As I sat watching the ducks on the water, there was a grunt from behind the wall. Eight fingers with black broken nails, appeared at the top of the wall. Then a dirty gymshoe attached to a skinny leg: grazed and scabby with a darned grey sock rolled down round the ankle. Then a mop of black hair and a grimy face, reddened with exertion, appeared between the fingers. With one more effort he cleared the wall and was standing beside me.
“Watcha!”, he said.
“Watcha!”, I replied.
He stood for a while, looking round, taking it all in, taking possession. This five-stone Napoleon scanned the debris of the bombed-out row of houses with his eyes only, not moving his head. Satisfied, he stuck his hand deep into the bulging pocket of his patched grey flannel shorts and pulled out a crumpled packet of 5 Woodbines, took one out and lit it, striking a loose match on the wall. He took a long, complacent drag of the cigarette, wiped his nose on his sleeve again, spat noisily, looked me up and down with a sneer and said,
“Got away from your Mum, then?”.
I shrugged, sneered like him and said nothing. My Mum worked and she would leave the house before me. I never had any problems, but it suited Tommy to think I was a bit of a Mummy’s boy.
“Got any money?”.
“Got me bob dinner money. You?”.
Some of us had a shilling for our dinner money so when we got hungry we duck into Hoxton street and get some pie ‘n’ mash at Fortunes or some chips across the road. Tommy never had a lot of money on him so he tucked into whatever was going.
He stood, saying nothing. Holding the soggy end of the cigarette between his thumb and first finger. The burning end pointing into the palm of his hand. Watching the ducks, malevolently. I could see he was itching to throw stones at the ducks.
“Is Jimmy coming out?”
“Probably still in bed. ‘Is mum goes out early. Wait for the bell and we’ll go and find ‘im”.
I could see he was itching to get going, but we couldn’t move or make too much noise until the school bell had rung and the last stragglers had left the streets. This piece of waste land had a large tank of water sunk in it to help put out fires during the bombings. Its attraction to us was the wall that hid it from the street. Once we were sure, we’d be off like monkeys over the wall and across the extensive bomb-sites. Passing past prefabs we would pick up another couple of mates.
Fragments by Boz