Tag Archives: teenagers

Number 94- there ain’t no door that can keep me out- number 2

Number 94 – There ain’t no door can keep me out – number 2.

Kyle tries to pull the tiny slivers of glass for his thumb. He can’t see them, but he can feel sharp grittiness under the skin.
He thought he’d been more careful when he smashed the glass, had wrapped a tea towel around his fist, but here he is, leaning against the kitchen units, his hand hurting. It doesn’t surprise him that the back door at 98 had crappy old fashioned glass, the non safety stuff, the stuff that leaves splinters that will, knowing his luck, get infected and hurt like buggery.

At least he doesn’t have to worry about finger prints cos it’s not like the police are going to break a sweat on another robbery at number 98 and he would laugh, but he’s just pulled a bit of glass out and now there’s blood all over his hand, so,he doesn’t feel much like laughing.
He has a good swear instead, Kyle loves swearing, loves combining words to make mega swears, even invents new words when the old ones just don’t seem angry enough.
Swearing was what got him kicked out of the last school, well swearing and throwing a chair at a teachers head.
Although in fairness, the chair missed, missed by a mile and Kyle reckons that this proves that he wasn’t really aiming, if he had wanted to hit the teacher, he wouldn’t have bothered with a chair, so, if all just proves what Kyle already knows.
People just pick on him for no reason.

His mum went mental, screaming and shouting, but he just stood there staring at her, fronting up to her until she stopped and then he went out.

Kyle doesn’t miss school, not the lessons anyway, except maybe the ones with the teachers who lose it, whose faces go red, who spit and shake and on a really good day, the ones who cry, the ones who turn away and you know that they are close to tears.
He misses that and the corridors and the noise and the possibility of chaos and mischief, but school, what’s to miss?

He’s been to three secondary schools now, new uniform for each one, new bus route, new need to suss out who’s who and who thinks they need to show him how hard they are and who’s weak and needs to learn how hard he is.

And each time, it’s just the same shit in a different coloured blazer and he doesn’t even bother to hide what he thinks and so now he’s at home, waiting for someone to find another school or something and his mum has stopped nagging him and just gets herself up and goes to work and doesn’t say much to him and he’s never said much to her.

Besides, he hasn’t got time for school, he’s got stuff going on and some of it is proper bad. Not like the wanna be gangsters at his second school, the ones who thought that grabbing a handful of sweets from the scruffy corner shop or boosting a phone from a kid in Year 7 made them dangerous to know.

That’s not robbing, what Kyle does,now that’s robbing and if number 98 wasn’t such a cheap git then he might have a bit more to show for it than sore hands and a tenner.
He’s vexed, proper vexed. He could have gone into his mums handbag if all he wanted was a bloody tenner and he wouldn’t be standing here now, trying to dig bits of glass out of his hand.

He thought there would be more, much more in number 98, he thought it would be worth rolling out from under his duvet, worth finding an old pair of trainers, worth leaving a half smoked spliff on a plate,ready for later.

But,there was nothing.
No games machine
No laptop
No phone

Nothing and for a minute, before anger kicked in, Kyle stood there in the middle of the sitting room and just stared, not sure of what to even think.

He felt cheated, after all this was the house that kept getting broken into, in Kyle’s head there had to be a reason, there had to be good stuff there, stuff worth nicking, stuff he could sell or trade or simply keep under his bed with other things, special things, but there was nothing.

He could feel the anger growing, it felt good, his stomach knotted, fists clenched, lips pulled back in a snarl.
At school, they said he had anger issues, said he needed to learn self control, said he made bad decisions and every time some stupid no mark stood too close to him and poked their finger towards his face and he managed not to punch them,he knew that they knew nothing because the control it took to not smash his fist into their fat satisfied faces exhausted him, left him pale and shaking.
They didn’t understand why he had to shout out a really good swear and walk away, pushing his fists into his pockets, his breath ragged,short, head pounding like it wanted to explode.

But standing in the middle of this joke of a room, he could feel the anger growing in him and he was just about to do something and then his phone pinged, a text and he couldn’t ignore it, had to just check it and he was glad he did
“ R U in – bunkd off Skol- fan c a smoke 😆”

So, he took the tenner, why not and legged it back over the fence and home.

GTA, spliff and Doritos and bit of a sleep.
When he woke up, he lay under the duvet on the sofa for a minute, his hand was still stinging and it took a while to remember what had happened and then he felt the anger growing again.

That stupid twat with his books and fucking radio and his arsey stupid bird feeders and his nothing worth nicking.

Kyle sat up, fired up the half smoked spliff and then he knew what he should do.

And this time he was going to do it properly, let number 98 know exactly how bad it all made him feel.

He walked up the path, 3 steps from the gate to the front door and nodded to himself. He was going to kick the front door in, he didn’t care if anyone saw him
“ fuck that” he said out loud and then he said it again,even louder and again until he was standing there screaming and then he leant on the door, ready to smash it in and it opened.

The stupid twat hadn’t even bothered to lock the door.
Just asking for it.

Kyle walked in, took a deep breath and prepared to show the sad little git who lived here exactly how angry he was feeling.

Chubby – Part 1

She remembers the first time she ever pulled her t-shirt down to cover her stomach…a new outfit, baby blue leggings, matching t-shirt with tiny pink flowers, she was pleased, had twirled to show off the shiny newness to her mother, her baby brother……but later…..at the park………..aware of a new feeling that she had no words for, she looked down in dismay at the rounded swell of her belly and tugged harder and harder to cover herself up and later still, trew the top into the far corner of her wardrobe and pulled out the hand me down hoody, passed on from a far older cousin.

She remembers her first book of calories – a free gift with Jackie or My Guy or Blue Jeans, carefully unpeeled from the front cover, trying not to tear Davids’ perfect smile. The book lived in her school bag, consulted daily, within 6 weeks, she had memorised the calorie value of everything she ate, might eat, could conceivably ever come into contact with. The book outlasted David and Bryan and even Donny.

She remembers the aching of her budding breasts, pads of fat on already padded flesh. She tried to disguise them from classmates, pulled her vest this way and that, learnt to hunch her shoulders, be the last to unpeel her sensible airtex top, undress under other clothes and prayed for a miracle, an over night sea change, back to what she used to be.

She remembers the agonies of saturday mornings, Bust Stop and Snob and Top Shop, she the designated holder of coats, grabber of hangars and all the while hoping against hope that she would find something, anything to fit, so that she too could walk along the high street, swinging the coveted new clothes bag, ready to dissect their purchases in the Wimpy bar, burgers eaten with a knife and fork, trying hard not to finish the food on other girls’ plates.

She remembers the phase “puppy fat”, forever confused in her mind with the Osmonds’ song

“This is not some puppy fat lalalalal”

Her mothers’ casual tone betrayed by tightened lips, a poorly held together sigh when she, starving, always starving, reached for another biscuit, another slice of bread.

She remembers another song

“Hey fatty boom, boom”.

The rough boys at the bus stop, the ones from the estate, the ones who went to the new comprehensive would sing it as she, easy to spot, green gaberdine, brown school bag, waited for the bus that went the other way.

She became expert at hiding in the shelter of the co-op, eyes peeled for the bus, ready for a split second dash across the road.

It didn’t always work – sometimes she got it wrong, missed the bus and then of course, it was far, far worse.

She remembers her mothers’ purse, blue leather, gold metal clasp, which had to be teased apart to avoid a tell-tale click. Then, hand in, grab loose change and jump away as if the purse itself was red-hot. Money hidden in her pencil-case or later still ,the special purse, the curse purse.

And after school, the walk down Bond Street, into the sweet shop.

Aztec bars

Star Bars


White and brown jazzies

Pineapple chunks and acid drops.

Bags and wrappers jammed into her school mac pockets, hand, dip, reach, mouth and repeat and repeat and repeat.

Then rubbish dumped in the bin not near their house.

She remembers the family wedding. Her outfit, bought 8 weeks before, smocked top, blue Oxford bags and hessian heeled red wedge sandals….but somehow everything outgrown before the date and the loaned dress, mohair, pea green, a- line. The only thing her 30-year-old cousin had that fitted her and her mother fussing round, pulling the fabric, bright, brittle smile, the offer of a scarf to jazz it up and the overheard/half heard/half denied comment

“Perhaps big pants would help – flatten everything out”

She remembers starting to smoke – leaning against the chain link fence at the back of the tennis courts, she and Claire Allen, whose parents had got divorced and who had to eat 2 Sunday lunches every week.

Claire said that cigarettes killed your appetite, killed it stone dead and so she smoked and coughed and wheezed and walking home, afterwards, wondered if she felt  a little lighter, a little thinner.

She remembers school dinners, so easy in the junior school, dinner ladies who saw her hunger, relished in her appetite, happy to dish up seconds, even thirds, if no-one was looking. But now, in big school, it’s a different landscape, another country.

Girls who eat only yogurt, the rebel who has declared herself a vegetarian, the others, already thin, became masters of the re-arranged plate and she took to eating on her own, hands shielding her food, head down, load and leave.

She remembers the Christmas discos – her girls school bussed out into the Norfolk countryside to provide the female interest at a well-known boys school and how when the coach pulled in and the fuggy comfort of Charlie and Tramp and bubble gum lip gloss were swooped for the cold night air and the boys stood either side of the doors and when she and Claire – 2 dinners Claire – stepped down to a chorus of oinks and piggy noises and she knew they were trapped there until the coach came back and fumbled in her bag, fingers discovering Sobranie Cocktails and sugar mice.

Hunger 4

Head hidden in the fridge, she dips her finger into the jar, takes a second to appreciate the deep ruby colour of the plum conserve and then the finger is in her mouth, sweetness explodes on her tongue and she sighs with pleasure.

She feels, rather than hears, her mothers’ intake a breath, a sharp shhh and then she dips her finger in again, plum skin catches on her finger nail and she worries at it with her teeth and only then, finger still in her mouth, does she turn and face her mother.

She is sitting at the kitchen table.
The table she spent a whole week sanding, oiling and painting with farrow & ball paints – mouse back, the colour is called, part of the shabby chic range. She took an entire day to painstakingly age the brand new painted surface and it is where she sits each morning and eats her breakfast.

For as long as the girl can remember, her mother has kept to the same breakfast ritual.
2 cigarettes, a cup of black, sugarless coffee and an apple, cut into 4 equal slices.

As a child, the girl would sit at the table and beg her mother her mother to slice her an apple too and they would sit in companionable silence, crunching on their fruit.

But now, now that food is their battleground, the girl prefers to free range around the kitchen, easier access to the cupboards and fridge, more opportunity to force her mother to register exactly what she is putting into her mouth.

She stubs out her second cigarette, stands up, smooths out an invisible crease on her dress and the daughter knows that she is also checking the feel of hip bones under fabric.

The daughter is still in pajamas, she loves the feel of fuzzy fabric against her soft flesh, she would wear them all day if she could, the elastic waist bands are forgiving, ensure that there is no opportunity to monitor weight gain or loss.

The breakfast time ballet continues, now the mother steps towards the fridge and the girl steps away, moves nearer the breadboard, focused on the slices of bread she will cut into doorsteps and smother in the remainder of the plum conserve.

The mother reaches into the fridge, picks up a small plastic container, into which, she has, as she does every night, sliced tomatoes, cucumber and baby leaves.

There is a pause and then she pulls out the second little box and places it on the granite work surface.
The girl knows that it too will contain a small naked salad and knows that it is designed to be her lunch.

And then in a flurry of keys and gym bag and over-sized tote, her mother is gone and the girl is left in the kitchen.

She sighs, picks up the plate on which 3 slices of bread and jam lean untidily and she sits, finally, at the table and bites into the first piece.
The bread, doughy, sweet, comforting, fills her mouth with pleasure.


He wonders if the metaphor is too obvious, too clumsy, somehow too weighty. He shakes his head, hoping to dislodge a more original thought and when that fails, he lights another cigarette and stares at the screen, waiting.

He is meant to be writing 500 words on visiting an owl sanctuary, something, light, but literary, a combination of recognition and original thought.

He should be able to reference Ted Hughes, Edward Lear, maybe even use an illustration from Harry Potter to break up the text, but the visit has not gone as planned. He expected his daughter to provide a full collection of emoticons, from rolling eyes, her favorite, to cross face, bored face and finally plugged into i-pod face, but she has, yet again, wrong footed him.

At 9am she was downstairs, dressed in an extra-ordinary 80s jumper, but a jumper non the less and wellies, he knows her well enough to make no comment and they set off. Even in the car, she remained un-plugged, present and although she re-tuned the radio to something very far from Classic FM, she keept the volume below teeth chattering and announced that she had brought her i-pad to photograph the owls.

The owl sanctuary was not National Trust, there was no sign of a tea shop, chutney or hand crafted soap, instead there was a dirt track, a muddy car park with no other cars and a woman with so many facial piercings that even his daughter did a second take. The hand the woman extended to take the very modest entrance fee was filthy, every line on her palm was ingrained with mud or possibly something else.

She mumbled that the owls were “over there” and they were.

Owls on stands, owls in jerry built enclosures, owls staring out of the windows of small wooden sheds, small, almost silent feathered glove puppets.

His daughter walked on ahead, taking photographs and occasionally pointing out a particularly freakish looking one. It was if they have gone back in time, as if she was 9 or 10 or 11 again. He was almost scared to say anything, to break this spell of communication. He found himself tip-toeing behind her, trying almost to levitate, to keep everything, even his footsteps light, silent.

They came out of the owlery and found the hawks, he didn’t know there were hawks there, they were in rows, tethered by their legs to wooden stands. A hand written sign said that they were tethered all day but allowed to fly freely in their enclosures at night.

As he and his daughter watched, one, huge, brown winged, launched itself off the stand and managed to flap its wings for a second or two before the tethers pulled it back in to its’ stand.
None of the other hawks paid any attention.

Driving home, his daughter stared mostly out of the window, as they run out of motorway, she turned to face him
” I wonder if they keep on doing it”
She shrugged
” You know,the pulling at the tethers, trying to get away”
It was his turn shrug now
“Don’t know”
Her face was pressed against the window, her voice slightly muffled
“Maybe they forget or maybe they believe that this is the day that the tethers will break, this is the day that they will get away……perhaps the ones who don’t try have given up”

And now, he sits, staring at the laptop screen and all he can see, is no the hawks who keeps trying to fly, the ranks of the others, tethered, not moving, not even noticing the frantic attempts of the biggest hawk to get away.


Going Home

“Don’t stare” I say, my voice sharper than I mean it to be ” Don’t stare, it’s rude”
But of course she stares and so do I, our attention transfixed by this apparition from another century, another time.
I had been told that we might see them, that they farmed near by and were almost accepted, taken for granted, part of the landscape.

The adults, parents perhaps, sit upright, silent, still, except for his hands moving on the reins, the whip as he drives his horse forward at a steady trot, but the child, the child is staring directly at us.
Her face is scrubbed, clean, wholesome. Yes, wholesome is the only word I can use to describe it.
She glows with purity, innocence and there is an intensity to her gaze, her focus completely on my daughter who lounges louchely in the passenger seat next to me.

Her legs are bent upwards, folded onto the dashboard, her feet, encased in hot pink Converse baseball boots, tap out a rythmn on the windscreen, a counterpoint to the playlist in her ears.

Her hair, still streaked pink, red, orange from a night hysterical with teen sleepover and makeover madness is mostly covered under a baseball cap.

Her face is pale, she favours a matt foundation, cites Marilyn as an influence and never leaves the house without false eyelashes.

On a good day, I can marvel at her commitment to perfection, on a bad day, an hour, 2 hours behind schedule, I stand at the bottom of the stairs, voice hoarse with shouting, desperate to get the show on the road.

She has insisted on wearing a backless cocktail dresss, tight waisted, it pushes her breasts upwards, makes them more visible than I can comfortably cope with.
She seems unaware, indifferent to the glances, the stares from the men and they are men, whose eyes follow her as she walks up any street.
Walking behind her, I too catch their eyes, reel them in with a death stare, a warning glare, a hands off message.

I should over take, move on by, drive off, but the two lanes on our side of the road are deserted, just us and the buggy, so I match their speed, just for a momment or two and I watch the girl watch my daughter.

And just for a moment, I wonder what it would be like to have that child, that other daughter in my car.
That spotless face, her hands demurely in her lap, eyes bowing to the floor when ever an adult speaks to her and then my daughter looks up from her mobile phone
“Drive ” she says ” Just drive, they’re staring at us”