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The pedals of the push bike turned slowly as a u-nail spun violently past Sparrow’s left ear.”Come on mooovvveee,” screamed Sparrow pushing down harder on the pedals, his teeth baring like a mad rabid dog. It was no use, the gears were stuck in third. Sparrow could hear the shrills of the chasing pack behind him. His heart skipped a beat when a spinning u-nail clattered off the bikes slow turning spokes.
Not far now-thought Sparrow. Two more streets and he would be safe, they wouldn’t dare enter his patch. Sparrow let out a little laugh as the road began to slope downhill allowing the bike to pick up some valuable speed. He noticed the beginning of his street, just by the the T-junction road. His house was only two blocks away, along with his brace of older brothers. He turned his head to check the distance between him and his chasing quarry-big mistake. A u-nail took its venomous sting out right dead centre on his forehead. The bike lurched to the left!
As Sparrow lost his balance,bouncing onto the pavement and careering straight into a low level dike-wall, flinging the wounded Sparrow face first across a stone chipped driveway.The crunch of black boots on the chipped stones brought the dazed Sparrow back round to reality. Slowly, he lifted his blood splattered face and let out a knowing sigh when a large figure clad only in black stood over him and let out a delirious laugh.Sparrow knew his wings were about to be clipped.
The Sun baked the streets of my neighbourhood that Summer of 83. Everywhere you went there would be strips of Tarmac littering the road. Kids just literally tore up the street under the soaring heat. My Family lived in the centre of the crescent, it was like the centre of the World to me. Oh, by the way, my name is Hoodrae Thomson, aged thirteen and twenty one days. Let me explain the geography of our area. Crescent boys rarely left their own patch, outside school that is, for there was really no need.
We had it all on our own backdoor. The vast wasteland to the back of our crescent was called ‘the Bales’ named after an electronics firm, it used to be the pulse of the community, but eventually closed up and left for pastures greener. Now it was our special play area. See some kids have dens and tree houses, we had a factory complete with working telephones, running water and all the mod cons any thirteen year old needed. It was our safety zone and we were completely oblivious to the hazards we faced every time we stepped onto our hallowed ground.
Our gang consisted of degenerated kids that only knew one way to play; hard. There was Clayton a live wire with bowl cropped hair and a big toothy smile. Johnny a nervous paramaniac at only twelve years of age. Gibsy the quiet one, dark eyes, hair and soul. Then there was Sparrow the Grifter king, our unofficial leader. This was our clique, there were others of course, outsiders who fluttered in and out, but this was the mainstay and we liked the figures just fine.
It was around Sunday lunch time before news of Sparrow’s misadventure reached me. Gibsy appeared at our front door like a messenger from hell. He spoke quietly, which was normal for Gibsy. He told me that Sparrow had received a kicking so severe that he was laid up in Hospital with a fractured jaw, broken ribs and a face that no mother could love.Worst was still to come-they had smashed Sparrow’s Grifter bike. We all loved our bikes they were extensions of ourselves. The rest of us had BMX’s, which we cleaned and maintained lovingly. Sparrow could never make the transition from last years fad to this years. He said BMX’s were poofy, that they would not last, in fact a lot of excuses except the truth. Which was his family did not have the money for one and which I would never reveal to anyone. I told Gibsy to round up Clayton and Johnny and meet me in half n’ hour at the Bales.
Clayton filled me in on the details that Gibsy had omitted. Sparrow’s assassin went by the name of Tracy Tenchins, a viscous overweight shaven headed thirteen year old girl. I had previous experiences with Tracy, all bad. Her Father was an ex-sergeant with the Army. He was also a crazed alcoholic that even hard men in our area shied away from. All in all, the family was just a total nightmare to the whole neighbourhood. Tracy had got herself an army of her own. Around twenty kids had fallen under her spell, armed to the teeth with home-made crossbows and pockets full of u-nails. This was their calling card. No way could the four of us take on that amount of might and yet somehow we had to avenge Sparrow’s misery.
Gibsy lit up a cigarette and spoke his usual motionless tone, “Bring them down here, to the Bales, that’ll even things out a bit.”
“He’s right,” said Clayton, “We got a chance on our own backdoor. But we need more numbers.”
“Slay them with brains not brawn.” Retorted Gibsy.
Taking the lit smoke from Gibsy and inhaling like a demented goldfish I listened attentively as Gibsy and Clayton fired off ideas on how we were going to bring Tracy and her gang to their knees. I felt like an excited kid on Christmas morning as each idea pulsated around the room. In less than an hour we had derived a plan, the first part was the simplest and the most dangerous. Someone had to entice Tracy’s mob down into our patch. That someone was Gibsy. He had volunteered himself, a masochistic offering by the dark one. I for one was not surprised by the deed. Although, Gibsy and myself were close, I could never get very far underneath to find out what made him tick. He was far too mysterious for us young fledglings to understand. A boy of few words sure, but you knew your back was covered with Gibsy around.
“How you going to bring them down ?” I said. He must have sensed the tension in my voice, for he leaned over on his BMX and said, “I’ll be fine Hoodrae. Keep an eye on Johnny though, he looks as if he might pop one any second.”
Indeed, Johnny was fretting all over the place, gibbering like a madman. His face was ghastly pale. As I turned back around to agree with Gibsy he was half way down the street, a crossbow strapped to his back he cycled away on his BMX in search of Tracy Tenchins and her gang.
The Sun was starting its daily disappearing act as it melted down along the horizon. It was my turn to be nervous. I was keeping look out at the start of the Bales. Watching, waiting, jumping out of my skin every time someone I thought resembled Gibsy turned the corner. Everything was ready and in place. We had initiated a few more foot soldiers to the cause, but we had nothing in the numbers of Tracy’s gang. Gibsy had been gone for nearly four hours and it was nothing short of a miracle that we had managed to bring our plan to life. All it needed was for the host to turn up for her surprise party..
The BMX came to a halt some thirty metres way from the chip shop. Laughter filled the air from the congregation stood outside. Gibsy reckoned their figures were more like fifty than twenty. He pulled the crossbow around and fitted a u nail snugly between the industrial rubber bands, pulling back until the bands were near snapping. Calmly, he scouted the shadowed figures, purposefully waiting for the right target to appear. His aim fell on one of the larger figures standing near the shop entrance. The illumination from the shop lights lit the figure for an easy shot. A head bobbled in front of Gibsy’s intended target, the large close cropped head of Tracy Tenchins. A smile creased Gibsy’s face as he aimed for her fat jowl face, shining like a beacon, and released the u nail.. Their first reaction was stunned silence as Tracy fell to the floor screaming. Within seconds all hell broke loose.
One of them spotted Gibsy and let out a shout. Then the air all around Gibsy came alive with swarming u nails. A bottle smashed in front of his BMX, then the braying mob attacked. He turned his bike around and headed off in the direction of the Bales. Things just got interesting – thought Gibsy.
I burst out laughing at the first sight of Gibsy hurtling around the corner almost coming off his bike, but the buoyant mood quickly disappeared when I noticed what was right behind him. They looked like a mass of demons eating up the road and baying for Gibsy’s blood. Closer and closer. I turned and ran, then stopped and waited for Gibsy, then turned to run again but my feet were stuck. I was caught in two minds. Wait or run. To hell with it – I thought – I have to wait on him. Gibsy started screaming at me, “Run! Run!” It was music to my ears. I streaked like a comet towards my waiting gang.
“They’re comin’, they’re comin'” I bawled, taking up my position. My eyes darted in the falling blackness, scanning crazily for any sight of Gibsy. Fear was virtually taking over me. Jason, Sparrow’s eldest brother, was standing next to me and gave me a thumbs up. Holy shit, Holy shit – I kept repeating. Tracy’s gang had reached the peripheral area of our factory. They began scaling the old wired fence and into the compounds of the loading bay area. Clayton’s voice roared,” Now!”
The darkening sky streaked red. Whoosh went the little apocalyptic fireballs. It was an amazing sight to watch and so simple to achieve. Golf balls dipped in paraffin, positioned inside tea strainers, set alight and catapulted towards the enemy. This was Gibsy’s baby, as I said before there was a lot going on in that dark mind.
A flaming golf ball struck an approaching invader in the chest, knocking him on his back, his hands flapped as the pocket sized Vesuvius burned on top of him. This eemed to stall Tracy’s gang. It looked as though the battle would be over before it began. Sweet thinking.
Our flaming ammo dried up.
This time they attacked swiftly. I looked down at the pile of stones at my feet. Picking up one, I tossed it in my hand, sizing up its weight, lifting my head, I zeroed in on my intended target and threw with all my might. He fell, screaming. I began throwing another, then another, ignoring the burning pain in my right arm. Sparrow’s brother, Jason, crumpled to the ground next to me, blood pouring out from his hand as he held it to his head. I pulled his hand away then reeled backwards as I saw the u nail sticking from his cheek..
It was then, that for the first time that night, I actually saw the ensuing madness in all its clarity. Kids as young as ten were welding sticks and knives that were almost the same height as themselves. Howls of pain and derision filled the air.
I felt physically sick. A boy about the same age appeared before me. I noticed the golf club he was holding, also the look in his face told me he intended to use it. I lurched forward to punch him and tripped over the stones, falling at his feet. Looking up I saw him smile and then the flash of a golf club shaft glide through the night.
My Father told me I had been unconscious for several hours as I sat up in the hospital bed. I tried to speak but the stitches prevented me from doing so. He told me to get some rest and then left. When I came around again, Clayton was smiling that big toothy grin at me. I noticed the bruising under his right eye. “Wath happen.” I managed to mumble. Clayton began laughing at my new found speech impediment. I tried to perform a smile back at him but only managed a sneer. He stopped laughing and explained.
To say we lost is an understatement. We were annihilated. Sometimes brute strength overcomes brains and when that happens the guy with the brains aint much of a pretty sight come the end. Johnny was a mess inside and out, they broke the little guys jaw. He was in the children’s ward downstairs. Clayton himself, well he managed to hide after the fireballs ran out, as for the bruising around his eye, lets just say his Dad does not take too well to guys who hide. Lastly, Gibsy, was rounded up by Tracy’s henchmen and was literally kicked up and down the Bales. The punishment he received was wicked. Although, I feel they never really harmed him at all. You only need to look into Gibsy’s eyes to see the pain that already lives their. Sure, on the surface he was bleeding red like the rest of us, but that aint enough to harm Gibsy.
A few days later we were all reunited, even Sparrow, and boy was he proud of us. Fair enough we had been defeated and Tracy Tenchins still prowled the streets doing whatever she pleased. But we had stood up for ourselves and in Crescent folklore that is a helluva better way to go down than just giving up without a fight. Anyways, we would give Tracy her glory for today, for tomorrow is a different story all together..