John dropped his hands onto the table and after a long sigh, he said to his wife: “What are we going to do about him? I mean we’ve tried giving him space, we’ve tried involving him, we’ve tried taking interest…”
“I know.” Jackie said. She rubbed her forehead and clenched her eyes shut until the ache in her temples subsided.
If they’d have been asked a few years ago, they’d have said they never thought Scott had a propensity for violence at all. When he was at primary school he was shorter than the average kid and so thin his ribcage made bumps in his skin; it was only natural for the bigger kids to pick on him. By the time he reached secondary school he was used to it. As he approached year eleven the poles shifted and before John and Jackie knew anything about it, he was getting sent home for violence and misconduct more than once a week. But it was secondary school, what young lad didn’t? It was just a few fights with other kids, nothing major, at first. John thought it would toughen him up, stop him being a victim.
But through everything, even now that Scott had left school and was always out with these mates that John and Jackie didn’t know, staying out for days on end with no word, they never thought their son had a propensity for real violence.
“If he comes home with bruised knuckles again I’m calling the police.” John said.
“And what if he comes home with bruises on his face again?”
“Well then it serves him right doesn’t it? If he wants to go around always scrapping, he can bloody well take what comes around can’t he? I’ll give him some myself if he’s not careful.”
“No you won’t, John. He’s your son.” Jackie snapped. Her eyes narrowed at him.
John’s jaw clenched tight and as Jackie looked at the heavy frown lines in his forehead, she could see the pain caused by the tightness creeping into his face. His hand moved over his heart as he coughed. Jackie placed her hand on top of his.
“Calm down.” She said as she stroked his fingers.
He felt the tightness subside at her touch. Once it was gone and his heart beat its normal rhythm, John picked up the black mug in front of him and took a sip. The heat pulled his lips back over his teeth and he hissed as he placed it back down on the coaster. He licked his bottom lip.
“It’s those bloody mates of his. He was alright until he started hanging around with them lot after school, then his grades plummeted and now he’s left he doesn’t want to do nowt. He’s gonna end up on the dole his whole life.”
“You don’t know that. It’s the economy, there’s not much work out there for kids his age.” Jackie said. John raised an eyebrow at her and shook his head.
Oh he’s right, I don’t know why I try to stick up for him, Jackie thought.
They both looked up when they heard the front door open, and then slam shut. When they heard footsteps heading upstairs John left the table and followed them. Scott was almost at the top step when John turned the corner and said: “Where’ve you been?” Scott didn’t answer. “Keep it down will you, your sister’s asleep.”
“What?” Scott grunted.
“What do you mean ‘what’? You heard me the first time.”
“Whatever.” Scott stamped on the top step and turned the corner at the landing.
The muscles in John’s face and neck tightened and his hands clenched into fists. He felt the tightness around his heart rear up again. It wasn’t a tight grip yet, just a pinprick squeeze that made his next breath come too shallow. John recalled the advice the doctor had given him a month ago and leaned back against the wall, taking the first of however many deep breaths it would take. He started counting. One, inhale… Two, exhale… Three, inhale… and so on. He was up to eleven when the tension dissipated. John let his arms fall to his side and trudged back into the kitchen. He sat down beside his wife who was staring down into her untouched cup of tea.
“One more and Scott’s out.” He said.
Scott dropped down on his bed and started whistling loud enough so his dad could hear downstairs whilst throwing a red rubber ball up to the ceiling and catching it. Fuckin’ ‘ell, he thought, why dunt he just lea’ me alone? He bangs on about how a should act in his ‘ouse, but everyone knows he wont no angel when he was my age. Pfft, he still int. I wonder if mam knows about him an’ Phyllis at top o’ road? Fuckin’ dickhead.
Scott felt his phone buzz in his pocket. He caught the ball and answered it.
“Y’alright mate?” Scott said.
“Alright. Y’up to?” Dean’s voice crackled and Scott heard someone laughing in the background.
“Nowt. Just got in from Darro’s. Old man’s being a nobhead.”
“Should get yourself out, we gonna go down park. Gibbo’s got some stuff off his mate up Bransholme, supposed to be right good an’all.”
“Alright then, see you there. In a bit.” Scott hung up and stuffed the phone down to the bottom of his pocket with the couple of quid’s worth of coins. As he rushed downstairs John turned the corner, blocking the narrow corridor.
“Where are you going?” He asked.
“Park. Meeting Dean an’ them lot.” Scott grabbed his coat from the bottom step and tipped the hood over his head. He stood straight and leaned forward until his and John’s noses were centimetres apart.
“No you’re not, it’s too late.” John said.
“I’m seven’een, fuck off.”
“Get a job then.” John said. He tried to keep his voice down to not wake Amanda upstairs, but he didn’t whisper either.
“Oh yeah, like yours? No thanks. Or do you mean like the jobs you’ve been getting off that Phyllis on Tuesdays when mam works late?” Scott cupped his hand and shook it by his cheek. John’s hands shot out, grabbed his son by the collar and dragged him off the bottom step. His face glowed red and his eyebrows crushed together forming a demonic V shape. John swore and spat curses while his hands worked around Scott’s throat, yelling threats as his thumbs pressed on the boy’s larynx. Scott gargled and croaked an inaudible: “Get off me.” As he ran out of air he swung his knee hard into his dad’s chest. John let go and staggered backwards against the wall, coughing. His hand clutched over his heart.
“Touch me again, daft cunt.” Scott lunged towards John, his fist raised and John flinched. The boy laughed at his father and walked past him, out of the door and into the rain. He slammed the door hard enough that the house shook.
John slumped down on the second to bottom step and fought to catch a breath. His heart thumped against his lungs and it took counting to forty-six until he could breathe properly again.
He called for Jackie and when she came she helped him stand up. She slung his arm around her and walked him to the settee, then headed upstairs to check on Amanda in her cot.
John sat silently staring down at the floor as he wiped the growing moisture from his eyes.
During Summer 2011 I was hired by one of UCLan’s research teams to write novel about a hate-crime, a very contemporary and divided subject.
Here is the prologue for this novel.
Feel free to let me know what you think.
As of now (24.11.11), the finished manuscript is sitting on someone’s desk somewhere. If you would like to read the full book, keep your fingers crossed that it gets published.