Friday, 18 May 2007

Going Home - Short Story.

Two girls sat beside me on the train. I could tell what they thought of me from the way their eyes flickered. I reckon they could tell what I thought of them cause I never hid my sneer. Expensive long boots over tight jeans with designer fading on the thighs. A green shirt on one of them what surely cost more than I earned in a week. And there's me in my Cherokee jeans and fat girl jumper. Asda. One of them smiled at me but I never rose to it, only looked out the window and let my hair fall over my face.

They sat. It took them a while. Once they was settled they started talking. Loud. It sounded like their tongues twisted inside their mouths when they spoke. They talked about dogs. One of them handed over a mobile and said:
- Isn't this the cutest dog you've ever seen? The other goes:
- Oh! A-dorable! How old is he?
- She's four.

And then the second girl says:
- Is that dog or human years?
God help me, I never had a dog but even I know dog years go in sevens. Four years old human is 28 years dog.
Soon after, they started talking about "Uni" and how stupid their friends from home are for not leaving London. They're all puffed up cause they were brave and went away from Mummy's cooking.
- Why go to Uni at all if all you're going to do is hang around with the same old crowd? the dark one said.
- Yar, goes the redhead. Oh yar.

I would of liked to go to university. I was good at school. Best in my class and got good GCSEs. 6 Bs, 2 Cs. I had to fight to do 8 subjects, and Mr Trimble in Geography didn't know anything and couldn't keep control of the class. This one time Ben Jones stuffed him in the book cupboard. We all thought he'd get expelled for sure this time, but they never. His Dad said he had a legal right to an education so the headmaster couldn't do anything to him but give him a detention, which Ben never did. I never understood Ben. He's a smart bloke but he only got Ds and Es and left school straight after. Now he's a brickie by trade. It bores him half to death so he gets in fights at the pub - with yuppies, mostly, cause he thinks they take money out the pockets of real working men. He got his head kicked in by some bloke in a suit once. They ended up having a drink together. Ben goes Fair's fair, and they shake hands and have a pint. There's Ben trying to drink with his lips burst and a broke up nose. The suit guy took him to hospital when he wouldn't stop bleeding. Ben told us later he was part of the Mafia, but there's no way. He was just some bloke in a suit.

Don't know how I come to think on Ben after all these years. I've not been back home in twelve. It's them girls what made me remember school. If I'd gone to Uni I'd of got as far away from home as I could, but not so's I could make new friends - just so's I could run away from the old lot. Don't be ashamed of where you come from, says Dad - but why the hell not when I come from a place where Ben Jones is the local hero for kicking in yuppies when he could of done anything he wanted with the brains he got.

The girls have stopped talking now. The redhead is looking at pictures on her phone with a cosy smile on her face. There's something about her makes me want to hurt her. I don't know why. The other girl - the dark one - is using a pink highlighter on a book called Jurisprudence, and there are two more books beside her. The redhead hands over her phone and the dark one looks and laughs.
- So funny, she says. We were so drunk!
- I know!
the other one says, flicking her hair so I notice. We were trying to be so sexy, dressed up as Asterix & Obelix!
They both laugh.
- Wasn't Ben a riot? says the redhead, and I get a chill of coincidence at the name. He couldn't come with anyone so he came as Superman and Clark Kent.
The dark one gives a shriek, remembering.
- He kept changing clothes! He was in the loo every twenty minutes! And that girl Catherine never realised there weren't two of them!
- Oh - my - God!
giggles the redhead. She is so stupid!

They snigger for a while, then the dark one goes back to her book. The redhead stares out the window. She's already bored. She drinks fussily from a bottle of water, making little sighs between each sip. She studies her nails. She smooths her jeans. You can see she wants her friend to stop reading and pay attention but the dark one is busy with the highlighter again. In the end the redhead says:
- I'll get my book.
She goes into her handbag - one of them ones with a little Scottie dog as a tag, I forget the name - and brings out Nights at the Circus.
- This is so boring,
she sighs.
I've read it. She's totally wrong. I'd love to tell her that, but I look out the window instead, watch the swoop of telegraph lines. It's no shock she doesn't like Angela Carter. Not exactly a deep thinker, is she? She's better off with Asterix & Obelix.

We're going through the countryside now, and it's green, green, green. There's a field with three horses in it and they're standing with their noses touching. Then one of them skitters and tosses his head and suddenly they're all racing round the field because the Spring is in their blood. It all happens as we flash past, but now it's in my head like a snatch of film. Maybe cause he's in my head already, it makes me think of Ben Jones.

Our class was taken to a farm for a field trip and there was horses there. Ben was so quiet. He just stood at the gate stroking the nose of a dark brown horse. I never saw his eyes like that, before or since. Like velvet, he said, but only I heard him.

Later, a kid called Travis put pepper on the horse's nose and set it sneezing and gurning, lifting its lip to show off huge yellow teeth. Everyone laughed - even Mr Chapman - but later, when the teacher wasn't looking, Ben punched Travis in the stomach and kicked him in the balls.

We're nearly there. One more stop and it's home - for me, anyway. The girls beside me are curled up, feet on the seats, like children. They won't get off where I do. They'll be going all the way to London and Mummy's cooking. I don't see girls like them at home. They wouldn't last 5 minutes. Blokes like Ben Jones would destroy them. So would girls like me.

With every clack of the wheels I can feel the city I was born to getting closer and closer. I read about black holes, how they draw everything in and then crush them into nothing. That's home. Home is where the heart is, Dad says, and it's true. My heart was crushed long ago.