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Authors: Jim Carrington

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BOOK: In the Bag
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‘Why?’

I shrug my shoulders. ‘Dunno,’ I say. Although to be honest, I do know. It’s cos I don’t want them to ignore me or turn me down.

Ash starts cycling again, slowly. After a few seconds he takes his hands off the handlebars and puts them in his pockets. ‘Talking to girls is easy, J,’ he says.

All you have to do is use the Jedi mind trick on them.’

‘Huh?’

‘You know, like in
Star Wars
.’

I nod. I know what the Jedi mind trick is, but I have no idea why Ash is going on about it. ‘What are you talking about?’

‘Look, J, we may not be able to understand what goes on in girls’ minds, but it’s very possible that they can read our minds. So what you have to do is imagine that you’re the Jedi, right? You are Obi-Wan Kenobi.’

‘OK.’


And the girl – whoever it is – is like a stormtrooper. She’s the one that’s standing in your way – you know, stopping you getting where you want to go . . .’

I make a really dubious face. Ash sometimes talks utter shit like this.

He stops his bike again. We’re right close to the rec now.

‘What you have to do is use the force. Like in
Star Wars
episode four . . . You know, the bit where Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke are in the hover car and the stormtroopers have stopped them, looking for droids.’

I nod.


And Obi-Wan starts talking to the stormtroopers and telling them what to think, like, “These are not the droids you are looking for.” They start repeating it back to him like it was their idea in the first place, right?’

‘Yeah. And?’

‘Well, you’re like Obi-Wan. All you have to do, young Jedi, is use the force. Jedi mind trick.’ Ash taps his head and smiles.

‘So I start telling girls that these are not the droids they’re looking for and all my girl problems are solved?’

Ash laughs and shakes his head. ‘No, Jedi, you make them believe what you want them to believe,’ he says. ‘Your problem is that you spend too much time worrying, and girls pick up on that stuff. If you go over and talk to a girl thinking she’s gonna turn you down, she will. But if you go over to her all confident, she’ll pick up on that. They’ll do exactly what you want. Just don’t show them any weakness or doubt.’

‘I don’t know about that.’

‘It works,’ Ash says. ‘Just block any doubt out of your mind and you can make any girl believe anything you want her to. Try it.’

I shake my head. I can’t imagine myself being all cocky and confident like Ash. It wouldn’t suit me. Girls would just laugh at me. ‘It wouldn’t work.’

‘Want a bet?’ Ash says. He starts cycling again, alongside the railings of the rec. ‘I’ll prove it to you. You point a girl out to me today, and I’ll use the Jedi mind trick on her.’

I smile. ‘OK,’ I say.

Anyone?’

Ash nods. ‘Yeah. Be kind, though.’ He stops and opens the gate to the rec, wheels his bike through. ‘No chavs or mingers.’

I smile.

All right, deal.’

Ash laughs. ‘Watch and learn, young Jedi. Watch and learn.’

We cycle across the rec to the bench, where three others are already gathered.

Ash

How do you describe the rec on a Friday night? Easy. One word: mayhem.

It’s quite funny the way the rec is. We have our own bench, over on the left-hand side of the rec, kind of hidden away a bit. Our bench is like the alternative bench. It’s got a load of band names written on it in marker pen. And some other stuff like
GT 4 AB
– you know, boyfriend and girlfriend stuff. My tag’s on there too:
Layzee Eyez
. The chavvy kids hang out on the other side of the rec, near the road. They sit on the wall and smoke fags and wear tracksuits. We don’t really mix much, the indie kids and the chavs. Just kind of respect each other’s space instead. And then there are the older kids, the ones who think they’re something special, turning up in their souped-up Peugeots and Fiestas, parking up near the chav girls and then taking them for a ride. If you catch me doing that when I’m seventeen, please just shoot me. I want to be out of this hole by then.

Tonight there’re ten or so of us hanging out by the indie bench. Usually someone’s brought some booze from home. Sometimes I raid Dad’s drinks cabinet. He’s a whisky drinker – gets through a bottle or two a week. He doesn’t miss the odd bit now and then. But tonight I haven’t got any on me. So there are only two options open to me: 1. stay sober, or 2. go and get an older kid to buy some booze for me. And seeing as option 1 is not really what I have in mind for tonight, I walk over to the wall where the chavs in their hoods and trackie bottoms and the boy racers in their cars are hanging out. Joe and Rabbit don’t have anything to drink either, so they come over with me, out of the far gate and on to the pavement.

The kids on the wall are all the same kind of age as me. Some of them are younger. I don’t really like any of them much, but I nod and say, ‘All right?’ They nod back. It’s best to stay on nodding terms with them. Sometimes they can be useful. But not when you need to get served.

I walk over to the parked cars. Glenn Moulting’s in his Peugeot 306. He used to go to our school. Got kicked out before he did his exams, though, for starting a fire in the changing rooms. He’s a bit of a psycho – shaved head, tattoos. But he’s all right if you know him. If he knows you. He’s eighteen now, works down on the industrial estate, driving a forklift truck. And he’s used his wages to soup his car up – lowered suspension, new bodywork, put in some massive woofers. It looks fucking lame. And right now, he’s playing some horrible house track and smoking a fag. There’s a girl from my year sitting in the passenger seat and a couple of younger girls in the back drinking alcopops. I lean in through the window.


All right, Glenn,’ I say.

He looks at me and nods. He doesn’t smile. He just blows a smoke ring. He truly is a cock.

‘Can you go into the offie for us?’

He makes a face, like I’m kind of insulting him. But then he smiles. ‘OK,’ he says. ‘Cost you a pack of fags, though.’

I shake my head. ‘Joking, aren’t ya? Can’t afford that. You think I’m made of money or something?’

He sighs.

All right, five fags . . .’

I shake my head. ‘Three.’

He looks at me, then out of his windscreen, thinking. He sighs. Then he turns back to me and smiles. ‘Four and you’ve got a deal,’ he says. ‘But I want some skins as well.’

‘Deal,’ I say. ‘Get us some two-litre bottles of cider will you, Moulty? The cheapest they got. Lightning White.’

He nods. I pass him the money. ‘Don’t know why you drink that shit, though,’ he says. ‘It’s as rough as a badger’s arsehole.’

I laugh. ‘It’s the only thing I can afford. And it gets me wasted!’

Glenn laughs, gets out of his car and goes across the road to the offie.

I nod to Kelly, the girl from my year at school that’s sitting in the front seat. She’s got a can of cider in her hand. Just as I’m about to start talking to her, there’s a noise. Engines. I look up at the road. A silver car goes racing past, well over the speed limit. Idiot – he’ll get caught on the speed camera. A few seconds later there’s another car, a BMW or something. It goes flying through the town centre as well, out towards the woods. By the time they’re gone, I can’t be bothered to talk to Kelly. So I just stand there and wait, light a fag.

A couple of minutes later, Glenn comes back out with a blue carrier bag stuffed full of rough cider. He hands it to me and I give him the fags. ‘Pleasure doing business with you,’ he says. He gets back into his car, starts the engine and then wheel-spins away.

‘What a tosser,’ Rabbit says. ‘Just cos he can drive he thinks he’s the dog’s bollocks.’

I laugh. ‘You can talk.’

Rabbit laughs. ‘Yeah, the difference is that I don’t play shitty house music and have a load of underage girls in the back of my car.’

‘No,’ I say. ‘But that’s cos all you’ve got in your car is a shitty radio. And you’re only allowed to drive your car around the tracks in the forest with your dad in the passenger seat. No self-respecting girl in the world would be seen dead in the back of your shit-brown car.’

‘Jealous,’ Rabbit mutters under his breath as we walk back over to the bench.

When we get there we share the cider out. I open mine and take a swig. I wince. It tastes rough as hell. But for the price and the alcohol content, you can’t go wrong. If there’s a cheaper way to get drunk, I haven’t found it yet.

Joe

It’s late o’clock. I look at my watch. Nearly one in the morning. Me and Ash are on our way home, pedalling slowly through the woods. It’s the only way to get back home at this time really, cos if you take your bike along the main road you’re asking for trouble. If a police car goes past they’ll stop you straight away. I heard that if you don’t have lights on your bike, they take your bike off you and make you go to the police station with your mum and dad to pick it up the next day. Can you imagine how humiliating that would be?

And if the cops think you’ve been drinking it’s worse. Much worse. If they smell booze on your breath and you have a bike on the road, they take you back to your house. I can just imagine what Mum and Dad’d do if I turned up at the door with the police. My life would be over. Grounded for ever. So, the woods it is. The police never bother going in the woods.

As it happens, tonight I’m not that drunk anyway. Just a bit merry. All I had was a little cider. Not like Ash, who’s off his face, as usual. Right now, he’s weaving around on his BMX, trying to pull wheelies, falling off, laughing like a maniac and babbling total shit.

We’re sticking to the wide tracks, the ones that have been made for the logging lorries and JCBs and whatever else to drive along. Trying to take the winding paths through the trees in this light would be suicidal. It’s difficult enough to find your way on the wide tracks, even when the moon’s full and bright like tonight. All I can see is the moon reflecting light on to the gravelly path and beside the path, the big ghostly silhouettes of trees against the dark blue of the night sky. I’d say I know pretty much every inch of this part of the forest – I’ve travelled through here thousands of times before. But at night-time it’s different. Still. Secretive. Not spooky exactly. Just like it could be hiding anything and you wouldn’t know.

As he cycles along, Ash takes his hands off his handlebars, pats his pockets and pulls out a squashed packet of fags and a lighter. He stops for a second, takes out a mashed-up fag, puts it in his mouth and lights up. He takes a long drag and then starts pedalling again. ‘Told you about the Jedi mind trick, didn’t I?’

I nod my head. Ash managed to pull Meg. She’s amazing. Really tall and slim and . . . Let’s just say that most lads would give anything to spend an hour with her. Well, actually, even a few minutes would do.


All you have to do is believe in yourself,’ Ash says. ‘Simple as that. Show them no weakness.’

If only. If I’d gone up to Meg, I wouldn’t have known what to say. She’d have laughed in my face.

‘Hey,’ Ash says, ‘you can come over to mine if you want, when we get back.’

I shake my head. ‘Nah,’ I say.

‘There’s more booze,’ Ash says. He tries to pull his bike into a jump over a ridge in the track that’s been left by lorry tyres in the mud. ‘My dad’s got some whisky. He won’t miss a little bit.’

I shake my head. ‘Nah. I’m too tired.’

We continue in silence for a bit. I shiver as I pedal. It’s cold out here. I want to get home quick. I look down at the track. By the side, I can make out tyre tracks in the mud and the grass. They’re always there. Mostly from logging lorries, I guess. And some of them could be from Rabbit driving his car around. Although, to be honest, as he’s not allowed to go out in his car without his dad, they’re probably not his tyre tracks. He has to drive sensibly.

I’m looking down at the tracks when I hear Ash’s wheels skid on the loose stones of the path as he comes to a halt a few metres up ahead. ‘Fuck me,’ he shouts.

I look at him. He’s pointing up ahead, over towards the left-hand side of the track. My eyes focus in on what he’s pointing at. ‘Jesus.’

A car. A silver car smashed into the trees. The bonnet is crumpled up like a concertina. There are tyre marks coming off the track across the grass verge and mud right up to where the car came to a stop. The tree it hit is bent over, leaning against the trees around it.

Ash chucks his fag to the ground. We both pedal like mad over towards the car, jump off our bikes when we get close and run the rest of the way.

Up close, I can see it’s got a dent and a long scratch along the passenger side, like someone crashed into it and scraped it. I look in through the passenger side window. No one’s in the car, but the airbag on the driver’s side is hanging out of the steering wheel. And the driver’s door is open. I run round to the other side. There are more dents and scratches in the bodywork. I look inside. There’s a stain on the airbag. Blood, maybe – it’s difficult to tell in the dark. The front windscreen’s shattered into millions of pieces, but it hasn’t fallen out.

BOOK: In the Bag
10.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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