For Kenny, Craig and Woody
1. Another convoy of travellers hustled along through the busy traffic which clogged the city’s arteries, rolling onto the sliproad off the congested by-pass and snaking painstakingly towards the mobbed field which rumbled with the buzz of small competing sound systems.
From the disused railway bridge overhead, a sweating PC Trevor Drysdale kept a watchful eye on the scene. Drawing a wheezy breath of the baked, mucky air, Drysdale whipped his brow and gazed heavenwards at ragged clouds which failed to block out the sun’s leery heat.
Out off the range of Drysdale’s vision and earshot, in a stinking enclave underneath the concrete by-pass, the local young team were also filling their lungs with the chemicals the traffic spewed out, to complement the ones they voluntarily ingested.
Despite the heat, Jimmy Mulgrew felt himself shudder. It was the bevvy and the drugs, he reasoned. It always kept a part of you from being warm. That, and lack of sleep. He embarked on another flinching spasm, more severe than the last, as Clint Phillips, standing over a prostrate Semo, brought the heavy hammer crashing down on the side of the boy’s strong, square jaw. This jaw was concealed by the pillow Semo had wrapped around his head and secured with tape over his face, which left only his eyes and mouth visible. Even with this protection, Semo’s head still jolted to the side under the impact of Clint’s blow.
Jimmy looked across at Dunky Milne, who raised his brows and shook his shoulders. He took a step forward and wondered whether or not he should intervene. Semo was his best mate. But no, Clint was staying cool and checking on him. –Awright Semo? Is it away? Is that it broke, aye?
Semo looked up at Clint, registered his ugly smile. Even wasted on a Temazapam capsule and some superlager, Semo could still feel the pain in his jaw. He moved it around. It was sore, but still intact. –It isnae broke yit, he drawled, his spittle dribbling into the pillow.
Clint bristled, taking on a prize fighter’s gait. He turned and shrugged to Jimmy and Dunks, who looked back neutrally at him. There was something moving uneasily in Jimmy’s chest, and he wanted to say ‘that’s enough’ but nothing came out as Clint crashed the hammer with vicious force, into the side of Semo’s head.
On impact, Semo’s head jerked again, but then the boy staggered to his feet. An old man walking a labrador dog looked startled as he turned the corner and came upon them. The young team’s stares burned him and he pulled the pissing, whining beast along the road as it tried to urinate on one of the concrete support pillars. The man disappeared around the other bend that led up from the slip road to the old village, before he had the chance to witness the youth with the pillow taped around his head tear the hammer from the other boy’s grasp and smash him full in his unprotected face with it.
–FUCKEN RADGE! Semo roared, as Clint’s cheekbone shattered and part of his top row of teeth were scattered in a sickening splintering sound which fused Jimmy with a nauseous but uplifting feeling. Jimmy didn’t really like Clint, basically because Clint worked in the garage and Shelley hung around there, but he also wasn’t enthusiastic about this scam.
Clint was holding his face in his hands, looking up at Semo and screaming like a demented hyena, spitting blood and teeth. He turned to Jimmy and Dunks in tearful appeal, –It wisnae meant tae be me! he bleated, –It wis meant tae be that cunt! He hud the fuckin’ jelly! He hud the pillay!
Semo looked completely away with it. He wasn’t letting go of the hammer, nor was he removing his rapacious gaze from Clint.
–It’s done now but, eh, Jimmy shouted. –Moan, lit’s goan see the polis! He winked at Semo, who let the hammer rest by his side.
–Fuck youse! Clint whined, –ah’m gaun hame!
–Come back tae mines, Jimmy said.
Clint was in no position to refuse, allowing himself to be led back to Jimmy’s house. They went upstairs to Jimmy’s room, and listened to some tapes. Clint managed to swallow two jellies and passed out on Jimmy’s floor. Jimmy went downstairs for a binliner and put it under Clint’s head, to stop the blood from getting everywhere.
Jimmy started to relax when he heard his father turning up the volume on the telly’s handset downstairs, so he increased the output from his Bass Generator tape. As the telly volume nudged up an increment, so Jimmy corresponded. It was a familiar ritual. He smiled at Dunky, and gave the thumbs up and they opened a tube of Airfix. Clint was out for the count, and Semo was also asleep. Jimmy tenderly cut the tape and let the pillow flap back and his friend’s head rest naturally. Semo’s jaw was badly swollen, but his injuries were minor in comparison to the mess Clint’s coupon was in. Letting a couple of drops of the nippy, burning liquid drip onto his tongue, Jimmy felt himself satisfyingly struggle for breath as the vapour filled his lungs.
2.Shelley Thomson had six toes. When she was wee her father told her that she was an alien from outer space and that she was found abandoned by her parents when a UFO dumped her in a field outside Rosewell. The truth, however, was that it was her father who had abandoned Shelley. When she was six years old, he simply did not come home one day from work. Her mother, Lillian, refused to tell Shelley whether she knew anything at all about her dad’s disappearance.
As a result, Shelley somewhat idealised the memory of her father, and this was particularly the case in times of her adolescent battles with Lillian. Growing up into a dreamy, speculative fifteen year old, Shelley had developed a fascination for UFOs.
When she realised that she was pregnant after missing two periods and then scoring two positive tests on a Boot’s home testing kit, Shelley claimed that the father was a seven foot alien who came to her in the night and took her semi-conscious to a place which may or may not have been a spacecraft and lay on top of her. She told her friend Sarah that there was the ‘feeling of doing it’ without any genital interaction.
–Aw aye? Sarah scoffed, –what was eh like? Keanu Reeves? Liam Gallagher?
Sarah tried not to show that she was impressed that her friend did not allow herself that kind of indulgence. Instead Shelley described the alien in classical terms: a long, thin hairless body, large slanted eyes etc. Impressed though she was, Sarah was far from convinced.
– Aye, right Shelley, she disdained. –It’s Alan Devlin’s fae the garage, eh?
Alvin Devlin was an attendant at the local garage at the bottom of the slip-road which led the by-pass. He had a charming manner with young girls from the local school, whose grounds backed onto the filling station. Clint Phillips, Alan’s bashful seventeen year old YT would wait nervously outside and keep watch while the senior attendant indulged himself in the backstop with the local youngsters, Shelley and Sarah being amongst those whom he numbered in his schollie harem. Clint longed for a piece of the action but was too shy in himself, due mainly to his bad spots, and therefore too unexotic to the girls, and Devlin would tease him mercilessly about it. Many times Clint wished that Mr Marshall, the garage manager, who was never there, would come by and surprise them, but he never did. Marshall was an alcoholic and always on the piss in one of the local pubs come lunchtime. Clint liked to infer that he’d fucked Shelley; this annoyed the fuck out of his mate Jimmy Mulgrew, who had the hots for her in a big way.
Alan Devlin came from the city and had been involved with a gang of football casuals known as the Capital City Service in his teens, but gave up when his older brother Mikey mysteriously vanished one evening, never to return. Mikey Devlin had been a top boy and it had been five years since his disappearance. Alan Devlin’s strength with young girls were his charm and persistence. Shelley had allowed Alan to fuck her after hearing this story. As her father had vanished, she felt a bond to Devlin. Previously, this tall, thin schoolgirl had only let him touch her small prepubescent breasts, often as he and Sarah had full intercourse. Devlin had re-evaluated life since the vanishing of his big brother, whom he had idolised. The gig was basically fucked, you were here one minute and gone the next. The point was to take what you can get. For him, this meant shagging as many birds as possible.
Shelley, and for that matter Sarah, always vowed never to visit Alan in the garage again. They were invariably drawn out of boredom however, and unfailingly flattered by the older lad’s easy charm. Before they knew it, Alan’s hands would be all over one, or both, of them.
3. The shantytown of travellers had spilled from the old municipal travelling people’s site, onto the toxic wasteland alongside it. The settlement was growing daily. Millennium fever: these wee cunts were crazy for it, thought PC Trevor Drysdale. They weren’t real travelling people, they were just cheeky wee cunts out for brother. As if he didn’t get enough of that from the local youths. There had been a fight outside the chipshop last night. Again. Drysdale knew who the troublemakers were, with their drugs and smart-arse behaviour. Later this week he was up before the promotion board. There was still time to get the kind of result that could swing it. Had he not scored brownie points with his firm, but sensitive dealings with the travellers? Sergeant Drysdale. It sounded good. That new suit from Moss Bros. It fitted like a glove. Cowan, the chairman of the promotion board was a stickler for appearances. Brother Cowan was also known to him from the craft. The job was as good as his.
Drysdale walked down the path to the edge of the reservoir. Beer cans, wine bottles, crisp packets, glue tubes. That was the problem with working-class youth today; economically excluded, politically disenfranchised and full of strange drugs. It was a bad combination. All these wee cunts wanted to do was to party into the next century and see what this cultural watershed brought. If the answer was ‘the same old shite’, as it surely would be, Drysdale morosely reflected, then the wee fuckers would just shrug and party on into the next one.
Trevor Drysdale knew that there had never been a golden age of the ‘clip round the earhole’ in enforcing the law in these parts. Yet he did remember the realpolitik equivalent of social control, ‘the kicking in the cell.’ The old school of rough and ready Scottish young respected that great institution of law enforcement, the slippery steps. Now though, most of them were too full of drugs to feel the kicking or remember they’d been given it. After a few jellies, that kind of damage went with the territory. Yes, such an activity could still be therapeutic for the individual officer, but as a method of enforcing the law it was worse than useless.
What a place, Drysdale mused, letting his gaze sweep over the reservoir down across the city’s topography and back up to the Pentland Hills. It had changed here alright. Even as conditioned to its incremental development as he was, sometimes the nastiness of the arbitrary, incongruent nature of the place jarred him. Old villages, shoebox modern housing developments, barren fields, scabby farms, industrial estates, leisure and shopping complexes, motorways, slip roads and that rancid piece of brown, derelict wasteland they bizarrely called the Green Belt. That terminology seemed like yet just another calculated insult perpetuated on the locals by the authorities.
But if there was one thing that concerned him more than the gloom which had solidified the place like a gel, it was this new wave of optimism. Millennium fever. In other words another excuse for young cunts to go shagging and drugging while the rest of us have to work away in a state of loathing and fear, he considered with rancour, feeling his ulcer bite. It had to be stopped. There were thousands of them now, crowded onto that of land.
Drysdale looked down from the steep bank by the water. He could see that makeshift village of lost souls expanding, getting closer and closer to his own Barratt estate. Thank fuck for the sliproad that divided them. It was surely now time for the Government to declare a nation emergency; take off the kid gloves. But no; the sly fuckers were holding off, crossing their fingers for a few drug-related deaths. Then whip up hysteria amongst a supposed moral majority and bring in some more repressive measures. It had to be worth a few percentage points in the polls, and party conference season, and an election itself, were coming up soon. There would be a ground of ‘get tough’ speeches followed by a few witch-hunts. Drysdale had heard it all before, but to hear it more loudly would at least mean that they hadn’t given up. Let’s get some fucking blood spilt here, he ruefully willed, despatching a rusty can into the dank water with a crisp volley.
4.The young team’s plan had been an inadvertent success. The next morning Clint Phillips woke up on Jimmy Mulgrew’s floor in agony, and they had been forced to take him to the hospital, where he was x-rayed, detained and admitted. Jimmy considered it a bonus that Clint, rather than Semo had been hospitalised, although with Clint not at the garage shop, they would have to watch what they nicked with that big Alan Devlin cunt around.
Anyway, Clint would be out in a day or so, then they could go round to the small police sub-station, and register the crime with the polisman Drysdale, blaming a group of travellers for the assault.
5.The Cyrastorian pushed his long fingers against his temples. He could feel himself steadily moving from the centre of The Will.
–What you sayin ya daft cunt? Semo laughed.
–Nowt, Jimmy smiled, dropping some Airfix model glue on his tongue, enjoying the nip and the sensation of asphyxiation. Then, when air filled his lungs, he savoured the spinning in his head. As the throbbing in his temples receded, he squirted the rest into an empty crisp packet and went for it.
–Pass it ower Jimmy ya cunt, Semo moaned, guzzling a can of superlager and wincing. It tasted foul. You were better starting on the Hooch until you got cunted enough no tae taste the lager, he decided. It wisnae too bad cauld, but warm...fuck it.
Jimmy reluctantly passed the bag to Semo. For a brief second he felt that the ground was going to rise up and smack him on the chin, but he weathered that storm and rubbed his eyes in an attempt to restore some vision.
Dunky was chewing on something or other. –Mind when we used tae fish here? Good times, he mused speculatively.
–Borin as fuck but, eh, Semo said, then with a sudden abruptness which caused Jimmy to start inside, –Hi, you rode that Shelley yit Jimmy? Yuv been sniffin roond it enough.
–Mibbee ah huv, mibbee ah huvnae, Jimmy smiled. In his fantasy they were going out together. He liked the way people were starting to associate them. He played his desire like a poker hand, flirting with his friends about his feelings for his girl in a strangely deeper way than he actually did with her.
–Some cunt wis sayin she’s up the kite, Dunky said.
–Fuck off, Jimmy snapped.
–Jist gaun by what ah fuckin heard, Dunky replied, unconcerned. He rolled over, feeling the blazing sun bite into his face.
–Dinnae fuckin spread aroond stories, right, Jimmy dug in. He knew it was that cunt Clint, with his big mouth. He could see Clint’s huge, loose, slavering gob, just before Semo shut it so deliciously with that hammer. He could see Alan Devlin, shouting at him to put the fuckin crisps back. He could see, in his mind’s eye, the smiles Devlin got from the girls, including Shelley, and how powerless they seemed to be to do anything but giggle with a sexy nervousness under his patter. Jimmy had tried Devlin’s style, but it never hit the mark, not in the same way. He felt like a little girl secretly putting on her mother’s dress.
–Aye, right, Dunky scoffed.
Dunky wasn’t really making an issue of it, but Jimmy was. He stood up and jumped on top of his friend, pinning him to the ground. He grabbed a handful of Dunky’s red hair and twisted. –Ah sais dinnae fuckin spread roond stories! Right!
In the background Jimmy could hear the encouraging wheeze of Semo’s low, mirthless laugh. Jimmy and Semo, always Jimmy and Semo. Just like it was always Dunky and Clint. Semo’s hammer had been symbolic, it had changed the balance of power between the four of them. This was in case Dunky forgot exactly what the blow had meant. –Ah sais right!? Jimmy growled.
–Right! Right! Dunky squealed as Jimmy relaxed his grip and rolled off him. –Fuckin radge, he moaned, dusting himself down.
Semo sniggered uncontrollably, –Ah’d ride her, he said. – Ah’d ride her mate n aw. That Sarah. That would be awright, eh Jimmy. You wi that Shelley n me wi that Sarah.
Jimmy allowed himself a smile. Semo was his best mate. The concept was not without appeal.
6.Shelley was reading Smash Hits while her mother was making the tea. Liam out of Oasis was a shag, she considered. Abby Ford and her pals at school were always going on about Oasis. Abby Ford always seemed to have the money for clothes and records. That was why all the laddies at school were hanging around her. Shelley had to concede that she liked the way Abby wore her hair. She would let hers grow. She’d been daft to get that crop, but it had annoyed her mother. Abby was okay, although Sarah didn’t like her. Shelley and Abby had chatted a bit. Maybe her and Sarah would become pals with Abby Ford, Louise Moncur, Shona Robertson and that crowd. They were alright. Shelley wished that she could get the money for good clothes.
But Liam out of Oasis. Mmm hmm. Better even than Damon or Robbie or Jarvis. Looking deeply into Liam’s eyes, in that picture Shelley fancied that she could see a bit of his soul in them. It was as if he was staring only at her. Shelley Thomson convulsed appreciatively that only she could crack this secret code in these eyes, and feel this bond between them. It would be great if Liam could meet her, possibly when Oasis played Loch Lomond. He would see what a great pair they would make, and that they were really meant to be together! Love at first sight! She didn’t know whether she would keep the baby or get rid of it. That would of course be up to Liam as well; he would have to be consulted. It was only fair. Would he want to bring someone else’s child up as his own, an alien as well? If he loved her, and she could tell by the way he looked at her that he truly did, then it would present no problem. It would be brilliant if Sarah married Noel. That would make them sisters-in-law. How good would that be?
–Shelley, tea, her mother said briskly. Shelley put down the copy of Smash Hits and went up to the table. The image of Liam’s soulful, brooding eyes still burned and she imagined him touching her breast and felt a fluttering current of electricity in her stomach. She sat down to oven chips, sausages and beans, eating in brisk, economical movements. Shelley ate like a horse, and even though she was pregnant, (she didn’t know for how long, having had very little morning sickness), she was as thin as a rake. She was crazy for chips, she loved the ones at the chippy, especially with the curry sauce. Her Ma’s chips; small, crinkly and ungenerous, they never really cut it.
She was different from her mum, she smugly reflected. Her mother, who just needed only to look at a McCain’s oven chip for another few not-quite imperceptible fat cells to form. Shelley saw this as a defect in her mother’s character. Her mother looked haggard. And bloated. Was it possible to look both at the same time? Too right, Shelley thought, looking up at Lillian staring out of the window from behind the net curtains, a fearful expression on her face. She always seemed to be thinking about something ominous. Shelley had to keep in with her though. Her mum liked Oasis as well. There was the possibility, slight, but nonetheless real, that they would go to Loch Lomond together. Her mum once joked that she fancied Noel. A joke, but it had been tasteless and it had cut Shelley to the quick. Imagine if her mum got off with Noel! Married him! Ugh! It would spoil things between her and Liam if that were to come to pass. No way. Noel would have more taste than that.
There wasn’t enough here. She’d be hungry again soon. Tonight she’d go down to the chippy. Jimmy Mulgrew would be there. He was okay, but she didn’t fancy him. He was too real, too here. Too Rosewell. He was awkward. Jimmy never knew the right thing to say, like Alan Devlin at the garage did, or like Liam would. Okay, so Liam was from somewhere just like Rosewell really, but he had moved on, had shown that he had what it took to become a star. But she’d go to the chippy anyway, and then get home for The X-Files.