It's 1976, and the small town of Lower Knowleburn doesn't know what's hit it when the feisty and no nonsense punk of their timid town Allie, who has major authority issues and and an identity crisis to boot clashes with the tall, dominating and arrogant Mod Midge, who has just arrived there after moving with his parents from London and owns a Union Jack motor scooter.
As the two subcultures clash, the outcome can be anything but pleasant. Or can it?
rated mature for the swearing. Allie l
The river’s quiet today. Almost whispering, I think as I lean over the little stone bridge to watch the water trickle under its gaping mouth, tiptoe over the larger rocks and making a gentle tinkle-tinkle noise as it goes. This bridge seems to have been here forever; my mother remembers coming across it when she was young (a.k.a. a very long time ago) and even my senile old grandfather occasionally starts a rant about the damn thing. Gerrolds once told me the bridge was made by Romans, so it’s been here for donkey’s years. I told Gerrolds that he talks a load of shit.
I used to watch the river when I was a little kid, though I had to do a lot more of the 'peering and stretching' lark to see what normal kids my age would sniff at. ‘Only a river’ they’d say. ‘Nothing interesting about that’.
Honestly, I believed them- there didn’t seem to be anything interesting about it, but for some reason my young mind was drawn to it. Now my hands rest quite happily on the rocks smoothed by many hands that’d laid here before. Now I’m older, watching the river’s not something anyone can get away with anymore- in fact, it’s quite girly and gay to most people. Lucky I am a girl, really. I’m not gay though, but all to their own I guess.
I fish out the ciggies from my back pocket I nicked from Mr. Keiley’s corner shop and my lighter from the front, lighting up and letting out a satisfied sigh as those beautiful toxins enter my lungs in moments. My exhalation is a mini poison cloud that hovers into the air above the river, and soon enough I make it a friend. I better make the most of this while I can- mum’d go spare if she finds another fag box littered on my bedroom floor like the rest of them, or smells tobacco on my clothes. I’m not quite sure if I care anymore. She has Nor the golden prodigal child, I might as well do what I like. If Nor took up smoking then it wouldn’t be rude or common or badass. If Nor stole or robbed or pinched, it would be okay because those people wouldn’t need what she stole from them anyway. If Nor was such a tearaway, mum would blame her shoddy parenting or excuse it by saying it was just a faze she was going through.
Nor this, Nor that, Nor, Nor, Nor. That’s all I ever hear about nowadays. "Nor sets a good example", "Oh, but Nor got straight A's in her classes", "Nor’s a credit to us all!", and the killer, "Oh why can’t you be more like Nor?" I’ve heard them all. That makes me all the more likely to stay as far away from 'Nor-like' as possible. I pick at my peeling black nail varnish thoughtfully. Maybe if I’d been born first then Nor would be the one that was getting compared to me all the time. Saying that, she’s squeaky clean whilst I’m dirtier than old hobnailed boots. Doc Martins, perhaps.
I can hear the satisfying throb of Whiskey in the Jar by Thin Lizzy from somewhere down the road, and I guess it’s from the Tosspots who live opposite me and keep their music on blaring all night. That’s not all they get up to at night, believe me. I take another drag as I hear the verse about the guy going to that bitch Molly’s chamber, and exhale when ‘in walked Captain Farrell’. Ah, sweet nicotine, the greatest pleasure in life.
“Allie! Hey, Allie!”
Oh great, someone’s already trying to ruin my peace. I keep my gaze on the water and take yet another drag of the cigarette. I know who the voice belongs to, and soon enough its owner would come running up after it trying to leash it. And here he comes, all messy and sweaty and boy.
I’ve known Max since I was in nursery; our mums used to sit together and gossip in the playground whilst Max and I would play and get into trouble. Well, it was more of a case of me getting into trouble and yanking Max in with me. Even back then we were the dynamic duo, and no silly teenage hormonal lust has changed that now. He still is the gawky, out of proportion boy I met then, though with more height and more gawk thrown into the mix now he’s a teenager.
I always think that boys seem to grow gradually, like their arms grow, then their legs, then their actual bodies, and finally their faces. I find twelve year olds the funniest sight to behold as they struggle between the world of the high pitched squeaking child to the deep voiced ‘mature’ adolescent. Girls always seem to get a fairer deal- after all, we all want the lumps and bumps.
I balance my ciggie between my fingers as I turn to look at him. “Hey Max, how’s it hanging?”
He looks a bit out of puff. Serves the lazy bastard right for not exercising enough. Then again, that could be the nicotine at the steering wheel. Something that yet again, we started together behind the school caretaker’s shed. “Could be better, could be worse. You got ciggies?”
He knows that’s a stupid question, because I have one in my hand. “None you can
have.” I say, smooth as cream.
“Aww c’mon Allie, I smoked my last one yesterday!”
“Your parents don’t care if you smoke. Mine does.” I make a contended sort of hum just to tease him. “Mmm, and these are so good too. Shame.”
He cringes with pain and longing. He’s a tad more addicted than I am. I have this amazing thing called willpower, something Max seems to have killed stone dead. “Does being your friend for more than ten years help in any way?”
“Probably not, unless you have a quid on you.”
“Highway robber.” Max grumbles, but he fishes one out and hands it to me anyway. I pocket it with a smirk and give him one from the packet. I don’t care if he thinks I’m a robber, it’s better than being called a prossie or a tart like some of the girls are.
“So what were you doing running up here like you were getting chased by a leper?” I ask, taking my place back against the bridge.
“I was trying to find you. Apparently old man Keiley seems to have a packet of Lambert and Butlers missing, so I guessed I would find you here.” Max gives me a knowing smile. “It’s your typical haunt when you’ve done something wrong.”
“I’ve not done anything.” I lie, but that’s one problem with knowing Max for so long. I can’t lie to him because he knows when I am. Then he’ll raise both eyebrows at me like he’s doing now, and smile that ‘yeah right’ smile that’ll make me crack under the pressure and smile too. Today though, I don’t smile. “Did Keiley mention my name?” I ask.
“I thought you didn’t do anything.” Max says, smirking.
I glare at him. “Say I did, was my name mentioned?”
He shook his head. “Nope, don’t worry. You’re in the clear. Knowing him he’ll blame those turban wearing guys down the road. He always does.”
I nod. “Racist git. You’d think he’d learn by now that they actually try and help him out of the sticky spots. He’s too busy looking at their religion and not their faces.”
“Well, you can’t do much about it. The old coot’s set in his ways, ain’t he? Everyone around here goes to church on Sundays, it’s only natural I s’pose.”
I look down into the river and see a few slithers of fish pass by in wriggling masses. The sunlight catches them and they glitter like sequins as they pass. I wish I could go along with them, down that river into that massive pond that they call the sea. Out into that big wide world the adults always tell kids about, and no one ever really believes that one day they will be plunged headfirst into that world until it happens. By then, you’re in the shit and it’s too late to do anything about it. In that respect, I’m smart. I plan ahead. I plan on leaving home the minute I finish in my deadbeat school; I’m gonna beat my sorry ass out of this quiet little place for good. The timid little village of Lower Knowleburn will be thankful to get shot of me, I bet. I’m more trouble than I’m worth, and even my best friend knows that. Once I’m gone the entire town can stop holding its breath and cease its trembling- at least, until the next little termite comes along to spoil it. I draw on my ciggie again. “What are you doing now?” I ask Max, who’s now leant on the bridge like I am, though he’s not looking at the fish and going off in his own little dream world like me.
He shrugs. “Dunno.” He rests his head on his folded hands like a collie dog would after being scolded. “I was just heading back from the fields with the guys when I heard Keiley shouting blue murder. We weren’t doing anything there anyway, just sat chatting. This place used to have lots to do. What happened to it, do you think?”
“It’s got nothing to do with the place. We just grew up.” I answer, blowing out another one of my little clouds seeing as my previous ones have since floated away to go attack some asthmatic’s lungs. “We must have figured out that climbing trees and pretending that there were fairies at the bottom of our gardens was a load of bollocks.”
Max seems to consider this as I look back down to watch the fish some more. They’re far too small to eat, otherwise I might have considered catching one of them caveman style with a stray stick just for the hell of it. That’s probably how they managed to get this far; all the old men usually fish down the banks of the river. All the big guys get fished off and leave the whippersnappers breathing sighs of relief. If they could. Seeing as they’re fish I highly doubt that.
“Do you want to grow up?”
I look at him oddly. “What do you mean, ‘do I wanna grow up’?”
He looks equally as oddly back at me. “Exactly that. Do you?”
I blink at him. “Are you mad? Of course I want to grow up! No parents telling you what to do, no teachers sending you to detentions, no bullies or tarts or snobs. Just you, yourself and tu.” I sigh blissfully. “I can imagine it now. Me, in my bedsit in London, going to all the concerts and riots I like and have a boyfriend with a safety pin in his ear and a Mohawk the size of Big Ben.”
“I can too. You, in a squat in Manchester, re-using your teabags and smoking dope by the pound.” Max adds helpfully.
“Gee, thanks for believing in me, best friend.” I snort, flicking my stub to the ground. “I regret giving you that fag now.” I lean back whilst gripping the wall with my hands; I’m surprised it doesn’t crumble free. I think only part of what I said just then was true. I am a little apprehensive about growing up- not leaving home, but growing up. You can’t get away with as much as you can when you’re classed as a kid. Seeing as we’re not really adults yet, it’s not that bad, but it’s only two years until we are. That fact scares me like hell.
I’ve been on this planet for sixteen years and achieved what, exactly? Nothing. I better get a move on if I want to be remembered for something before I die. I could do a Mozart and become a child prodigy a few years late. Sounds like a good idea, really.
Max sighs out a little tornado of ciggie smoke and squints at me through his makeshift veil. “You wanna head back to the Coil? Keiley would have calmed down and stopped flapping his feathers by now.” I look back down at the river. The Coil’s the nickname Jack Trunter from our year gave our town centre, because according to him he found a contraceptive coil on the floor underneath one of the benches. It’s a load of bullshit but because Jack Trunter said it, then it must be true. Because Jack Trunter is loved and admired by everyone, whether you wanna admit it or not. No one would want to mess with him, not unless they had a serious death wish.
“Sure, why not? Nothing’s exactly happening here.” I say offhandedly, even though I would have much preferred to stay here and watch the river some more. Watch the river. Wish I was the fish. Pretend to follow them down that coursing journey to freedom that I do and don’t want. Instead, I stick another ciggie in my mouth, light it and follow Max down the winding path to civilisation.