The Den (Part 2)
There was no-one in when I went home at lunchtime. I drank some milk out of the bottle in the fridge. Then I made myself a pickle sandwich and went out again. It was too early for the others, so I took the lift up to the top floor and went out to the rubbish chute, where I could look out of the window. The other blocks of flats on the estate looked like giants standing over the houses and streets. Some of them were wide, like gravestones. Others were tall and thin, like mouth organs standing up on their ends. I used to like coming up here and playing this game called Desert Islands. I'd write S.O.S. notes on bits of paper, then slide them through the window vent and watch them blow away on the wind. Sometimes, if the wind was strong, they'd stay in the air for ages and drop down streets away.
But my favourite time to come up was when it was getting dark, and I could watch all the flats lighting up. Lots of people on the higher floors never bothered to draw their curtains, and you could see them moving about, like ants in a nest. It always gave me a funny feeling, that - seeing them all when they couldn't see me and didn't know I was there. It used to make my cock go stiff. I wished I had some binoculars, like David had. He said he used to sit at his window with them and spy on the people in their flats. He said there was a woman in one of the flats who took all her clothes off because she knew he was watching. He said he was going over there one day to fuck her. I didn't know if I believed him or not. But I wished I had some binoculars, anyway. Just to see what the other people were doing.
I looked down at the street and saw a man walking along towards the corner. It was a long way away, but I could tell it was him from his overalls and the way he walked. He got to the corner and disappeared, but I couldn't see if he'd walked around it or had gone in the betting shop. I looked the other way, over towards the site. I could see where the den was. The scaffolding looked like a tower of matchsticks. I put my finger up to the window and the den disappeared behind it. I felt like I was God or something. I felt like I could press down on it with my finger and crush it into the ground.
When we got back to the den we sat around inside, leaving the tarpaulin up to let the light in. Angela had a picture she'd torn out of one of her mum's magazines. She pinned it up on the wall beside her. It was a cartoon of a house in a field, with some children playing in the garden and a cow standing by the fence smiling at them. The house was shaped like a bar of chocolate. The words underneath said 'Welcome Home to a Full Cream Treat'.
David had some fags he'd nicked off his uncle Royal, and he gave one each to me and Michael. He gave one to Angela as well, but she didn't want it. Barry asked if he could have it.
"You can have a drag of mine,” David said, putting it back in his pocket. He lit a match and we all used it. We sat there smoking for a bit, spitting out at the ground. David took out some cards and shuffled them.
"Strip poker,” he said. "Lowest card takes something off. Aces low.”
"I d-don't want to p-p-play,” Barry said.
David grabbed his shirt collar.
"You're fucking playing, alright? Or I'll tell uncle Royal you nicked his fags."
Barry started to whine, so David twisted his collar tighter, until he stopped.
He dealt us a card each and we turned them over. I had a nine. Michael had a six. David had a king. Angela had a jack. Barry had a two. He took off his shirt and David dealt again. This time Michael lost and took off his shoes. Then Barry lost again twice. All he had left on now was his pants. David always did it every time we played games. He always fixed it so that Barry lost. Barry was fidgeting now, trying to get behind Michael so that Angela couldn't see him. I lost the next deal and took off my t-shirt. Then it was Barry again. He started to cry.
"Take them off, Barry,” David said.
David threw down the cards and grabbed his arm, pulling him away from Michael.
"Do what I fucking tell you, Barry.”
Barry started to scream then. He struggled and shook David off. David took out his flick-knife and opened it.
"Do you want me to cut them off?”
Barry stopped screaming then and just looked at the knife. His eyes were big like alley marbles and he was making this funny noise in his throat, like he was choking. Then he took off his pants without getting up and pulled his legs up to cover himself. But David grabbed his knees and opened them. Barry started crying again as we all looked at him. He had a funny little cock, all shrivelled up, with little black hairs growing around it.
David looked at Angela. "Is that the first time you've seen one?”
She shook her head. "I've seen my little brother's,” she said. Then she sat up. "Do you want to see mine?”
"Go on, then,” Michael said.
"You'll have to give me some money.”
"A shilling,” she said.
"Fuck off,” said Michael. "I haven't got anything.”
"Nor have I,” I said.
David grabbed Barry's shorts and started going through the pockets. Barry cried out again and tried to pull them back, but David held up the knife to him.
"Don't make me do it, Barry.”
Barry backed down again and hunched himself up in the corner, sobbing. David found a shilling in one of the pockets. He gave it to Angela.
"Now you all owe it to Barry,” he said.
Angela knelt forwards and put the coin in her pocket. Then she pulled her jeans down to her knees and opened the top of her knickers, and we all leaned forward to look. I'd never seen a girl's one before. It didn't look like I'd thought it would - but I didn't really know what it would look like. The books my step-dad kept in his drawer only showed the tits. David was always telling us about a girl at school, and he'd fucked her one day in a shed up by the railway line. He told us it looked like a tube - like the end of a balloon, except bigger. But this didn't look anything like that. Michael had told us it was called a regina, like the queen's name. David always called it a cunt. I wanted to look closer at it, but then Angela pulled her jeans up again. We'd only seen it for a few seconds.
"C-can I p-put my c-c-clothes on now, D-David?” Barry said.
David looked at him. He was going to say something, but then he stopped and put up his hand.
"Listen,” he said.
"Fuck off," said Michael. "We've already done that.”
But then we all heard it. There were all the other sounds that we'd heard before, but there was something else now. A banging and scraping noise. It was a little way off, back behind the den, where we couldn't see. It sounded like someone was trying to get through the fence from one of the alleyways along the main road. We could hear the corrugated iron being bent back. David put his hand out and pulled the tarpaulin down. Angela made a funny whining noise. I took hold of her hand.
"It's alright,” I said. "We're safe in here.” Her hand felt damp. She pulled it away.
We sat in the dark and listened.
The banging and scraping stopped. Then we heard someone climb through the fence and stumble about over the rubble, like they were drunk or something. We heard a cough. It was definitely a man. I thought it was one of the builders, come to get us out of there. Then I thought it might be my step-dad, though I didn’t know why he’d come in that way. I didn’t know why he’d be there anyway, unless he’d seen us. I knew what would happen if he caught me. I wanted to jump out and run, but I couldn't move.
The footsteps stopped a little way off and it was quiet for a moment. Then we heard a different noise, like stones and bricks being raked up and piled together. It sounded like the man was building something. It went on for a long time. Then the footsteps started again, still stumbling, but this time coming over towards where the den was. Barry made a funny noise, like he was going to cry, but David put his hand over his mouth and stopped it. The footsteps got nearer, until they were just outside, behind us. We could hear the man's breathing. He stood there for a few moments doing nothing. I kept waiting for him to say something... to tell us to come out, and that he had a gun. But then he was sick. We heard him puke up three times, coughing and spitting. When he'd finished, it was quiet again, and we sat there waiting. The flap lifted up a bit, and we all jumped - but it was just the wind catching it. I could see in the light, though, that David had his knife out. I saw his face, too. It was the first time I'd ever seen him look frightened.
The footsteps started again. But now they went off, away from us, back towards where they'd come from. We heard the man climb back through the fence, then scrape the metal flap back. We waited for a bit and no one dared to say anything. But all we could hear now was the usual noises. David put his head around the flap and looked over to where the man had been.
"He's gone,” he said.
We all breathed out at the same time. David climbed out, and the rest of us followed him. I wanted to get out as quick as I could now and get ready to leg it in case the man came back. When I crawled over the bit of carpet where Barry had been sitting, my knee went into something warm. Outside, I looked at my jeans and saw that the knee was damp.
"Barry, you dirty fucker,” David said.
We looked at Barry. He'd managed to get his shorts back on, but he'd pissed in them.
"Nan'll fucking kill you, Barry.”
Barry started to sob again. "I-I c-c-couldn't help it, D-David.”
"Like you can't help pissing the bed,” David said.
Barry started to rub the wet patch on his shorts with his hand. There were tears dripping down his face. Michael had gone over to where we'd heard the man messing around with the bricks. He called us and waved his hand.
"Look at this.”
He was digging around a hole under a bit of old wall. He pulled out a load of bricks and rubbish, and we saw a small cardboard box in the hole. It was like a shoe box, but a bit bigger. It was tied up with string. Michael pulled the box out of the hole and put it down. He tried to undo the knots.
"What do you think it is?” said Angela.
"How the fuck do I know?”
"It might be some money. Perhaps he's robbed a bank and hidden it.”
We were all excited by that. Michael was pulling at the string, but the knots were too tight.
"Give it to me,” said David. He got down beside Michael and took out his knife again.
"I think we should leave it,” said Angela. "He might come back for it and catch us.”
"Bollocks,” said David. "Finders keepers.”
He went to cut the string. Then he jumped back, dropping the knife.
"Fuck! It moved.”
The box was shaking. We couldn't believe our eyes. Then we heard a funny whining noise coming from inside it.
"It's a cat,” said Michael. "He's buried a cat.”
He picked up David's knife and cut the string. Then he flipped the lid off and we all stood away, in case the cat bit us when it jumped out. When it didn't, we went up to the box again and looked in. All I could see at first was a load of screwed up newspaper. Then I saw something black bobbing up and down, like a furry head. But it wasn't a cat. It was looking up at us. I couldn't believe it.
It was a baby.
I'd never seen a baby that small before. It looked like a little doll, but all shrivelled up. It didn't have any clothes on and it was wriggling its arms and legs up and down. It had bits of dried blood stuck all over its skin and it smelled horrible. It had a big belly button, all covered in blood. I could see it was a girl.
"Fuck!” David said.
"What are we going to do with it?” I said.
But no one said anything. The baby sounded like it was trying to breathe properly. Then it squealed, squeezing its eyes shut tight so it looked like its head would explode. I touched one of its hands with my finger, and it held on. Its finger nails looked like tiny bits of plastic.
"We'll have to call the police,” Michael said.
But none of us moved. We just looked at it, wriggling there in the paper.
Then Angela got down on her knees and lifted it out of the box. I was still holding my t-shirt, and I laid it on the ground so she could put the baby on it. She wrapped the shirt all around it and picked it up again, holding it against her and rocking it in her arms. Then she walked back towards the den, humming something. She sat down in the doorway, not taking her eyes off the baby, humming all the time, and the rest of us just stood and watched.
It was then that I heard a voice calling out from somewhere. For a moment I thought the man had come back again. Then I looked up and saw my step-dad, in his overalls, coming towards us from the flats. He shouted again, but I couldn't make out what he said. I could tell he was angry, though. I knew I was going to get it for this.
But I started running towards him anyway. I didn't feel frightened of him any more.
"We've found something, dad,” I shouted. "Come and see what we've found.”