By Jane Hyphen
George could almost maintain his regular walking pace with Spider on his back. 'You're as light as a feather mate!'
'I know. I've been fasting, trying to get some clarity, up here,' he tapped his head. ' You know I really felt like - like I could fly tonight George.'
'No really. I was tempted to try it, to launch myself from the top of that tree between the houses. I reckon I could of, but I knew you'd be pissed off with me George.'
'Keep that fag away from the top of my head will you!'
Just then a horn tooted on the road and a white Vauxhall Nova pulled up just in front of them.
'It's Maureen,' said Spider, jumping down at once off George's back.
A mature woman with thick grey hair and glasses wound down the car window and stuck out her head. 'You boys want a lift?' she said.
'Come on, let's get out of here!' said George.
Spider stamped on his cigarette and they both climbed into the rear seat of Maureen's vehicle. She put it into first gear rather heavy handedly and began the drive towards The Lawns Estate. The Nova was all cluttered with useless bits and tranklements; it had a sort of beaded cover over the driver's seat and a couple of damp cushions in the back which George and Spider began throwing at one another.
Maureen glanced up at them through the rear-view mirror and said, 'I thought to myself, I know that walk, that's young Lucas and his best friend George. I expect you two have been enjoying the firework display over yonder. Isn't it wicked charging three pounds entry! I bet you watched from the railway bridge did you?'
There was a long pause. 'Er yeah,' said Spider, 'What about you Maureen, been anywhere nice or just driving around?'
'Just been to the Bingo with Vera. I won ten pounds actually. You remember Vera don't you Lucas?'
Spider looked uncomfortable, twisting his lips before answering, 'Yeah, I think so.'
The truth was he had a sort of secret life with Maureen and her friends. They regularly took him out on trips to garden centres, brought home-made cakes and Airfix modelling kits to his home. As a child they had taken him to the local baths where he had learnt to swim among pale, pachydermic limbs and floral swimming caps; he'd heard the echoes of their shrill voices encouraging him to keep kicking and felt their heavy hips brushing reassuringly against his wiry little body.
The women looked upon him as an eternal child, abandoned and forever thirsty for nurturing. And how they loved to nurture, indeed they engaged in competitive nurturing; Vera would secretly buy him boxes of cigarettes from her regular trips to Spain and drop them off covertly at his house. Maureen would purchase for him nicotine patches and gum and discuss with Vera how she was helping him to give up, Vera would gently nod and agree with a sort of muffled snort. Spider's relationship with these ladies was something he enjoyed privately and he didn't even like George knowing too much about it.
'Now, are you two going back to the archepellago? I've got some flapjack at home with little pink marsh mallows in it. I thought you could come over to mine for a bit. I don't get to bed til about three or four thesedays - it's my age you know. I get this RLS, that's restless leg syndrome, and I sweat like a - well I don't suppose you boys want to hear about it.'
Maureen was an erratic driver; each gear change involved an abrupt change of speed followed by a horrid metallic scraping sound. As she chatted away the car seemed to swerve across to the middle of the road. George and Spider didn't notice and they didn't hear her chatter either. They both stared blankly out of the window, their bodies like dead weights, their minds numb with the gravitas of the preceeding events. George felt quite sure that his mother's spiritual presence had somehow protected them from disaster. Silently he thanked her for it, shutting his eyes and briefly turning in on himself.
Some localised fog had gathered around the estate. Maureen drove extremely slowly into the carpark at the rear of the maisonettes.
'Look at this fog now boys. There's something creepy about tonight - you don't know who's knocking about. I'm glad I've got two strong boys to protect me. Now, I'll just change me shoes then we'll get in, get the kettle on and get warm.'
Maureen pushed back the drivers seat, removed her shoes one at a time and shoved them into the glove compartment. A smell drifted through the vehicle, of damp odorous feet in nylon popsocks. George placed his hand over his face and got out of the car. He watched her replace the shoes with an identical pair and haul herself out; the vehicle lifted a couple of inches as she stood up. George could see now that she was attired in one of those peculiar predatory animal sweaters, depicting two howling wolves against a lilac sky. He recalled that the last time he saw Maureen she had worn a similar garment emblazoned with a white tiger and her cub. What's it all about, he thought.