5 I’m an Upstart
Colin leaned against the side of a Moon Cresta machine in the train station buffet and watched Brian perform a docking manoeuvre to join two spaceships together. Brian jabbed the fire button and waggled the joystick from side to side, his movement becoming more frantic as the ships got closer together. He banked too far to the left, and one of the spaceships exploded in a ball of pixelated flames. Brian swore and thumped his fist down on the control panel.
“All right, Col,” Stiggy said from the doorway.
Colin looked around and raised a hand. Brian continued playing the Moon Cresta game, frowning while he tried to avoid multi-coloured blobs falling diagonally across the screen toward his remaining spaceship. Stiggy looked over Brian’s shoulder, sighed, and sat down at a nearby table.
“I thought you said there was loads of people going?” Stiggy asked.
“They’re not here yet,” Colin said. “Shouldn’t be long though. I think they were going to the football this afternoon, maybe they had extra time or something. The train’s late anyway.”
As if in confirmation, the train station tannoy announced the next train to Shefferham would be approximately twenty-three minutes late.
When Brian finished his game, he and Colin joined Stiggy at the table. They both lit cigarettes. Stiggy frowned and wafted smoke away from his face.
A few minutes later Twiglet and Spazzo arrived, along with another youth dressed in casual gear that Colin didn’t recognise. Colin looked toward the door, and when nobody else entered he asked where Mike was.
“He got nicked down at the footie, didn’t he?” Twiglet said with a shrug as he sat down at the table. “The daft cunt only went and nutted a fucking copper.”
“What did he do that for?” Brian asked.
“Pissed up, weren’t he? Anyway, all of a sudden there was loads of fucking coppers everywhere lashing out at anyone who stood still long enough. The rest of us fucked off sharpish and melted into the crowd.”
“Aye,” Spazzo said, running his fingers through his bristly green hair. “Mike got a right fucking smack round the head, split it right open. Next thing there’s three of the bastards on top of him and more of the cunts running toward us. Fucking mental, it were.”
* * *
Trog looked up at a black and white display hanging over platform 3B and frowned.
“The fucking train’s late,” he said.
Don stood by the edge of the platform, bent over with his hands on his knees. He gasped for breath, having run up the stairs from the subway under the train station. He coughed, and spat a glob of mucus between his feet.
“Just as … fucking well or we’d have … missed the cunt.”
Trog looked at Don and hitched up his bleached jeans. “Mate, you’re out of fucking condition. We’ve only been running a few minutes.”
Don straightened up and stretched his arms out behind him. He reached into his flight jacket pocket for a pack of cigarettes. “Yeah well, looks like that were a waste of fucking effort anyway.”
Trog hooked his thumbs in his pockets and polished the toes of his boots on the back of his legs, one after the other.
A bored-sounding male voice, adding unnecessary emphasis to random words, made an announcement over the tannoy.
“The next train to arrive at platform 3B will be the late running eighteen-thirty service to Shefferham. We apologise for the late arrival of this train, which is now due to arrive in Shefferham at nineteen-fifty-five approximately. Passengers are advised that the smoking carriage is at the rear of this train, and smoking in any other area of the train is not permitted. Platform 3B for the late running eighteen-thirty service to Shefferham.”
“There you go,” Trog said, “looks like we’re just in time.”
A group of punks wandered out of the buffet. The gobby student, his two mates, and a couple more Trog hadn’t seen before. With them was someone he knew from work.
“All right, Johnno?” Trog called out. “You off to the Cockney Upstarts then?”
“Aye up, Trog,” Johnno said, nodding. “Yeah, Spazzo here were going on about it at the footie, it sounds a right laugh. So how’s it going then? I haven’t seen you in the showers for a while.”
“I’ve been working the afternoon shift.”
“Yeah? Can’t say I’m looking forward to that myself, I reckon I might put in for permanent days when I turn eighteen.”
Trog smiled. “Yeah, you and thousands others. It’s not so bad really, you finish just in time for the pubs opening. It’s the night shift that’s the real killer.”
“Yeah, that’s what my dad says too. He’s a right grumpy old bastard when he’s on nights.”
“Did you hear about Ian?”
Johnno nodded. “Yeah, it were in the local paper, it said he took a right fucking beating. How is he?”
“Still unconscious. You heard anything about who did it?” Trog glanced at the student punk and his two mates. They glared back at him.
Johnno shook his head. “No, mate. But if you find out, let me know and I’ll help you sort the bastard out. He were a good bloke, Ian.”
“He still is,” Trog said.
* * *
Continued next Friday.
Punk Faction by Marcus Blakeston is also available in paperback and ebook if you don’t want to wait that long.