The first day of school was all wrong for the Youngest. Jimbo was only a few months older than him and that hadn't mattered during the summer. But now Jimbo had started middle school and the Youngest was still stuck in theJunior’s. He had known that this was going to happen, but only last week it had seemed like a distant problem.

Last year, the Youngest mucked around with his classmates in class, and his Avenue mates Jimbo and Nojin the playground. They always just sat on the steps at the top of the playground and talked. Now that they weren't there, the Youngest couldn't think what they ever found to talk about.

Now he was on his own, still sitting on the steps, pretending to be interested in the football that the other kids were playing. Nobody had asked if he wanted to play but that was alright because he didn't. He would have to find something to do though. He didn't want to sit up here on his own for the whole year.

Y'right Farleys? the Youngest looked up. It was Frankie and Johnny. He should have known.

Don't call me that.

Why notFarleys?

That's not my name.

Yes it is, Frankie stepped ahead of his brother. They were both grinning but Frankie had that wild sort of blank look in his eyes. Weedy little Farleys.Posh kid with no mates. Sitting on his own crying for his mum.

....Piss off Frankie.

Oohh! Frankie turned.‘Did you hear what the posh boy said?

A bad word. Johnny nodded.

Hah! Frankie said. We can do better than that,’ and he took a deep breath:

You're a weedy little, BASTARD! Do you know that?

A softy posh WANKER, like the rest of your gang. My brother is going to beat that fat boy up and I'm gonna do the same to you.

You can try. The Youngest said. He felt braver than he thought he would.

Oh don't worry about that Farleys...

Don't call me that!

Got to call you something. What should we call him Johnny?

The Youngest was angry now. Enough to use the kind of words his Grandma did when she'd he too much Baileys.

How about "TRAMP"? The Youngest saw both brothers go pale.

Shut up. Frankie whispered.

Or how about "PADDY"? Or just plain " GYPO"?

There was a flurry of brown acrylic as both the Nuttall boys jumped the Youngest. He was ready for them and his fists were a blur before they reached him. Even though there were two of them he wasn't too worried. He knew that Mrs Scholey, the dinner lady and playground monitor was standing nearby. She was a big lady.

The Youngest felt punches land on his shoulders and the back of his head and his own fists connect with softer targets. His legs flailed and he felt his foot connect, causinglow guttural grunt.

And then the blows stopped.

Mrs Scholey had each of the Nuttals dangling by the scruffs of their necks. Just like kittens. And just like kittens their instincts took over and they hung limp. There was no point struggling. Not against “Old king Scole.

Two against one! She was saying, then: ‘Headmistress!’ and then they were gone through the big doors of the main building. Their feet hadn't touched the ground.

‘You alright? Simon and Jonathan from his class had seen the scuffle and left off playing footy to come over.

Yeh. The Youngest rubbed his ear. It was the only bit of him that hurt. I'm not scared of them.

What about their big brother?

What about him? They started it anyway. The Youngest stood up and brushed himself down a bit. He felt pretty good considering.

Simon and Jonathan looked at him for a minute. He wasn't known as one of the tough kids and they weren't sure what to make of him.

Do you want to play? Simon gestured to the match that was still going on. Not really a match, more of a crowd of boys clustered around a ball in the corner of the playground.

I don't mind. The Youngest said. He wasn't interested in football but it was better than sitting on his own. How about I go in goal?

Okay by us. Come on then.

The fight had made the Youngest jumpy. He didn't know about adrenaline, but he knew what it felt like. It was like his muscles were twitching of the own accord and like you could be sick any minute if you moved too quickly. It was good standing watching the others kick the ball around but then playtime was over and he had to sit in class. All that afternoon he tried to follow what the teacher was saying but he couldn't. He was waiting for home time and the bottom field.

The Eldest was satin class. He had his "paying attention" face on, but he wasn't listening. The uniform he was wearing was brand new. Every part of it, even the pants had been pulled out of the cellophane wrapper the night before and arranged on his chair ready for the morning. The shoes were even shinier than new. His Dad had failed them on first inspection and then supervised the Eldest while he polished until his arm ached. Sometimes he wished his dad had never been in the army. The Youngest didn't even have to get a haircut let alone shine his shoes. "Bloody hippies" his Dad said all the time even though he was always grudgingly polite to their faces. 

The Eldest had polished those shoes four times before his dad was satisfied. Twenty minutes hard work just to get a silent nod and dismissal. If he scuffed them on Andrew Nuttall, then there would be trouble. If the uniform came home messed up then his Mum would tut and moan for maybe five seconds. The shoes though? No, his Dad would take any dulling of shine as a personal insult. He couldn't risk it. He decided then and there that he would dash home first. Then he could change into clothes that they wouldn't mind getting covered in bits of Crescent tramps.

Andrew was sitting in class too. He wasn't listening but then, he wasn't pretending to either. He had arranged with the rest of his gang to bunk off the last lesson of the day so that they could get in position nice and early, ready for the fat boy. Everyone from the Crescent went to the same school so this was easy to arrange, apart from Frankie and Johnny who were still at Junior school. Frankie would join them next year, Johnny the year after. At little school it was impossible to bunk lessons but they were a lot closer to Tower Road so Andrew was sure that they would get there in time to see the fight.

Andrew flexed his fingers then made fists over and over.  He thought about the Angel and its stump that should have been a graceful marble neck. Obscene, his Mum would have called it.  He was going to get that fat boy. It didn't matter that he was going to take a few punches. It didn't even matter if he got beaten up. Even if he finished worse off, he would make sure that Turner would know that if you messed with the Crescent, then you would get hurt.

More about the author

About the author

Russell McAlpine abandoned his polymath ambitions to concentrate on writing and living a quiet life on the South Coast.

The Angel’s Head is his second novel.

He is also working on the screen play of a low budget zombie movie for children and writes poetry that will go to grave with him.

He spends the rest of his spare time watching the horizon.

Follow Russell on Twitter.

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