Nah Nah Not Funny .1
By Mark Burrow
Warm glass is kinda nasty. On a thick brown bottle too. That’s the worst. Some alkie musta left it half empty on the wall of broken bricks.
I sniff the top of the bottle an the sticky rim smells of Tracey Clarke’s knickers. She won’t speak to me, Tracey Clarke. I was lyin flat on the garage roof once, quiet as a spider, listenin to her sayin that her grandad’s ghost haunts her nan’s flat an that she woke up one night an saw a whiteness float bright across the room, an she knew it was her grandad, an she was frightened outta her mind, an when she tried screamin nothin came out. She says the room went proper cold.
I like how she laughs, Tracey Clarke. Except when she cracks-up at me when I’m gettin slagged off for the holes in my tops, my no-name trainers an greasy hair. Nah nah not funny at all. Other boys an girls keep sayin I smell rank an I never get invited in no one’s flat ever because the mums don’t want my germs in their places an I don’t have friends, not really, never have, an that’s okay by me cos I don’t want none anyway.
I throw the bottle an hear the pop an tinkle of glass smashin. It’s a lovely sound. A door opens from one of the flats an someone is shoutin at me an I start runnin.
Like they could ever catch me.
Others hate how I can run fast. They think I’m tramp boy, dustbin raider, with my clothes like they are an they’re laughin at me, teachers too. Mr Cole calls me Stig of the Dump. I don’t know what that is but the kids laugh at me an everyone thinks I’m a thickie, a bit of a mong. I dunno. When I’m runnin no one can catch me. Doesn’t matter if it’s near or far. I guess you gotta be a good runner or a good fighter. Me, I’m faster than fast. You might get close to me but I’m only messin with your head. Once my turbo booster goes on you’ll be eatin dust. That’s me. Five. Four. Long gone. Three. Two. See ya.
Wouldn’t wanna be…
I think they don’t like me at school cos I’m supposed to be rubbish at everythin. When they see how good I am at runnin, it messes with their brains, finishin first when there’s this fucken random law that says I should always be last.
I climb a lamp post and sit on the roof of the garage, throwin stones. I can hear the bounce of a ball. The ball makes a rubbery, boing-boing sound. It’s cos of the high brick walls an concrete.
I keep outta sight mostly.
No one lets me play footie with them. Maybe they let me go in goal but then they do blasters at me, seein if they can make me cry.
Nah nah, not me.
Ain’t like I can stay indoors. Mum has gone proper strange again. She sits in front of the tele, starin an noddin off, spit drippin from her mouth like melted ice cream. She’s sort of awake and sleepin, halfway between the two. It happens when she’s with this man who wants me to call him uncle but he’s not family, no way, not him, an he smells worse than Tracey Clarke’s knickers. Not that I’ve ever smelled her knickers, or spoken to her for real, but her laugh makes me feel funny, like I’ve shaken up a can of Dr Pepper an pulled the ring an this fizziness is in me and it's kinda like everythin could be excitin an better if she let me tell her about what it’s like to run really fast. If she was with me lots an lots then I’d teach her to run fast too an you best know that no one’d ever catch us.
I throw stones at a burnt out car.
People don't speak the truth. Like, they call it ‘Care’ but there ain’t nothing caring about those places they put me in. It’s another stupid fat lie that they tell you. Care. As if. Sharin a room with boys and some of them are older an all they want to do is fight an show off how hard they are. It don’t matter what their size is, you have to hit them with everythin you got. And once you have a fight they stop bullyin you for a bit. That’s what Care is. Getting told off for fightin but you have to fight otherwise all you’ll do is be hit an get known as a coward. I’ve seen what happens to boys who won’t hit back and show they’re scared. And I don’t want to go into Care except there’s this nosy, do-gooder teacher at school an she keeps askin about wantin to see mum an I know she’s gunna call Social. It’s better not to be noticed cos once people like them start takin notice of people like me an mum what happens is they fuck you up even tho to your face they’re sayin they want to help.
That’s why I keep outta sight.
Part spider, part ghost.
I hang an drop off the garage roof an walk to the tower block. I like to stand right under it an gaze upwards. If I look up long enough the sky starts movin an my feet feel loose an my head goes dizzy an I’m tiltin, my body all papery, an I can feel myself fallin over.
I dunno why the tower block an sky move like they do when I stand at the bottom and stare upwards.
It’s like vertigo, but backwards.
Planes are flyin. Little crucifixes in the clouds.
I wait for someone to leave the tower block an then dart through the open security door an press the button for the lift. I ride up by myself to the twenty-fifth floor an then walk up these stairs that you’re not meant to go up an I use the set of keys that my dad had when he worked on the Council round here, before he got sick an all that. I use one of the keys to open the massive steel door with the graffiti on it an the dents where other fools have used crowbars to try to break through. I lock the squeaky door behind me an walk up more stairs an you can tell only a few people have ever been up this way because it don’t stink like stairways always do round here. I use a different key to open another door an the sun makes me blink an the air feels different cos I’m on the roof of the tower block an this here, right here, this is my place, this is where only I can come.
I go to my den which is made of a plasticky sheet tied onto some metal bars for aerials. There’s cardboard an some wood walls for when it gets chilly. I take out my fags an light one, openin a can of Dr Pepper. A warm tin doesn’t feel as dirty as warm glass. Up here, I can chill, let my guard down as I don’t have to stress about name callin or some fool tryin to start somethin. Dad used to come up here too. I think for the same reasons, sorta. And he’d bring me now an then an show me which way was North, South, East and West. We’d look at the buildings an he’d point to other estates and tower blocks, places where he’d worked an what they were like. I can remember him lettin me have my first ever sip of beer, an laughin at me because I didn’t like the taste an him tellin me that one day I’d get used to it and that’s when my troubles would really start.
I walk to the edge of the roof an look at the streets below, hearin traffic. Everyone looks shrunken an tiny like Lego.
The Council had to put on the big steel door to stop crazies throwing themselves off the sides of the tower.
Dad used to wonder what it must be like to be a tower block round here, that we should feel sorry for her, havin to watch over the estate day after day, night after night, like churches used to do in villages back in olden times.
I know what he means – when the tower block sees the ambulances an the fire engines an the police comin, I bet she wants to shed the biggest tear.
I can feel her twistin for sure. Tears wellin up an bulgin from her glass windows, hundreds of them, like fly eyes, an they burst out at once an these tears are splashin down onto the streets below, floodin the flats, the water risin up, cos she doesn’t stop cryin, the tower block, she’s seen too much, heard it all over the years, felt it inside of her, deep in the pipes an the plumbin, every beatin an muggin an all that shoutin an arguin an suicidin that goes on and on and on.
Tracey Clarke, she’s reachin out a hand, askin for me to save her.
Nah nah, can’t be doin that, sorry.
I’m on the roof, safe and sound for once, smokin my fags, watchin rubbish floatin on dirty brown water, everyone gettin washed away, drownin in a warm sea of tower block tears.