© Kate Hanney
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This very short story contains some strong language - you have been warned!
Nobody believed me about what happened in Al’s; not even my mom. But it’s the truth, honest. And the thing is, I only had that knife on me in the first place because I’d done a favour for my little brother.
It was Christmas morning right, and he’d got this Ben 10 transformer thing that needed batteries. He was kicking off big time because he couldn’t get it to work, and my mom, who’d been out the night before and was doing her Amy Winehouse impression, screams, ‘Jason, will you see to that bloody toy for our Bailey?’
So I got the pen-knife out to use as a screwdriver. And after I’d finished putting the batteries in and tightening the screws back up, I just slipped it into my pocket. That was it; I never thought about it again until later that night.
Me and four of my mates were hanging about outside the shops – which were all shut except for Al’s. Al didn’t believe in Christmas or anything like that, so his shop was always open. There was nobody else about and the streets were right quiet. We could hear the sound of sirens in the distance, but we didn’t take any notice of them – you could always hear sirens round our way.
We’d all clubbed together and Benny had bought some cans from Al’s. Benny was the only one who was old enough to buy booze legally, and Al was right strict about that; he never sold it to anybody who he knew was underage.
So there we were; having a drink and a laugh and messing about like normal. All except Robbo, that is, who’d hardly said a single word since we’d met up.
‘What’s up with you?’ I said to him.
‘Yeah there is, you’ve got a face like a slapped arse. What’s up?’
‘Nowt; I’m OK.’
‘I bet that bird’s dumped him.’ Benny said. ‘What did you do, buy her a crap present?’
Robbo’s face went red and we all started laughing.
‘You did, didn’t you?’ I said. ‘Come on, what did you get her?’
He looked down and shook his head a bit. The lads, obviously, all started to come up with suggestions:
‘Was it a watch from Poundland?’ Mark said.
‘Or a couple of grams of bud?’ said Cal.
‘You didn’t get her some of them hair straightners from Dodgy Derek did you?’ I said. ‘My auntie Kaz bought some of them and now she’s got hair like Marge Simson.’
We all laughed again, and even Robbo couldn’t help smiling a bit.
But then a gang of kids came walking round the corner, and we soon stopped laughing.
We weren’t sure who they were at first because it was so dark, but as they got closer we could tell they weren’t from our area. We recognised a few of them and knew they were from a different postcode. They were S10.
There was probably about twelve of them altogether, and most of them stopped at the end of the row of shops. The two biggest ones carried on coming towards us though. They kept their heads down as they walked past and they went straight into Al’s. The door started to close behind them, but then it got stuck on the bumpy floor and ended up wedged half open.
We looked at each other. It was right weird for any of them kids to come on to our estate. I suppose they’d come over just to go to Al’s; it was probably the only shop open for miles. But I was still surprised they’d done it. I mean it was a big risk to take for twenty Bensons and a can of Stella.
The ones who’d waited outside talked quietly for a bit, but then they all looked in our direction and laughed right loud.
My turkey and mashed spuds started to spin round in my stomach, and after having a long drag on his fag, Robbo passed it to me.
‘I’ll make a few calls,’ Benny said, and he got his phone out and turned his back on us, and them.
‘Is your big ‘un out?’ I asked Robbo quietly, as I gave him his fag back.
Robbo’s older brother was as hard as a diamond, and he was always up for a scrap. We could’ve really done with him.
‘I’m not sure,’ Robbo said. ‘He might be round at his bird’s, or he might…’
Robbo shut up. A loud crash had come from inside Al’s, and a voice shouted, ‘You stupid fuckin’ bastard, what’s up with you?’
Benny spun back round and snapped his phone shut. ‘You lot stay here,’ he said to the others. Then he looked in my direction, ‘You wanna come with me Jase?’
I nodded, and we walked towards the shop.
When we got to the door, Benny put his hand out and touched the arm of my jacket. We both stopped and looked in.
The cheap out-of-date stuff that’d been in a box next to the till was smashed and scattered all over the floor. Al’s battered old radio that he always listened to was leaning up against the wall next to it. It’d cracked into three or four pieces, but somehow it was still managing to play some crap ancient music.
Al was backed up against the wall behind the counter. He was staring up at the two kids and his eyes were as big as snooker balls. The S10 lads both had their backs to us. One was wearing a grey G Star top. The other was all in black – and it was that one who was holding a knife up to Al’s throat.
Benny slowly and silently went in, and I followed right behind him.
‘Well, if you won’t fuckin’ sell us any, then we’ll just have to fuckin’ tek it, won’t we?’ the lad shouted at Al.
Benny took another step forward and his trainers crunched on the broken glass. ‘No you fuckin’ won’t, you pussy. You’ll fuckin’ leave him and his booze alone.’
His voice was quiet – but believe me, if it’d been me he was talking to, I’d have left Al and his booze alone, and I’d have legged it.
As the lads turned to look at us, the one with the knife let his hand drop down, and the blade turned away from Al. Al breathed out. You could see his chest and his shoulders relax a bit, and his head nodded forwards.
The kid hesitated, and although his hood covered most of his face, I could see that his eyes were darting around all over the place. Then they settled on the window, and after he’d stared out of it for a couple of seconds, he glared back at us and said, ‘OK mate, we’ll leave him alone. But you and your pussy friends here are gonna get a right pastin’.’
Benny flew at him. The kid made a choking noise, but I don’t know exactly what Benny had done, because I had my own fight to think about by then, didn’t I?
The G Star kid had picked a chair up from behind the counter and he lobbed it at me. Pussy. Was that the best he could do? Throw a chair like a fucking five year old? I stepped out of the way and it missed me by a mile. Then he started to come towards me, and without taking his eyes off me he bent down and picked a broken bottle up off the floor. Obviously I wasn’t going to hang about and wait for him to cut me to shreds, so before he had time to stand up straight again, I kicked him in his face hard. He fell backwards and ended up flat out. I flicked the bottle out of his hand with my foot and looked at him. I could’ve given him a proper kicking then, while he was just laying there. But I’d never really felt right about that, so instead, as he started to get to his feet I grabbed hold of his top. I yanked him up and threw him back against the counter, and as he crashed into it his head jerked back and smashed against the corner. He slid down the counter like a baddie in a cartoon and then laid still on the floor; he was out cold.
For the first time then, I had a chance to look round at everything else that was happening. Al was screaming, ‘Police, Police,’ into his phone. The lads outside, including the ones Benny had called, were having a right old bust up; throwing punches, throwing bricks and generally kicking each others’ heads in.
But Benny and the other kid were just standing there, looking at each other.
‘What’s up?’ I said.
‘Benny, what’s up? What y’ doin’?’
Benny swayed a bit, and then he fell to the floor like a tranquilised lion. His face had gone grey, and a bright red stain grew quickly across the front of his white jacket.
I was breathing hard anyway because of the fight, but when I saw what’d happened to Benny, my heart started thudding so hard I could hear it.
The kid with the knife watched Benny fall, and then he looked at me. ‘Told you you were gonna get pasted,’ he said, and then he laughed. A right proper loud laugh.
Al dropped the phone and came rushing round to where Benny was laid. As he knelt down, he put his foot out behind him and he knocked the old radio over. The back fell off, and two small green batteries caught my eye.
And that’s when I thought about it.
My hand went straight to the back pocket of my jeans; it was still there. My fingers wrapped around it tight and I took it out.
The sound of the sirens suddenly sounded a lot closer, and the S10 lad turned to go. I opened the blade up and looked down at it. So much stuff was going through my head: the lads outside and what they’d think. Benny, my mate, laying there with blood still spreading across his front. The sirens getting louder and louder, and that kid laughing – that kid coming into our area, knifing my mate, and then laughing about it. The bastard.
I made my mind up do it. I swear down, I was just about to go after him. But then Al appeared at my side. He grabbed the knife out of my hand and he threw it. I watched it fly through the air; spinning and spinning and spinning, and then it stuck straight into the kid’s back, just above his backside.
The cops almost caught him as they walked in through the door. Their eyes went from the knife to me, then to Al and then back to me.
One of them called for an ambulance. Two more came in and started seeing to Benny and the S10 lad, and then this right tall one came up to me and said, ‘You gonna tell us what’s been happening here son?’
I wet my lips and nodded at the kid in the doorway. ‘He…he stabbed my mate,’ I said, and then I turned back round and looked down at Benny.
‘Right, OK,’ said the copper slowly. ‘So you stabbed him then; to get him back like?’
‘No,’ I said, shaking my head and holding on to one of the shelves to keep myself steady.
The copper lifted up his eyebrows and looked at Al. ‘Well then, was it you sir?’ he asked him.
Al was shaking like a jelly in Jurassic Park and sweat was shining all over his face. He gazed straight ahead, not looking at anybody, and he ran his hand down the side of his face. ‘No, officer, of course it wasn’t me,’ he said. ‘I tried to get the knife off him. I tried to talk to him…to stop him. But I couldn’t. These kids…these gangs. They just won’t let anything go.’
And that was it. The next thing I knew I was in handcuffs and on my way to the police station.
The solicitor I got didn’t believe me; you could tell from the minute he walked in that he thought I’d done it. The cops didn’t believe me when they did the interviews, and then at my trial, the judge and the jury didn’t believe me either. They all sided with Al. Good old Al who wouldn’t hurt a fly.
He acted it out for them in court; can you imagine it? He did this little mime thing to show how he'd reached over and tried to take the knife off me, and how he'd been so close he'd even managed to touch it. But then, apparently, I'd pushed him away, told him to leave me alone and I'd thrown the knife at the kid who was leaving.
He was good though, Al. I mean if I hadn’t have actually been there, I would've probably believed him myself.
But I was there, and now I’m here: Wetherby Young Offenders’ Institute. My mom comes to see me now and again, when she's got time. She says some nice things sometimes and she tries to smile. But she definitely thinks I killed that kid. And I suppose really, as it's all turned out, I might as well have done.