A couple of days early, but here’s the new story of the month:
Monthly Archives: January 2017
Mickey Hall is a bright, friendly fifteen year-old from a chaotic family background – a feckless single-parent mother, a drug-addicted sister and a series of waster ‘dads’ – who realises that his life would become so much easier if he simply embraced a life of crime himself.
Having decided on this course of action he assembles a group of like-minded schoolfriends, and adopts a huge fighting dog called Maximus and, being both charming and very ruthless he sets out to become the number one drug dealer in town.
He also begins a relationship with the prettiest, coolest girl in school.
Things are going well until one afternoon he is abducted by a car full of adult gangsters who take him to a disused warehouse where he thinks they are going to murder him but instead he is introduced to the leader of the gang – his own father, a powerful, influential and affluent figure in the criminal underworld. He is quickly seduced deep into a life of crime by his new-found father’s wealth and power.
Eventually though, Mickey finds himself in a situation where he must choose between saving his family and betraying his father, forced to choose between old loyalties and his new found wealth and security.
Set in the grimy, poverty-stricken, north-eastern wasteland of Sunderland, a place of derelict industry, charity shops, and people riding ‘benefit chariots’ – a town that is ironically currently bidding for the title European City of Culture – comes this YA novel of drugs, dreams and dead-end families.
Free kindle download from 20-24 January: click image for link.
I’ve always thought of myself as a yard dog, happy to prowl around, occasionally barking at strangers from behind high walls, safe in my own space. But the walls have crumbled over the last year or two and my ‘yard’ is becoming less easy to define.
And you’re back in the room.
I don’t know what had lulled me into this false sense of security. Probably the rhythm of the thing, the same business, night after night, week after week, everything just rolling on unchecked. Maybe it was the run of good luck we’d had, punctuated by the odd threat or the even rarer straightener dealt out by Knud or one of the boys, true, but mainly good luck and good news, and good money.
Maybe I’d just gotten lazy.
I’d forgotten that life had given me the gift of fear, and I’d forgotten to carry it with me. I‘d messed up. And now there was a smackhead with stinking breath and mottled skin and a knife to my throat.
And you’re back in the room.
Or in this case, a rainswept, cobbled alley behind Oddies, a pub in Millfield whose bright lights brought out the grime and the filth of the empty streets. I was standing next to Oscar congratulating myself on doing well, and the smackhead had emerged out of the shadows, asking for smack, obviously, and I’d told him the party line that I didn’t hold that stuff, but I could pass him on. I did the recreational stuff: cocaine, ecstasy, E, roids, poppers, that sort of thing. Smack was Andy’s. He told me that every smackhead earned him three or four hundred a week, and they were his customers, not mine. Loyal customers. They were his for life. Every one an earner. So I told the smackhead I’d pass him on. And then, like someone flicked a switch, the smackhead was in my face.
He was not there, and then, click, he was there. I felt the cold sharp steel at my throat and he whispered, ‘Call in your little gang, and tell them to bring everything, all the drugs, and all the money, or I’ll cut you ’til I hit bone.’
‘Mickey.’ Oscar said.
‘Shut it, Doctor Logic,’ the smackhead jeered, or your friend here is going to bleed out all over this lane. ‘Maybe we’ll film it,’ he added. By we he meant the other two who’d drifted out of the shadows. He too had a crew.
‘It’s ok, Oscar,’ I said.
My heart was hammering and my throat was dry, but I felt strangely calm, detached, and I felt that detachment growing with each moment. Slowly I lifted my phone to shoulder height, so he could see it, I said, ‘I’ll need to look, to text the right people,’ and maybe he’d made a mistake too, maybe when I switched it on the light from the phone blinded him from seeing into darkness for a moment, because I could hear the intake of breath from his partners, and he turned to look at them and instead he looked straight down the barrel of my gun, the one I was holding in my other hand. Pointed at his head.
I leaned in, against the blade. ‘I. Don’t. Care,’ I said, very slowly.
‘I. Don’t Care.’ I repeated, almost pushing against his blade. I could feel a trickle of blood running down my neck. ‘We can both die now. Or we can both live. And if we live,’ I said, ‘then we’ll do a deal, because I’m in the business of doing deals. But either way is good. Because,’ and I eyeballed him now to show I was sincere, ‘seriously? I don’t care.’
‘Uh huh,’ he said.
And I could smell the piss he’d unloaded onto the cobbles.
I felt completely detached. I was watching a movie. ‘Step back,’ I said, leaning further in, feeling the blade against my neck quivering in his hand.
See, the thing is, in business you don’t ask someone to do what they won’t or can’t do. That makes you look weak. So I didn’t say Drop The Blade, cos he might not have, and then I’d have lost my power over him and he might have began thinking I didn’t mean it and done something stupid.
And the thing is, I did mean it. At that point, I really didn’t care.
But equally, I don’t like stupid.
‘Step back,’ I said again, and he did, slowly, knife still at my throat, but the pressure easing, my gun tracking him until it was at arms length, then the knife was away from me and he stepped back enough so I could put the stare on him. I don’t know where it came from, but I knew how to do it. It felt natural. I said, ‘You want to do a deal, we’ll deal,’ and my voice was dead calm. ‘You want to come back another time, give it some thought before you do, that’s cool. But if you bring a knife to a gunfight, next time, I’ll leave your brainpan on the cobbles.’
One of his friends said, ‘Come on Hoops, we’ll come back later.’
Hoops nodded, said, ‘No harm intended.’
‘God loves a tryer,’ I said.
He gave a weak grin. ‘No hard feelings?’
And they were gone.
I watched them ghost down the alley, their feet almost silent in their tattered sneidy Converse, and I felt the adrenaline dump, my legs went heavy, my hands shook, the thunder of my pulse bouncing round my head.
I let out a long slow breath, then I began to laugh.
Maybe I laughed for the joy of being alive, for having took a risk and having it pay off. Maybe I laughed because, for those few moments, all the worries and cares in the world hadn’t mattered. All that had existed in my world was the smackhead, his blade and me. And it was like a relief from pain, a relief from care, from duty and obligation, a relief from love.
Maybe I laughed because if I hadn’t I too would have wet my pants. I dunno, I just kept on laughing. I laughed so hard it doubled me over. I laughed so much it took a long while before I realized that Oscar was standing in the darkness, crying.
From Dealer No. 1
Tonight is the Wolf Moon – the first full moon of the year. The wind is huge tonight too.
So I’ll be walking down to the beach to enjoy the tidal surge, the windstorm and mother moon watching over me. Think I’ll take my dog Angus, too.
Better get wrapped up.
Following on from the previous post: in general, I have a non-interventionist approach to speech, attitudes and beliefs. I don’t care what you say or do, no matter how extreme it might be, because your beliefs are not beholden to me.
So long as it isn’t going to hurt me or mine, so long as I’m neither constrained by it nor forced to pay for it, please, crack on with whatever you want to say or do.
Back when I was completing my masters, my tutor, an ageing, second-wave feminist, told me that my reading and my writing was too ‘masculine’ and I needed to be re-educated. I was given special dispensation to attend an otherwise female-only class called The Myths of Masculinity.
So I attended this class for a semester, I sat with a class of women and a stridently gay male lecturer, I learned what I had to learn, and in the essay I wrote at the end of the module I said what I had to say to get my pass. But what was interesting to me was, during lectures, people would ask questions and the lecturer would answer, or there’d be a debate amongst the class, but if I spoke, I’d be ignored. Simply ignored, blanked, like I didn’t exist.
And whenever the lecturer made some cutting judgement or remark about masculinity, the patriarchy or straight white men in general, a sizeable portion of the class would turn and glare at me. I’d become an untouchable. There was a hierarchy and I was at the bottom of the pile. Maybe I had, belatedly, learned my correct place in life. On campus, amongst these polite middle class women, the bluestockings of the literary world, a rough, northern auto-didact like me was an anomaly. So in class, I figured, I had to be seen to accept that it was all my fault, whatever he said; if the male gender had done it, it was down to me. At the appropriate moments I’d look up and nod sheepishly at whatever literary (or otherwise) crimes had just been identified by the class, crimes committed by men. Therefore, at one remove, by me.
So I played that role. The bad person. The straw man. It meant nothing to me, render unto Caesar and all that; it was just something I did to get the grade.
I can’t say I learned anything from The Myths of Masculinity, but I did learn that I disliked zealots. I disliked closed minds.
I found a lot of closed minds at university.
Ultimately I was re-educated by that class, but not in the intended manner. As soon as I got my MA I gave up academic study and began to write fiction.