By sean mcnulty
--ye have 10p on ya?
--Not me, no.
It’s a terror to have Cathal Blood in yer face asking for money – the scummy spittle bullets coming at ya, the Bruce Lee T-shirt where Bruce looks Indian on it, the busted pink spots all over his mug and eggy blonde hair you can see from a mile off – but I swear: up close...these things all make for a terror in the daylight, and add up to something truly shockin in the half-light. Luckily, I don’t have 10p on me so even if he goes through my pockets I have honesty on my side and he’ll respect me for that.
--Okay, gud man yerself. Then Cathal Blood rides off into the drizzly evenin on his banjaxed mountain bike. He can be polite sometimes. He sure can.
It’s well fortunate he found me and rode off empty-handed before McGurk and Dixon turn up because their pockets are stuffed with 10ps.
--Who’s ready to get slawtered? says McGurk.
We know the slawter he speaks of is that which happens on the Street Fighter machine in Buster’s Snoooker Hall and Arcade because usually they’re his 10ps that have pride of place up against the screen. I never have 10ps. So I don’t play much. Sometimes I get a free game if McGurk wants a slawter practice or if I find some coppers on de floor around the snoooker tables. My favourites are Ghosts n’ Goblins and Pac-Land if I get a chance. But nobody plays those much in Buster’s. The popular ones are the fight ones: Fatal Fury, Final Fight, Fight Cop, Master Fighter, Fatal Fighters. And Poker Ladies.
There’s a few lads at Street Fighter when we go in with quite a few 10ps lined up already so it looks like McGurk’s going to have to wait his turn. Dixon jumps onto Spy Hunter in the meanwhile, and me, I head into the snoooker room and prowl for dropped change. It’s the older fellas you’ll usually see in the snoooker room. If they’re not in the middle of a game, there’s drug deals goin down. But I wouldn’t know anything about that. I’m just a wee man. I skitter around them and they don’t even notice me. After skittering a bit, I spot a shiny doubloon on the floor where two older chaps in overalls are playing a game. They’re big chaps. I wonder will they batter me if they see me picking it up.
--A truck, a duck, an a fuck, I hear one of the big chaps say as I creep up.
--Right ye are, the other one says, while putting one in the corner pocket like an expert. A truck, a duck, an indeed a fuck.
I don’t know what they’re on about. But it doesn’t matter. I have the coinage. 20p. A lovely golden 20p. That’s worth two tries at finishing Level 1 of Ghosts n’ Goblins. I go up to the man at the front and ask him to give me two 10s for the 20 and he does, with the same suspicious look he gives everyone in the place when they go up to him, as though we’re all a bunch a thievin nackers and leg-breakers. We all probably are compared to this oul cunt.
Before I go enjoy me free Ghosts n’ Goblins, I check in with Dixon and McGurk. It’s Dixon who’s on Street Fighter and he seems to be handing to some fella his head.
--Why aren’t ye on, McGurk? I say. Didja not get yer 10p up in time?
--Dat bastard got in first. I wus playin Aliens. Fuckit.
And then who walks in: only Talulah Kirk and Grace Shevlin. Along with Declan Hodgers, prick who thinks he looks like yer man Jim Morrison out of The Doors.
--Lookit, says McGurk when he sees them. I’d ride de hole of yer one Grace Shevlin.
It always embarrasses me when the boys talk about Grace like that because I fancy her a lot. But I understand because she’s a beautiful gerl. She looks like Kim Cattrall in Mannequin. Talulah and Grace are a cupla years older than us. They’re already in the big school. I think they’re second years. Talulah’s a ride too. Like yer one in the new James Bond with the short hair.
Grace is lookin good today. She’s got this big red puffy jacket on. It makes her look a bit fat, but ya just know that under there she’s not that at all. It just sets ya off dreamin.
The three of them march up to the Poker Ladies machine. Hodgers thinks he’s really cool going up to a dirty game with the gerls. Fuckin show-off.
But one thing about it: Pac-Land is right beside the Poker Ladies machine, so I decide to use me 10ps for that instead of Ghosts n’ Goblins. It’ll be dead obvious though because nobody bodders annymore wit Pac-Land in this arcade.
--I’m goin ta play Pac-Land, I tell McGurk.
--Where’d ya get de money?
--Found some on the street.
--Scabby bastid. Here, when yer up dere, ask Grace Shevlin if she wants ta shift me.
--No, I mean it.
--Are ya serious?
--Fuckin right I am.
So I go up and stick one of the 10ps into Pac-Land. It’s a much easier game than Ghosts n’ Goblins so I’ll probably get a few long lives out of it. But I’ll tell ya I’m a bit scared about sayin annything ta the gerls.
Almost immediately in the game, Hodgers gets two full houses and the first striptease. He laughs and says: --Talulah, I bet ya wish yer boobs were as big as hers.
--Ah, Fack off.
Talulah has a weird accent. She sounds sometimes like she’s from England, sometimes from Cooley. I glimpse over at the screen and see the diddies on the cartoon woman. They’re big alright.
--Here, whut are yoo at, ye wee cunt? says Hodgers. He’s noticed me lookin at the screen. --Mind yer own business, he says, laughing like a hyena. Stick ta Pac-Man, wee man.
Suddenly the gerls are looking at me. My face goes all red. Shit.
--Ah, leave him, says Grace.
Her kindness gives me confidence, so I say, Sorry bout dat, I was jus admirin yer skill wit de game.
They all laugh. It makes me feel good.
--Why are ye playin dat game annyway? says Hodgers. Pac-Land. Nobody plays dat shite.
--Oh, I play it all de time. Dis an Ghosts n’ Goblins.
--I don’t beleeve ya. You’re up jus ta lookit the gerls, aren’t ya?
I’m goin redder in the face as he sniggers away.
--No, no, I say.
--Wha? cries out Talulah (but I can tell she’s only joking.) Ye don’t fancy me or Grace, no?
--Eh, no. I don’t.
--Ye wee fack ye!
--But one of me mates fancies Grace. He wants ta know if she’ll shift him.
--Which of yer mates? giggles Grace.
I point over to McGurk who’s just about ta get his go on Street Fighter. He sees us looking over, runs his hand over his left step as if fixin his hair up, and smiles.
The Poker Ladies and lad split their holes laughing at him. Ah shit. Poor McGurk. But he doesn’t care. He’s got some slawterin to do so he goes straight to it.
I get to Level 3 of Pac-Land before all my lives are gone and instead of putting the other 10p in, I decide to move over and play a bit of Ghosts n’ Goblins.
--See yiz, I say to the Poker Ladies gang.
--Yeah right, chuckles Talulah.
I pretty much waste that 10p as me lives are all gone after one minute. Those zombies come up so fast and throw yer bones.
When all the 10ps are gone, McGurk is once again near the top of the scoreboard. He’s a happy chap. The three of us start leaving Buster’s Snoooker Hall and Arcade. It’s getting late. Must be near nine, shit.
--Which spot didja end in?
--Second place, says McGurk. I’ll be First again in no time.
McGurk’s name on the scoreboard is P-O-O.
It’s quiet out on Clanbrassil Street. Dixon always gets worried about this time. He’s afraid we’ll bump into his dad stumbling home from the pub. We’ve bumped into him before. Dixon looks up and down the street but there’s no sign of the man. Coast is clear. So we start makin our ways nortwards.
As we’re turning onto the Black Pass, we hear bike breaks and a big skid behind us.
It’s Cathal Blood.
--Right, boys. Howsit goin?
--Not too bad, says Dixon.
--yiz have a pound on yiz?
--A pound? No way.
--Fuck away off, Dixon says.
Cathal Blood throws his banjaxed mountain bike down and walks slowly towards Dixon.
--Lookin fur a slap, are ya?
--Go on, try it.
--Ah’ll fuckin killya.
--Oh, ye will, willya.
And Dixon suddenly hits him a good box across the face. Like he’s Ryu in Street Fighter. Cathal Blood falls back on top of his banjaxed mountain bike and for a moment it looks like he’s going to get up and swing at Dixon. But he doesn’t. He stands up. And he says:
--Dat wuz a gud move, our fella. Yer a gud boxer!
--Tanks, says Dixon.
--Happy Christmas. I’ll see yiz.
Cathal Blood picks his bike up and salutes us, before riding off into the night. Lookin for a pound. Or even just 10p.