A Novella: Two Brothers (Part One)
The summer had been a mercilessly hot one, and the met office issued a severe weather warning. An old lady, two doors up from Ronnie had died from heat stroke. He lived in a small flat in on the Downside Fisher settlement with his mum and little brother. The settlement had seen better days, the brick work was faded and worn, and the heat seemed to magnify off the concrete pavement. School was now finished for the year. With no money for a holiday, the boys had to entertain themselves. During the football season the boys used to sneak down to Millwall football ground. There was a hole in one of the fences, sneaking under that the boys would then run to the corner of the stands, hoping someone would take pity on them and lift them in to watch the games. However, with Millwall finished for another season the boys soon got bored.
The eighth of August started like any other day. The boys foraged in the kitchen for something to eat. Their mum came out from her bedroom, looking plump as ever. Her eyes darkened from smoking and her finger tips stained. Her hair was blond, but it wasn't like Ronnie's, she bleached it that colour, this meant it was thinner than it should have been. She stood there with a fag in one hand and a bottle of vodka in the other.
"If you want food, you ain’t gonna find much," she said, a hint of satisfaction in her voice.
"Why haven't you done the shopping, mum?"
"Cause your father ain’t brought me the money he owes me, that's why," she said stubbing the cigarette out in the nearly full ash tray. Ronnie's father was a waster, or so his mum said, he had never actually seen him, he always seemed to come round when Ronnie was out. As for the money, he knew where it had gone, fags and alcohol as per usual. Ronnie finally found some bread, it was slightly gone off, but it would do for toast.
"Urrr I ain't eating that; it's got mould on it," said his younger brother Charlie.
"Shut up and eat it!" grimaced Ronnie. It seemed harsh, but he was actually trying to protect Charlie. His mother believed in a firm hand and would give a clip round the ear role for just speaking out of line. She reserved harsher punishments for when they were extremely naughty. Her personal favourite was the belt, she had used only a few times. The most memorable occasion was when Ronnie was caught stealing from a local sweet shop. "I didn't raise a thief!" she screamed as she belted him. It had ripped a chunk of skin off of his leg, it never re-grew, the scar tissue was still there. He hadn't stolen since though.
The pair walked into the living room and turned the telly on. Ronnie turned for a moment looking up at the mantel piece. There was a picture of him as a baby. He looked tiny. The picture was taken in the nursery of the local hospital by his dad. As he looked at the picture, he was once again studying the baby in the cot next to him. For some reason, he had somehow made it into the picture. Ronnie put it down to his dad's pathetic photography skills. Ronnie caught his reflection in a glass, his blond hair, light freckles and blue eyes, gave him an angelic quality, but his behaviour was far from it. He had a reputation as a trouble maker, and caused a lot of problems on the estate, and at school.
Ronnie looked across at his brother. Blue Peter was on, and Charlie was lounging across the sofa his feet hanging off one edge. At that moment, Ronnie’s mum walked in and switched off the telly.
"Don't think you are gonna sit round here all day either. I am sick of the sight of ya's. Go and play out or something. I saw Scott out in the playground on the swings."
"Is Katelyn out there with him?" said Ronnie. He had always disliked Katelyn. She seemed a lot more interested in putting on make-up and not at all interested in building bases or playing on the railway tracks.
"Not that I sure but I think she went to Camber Sands with her mother. Now get out of here!"
"No I wanna stay here," said Charlie lazily.
"You aint staying here. I have a guest coming over, and he doesn't want to see you two fart arsing about place. Now be gone with ya," said his mother hitting Charlie with tea towel from the kitchen.
"What sort of guest?" said Charlie naively. Ronnie knew better. He knew that whenever these 'guests' came over, the boys were always herded out. Once Ronnie came in and found his mother counting up a wad of money after. She gave him five pounds to stop asking questions about where the money had come from.
"Alright we are going," said Ronnie. His mother pushed them both up the small corridor, herding them out the front door, and slamming it in their faces.
The playground sat in the centre of the Fisher settlement it was known by locals as Coxson Place. It had been there as long as the settlement. Every fourth or fifth year the council would come by and repair the broken swings and wash off the graffiti. But it was largely forgotten about. In the corner under the shadow of Downside Fisher Boys club was the swings. They were not normally occupied although today, a small lad who they knew as Scott frequented them. His fiery ginger hair, concealed under a blue Millwall cap.
“Alright Scott,” said Ronnie approaching from under the undergrowth.
“Hey,” said Scott solemnly.
“You alright mate?”
“Nah I ain’t, we lost Treacle.”
“Yeah she has been missing for days.”
“I think I saw her on the other side of Tooley street,” said Charlie scratching his head.
“She knows not to go out on main roads, she wouldn’t be over there.”
“Yeah but she could have crossed in the dead of night and now she can’t get back.”
“Shut up Charlie,” said Ronnie clipping his ear. He paused for a moment. “Why didn’t you go Camber?”
“Mum said I had to stay in case Treacle came back,” said Scott miserably. Scott stopped swinging for a moment.
“I'm bored Ronnie,” said Scott kicking the dirt.
“Hey ain’t the crab apples ripe?” suggested Ronnie. “Why don’t we sell them on the street.”
“Good Idea!” said Scott. The two lads climbed from the fence up on top of the container that housed the electronics, so the crab apples were in easy reach. They started collecting the crab apples in their shirts. It was not long, however, before they grew tired of it. Ronnie lobbed one of the crab apples at Charlie who had stayed on the ground. Scott soon followed suit and pretty soon it had descended into chaos. It was all Okay until Charlie started crying. Samantha, Ronnie’s mum came out at that point and told them to stop.
“Right I have had it with the pair of you. Stop hanging around. Don’t make me come out here again. Is that clear?”
“Yes mum,” chorused the boys.
“Why don’t you go fishing in the Thames?” suggested Samantha before going back inside.
“Yeah let’s go fishing. Come on we can look for Treacle as well,” said Charlie grabbing their homemade fishing rods– another of their summer exploits. Made from old branches and some tangled up fishing line they found in a skip. The boys were reluctant at first, but then Ronnie saw his nemesis, the bully Tommy Sutcliff hanging around so they gave in to Charlies request.
The cars were racing up and down Tooley street. The boys waited for a break in the traffic to cross. They walked past a large block of flats. Opposite was Ronnie's mum, Samantha's favourite boozer: The Ship. The pub had seen better days and had an odd smell, probably due to the large sewage pipe that ran underneath it.
At the river Thames, the boys made their way further along to the area where the HMS Belfast was moored. Ronnie's mum had told him the abbreviation stood for Her Majesty's Ship. They were keeping one eye out for Treacle, but none of them expected to see her. The boys used the access steps by the side of the river as their seats and dropped their rods in the water, ignoring the do not fish signs. It did not matter if they did not have any bait, or that they didn’t know that they needed bait.
“Look what I nicked from me mum’s hand bag,” said Scott producing a pack of cigarettes and a box of matches.
“Corr she will kill you if she finds out.”
“I know,” said Scott.
The three boys put the unlit cigarettes in their mouths.
“Shall I smoke it?” said Scott after a while.
“I dare you. Oh and light mine too,” said Ronnie.
Charlie sat there in silence, unwilling to partake in this new game.
“Charlie do you want me to light your cigarette?”
“No thank you.”
Scott and Ronnie started laughing.
“Why not Charlie? Are you chicken?” The two boys starting making chicken noises, leaving Charlie’s ego bruised. It was about seven minutes later when they spotted Treacle; Scott’s adventurous cat on a broken up jetty in the water.
“Oh my God! It’s Treacle!” said Scott excitedly.
“Where?” said Ronnie.
“Over there on that jetty,” said Scott walking back up the steps and along the promenade.
“No it can’t be... Oh fuck it is,” said Ronnie chucking the cigarette down and following his friend. They stood for a few moments looking out. Just beyond the promenade, and breach wall was the jetty jutting out into the water and about a metre below was the River Thames, itself.
“Go and get her please Ronnie.”
“What I ain’t getting your cat, you get it.”
“Come on Ronnie, the tide is coming in.”
“Listen it’s your cat mate.”
“I’ll do it,” said Charlie firmly.
“What?” said the boys in unison.
“No Charlie, it’s too dangerous,” said Ronnie, but Charlie was already climbing through the chain link fence, he held himself there, on the other side of the fence.
“Go on then,” said Scott impatiently.
After a few moments of hesitation, he jumped down onto the jetty.
“Watch out,” cautioned Ronnie.
The jetty was slippery, as Charlie moved along it, he slipped twice. Both times he was able to steady himself. The cat, however, was fearful and continued to move away from him. Eventually he managed to reach over and swoop the cat up in his arms.
“Go on Charlie!” shouted Ronnie excitedly. At that moment, Charlie lost his balance again. This made the cat struggle and jump from his arms. This time he failed to steady himself and dropped backwards smashing his head on the slimy wood of the jetty. The piece snapped as he hit his head on it. Within a matter of seconds, Charlie was in the Thames, still unconscious.
The rest was just a blur to Ronnie. He remembered screaming “somebody save him!” The rising panic, the tears and then nothing...
Thank you for reading a sample from Two Brothers, the novella is currently unfinished, but I will update this hub when I have finished it, sent it to the editors and got it published. Blessings AK