Swylce

Musings and Writing of GG Alexander

Savage Writing: Bag End

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Great meet this Wednesday! Loads of new people – could barely get around everyone in time. Some great work, too. This piece was definitely on the middle-to-lower end of the quality spectrum. Eh.

The task was “the slip”. I spent a night reading about Fred and Rosemary West thanks to this. Fun…

___

When we slid down the wall on Pillory Lane, Johnny turned to me, all red-cheeked and chest heaving, and said:

‘I think we gave ’em the slip.’

In my hands, the coin purse that had led us from the abbey to Clare Market. Enough to feed us for two weeks, it was. Maybe more. Enough that it’d be trouble if we didn’t find a place to hide it sharpish.

He heard the shout first, and he jumped up like a startled cat. Could’ve been anyone on the market, I wanted to say, and even if it was a bobby then we were faster than them. But too late, we were off, sprinting down the maze of alleys ’til we were deep away from the biggest stalls and into the dead end of the slum.

We stopped, bent over our knees and allowed ourselves to puff. This was the silent end of Clare Market, where our runs often ended. It was an abyss where no bobbies or bullies ever found us. The windows were shuttered, and all the doors barred, except for one: Lanky Pete’s house. No-one ever came out to that dead end, except Lanky Pete.

He was there within a few seconds. ‘What you puffing out here for, lads?’ he said from his doorway. ‘You in trouble again? Get in, get in, else they might find you.’

‘They won’t find us here,’ I said, but I walked in after him. Johnny hung a second behind. He didn’t like Lanky Pete, he said. No-one should grow that tall, he said, cause Lanky Pete looked like he’d been stretched on a rack since birth. His long, greasy hair threatened to brush the ceiling when he stood straight.

‘Where’s the missus, Pete?’ Johnny asked. It was always the first thing he said to Pete. I always thought it was ’cause he knew a missus would make a fuss, seeing two dirty thief boys in her home.

We nearly filled the place up, the three of us. One room, one basin, one bed, one table with two chairs. Pete’s clothes hung from lines on the ceiling, their hems down and ragged. Johnny always eyed them like they were ghosts.

‘Out,’ Pete replied as he sat down. His limbs folded up like a switchblade. He tapped his fingernails on the table, and his eyes looked hungrily on my hands.

‘You done well for yourselves today, lads. Reckon you can spare a penny ol’ Pete’s way, for giving you his hospitality this last while?’

‘No,’ Johnny said, but I opened the purse. I flicked Pete a sixpence, and he snatched it out of the air with a grin.

‘Kindly, lads. Fancy a bite?’

He gave us both a slice of bread with a thick layer of butter on top. That was why I liked that we had found Lanky Pete, a few months back. He always had bread and butter, and a swig of gin, if you gave him a slice of what you earned. We sat on his floor, and I ate like I was a lusty sailor just paid for his whore.

‘You’re some pair, you,’ Pete said, as he watched us. He looked like he was fighting with something inside. ‘Capering down my road end all hours. Never know what trouble you’ll run into. There’s all kinds out here. The things you hear…’

His eyes were still hungry, fixed on the purse on my lap. Johnny tugged at my arm, and I pushed him away. I wasn’t done eating, and until I was done, nothing else was more important.

Pete sighed and stood up. Butter is an amazing thing, you know – nothing else like luxury after days of nearly nothing, nothing else that so takes your mind. I didn’t notice a thing ’til Johnny punched me hard on the arm. When I went to shout at him, that’s when I heard Pete lock the door.

Johnny really had the reflexes, more than me. By the time I stood up, he was already at the door, already scrabbling at the handle, already wrestling Lanky Pete. Pete laughed and pulled him away by his hair, threw him to the ground. Johnny’s head bounced off the floor. I knew better than to try, after that.

‘Take it,’ I said, throwing the purse down at the tall man’s feet. ‘Let us out.’

‘Oh boys,’ Lanky Pete sighed, like a tired old man.

He didn’t look at the money at his feet. His ravenous eyes were on me.

‘Let us out,’ I said again, but it came out like a croak.

Lanky Pete said nothing. Johnny started to cry.

‘He hasn’t got a wife,’ he sobbed.

‘Now, now, that’s not fair,’ Lanky Pete said. ‘I did used to. But it was more fun getting rid of her than having her, understand?’

‘Please let us out,’ I whispered, because I didn’t know what to do.

‘Oh boys,’ Pete sighed again, ‘d’you really think anyone will miss you?’

For one second, I had a heart-stopping clarity that I was going to die. One second. Then Johnny sprang up from the ground, and threw himself on Lanky Pete like a wild dog, screaming and biting. I had to do something, then. As Pete wrestled my friend, I grabbed the chair behind me and I threw it into the shuttered window. The wood and glass shattered, and I knew we had a chance. I grabbed the other chair.

With a shout, Pete tossed Johnny onto the floor. When my chair hit him, he tumbled like a house of cards. Johnny jumped up, I’m sure he did, he had the reflexes of a cat. I’m sure he was behind me when I climbed out the window. But when I looked back, I saw the soles of his feet, and I heard him scream.

I ran.

I’m sorry.

I ran, and I didn’t stop. Pete didn’t follow me. I gave him the slip. That’s the way they said it, when they talked later: I gave Lanky Pete the slip.

Johnny wasn’t so lucky.

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Written by G.J.

25/01/2014 at 1:54 am

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