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Authors: Jim Carrington

In the Bag (5 page)

BOOK: In the Bag
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I head to the other end of town, where there are some shops I like looking in: music shops, skate shops, computer games shops. I have my hands in my pockets as I walk, feeling the fifties that Ash gave me yesterday between my fingers. And just the thought of having two hundred pounds in my pockets makes me smile to myself.

First I stop off at the skate shop. Not that I have a skateboard, but I like the music and the clothes that go with skating. There’s some punky music playing really loudly in there. I think it’s that band Ash keeps on about. Clustered around the counter are a load of skater kids, all dressed in uber cool clothes. They’re the kind of kids that make me feel uncool just by looking at them. The kind of kids that look as if they were born looking like that. I start looking through the T-shirts. They’re all really expensive. Thirty, forty, fifty quid. But they all look great. I’d love to turn up to the rec wearing one of them. Just for a change. I feel the fifties in my pocket and think about buying one of the T-shirts. But I resist.

Instead, I walk over to the trainers and take some high-tops down from the rack. I sneak a look at the price. £84.99. I put them straight back. They look great. But I can just imagine what Mum and Dad would say if I spent that much on some trainers. They made enough of a fuss about paying forty quid for the ones I’m wearing now. I keep browsing through the sale trainers. As I turn away from them, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror: scruffy T-shirt, faded jeans and scuffed-up, out-of-shape trainers. It’s kind of depressing. I look tragic.

‘Can I help you, mate?’

I jump. It’s the guy that runs the shop. ‘It’s OK,’ I say. ‘Just looking.’ It’s what I always say when someone in a shop talks to me, like an automated response. The shopkeeper’s just about to walk away when I change my mind.

Actually,’ I say, ‘can I try some of those on?’ I point over at a pair of trainers in the sale.

The shopkeeper smiles. ‘Course,’ he says. ‘Size?’

‘Eight.’

He goes off to get the trainers and I sit down on a bench. And I start feeling panicky and paranoid. Can I do this? Can I really spend the money we found? Won’t Mum and Dad work out that something’s going on?

But before I can make a decision, the shopkeeper comes back in, holding a shoebox. ‘Size eight. Last pair,’ he says. He hands one of the trainers to me.

I take off my skanky old trainers and immediately wish I had a better pair of socks on. Mine have holes in them.

‘These are a good little pair of trainers,’ he says. ‘Look, you’ve got loads of support around the ankle and the foot. Ideal for skating. Do you skate?’

I shake my head as I pull the trainers on. ‘Not really.’

‘They look good as well,’ the shopkeeper says with a smile. ‘What do you think?’

I stand up in them and look in the mirror. They look great. I nod. ‘I’ll take them,’ I say, before I have time to think twice about what I’m doing.

The shop assistant smiles. ‘Good choice. I’ve got a pair of them myself.’

A minute later I’m standing by the counter next to the impossibly cool kids as the shop assistant rings up the sale. And I’m feeling kind of nervous. Stupidly nervous. Like he’s gonna see the fifty that I’m gonna use to pay and he’s gonna know where I got it from. It’s stupid, I know.

‘That’s thirty-nine ninety-nine,’ the shop assistant says.

I nod and smile and put my hand in my pocket. I breathe deeply. I need to stay calm. It’s just like Ash says about talking to girls: act confident, like this is nothing out of the ordinary, and the assistant will think this is normal.

I pull the fifty out of my pocket and hand it over.

Beside me I can sense the cool kids look at me. One of them whistles. ‘Jeez, man,’ he says, ‘you must be loaded.’

I look at him and smile. I can feel myself blush. I try and think of something cool to say back, but my mind’s blank.

‘Can you lend me some?’ one of the others says, then laughs. ‘I’m skint.’

I smile again. I feel hot and flustered. I can feel my heart racing. I want to get out of here. I grab the bag with my new trainers off the counter, mumble ‘Thanks’ and walk as fast as I can to the door.

Out in the street, I take a deep breath. I can’t believe how uncool I was back in there. I nearly gave myself away. All I had to do was hand the money over and I went to pieces. I start walking, not even thinking about where I’m going next, but a few seconds later I hear someone behind me.

‘Oi, mate!’

At first I just ignore it, but then, with a sinking feeling, I start thinking maybe it’s someone after me. I turn round to see it’s the shopkeeper. Shit. I knew it. He’s sussed me.

He runs over to me. He holds out his hand. ‘You must be seriously loaded,’ he says. ‘You didn’t take your change.’

I look down at his hand. There’s a receipt, a ten-pound note and a penny lying there.

I hold out my hand and take the money off him. ‘Thanks,’ I say. ‘Sorry. My mind’s somewhere else.’

The shop assistant smiles. ‘Know that feeling. Enjoy the shoes.’ And he heads back towards the shop.

Ash

There is literally nothing to do in Fayrewood on a Saturday morning, unless you’re old and you spend half your time popping sedatives and the other half popping down the supermarket. Which is the reason, right now, that I’m in Rangbourne instead. Rangbourne’s a little town about five miles away, but it’s way better than Fayrewood. There’s a skatepark and some proper shops there – like a bike shop and a skate shop.

I head to the skatepark first. It’s totally empty. I ride around for a couple of minutes, taking in all the ramps and the jumps. But I can’t really be arsed with it this morning. So I bring my bike to a halt and just sit there for a bit, staring into space. Leaves and empty crisp packets swirl around the park on the gusts of wind.

My mind drifts for a bit. But wherever it drifts to – school, girls, BMX tricks – it always ends up back in the same place. Last night. The car and the bag and the money and the drugs. It’s crazy. I don’t know what to make of it all. I mean, it didn’t come from anyone’s savings, that’s for sure. Whoever it belongs to is a criminal, that much is obvious. Why would anyone else carry that much cash and that much weed? And it makes me feel weird to think that now it’s sitting on the shelf in the wardrobe in my room.

But why should I feel weird about it? I haven’t done anything wrong. I didn’t steal the money. I didn’t buy the weed. It isn’t wrong to find stuff, is it? And it would be criminal not to use the money.

I start pedalling through the skatepark and towards the centre of town. I ride along the pavements, through the roads with all the posh old Victorian houses on them, towards the shops. I cross over the one-way system and take a short cut through the alleyway that stinks of piss next to the supermarket. I come out of the other end on to the market square. I cycle straight across it. It’s busy with old ladies and families dragging their little kids round the shops. I dodge in and out of them all. Some old lady tuts at me and shakes her head as I go past. I just ignore her.

I come to a stop outside the bike shop – Slack Rob’s Bikes. I open the door and wheel my bike inside, right up to the counter. Slack Rob’s standing behind the counter, as always, reading a magazine. He’s playing some crap punk band over the sound system. He looks up at me and smiles.


Ash,’ he says.

I smile.

All right, Slack.’

‘What can I do you for?’

‘I want a new frame,’ I say.

Slack Rob nods and comes out from behind the counter. He leads me over to the back of the shop, where all the bikes are. ‘You got anything in mind?’ he says.

I shrug. ‘Not really.’

Slack strokes his little goatee beard. He looks at me. ‘How much you got to spend?’ he says.

I pause for a second, think about how much I want to spend on it. I have four hundred quid on me. I’m not sure whether I should spend it all. Four hundred is a lot of money. But, you know, fuck it. I should be enjoying this. There’s plenty more where it came from. ‘Four hundred,’ I say.

Slack does a double take. His eyes open wide in surprise. ‘Wow,’ he says. He nods and strokes his beard again. ‘OK, OK . . . Let’s have a little look, then, shall we?’

Slack takes me through pretty much the whole range of bikes and frames and stuff, going through all the talk about what materials they’re made from, which riders use them and all that blah. He treats me like I’m royalty or something. Even when other people come into the shop, he keeps them waiting while he serves me. It’s amazing how much respect you get when you’ve got a bit of money. Eventually I go with a frame that costs 350 quid and get a new helmet as well.

I follow Slack up to the counter. He rings the frame and the helmet through with a smile on his face. ‘Three hundred and ninety-four pounds ninety-eight, please, Ash,’ he says.

I smile at the sound of that. I mean, I actually have enough money in my wallet to pay for all this. Me. Ash. I take my wallet out of my pockets, open it up. I take the fifties out and count them, all eight of them. I pass them over to Slack.

He looks at them like he can’t quite believe his eyes. ‘Shit, Ash,’ he says. ‘Where’d you get this sort of money from?’

I give him a look back, like I don’t think it’s a big issue. ‘What?’ I say. ‘My nan died and left it to me.’

Slack’s face changes straight away. ‘Sorry, man,’ he says.

I nod. ‘That’s OK,’ I say. ‘It wasn’t your fault she died.’

Slack takes the money and puts it in the till. He counts out my change and gives it to me. Then he helps me out of the shop, carrying the new frame for me and holding the door open.

After that, I go along the road to the burger bar. It’s well old-fashioned but it’s kinda cool for Rangbourne. I walk up to the counter and order myself a quarter-pounder with cheese and chips and a lemonade and then go and sit down at a table by the window, where I can keep an eye on my bike outside.

As I’m waiting for my food to be brought to me, I sit and look at my new frame. It’s a street one, which basically means that it’s really sturdy and hard-wearing. At the moment it looks shiny and clean and the paintwork is smooth, but give it a couple of weeks of hard riding and it’ll look different.

There’s a knock on the window. It startles me. I look up. It’s Jack from school. He smiles and then comes in and sits down at the table opposite me. He looks at my frame.

‘Nice,’ he says. ‘Jeez, man, how much was that?’

I shrug.

About three fifty.’

The waitress comes over with my food and puts it down on the table. Right away, Jack helps himself to some of my chips.

‘Where did you get the money for that?’ he says through a mouthful of chips.

I take a bite of my burger and chew it before answering. I look Jack in the eyes. ‘Found a bag full of money in the woods, didn’t I?’ I say with a smile.

Jack laughs. ‘Yeah, very funny,’ he says. ‘Seriously, though, where’d you get it?’

I chew and then swallow some chips. ‘Inheritance,’ I say. ‘My nan left it to me.’

Jack nods and grabs a couple more chips from my plate. ‘I didn’t know your nan died.’

I shrug. ‘Why would you?’

He shrugs and grabs another chip from my plate. I take a swig of my drink, which is too cold and bubbly and makes my eyes water for a second. We sit without talking for a while, as I stuff my face with burger and chips and Jack helps himself to my chips.

When all my food’s gone, we leave the burger bar and wander in the direction of the skatepark. It’s still empty when we get there. We find a bench and sit down. And as I’m sitting there, I remember the weed in my bag and I suddenly fancy a smoke. So I take it out and start rolling up. It takes Jack a little while to notice.

‘Is that what I think it is?’ he says.

I look up at him, smile and nod.

I finish rolling it and spark it up. I take a couple of drags, holding the smoke down in my lungs each time. And then I pass it to Jack. As he smokes, I look out over the park. And I feel pretty good. I can’t believe my luck. How many other sixteen-year-olds can say that they have twenty grand and a big bag of weed?

Jack passes the spliff back to me. I take another couple of drags and then pass it back to him. And we sit in silence, smoking, staring into space for a couple of minutes.

After I’ve stubbed it out, Jack looks at me. ‘You got any more?’

I nod my head. ‘I’ve got loads.’ For a second I think about telling him exactly how much I’ve got. But I decide not to. ‘Why?’

‘I’ll buy some.’

I take a deep breath and look out over the skatepark. I hadn’t thought about selling any, but I guess I can’t smoke the whole lot on my own. And it can’t do any harm to sell a little bit to a friend. I look at him and nod. ‘Yeah, all right,’ I say. ‘Why not?’

Jack smiles a hazy smile.

I pull the plastic bag back out of my rucksack and pass it to him. He takes it and puts it straight in his pocket.

‘How much?’ he says.

‘Fifteen.’

He smiles even wider and gets his wallet out.

BOOK: In the Bag
2.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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