They walk away, keeping their heads down, Scott wants to run, but Lee keeps his hand on his shoulder
“easy now ” he says
“we need to keep under the radar, get back to the coach, get home”
Scott nods, although he is so pumped, so full of adrenaline that he thinks he might actually explode. He bounces on the balls of his feet, hand still curled into fists, so much energy inside him that he hardly knows what to do with himself.
Their exploits have travelled before them, when they reach the coach, having dived and ducked along every side street and alley way to avoid the huge police presence that is closing down the city, they are met with whistles, cheers, nods of approval. Some of the older guys even give them a round of applause.
Scott tries and fails to look unimpressed, as if this is an everyday occurrence. He can’t help himself, this feels like celebrity, a huge grin splits his face, this is belonging, this is what he has been looking for.
On the coach travelling home, they are heroes. None of the other hard men in the group got through the police line. They tell and re-tell their story. other men join in, veterans of other skirmishes, other running battles and in the telling, their stories become heroic.
Throng girl and her mate are all over him, she moves across the coach, bounces down on his lap, gives a lap dance wriggle which makes Lee and Kev whoop and cheer, Scott cannot wipe the grin from his face. Thong girl gives him her real name – Gemma – says she will friend him on Facebook.
Finally, it’s all over, the farewells at the coach and Scott is walking home alone, suddenly, he is bone, dog tired, every part of his body aching, He cannot wait to get home , veg out on the sofa, see what his mum’s got in for tea. He realises he is starving – what’s the thing his granddad says – could eat a scabby dog – Scott understands what he means now.
He knows he shouldn’t , but he can’t help himself and dives into the chippy – a cone of chips will keep him going until he gets home.
There is no queue and there he is – eyeball to eyeball with Ahmed, serving behind the counter in his dad’s take-away – year above him at school, good footballer, bit of a headcase.
There is a pause, Ahmed looks at him, takes in Scotts’ bloodstained face, tattered union jack still tied around his shoulders, bruised knuckles.
They both stare at each other and then Scott turns and leaves the shop.
Yeah, better to get home, not ruin his appetite, chips are not a good idea tonight.