was shut away upstairs.

I said, ‘Where’s the baby?’

Dad said, ‘They’ve took her. The social.’ He said it was this bloke’s fault, the skinny one who came round most evenings. It was his fault, smoking stuff in our place and shooting up before those social people were out of the way. Dad said they’d spotted him. So then I hated him. I wanted to kill him, that bloke. Making them take the little sister away. I lay in bed and thought of what I wanted to do to him with his red eyes and wet mouth. But I didn’t know how.

Then the social came for me, all smiling. They told me I was going for a holiday. But it wasn’t a holiday. They lied. It was in someone else’s house, oldish people who had an allotment. They laughed when I didn’t know that potatoes grew under the ground. But at least I didn‘t have to go to school for a week or two. When the social collected me after this ‘holiday’ they said I couldn’t go home. They said it would be better if I didn’t. They said they would try to find me a forever family like my little sister had.

I said, ‘I’ll go there then, with her.’

But it couldn’t have me, that forever family. They only wanted babies.

The social woman took me home for a visit. She waited outside in her car while I went inside so I could have my Mum and Dad to myself for an hour. Mum said I looked different; it was my clothes. The social had bought them new from British Home Stores and they nearly fitted. Dad told me the social had found a new place to live. It was somewhere I can’t remember. Mum asked me if I wanted to go and live with this family I didn’t know.

I said, ‘I don’t know. Why aren’t I staying home?'

Dad swore a lot and told me the fuckers said I wasn’t being protected.

‘Neglected!’ said Mum, like it was ridiculous. They said I was on some register for protection of children. Or was it neglection, I can’t remember.

After my visit home the social woman drove me off to some family that didn’t like me. I had to go to a different school because it was miles away.

At first, my parents got to see me. Not at home. I’d be taken to a place with clean settees and boxes of plastic toys and board games. Lots of the cars were broken. We didn’t know how to play the board games and there were pieces missing in the jigsaws. The woman who sat in with us made us drinks. The orange was really watery. Then it was time to say Goodbye and the woman would take me back to the foster family. Soon Mum and Dad were too fed up to come again.

The new family didn’t like me because their kids were scared of me. I was changed to another family and another new school. That home kind of went wrong because of their cats losing their fur, great clumps of it. So then I was sent to the Home. The social worker said I would go to a school with the other children there and there would be no more changes. It was all right at the Home. And I should still be there. They let me do things my own way. There were different sheds and things to explore. I used to collect things which might come in useful.

I've read what can happen to people if they’re not careful, like falling over cliffs or off buildings or under a train or bus or onto the electric rail on the underground or up a pylon. People can die of poison or drown or suffocate. There’s lots of things that can happen. And if it’s someone that causes it, they can be caught out. If they’re careless. So I collected weapons in case something happened again.

A long time after the man died at the font, the policeman with the moustache came again with the policewoman. He told me that they’d probably never find the murderer. He said, ‘Didn’t you see anyone when you came into the church and found the body? You sure you can’t remember? The only person nearby, perhaps. Someone had it in for this man. The way he was killed. Vicious.’

Vicious. I remember those blokes who got done over outside Mum and Dad’s local. Mum said they hadn’t delivered. They got boots and bottles and knees and knives. I saw it. In the paper it said, Vicious Attack.

The policewoman talked to me about the man who died but I couldn’t tell her anything. She said, ‘You were shocked, I expect. Coming in and finding a dead person. Makes you forget, when you’re shocked.’

She was right. It does make you forget.

I stayed quite a long time in the Home - several birthdays long. I stayed longer than most kids. They'd get Placed, sent to live with a family somewhere. They’d move on so quickly it wasn't worth learning their names. I got to reserving the big chair in the TV room on account of me being there the longest. I stayed longer than most, carers and all. They didn’t usually stay long, either. I suppose it was a lousy job picking up after us, breaking up fights, telling kids what to do all the time when no-one wanted to be there anyway.

The cook knew me because I ate the most and was there the longest. 'There, Jake, you're a proper Resident, you are. Don't you worry about not getting Placed.' So I'd sit back in the TV room and fold my arms and see the new kids blink when I looked at them. I had some masks I made out of busted balloons. The other kids called me names like Hannibal. I got angry. Then they were scared of me and my collection though I never used any of it on them. Just, if they got lippy I'd pull it all out and show them. It shut them up. But they went and told the carers.

So now I’m in a different place, and it's their fault. Outside play space is caged. They said it was so that balls didn't get lost but it's to stop us bunking off. There's strict managing of TV time. No news, after I kept watching that US massacre. No sitting by one carer and feeling special. There's no going to school here, just lessons downstairs, and you feel banged up, angry. There's not enough books. Most kids here don't read unless forced. No oyster teacher or any teacher that knows stuff worth knowing. We don't have Carers here, they’re Workers and they come in twos. They sit in your room and talk about control, or make you go down to the soft chairs to talk about your feelings. My feelings are this: it’s not fair they took my ropes and my weapons manual and my set of screwdrivers. They took my whole collection.

Eventually they gave me drums, because I’m musical and can't go to choir any more. I play a special roll when someone’s riled me so they know I’m coming for them. They can’t say I’m doing anything wrong, drumming, but that person knows and sleeps badly.

I keep busy. There's boxing on a Thursday, and they’re trying to find another Tae Kwondo class that’ll take me. A bloke got hurt the other week during my session. It was the knee twist. I bent over him and he told the trainer it was an accident. He wasn’t careful. Tae Kwondo is an art, a sport and a winning way of life. The trainer told us that. He said ‘It has no equal in power or technique.’ I liked that. I’ve got good at it.

My hands have got a bit hairy these days, and they stretch right round a book cover, like I could scrunch it into nothing. My T shirt sleeves are tight. That’s muscles.

In the mornings when I wake I wait till the blinds change colour and there’s a lightening in the sky, then I think about my dreams and write them down. Just in case it helps find why that man died. I can’t remember what happened, I was only ten then, ages ago. I don’t know why he died. But I really wanted him to. He did deserve it. Bastard, he took his time.

The Workers take us out running. I run well. They let me run on Sundays, alone now, because ever since I came here I've got back on time and never tried to get away. 'Whatever else, he's reliable,' they said. Last Sunday I ran to the Home. It took twelve minutes down the back roads and the woods. I peered through the TV room window at those kids I used to live with. They were thinking they were cosy and safe, but they didn't see me.

After supper, a Worker, one like a tennis player with a smooth face and creases down his shorts, put an arm round my shoulder like I was his best mate. ‘We’re going to review you tomorrow, Jack.’

I looked at my fists and made all the joints crack. A new kid laughed and said, ‘His name’s Jake.’

‘Whatever, mate. In the quiet room after breakfast, right? We’ll have a talk about your fantasies.’

I didn’t answer and he took his arm off my shoulder. I went up to my room quickly and checked that they hadn’t found my dream book. They think there’s nothing you can hide, nothing really your own.

When people say things like, ‘Pus-pit face‘ and ‘You got the F-factor’ so that everyone laughs, when people get me thrown out of places that should be home, then it's their fault I need weapons. The staff think I don't know where they've locked them.

When the sun’s rising, it’ll be time to go. The keys to the staff cupboard are on the hook by their microwave. No-one's there first thing. And under the back of the third sports kit shed, I've hidden something better still. After his accident, the bloke at Tae Kwondo decided to give it to me. I only had to ask once when I gave him my look. Anyway, he's been inside once, it's better he doesn't have it.

If you practice and work at things, you get really good at them. Expert, like a pearl of wisdom. You can go out and do those things all over the place, in different ways, to different people, to more people, and then you’re a winner.

Now. A magic time.WI’m the biggest, greatest ever. I stand on my bed, do my breathing, stretching. My muscles are so huge there might be an army inside each one. I pull up my blinds and look out at the wide fields beyond our walls and the little track that will take twelve minutes. The kids will all be in bed, nice and cosy. They've forgotten what they said to me but I haven't. I imagine them lying down, eyes closed. I'm outside their window in the dark. I take aim, I put one shot through the window. No drums for them, can’t carry more than the weapon. I holler my loudest so they'll know. They'll recognise it's me. Then I'll start shooting. I think of them leaping up and the Carers rushing in. They'll be too late. Fat slobs mostly, they're no match for me. They won't even see me. And in twelve minutes I’ll be back, in fourteen, I’ll be in bed. After breakfast, the Workers will call for me. I'll sit and say what they want me to say, stupid gits. They'll say, 'He's just a big lad, reads too much, full of fantasies, no harm in him. He's a useful butt for the others, that's all.' And in a month or two there'll be different workers, discussing me, saying stupid things, going on to a proper job somewhere.

It’s time now. I'm fit and ready, new sneakers, plastic bags covering the outsides so well. It's taken me all evening to cut and tape them.

Just think. Seventeen kids splayed out asleep. Fast, fast asleep. They had their fun. And now, so will I. I'll make them leap up - then sleep forever. What’s one? That’s just practice. Beginner’s stuff.

Seventeen in three minutes. This time.

I have to fulfil my potential.

Like that teacher said, ‘The world’s my oyster.’


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