Money for the Circus
It’s late, not dark. Marcus has to be home early though. Other boys and a couple of girls are still playing football, not wanting to waste the light. They’re all rubbish, apart from the girls. The boys keep trying all the FIFA stuff: they fall over, often after treading on the ball. Marcus’s Gran says it’s a craze, playing outside, like the hula-hoop. That’s a bit daft though, as half the kids at school get those in their lunch box for school, including Marcus. He lifts an arm but nobody’s interested. Maybe next time they’ll make the girls play on different teams. He wipes his nose on his United top, an away strip from a few seasons ago, like he’s seen the professionals do, when the manager takes them off. The name on the back of Marcus’s shirt is De Maria. He doesn’t play at United now. Uncle Raheem says he was good for about half a season. Marcus punched Klive for laughing at his shirt. Klive’s shirt says Sterling on the back, but it’s a knock off, at least Marcus’s is real.
The fence isn’t quite intact, so it’s easy to clamber over. They can only play football here if the weather’s been dry for a few days. There is some tarmac here and there, but mostly it’s dried mud. They’ll build on it soon, Gran says, so the playing outside won’t last. That’s two reasons why,then. Marcus thinks they’ll find somewhere though. None of them like going home much, after all.
A police car goes past, siren blaring. Marcus turns away to look at the brick wall running alongside the pavement. They wouldn’t have stopped, you couldn’t be too careful though. He starts a jog-trot. The trainers fit well, despite having belonged to David; same as the shirt, actually. Marcus gets shit for the trainers even more than the shirt. He doesn’t have to hit people so much now. They know better. You have to be tougher, if you’re smaller, Gran says. Gran isn’t very big herself. A man is coming towards Marcus on the path, head down, hoody up, hands rammed in pockets, stretching the material as far as he can. Time to cross the road, just in case. The man stops,watches Marcus until he’s on the other side of the road, outside the corner shop. Then the man moves on.
In the shop, Kasim asks Marcus what he wants. Marcus tells him Gran’s fags. Kasim says no, the tab’s too high for him to let Marcus have the tabs. It’s not a great joke, so there’s no point laughing, so he leaves with a shrug. Kasim shouts after him to bring some money next time. Marcus eats the stolen Mars bar for the rest of the way home, finishing it before he reaches the block entrance. The wrapper joins everything else in the stairwell. There’s a man asleep on the first two steps. Marcus jumps over the bag of bones, careful to avoid the pool of sick on the third step. The man has told him he used to be in the Army, but Marcus doesn’t believe him. How could a real soldier end up like that?
Gran’s flat is on the 4th floor, she’s nearly fifty, but she can make it up and down the stairs pretty quick. No-one uses the lift, at least not as a means of going up and down between floors. Marcus knocks, in case Gran is “busy”. It’s not dark yet though, so she shouts “Come in, boy!” and starts coughing. Marcus hopes Gran is dressed, or at least has a dressing gown on. He shouts “no fags, no credit” as he walks in, but Gran’s holding up a £50 pound note, so he knows he’s going back to Kasim’s. “Get twice as many, boy.”, she says.
Marcus snatches the note and heads down the stairs, shoving the no-longer sleeping“soldier” out of the way….