Although not in any way a reflection of his life, this story is dedicated to Mal Gray of the Wild Angels Rock and Roll group who died recently. R.I.P.
OK I’m not an angel, but I’m not all bad. Maybe I’d have turned out better if I had more opportunities but I made the choices.
It started off OK. I had a good brain and enjoyed learning. The teachers were pretty good too. Even the old goat in woodwork class entered my piece into a competition as an example of ingenuity. I didn’t win, but the pride on Mum’s face when she was telling the neighbours you’d think I’d invented the wheel or something. I thought of studying engineering then becoming a racing driver.
I was eleven when Mum got ill and I started bunking off school just to sit with her on her really bad days. All she wanted was a cuddle or some company but Dad had never been very demonstrative. He went to work, put food on the table and thought he had done his bit.
For the next two years I regularly skipped school to be with her, and even when I did attend I found I had missed so much I felt like an idiot. Then she died.
I was lost. Even attending school regularly I couldn’t concentrate and slipped even further behind. Dad was called in for a meeting with the headmaster, and the next thing I knew I’d been enrolled in another school a few miles away. They were a rough lot and I got picked on for being a former pupil at the ‘posh’ school.
I’d always been good with my hands, but now I had to use them in a different way to stop being beaten up. I got a reputation as a hard nut and they left me alone. The standard at the new place was very low, and the teachers were only interested in payday. Although the answers were obvious I didn’t want to be a know-it-all so I kept quiet and got bored. A couple of the senior boys had old jalopies, and when I proved I knew what I was doing they let me help, even though I was a lot younger than them. It felt good to be needed again.
Dad had occasionally gone to the local working man’s club but now he started dressing smartly and going out regularly in the evenings. Left to my own devices I tagged along with the older boys when they roamed the streets at night, burning rubber and picking up girls. I was only sixteen when they taught me to drive, even though I had no licence or insurance.
At the same time Dad started bringing his new girlfriend home, and on the nights I stayed in she made it obvious I was in the way. She was loud-mouthed and coarse, totally different from Mum, who had been soft and gentle. With raging teenage hormones I couldn’t help noticing her boobs hanging out; I’m sure she flaunted them more when dad wasn’t looking, just to tease me.
Dad had always worked hard, and the pay-out from Mum’s insurance had put a bit extra in the bank. By now his girlfriend was staying regularly and had her own key. My last day at school I got home early, but she was on the phone and didn’t hear me come in.
‘He’s such a woose; I’ve got him eating out of my hand. His kid has got more gumption than him but I need a bit more time.
‘Yeah I know, but it won’t be long. A couple more weeks and I’ll have the money and you can have me.
‘I miss you too. Can’t wait. You don’t know what it’s like being nice to the old codger, but it’ll be worth it. Gotta run, I think I heard someone come in. Love ya. Bye.’
Turning she noticed me standing in the doorway but before either of us had a chance to say anything Dad came in. She was a good actress, I’ll give her that. Throwing herself into his arms she sobbed as she told him I had assaulted her. Dad’s face was like thunder and he wouldn’t listen to a word I said. Knowing I didn’t stand a chance I threw some things into a bag and took off.
The only place I could think to go was the pokey little flat Bazz and Dingo shared. When I turned up they were both high and for the first time I tried some grass. I woke the next morning with my head splitting, but at least I had somewhere to stay. They got their money from thieving but for a few weeks I managed to stay out of it. The job centre wasn’t much use, and my CV didn’t look inspiring, so apart from signing on for the dole there was not much else I could do.
With no cash to pay rent, in desperation I agreed to act as driver when their regular mate was sick. It was surprisingly easy. All I had to do was drop them by the alley at the back of the shop, drive round the block, and hightail it out after I picked them up. It became a regular thing, but not surprisingly my luck eventually ran out. I was caught, sentenced to a young offenders’ institute and had to learn to use my fists again.
When I came out the chances of getting a job with my record were non-existent and I slipped back into the old ways. It became almost a game, trying to outwit the cops who now had me on their radar. As an adult the next sentence saw me with hardened criminals, and it was tough. I wondered what Mum would have made of me, and felt ashamed.
Walking the street one night after my release, I heard a rumpus and recognised the two ex-cons attacking a middle-aged lady. She was screaming and putting up a pretty good show of defending herself, until one of them punched her hard in the face and she went down, still clutching her handbag. When I saw the flash of the knife I had to intervene.
Taking on two grown men was not the wisest of moves, but it did give the old girl time to get away and call for help. By the time it arrived it was too late for me, which is how I ended up in front of you for the final judgement. How is she? Did she survive? As I said I know I’m no angel but I never deliberately hurt anyone.
‘She’s fine my son. You saved her life, but you’re wrong you know. You are an angel now. Come on in.’
Passing through the pearly gates I went to find Mum.
© Voinks April 2017