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Kirk Gets Lifted
Ronnie James

He made his way up the right-hand pavement of Hardie Street with his head down, giving the impression of a gathering wind though there was none. What there was were small bought detached houses either side of him, still and quiet at this midafternoon time, while the high school came into view ahead through the corrugated perimeter fence, also giving off little noise. His chin was lowered into the upper skatched fastenings of his rainjacket and his steps were quite languorous as though it was not a certainty he’d meet this appointment, and it didn’t matter a fuck either way.

There were no other pedestrians he noticed quickly, but he kept alert and prepared to sprint should the occasion call for it. He was a quick runner; before he had quit the school he had always placed in the top three in the sprints, though the boy Gary used to beat him, he couldn’t remember his last name. Kirk was sure that had the race been conducted with assailants at their tails even Gary would be left trailing. He’d never been caught under these circumstances, he thought with pride, as though this were a superior distinction; not once. Vaulting fences, cutting through closes, even having to jump out tenement windows, he’d did the lot. In the latter case it had been a second-story landing and he’d been fortunate to hobble into someone's back garden before his pursuant had time to double-back down the stairs and continue the hunt. He’d sprained his ankle. But it was better than a burst mouth or even the blade.

When he reached the summit of the road he was facing the school from its western side. Through the lighted classroom windows dotted on the pebbledash building he could see that classes were still in progress. He chuckled to himself; daft school man, he was well shot of it. It was something to smile about. All they ever did was give him hassle, constant hassle. He recalled his last dispute with the head; We’ve been told you were in a fight with such and such; aye so what if he had been, it was at the Lunchbox, not in the school so get to fuck. He couldn’t understand why Kev had stuck it. Well, he could, but he couldn’t. I mean the boy was a genius, to give him his due. He wasn’t like Kirk or any of the rest of them. Sure, he was a smoker, and he drank at the weekends, dossed about the estate scamming cunts and what have you, tapping snout and a bit of selling but when it came to getting the head down he had something upstairs, was clued up. Kirk didn’t envy him though, no point, he wasn’t into it, and anyway it was just your donald, Kev could just do it. It wasn’t as though he studied or read a lot of books, in school he was half the time hungover or slightly stoned, but he made most of the credit classes and kept up a decent attendance.

Right now he was staring towards the school, scanning the playground. He had a squint to check if anyone was standing behind the boiler, but there was nobody. Just a scatter of fag ends and empty sweet wrappers. So he checked his watch and it was only half past twelve. Half twelve! How had that happened? He’d not made haste, at least he suspected he’d been trudging along at his usual plodding pace, so he’d not bargained on this. The grounds by the side of the school led into a span of woodland, and he peered towards the dark stillness of the bushes and ordinary trees for any signs of movement. After a minute he walked eastward, and round to a gap in the metal fence leading into the trees. The leaves under his step were slimy, like towels left folded up and spattered by shower water; they failed to crunch, the snap had been lost in them. He plundered through another fence gap into the main forest area and parked himself on the hollowed out stump of a cut tree, breathing tiredly though he’d only awakened some ninety minutes earlier. From this spot he could see through the fence of the school grounds running perpendicular to this enclosure, though he’d sat far back enough to shroud himself fairly in disguise by the tree arms and noosed leaves. At once he took out a packet of fag papers from the inside pocket of his jacket and sat them on his lap. This procedure was repeated with a Zippo lighter, a case of Mayfair and a small square of resin about two and a half inches in diameter. He closed his eyes tightly to alleviate the bothersome pang of sleepiness in his head and set to work; turning the flimsy papers over, licking them, pairing them, attaching. Then applying the tobacco which he aborted from a stick before crumbling tiny nodules of hash into the ridge in the papers. Because he was fast and experienced in this act he was flaming its end in three minutes and enjoying the calming effect discing in his thoughts before he’d to meet Kev. He replaced the artefacts back in his jacket for fear of dropping them or setting something down and forgetting to lift it. This was a habit. His mother called him an eejit, said his head was up his arse. That’d made him laugh at first but now it was a pain. Once he’d went to lift money from the ATM and strolled away with only his card, leaving a tenner tonguing at passers by from the dispenser. When he’d gone back a quarter-hour later it had gone, some bastard nicking it; ah well, he’d have did the same. The odd chance you’d get somebody give you a turn and hand it in or what have you, but nah, fair dos Kirk thought, his own bloody fault.

He puffed conservatively, trying to preserve the smoke until Kev came out at 12.55. Then they’d share another, maybe two unless Kev was accompanied by some other cunt requiring a handout or contributing a bit. Didn’t matter. He was probably going to get back to kip and let Kev return to school after a couple joints anyway. He’d been out late last night and was never a morning person. Morning person! He smiled to himself. He wasn’t an afternoon person never mind a morning person. If he’d designed it you’d awake at dinner time, have some scran and be out the door. The daytime was bollocks. A waste of time. He’d be in the room messing about on the Playstation or round at Johnny's blagging a smoke. When the giro came in he’d have some money to pay out, leaving a small amount to get a few night's carry out and maybe chip in for a bar with a few of the others. It just depended. It was due in a few days, he had until Thursday to make this bit last him, and he owed Kev about a third of it. Plus that fiver from the previous weekend. But he was sure Kev had been too pished to recall this debt. He hoped anyway.

It wasn’t important. He sat and listened to the anxiety of the spindly trees over his head and anticipated rain to fall from the pasture of the sky above them, tightening in the jacket. Even though it was only early afternoon it seemed dark – overcast the cause, and it was a pain because it made time slower. It would stay like this all day he reckoned, assortments of dark weighted clouds wedging together, rendering the stars and the planets obsolete for another evening.

If it did come down however the woods afforded good shelter; it struck him that within the fences, among these trees, every twenty four hours was the same. You’d never be very wet, or very cold, or very clammy, the woodland refused to isolate you, allow the weather to molest you. He could imagine that this would be an okay place to sleep rough; if it ever called for it, not that it would. In all probability though you’d get found out when the Council came by to the give the area a facelift, clip the trees and hedging or whatever they did. And then they’d have you bang to rights; the bastards would even try and twist the story, claim you’re responsible for local graffiti, public disorder, a spate of robberies in the area; all that shite. Once they had you they’d do what they liked, easy, a dawdle.

Time was passing. Kirk had drawn down to the last quarter of the joint. It had settled his nerves somewhat. Walking up that road was always murder. And it would have been murder if there had been a couple of them, no doubt. In any case he wasn’t counting his chickens yet. The return journey was still to come. Maybe Kev would make it with him, dog it. Sometimes it wasn’t difficult to persuade him, particularly after or during a toke. But he couldn’t tell Kev he was feart to wander home by himself, nor risk him suspecting it.

The cheap band of rust-edged silver on his wrist notified him that it was going on for ten-to. He took a drag then another before directing it into the dry hinterland behind the stump. In the classroom windows people were beginning to stir. He could almost sense the chairs scraping and the scrum on the stairs leading out into the grounds. But there was an absence of nostalgia. Did he fuck miss it, not a chance. But he missed mucking about here, it wasn’t all bad, the banter and that.

He got up from the seating position, wiped down his flaked-on lap. That mush again crumpling under the soles of his trainers. He considered suggesting they just get a smoke behind the boiler lest trekking through this path, but thought better of it. These wee young pricks would hover about angling for 2’s or being wide. The marker he had set down was a while in the past now, and who knows, these wee hoodlums are quite rough now, he thought. Better being out the road. It was dodgy enough already without becoming a target for the knee-high mob.

At one he was framed by the open gates, leaning on one of the palings casually as the old janitor eyed him. Kirk snubbed the guy, he was always a crabbit bastard anyhow but no hassle really, no a grass. Kev spilled out of the school soon after. He was too was wrapped in a rainjacket, the cords drawing the waist tightly together and his shirt and tie just visible above the collars. He was accompanied by Ritchie, a guy who had only started hanging about with them the month or two previous. But he didn’t smoke so Kirk wasn’t fussed about him hanging onto their coattails. They came together and strode across the grounds, Kev stiff-backed, pocket-handed, Ritchie with a slight swagger, a glare shooting towards many of the other bodies drifting this way and that, failing to see Kirk on the horizon.

He did not notice the police car because it appeared from the mouth of Hardie Street and his back was showing. Neither did the boys vacating the school, calling forth greetings to Kirk, bent and stooped to retrieve the clipper that had slipped onto the concrete from his fingers. It drove slowly, too slowly to be just slow and safe and cautious, slow enough to stop, idling. Kirk had a goofy grin on his face, admitting Kev who was by now just ten feet away, muttering ‘Much ye got?’ But the car came to a standstill, paralleled the kerb, and Kirk turned languidly around to appraise it.

‘How ye doin today?’ said the driver of the marked car, emerging from the door barrel-chested and barnacled by the tools knotted to his uniform; baton, cuffs, radio, spray, what have you. He was middle-aged, mid forties, with a steep, studied voice, the type you could not imagine making a joke or even sarcasm. Automated, direct and stern it was, and the bunch-haired female officer also looped around the vehicle almost in confrontation.

Kirk didn’t answer. He stopped leaning on the paling and folded his arms. The other two boys had stopped and now lingered in the background uncomfortably, Ritchie yawning and Kev surveying the police wonderingly.

‘What ye up to?’

‘Eh?’

‘You’ve left school?’ The man came near to Kirk and gave him a long once-over. Kirk seethed, nodded once. The female counterpart looked a bit out-of-her-depth here Kirk thought, standing awkwardly, legs far apart, hands at her waist, a greyness in her eyes like this sent her to sleep. He stared between the two.

‘What’re ye here for?’

‘It’s a free country.’ Kirk glanced at the woman who did not react. The man chuckled shortly; so it could be willed to create that joyous sound. Only it wasn’t joyous, but dull and deep, the kind of laugh that just hangs there waiting for someone to speak so the silence can claim it.

‘D’you mind emptying your pockets for us?’

‘How?’

‘Can you just empty your pockets, please?’

Why in the hell do they even bother to ask when they’re going to force you to anyway.

‘How though?’

Ritchie smiled in the background.

‘Just do as you’re told.’

Kirk scowled. ‘This is harassment but, I’ve no did anythin.’

‘Who said you’ve did anything?’ The man smiled plainly.

‘Well, why’re ye searchin me?’

The officer was silent for a moment. He was quite an impressive size; statured, dwarving Kirk who was tall for his age, nearing six foot in fact. So that put the man about 6’ 4 or 6’ 5 Kirk guessed, and the woman 5 ft nothing.

‘Leave him alane,’ Kev called, and it sounded like a pitiful request rather than an ultimatum, a command.

‘Turn your pockets out. We can do it for ye.’

Kirk shrugged. He dug his hands into the main pockets of his jacket, took out two one pound coins and some change, plus the lighter and fags. Then, with the other hand he scooped up the fag papers and his Sony mobile phone.

Kev reiterated: ‘Leave him alane.’

‘Can you just be quiet please?’ The woman glanced at them quickly, and the range of schoolies peppering the playground. The man meanwhile emptied Kirk's pockets fully, frisked him. He examined the square of hash, frowned. Kirk wished for the smoke that had existed in his mouth minutes earlier to blow it right at the guy. But there was just spit; he could spit on him, but he thought better of it.

‘So what’s this?’

Kirk looked at Kev.

‘You’re at it.’

‘At whit?’ Kirk looked back at him.

‘You sellin?’

‘Sellin! You couldnae get two joints fae that. Sellin, away ye go.’

‘So you’re just smoking this for yourself?’

The man once more looked balefully at the hash bunched in his orotund fist.

‘Mm, aye. Now and again.’

‘Many times you been caught with this stuff?’

Kev now lit one of the two remaining cigarettes in his packet, convinced they would not be requiring it for a more stimulating smoke.

Kirk shrugged and chuckled.

‘I asked you a question.’

‘Canny mind.’

‘Canny mind if you’ve been caught or how many times?’

‘Think ah’d mind if ah’d been caught!’

‘I hope you’re lucky,’ the officer muttered sourly. Kirk coughed a few times, he was calmed now, and the reserves of cockiness and gusto were coming to the fore; he chuckled again.

‘Whit yous search me for?’

‘What’s your name?’

‘Whit yous search me for?’

‘Answer your name,’ said the female subordinate.

‘Ah asked yous first.’

‘Chris Packet,’ Ritchie farted into the discussion, grinning from ear to ear. He was drinking from a glass bottle of Irn Bru.

‘Your name?’

‘Chris Packet! Shut up,’ Kirk laughed, turning to look at Ritchie. Kev seemed nervy.

‘Okay, you’re just going to come down the station away fae your pals now..’

‘Am I?’

‘Aye.’

‘Aye?’

Kev looked as though he was going to protest but changed his mind.

‘Ah’ll look in later,’ Kirk said to him, and the policeman gestured him into the back seat of the car.

‘Yous are out of order,’ said Ritchie. They didn’t answer, climbed steadily in and backed it up; it got smaller as it reversed, rolled down the steep gradient towards the Murray estate, before chugging forwards and left down Hardie. Kev smoked the cigarette evenly, no bitterness now, Ritchie was wisecracking too much for him to concentrate on the injustice; injustice? Well, whatever it was, a fucking pain actually. They went behind the boiler and Ritchie let Kev smash the empty glass bottle, and they returned to meet the rest of them round the ashy to recount the incident.

In the motor Kirk was sullen, but he looked out of the window and saw a few people he recognized from about, the school, the job centre, a couple of the women who spoke to his mother. He noticed Thommo’s house. Cunt acts like a schemie and his mother and father are swanking it up in this seventy grand house! He gave a sigh and peeled off his jacket, requested back his fags, papers, lighter. They complied; actually the woman did.

‘So whit did you say your name wis?’ she asked, but it was sarcastic and not unfriendly, with a smile, so he loosened.

‘Kirk.’

‘Kirk what?’

‘Just Kirk.’

‘You no got a last name?’

‘Disny matter.’ He stared back outside. Bastard, the clouds were ebbing a bit, he could even see the sun employing its power and pushing out. That bit was dead, he had three days to kill. Johnny had some, at least he did yesterday. If he could risk Rutherglen he knew a boy there owed him a tenner; from a while back though, donkeys in fact, the mug had likely forgotten about it.

‘Where’d you live Kirk?’

‘Eh, West End bar's fine.’

‘Pardon?’

He cleared his throat. ‘West End bar.’

‘You live above the West End bar?’ The man screwed up his beefy face in the rearview mirror.

‘Naw but you can drop me there.’

‘We’ve got the station first. Anyway we’re no a taxi!’

‘Hope no, ah’m fuckin skint!’

‘That’s what happens wasting your time on the blow, son.’

‘Aye, well.’

‘What?’

‘Nothin.’

‘So where’d you live Kirk?’

‘Near the West End bar.’

‘Near it?’

Kirk nodded. He held up a cigarette. ‘Can ah light up?’

She looked at the driver who frowned.

‘Nearly there.’

And the girl said, ‘That’s no good for you either.’

‘What’re you, Samaritans?’

‘Less ay the cheek,’ said the female easily.

‘Tch, cheeky. Anywiy, cheers,’ and he disappointedly put his fag away in the battered packet.

‘You got brothers and sisters?’

He blinked. Back to bed, another wee write-up in the record, what did it even matter, stupid. She reposed the querie and again he ignored her. Dumb bint. He’d have to tap his maw; maybe Lowis, maybe Jamie. They were nearly there. He stretched each arm out, caressing the leather, owning the back seat, shutting the eyes. He was knackered and feeling for bed, stoned, but when the vehicle stopped for traffic, a red light, a lollypop woman, his eyes were behind it, and he was almost in a different place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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