“In this last of meeting places we grope together.
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper” – T.S. ELIOT
“Hey lad give us a tab.”
“Piss off you daft sod.”
“Haway man I always give you one.” He’s right I suppose so I fling him one. He tries to catch it. It bounces off his knuckle and lands on the wet ground.
“Aw shite!” He picks it up, it has a wet stripe down one side. I laugh. He strikes a match. The smell of sulphur heats my eyeballs and tickles my throat. He puffs fit to give himself a hernia and his tab-end eventually glows like a burglar’s torch.
“There’s Shaz. I bet she’s a bit of a goer,” he says then regrets it.
“Hey big tits.” The blonde with the greasy, orange roots turns in my direction. “I had a wank over you last night.”
”Piss Off Johnsie,” she says, but I can tell she’s pleased. Distracted she stands in dog shite and scrapes her white stiletto against the kerb as though she’s icing a cake. Her dimpled thigh wobbles and her face looks as hot as my knob.
“Do you wanna come with us?” I ask.
“Where to? On the rob?” She asks.
“Maybe. Maybe not,” I say.
“Can Janine come?” She asks, nodding her head towards her spotty friend.
“Aye I suppose so,” I say. Mecca grabs my arm, turns his head and says through clenched teeth.
“If you think for one minute I’m walking in the woods with spotty Malone while you and Shaz bonk in the back of this car, you’ve got another think coming.”
“Shut up Mecca or I’ll give you a slap,” I say. He shuts up.
We pass the old tart doing business on the corner near the chippy. She used to charge thirty quid a time, now she does it for twenty Bensons and half a lager.
“See her,” says Mecca, “She gives a blow-job for a fiver.”
“’N’ for an extra two and a half quid she taks her false teeth out.”
“Euh yack,” says my lady friend.
“Shurrup Mecca and just drive,” I say, slipping my arm up the back of Shaz’s t-shirt and unhooking her bra.
It starts to rain; great heavy drops. The car begins to cough and the windscreen wipers creak as they swish backwards and forwards, like the hem of a cheap hooker’s skirt. Prince Charming in the driver’s seat asks Janine if she’s ever been fucked up the arse, while I massage Shaz’s thigh, moving my hand closer and closer to her throbbing snatch.
A police siren howls in the distance like an injured wolf cub.
“What’s wrong?” Shaz sits up and pulls her skirt down while I’m still buzzing.
“Nowt,” I lie.
“’Ave you twok’d this car?” she asks.
“Dinnut be daft,” I say.
“I want to go home,” says Janine.
“It’s alright Jan,” says Shaz.
“No I mean it I want to go home. I have to be in by ten or me dad’ll kick off.”
“Dinnut be soft,” I say.
“You don’t know her dad,” says Shaz, “ ‘he’ll kill her.”
“Go on then. Piss Off,” says Mecca, reaching over and opening the door, almost kicking her out.
Janine’s heels clunk on the pavement and her hair glows in the light from a lamppost. Shaz looks out of the window. Her last view of her friend is her arse cheeks as she bends down to pick up a penny from the pavement. Mecca presses down on the accelerator and the tyres screech on the ground as we fly into the night.
We whiz past the factory, where the girls spend their days soldering bits of tellys and talking about how pissed they were last Friday when they played darts against the New King Billy. My King Billy is still waiting to conquer, so I resume normal service, flicking Shaz’s nipples and licking her ear lobes.
“Gerroff.” She swats me with grubby palms but goose-pimples reveal her excitement.
We pass the Bingo Hall, where my mother will be spending her dole, accompanied by Auntie Sandra and our Maureen, legs eleven. We pass the bridge from where Uncle Albert jumped when they closed the mines. There’s still a stain on the concrete which looks like a map of Durham, and Auntie Maureen says there’s a star in the heavens called Albert. She’s been reading too much Roddy Doyle, and I doubt if he’s going up over any road, ‘coz Auntie Maureen was always walking into doors.
We pass our old school where Mecca and me learned to get away with murder. The prefab we used to smoke behind has been replaced by an IT suite. We nicked a computer from there once and flogged it for fifty quid. Mecca got bit on the arse by the guard dog and I pissed myself laughing. It was nice and warm when it ran down me trousers but by the time I got home me legs was like stalactites.
We drive up a dirt track with fields either side. Electricity pylons reach back as far as the eye can see, like a chain gang of robots. Trees stare. The car engine dies and the lights fade.
“Shitting hell. What’s going on here?” says Shaz.
“It’s alright,” I say “Just a technical hitch.” I jump out and beckon Mecca.
“You stand guard while I take her in there for a jump,” I say, pointing to a circle of hedges.
“Fucking hell. Hurry up then.”
I grab her hand and pull her out of the car.
“’Haway then, I say. Rain drops onto my face and her breath puffs out in clouds. Twigs crack under our feet, wet branches whip round my face and thorns scratch her legs. When we get to the spot, I take off the stolen jacket I’m wearing and lie it on the ground, covering mud and leaves. I sit down and pat the space beside me.
“D’ye fancy a J?” I ask.
“A ‘J,’ A joint, a spliff, you know cannabis.”
“Oh I’ve never…” her words are buried in the wind.
I place a ‘rizzla’ reverently on my knee and line it with baccy. I take the brown lump out of my pocket, light a corner, tear it off and crumble it onto the baccy. It reminds me of me mam crumbling ‘oxo’ when I was a kid. Shaz watches me with respect. I roll the joint, light the end and toke. I hand it to her and she puts it between her lips. She sucks the life out of it and her eyes meet in the middle. She sucks again and giggles. She lies back on the jacket, her legs slightly apart. She licks her lips. Her jacket falls open, revealing the mounds of her tits and a fading, yellow love bite.
It starts to snow.
A ‘hot-rock’ jumps from the end of the ‘J’ and lands on her thigh. She doesn’t flinch. I grab her tits and force my lips hard onto hers, flicking my tongue inside her mouth. She struggles underneath me. I push up her skirt and grab her minge. She pushes at my shoulders and pretends to protest, forcing my lips from hers, like a plunger from a dirty sink. She shouts, “NO!”
“Come on,” I say, “You know you want to.” I unzip my fly and prepare to impale her.
Snow drops land on my bare flesh. I shiver.
“No, please,” she says.
“Don’t be a cock-teaser, Shaz, you know you want to.” She scratches my face. I slap hers. This one’s livelier than the last.
“Where’s she at?” Mecca asks. “Jesus Christ, Johnsie not again.”
“Shut up an’ just drive.” I hiss. He revives the engine and switches on the headlights. Spots of snow light up like fire-flies.
“Johnsie, what’ve ye done?”
“Ah’ve told you to shut the fuck up,” I say, “you know where your loyalties lie.” My breath escapes in spurts and I wipe blood from a cut above my eye. My jaw aches.
At home I take the washing from the drier and fold an empty version of myself: A Hollow Man. I lie my jeans in a drawer; a corpse on a morgue slab. I turn on the telly, flicking switch after switch. The reception’s poor. There’s snow on the screen. Women’s faces make noises. I’m not sure what they’re saying. Their lips are moving but there’s no real words coming out. I bang the top of the box with my hand. The screen flickers, flashes and turns black, with a tiny pin-prick of light in the middle. The light goes out and I’m left alone.