“brutal poetry” – Time Out
“brilliantly literary” – The Guardian
“insanely inventive” – The Sunday Times
“superbly bitter-sweet” – Telegraph
A successful burglar’s life is about to unravel completely…
Here’s the opening:
Me & Duane are leggin it. Like I mean proper fuckin leggin it. Me like the wind. Duanes locks flappin. Over the wall, into the back garden. All shins and knuckles scrapin bruisin an hands cuttin on barbs an broken glass. Then over the next wall an into the next garden.
Its one them dead still summer nights. Like I can hear a 24-hour grocer blowin his nose 500 yard off down Green Lanes. So anyone with basic ears – which is most people an animals especially dogs – can hear the sounds of me & Duane leggin it through the gardens an parallels of the Harringay ladder. Over the walls an fences, me like the wind, cash box under my arm.
Jack Be Nimble, they told me. An I be the nimblest, well breezy, burglar lite. Other hand Duane, him like a slow motion kangaroo, hangin in the air all flappy while 10 dogs tune their yowls an 10 tucked up fucks swallow their snores.
Even all this would be knockabout kids stuff it really would. Only for 2 things. Number 1: we aint kids no more an so it aint suppose to be like this. An number 2, number 2 is Duane gettin his dreds caught in the wire holdin up a climbin plant. Which is a wistaria in fact. But this point dont help ease the panic on Duanes face nor make his usually clever hands any cleverer.
- J, Jesus, fuck man, Duanes hissin sweat pourin off of him. Fuck, J, help me man. Free up my locks. Come on man come on…
So me & Duane would be proper leggin it all the way home only now I’m playin surgeon with his fuckin hairdo. Which is snared in the fence splinter an plant wire. More I try more twisty an frazzed up it get like the before bit of a shampoo ad. I dump the naff little cash box in among the overgrown roots. Then I reach in my pocket. Some decisions are tough but.
- I’m gonna have to cut you loose, I go foldin out the scissors feature on my pen-knife.
- Wha? goes Duane eyes turnin to slits. Fuck you is. Yaint cuttin nuthin.
- I have to. No other way.
- Bollix. Dont touch nuthin.
- I have to, I go as a womans head lean out the window above us. Fuckin told you to ditch the locks in case of this type of emergency. Now look at us an tell me what you see.
- Bollix. Dealin with my religion you know it. Just free me up an dont be doin no snippy shit back there…
Other times I would take his point but Duanes religion is holdin the partnership way back. So I go ahead an cut the offendin piece anyway. Leave about 7 inches hangin in the wisteria. Which hurt me much as it do Duane I swear cos I’m thinkin about all the DNA they could get if they ever do a 2+2 on us. Theres years of testin could be done on them locks. By now the womans yellin. The high notes cut right through the dark.
- WhAt do yU think youre doIng in my gArden?
Which as it goes is a question me & Duane have often been asked an to which we got a whole list of prepared statements. This occasion we dont bother mainly on account of the helicopter. Which is to say soon as Duanes free we’s fuckin proper leggin it again as her voice get drown out by the slashin air above us. Duanes cussin me off with abusive words. Why I dont know. I put it down to the pressure. Last time I’m out shoppin with you, hes gaspin. Yeah like police ambush happen every time. Helicopter aint my fuckin fault, I tell him.
Helicopter aint even unusual for the Harringay ladder. Theres often one hoverin over some testo’d turk tryin to powder his snout off of the dash of his Audi while hes hammerin 60. Thing is now they think they got better than boy wonders. Which is why theys hoverin in a holdin pattern over the alleyways, judderin windows, workin through all the junctions like a grid. Maybe their thermal imagin ran out battery cos they got a mega searchlight blindin up an down, pannin 3 lefts follow by 3 rights.
- Jesus man. Fuck man. Oh Jesus, Duanes goin for no good reason as the light swing over an we press our faces into the dry brick tuckin in our hands an arms best we can.
Shadows spring across the houses. A whole fuckin black wistaria creep up the road. Fence posts stick through our heads like arrows. For a second my nose start to edge out the alley. I mean if they catch you in that searchlight what can you do? All you can do is look up into it an do your routine. Laydeez an gentlemen a funny thing happened while I was makin my getaway tonight… Thats all you can do cos youre fucked.
Soon as light passes over we’s up again, duckin in an out an over, weavin like a coupla right geezers, no hopers, washin line sheets wrap round us like phantoms, knockin bin lids an scarin sudden cats. It look daft I know. Feel fuckin daft let me say. But underneath wha look like panic we still got our old instincts. They aint deserted us. They cant.
Understand I got wife an kids an in a way a whole empire an I’m a King an hittin 30 years. But sometime a King must prove all over how he got to be King.
And another bit:
Wake up fuck knows wha time, afternoon, stingin grey light comin through a yellow curtain with green red an blue farmyard animals on it. I know straight away I dreamed bad dreams cos I feel like the geezer in this story a teacher read out in school one time. Geezer wake up one day an suddenly realise hes a fuckin insect. On his back. Legs in the air. Couldnt get out his bed. Totally mess up his plans. Me I got it worse I swear. Hangover pound my head an white saliva stick round my mouth.
Outside its dead quiet. Note an keys on the kitchen table. Help myself an all that. My stuff in the wash. Back later an all that. Note add that Sensi expect me down the gym for a workout. Like fuck. Make tea. Take a bath. Try an relax. But my heart start to go mental in the hot water. After that my hands shakin too much to shave. Besides shavin would magnify the boil. Fact I decide not to shave again. Trudy leave instruction for a 3-step routine: scrub, cleanse an a new patch. I skip the scrub an wish I done the same with the cleanser cos it practically burn a hole in my face. Wake me up to normality though.
Before I know it I’m scannin round for Trudys address book which I know she got somewhere. Its been in the back my mind the whole time, from the first time I talk to her. Soon I’m not just scannin I’m huntin. By the phones. On bedside tables. Under phone books. On shelvin. I leave no trace. I replace everythin the way it was. Not long before the address book appear in the obvious place, which is to say in the kitchen draw people keep for them things, things like papers, gas bills, postcards, microwave instruction manual, spare plugs an old half-use packets of plastic forks from summer barbies I never attended. This is the place where I meet up with Monica again. In a draw, in her best friends address book, address like a strangers, new phone number, new mobile. At first I wonder if its the right Monica. Like maybe Trudy know all sorts of Monicas, penny a dozen Monicas who is all most likely ex hairdressers tradin up to beauty therapists.
The phone on the wall next to the draw is beggin me. I know Monica: she wait for the number to display before she answer. Bet even her home phone got display function as standard. She’ll see Trudys number, its ringin now, an pick up for sure. What if Jade or Kylie answer? Wha do I say? I aint ready for them. No way I’m ready for them. So I hang up an dial the mobi instead. Few rings an her voice come blastin through like breakfast DJ.
- How you doin babes alright…? Tru…? Oh Truuudy, its breaking up girl… Tru… Hello… Hello-o… Trudy…?
So I start singin We cant go on together with suspicious minds by Harold Melvin an The Bluenotes. Cos thats how we met, in a karaoke bar durin a friends weddin reception. Thats wha I was singin. I look her right in the eye. She use to say thats wha did it for her. The emotion. Now I try an make it a bit lighthearted. But my voice crack an I lose the time. It come out dreadful. Truly dreadful. Cant hold the notes. Get to go on an it all turn to aerosol mousse. Should keep goin through the chorus but even the well known words go dim. Silence. Like for 2 whole secs she dont respond nothin. I say Mon- then she hang up. Which I guess dont surprise me. She use to like my singin. She use to say I got a good voice, specially with all round bathroom acoustic an a showerhead for a microphone.
I stare at the phone for pointless time before I hang up too. I feel so ashame I go round the flat 2 more time just to make sure Duane & Trudy is really out. An that all the windows is well close to the street. Only it still feel like someone must of heard me, like someones in here watchin me, hearin everythin. I try an put it all together, to make sense of the me I think I am, the karaoke star I was an the Persona driver I become.
Course its only a matter of 3 mins before I dial all over again. Start to leave a message on her mobi then blow it out. Then I breathe deep an phone back an this time leave a message, a sort of baby Ive changed it can be different this time sort of message only without them words. Cos even though I changed its not because of me that I had to change. Only I dont say them words neither cos they would all come out bad, which is to say negative. I aint repeatin wha words I use.
Then I try her home phone. I just do, feelin theys all gonna be there, all of them, Jade & Kylie. Her. I try an imagine them. I try an imagine wha new toys an clothes an words J & K got now, wha new things they discover. I try an imagine who is really with them. Someone else is there too, some cunt playin dad to my girls. The nose man. Some cunt who watches, waits, the whole time schemin up other geezers wife. When I phone back it turn out I’m right. An who does this schemin cunt turn out to be? BTs one an only Mr. Answerphone is who, talkin at me smooth an confident like he been livin with Monica quite some time. Your call cannot be answered right now… Fuckin bastard. Please leave a message after- So I do. I let it be known that we is gonna talk for def because I know where she live. Only I dont use them words. I aint repeatin the words I use. I know where you live is most likely how it sound though. Which is pretty strange, I mean sayin to your wife that you know where she live.
After that I phone the mobi again but its engaged. So it diverts to the message system. So I leave a message tellin her not to worry cos I aint into messin her round an all that, cos I aint intimidatin nobody despite of everythin, cos all I wants a chat. So I tell her not to worry about nothin. Then I tell her that I totally accept whats happen. Because I moved on now. But even so, even though I moved on an everythin, I still care about the future of my children.
Then I phone her mobi again. Its still engaged so I leave another message to let it be known that I mean wha I say. Then I phone her mobi again but she is still talkin because of course its good to talk. So I leave a message just to say that Tru never give me no numbers. Cos I dont want no bad blood comin between the 2 best friends an all that. Then I have to phone again to tell her where she can reach me, which is to say round Duane & Trudys, for the time bein till I get sorted. Then I phone her 2 more time, one time at home to tell her to pick up the phone, to please pick it up, to pick it up right now, all the time swallowin the fucks an coughin through the bitches an generally chokin on the words I cannot say. Words I cannot say to my home answerphone cos J & K could easily hear them. An they shouldnt have to hear them words.
Then I make the second one, to the home phone again, cos by now the mobi is well switched off. I’m more calmer. So I know I can say wha I want to say in a responsible manner. I phone really just to let her know that she can just phone me whenever she want, like in her own time, which is to say when shes ready, when she aint pressured, when she aint surprise an all that. Which is to say after shes took some time, long as she want, to think it all through. An then, only when shes totally ready, she can call. Which is say that at the end day, after all is said an done, shes in control. Shes makin the decisions. I add to her that basically I’m leavin the ball in her court. Its down to her. Cos its the best way. An all that. It really is.
Jesus do I breathe easy after this long ordeal been completed. Then I get dress up in a pair Duanes joggers an one his t-shirts. Then I get in the car an go straight round to see Monica an the kids.
‘Brilliant… one of the dons of British urban writing.’ Diran Adebayo, writer of Some Kind of Black
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