While working with students in their final year of statutory education, young people who had been permanently excluded from mainstream, or otherwise not in mainstream schools, Lois Elsden came across a large number of reluctant readers; literate intelligent but disengaged young people who just didn’t want to read set texts, they could – but they wouldn’t. Since they had to be entered for public examinations, and were very capable of doing well if they recommitted to education, Lois worked to re-engage these reluctant readers by writing three short novels with cliff-hanger endings to each chapter.
This is the first chapter of her short novel, ‘Run, Blue, Run!’ This is the story of Billy, aka Blue, whose drunken father disappears; Blue is pursued by three mysterious and dangerous looking men dressed in black:
“What do you mean, you’re not going to pay me?” I gasped.
“I mean, I’m not going to pay you,” he replied, speaking round the stub of his cigar.
“But I’ve shifted all those poxy boxes!” I exclaimed, my surprise turning to anger.
“Yeah, but they were supposed to be loaded on the trailer, you’ve just dumped them on the ground,” he looked at his watch, his fat red face was all shiny even though it wasn’t hot.
“No-one said I had to load them, I was just told to bring them down here. I’ve been up and down four bloody flights of stairs all day!”
“Yeah right, I’ve gotta be some place else,” he was hardly listening to me.
“I want my money – you said I’d get fifty quid!”
“Sorry, sonny,” but he wasn’t sorry.
Only the lively looking Doberman on the short chain he held in his hand stopped me laying one on him, the little fat get.
“Look, I want my money! I want my fifty quid!”
“Right, well, you’ll have to phone the office. I’ve gotta lock up now, gotta go, gotta be some place. So, ta-ra.”
He took the cigar out of his mouth, looked at it then tossed it to the dog who snapped it up. It had still been smouldering but the dog ate it, licked its lips and swallowed.
“You bastard!” I shouted.
“Watch it, sonny! I’m a patient man but I don’t take cheek from kids like you!”
He tugged at the dog’s chain and it growled and looked at me with bright eyes. It just wanted to tear my throat out.
I turned to go, there was nothing else I could do.
“You bastard!” I shouted again. “I’ll get my money, just you wait!”
As I got near the gate I turned and flicked him a finger. He was lighting another cigar, a great big fat long one. I felt like crying like a real little kid. I’d worked all day, up and down the bloody stairs with the bloody heavy awkward boxes. My back ached, my legs felt weak, my shoulders felt torn.
There was a pattering sound behind me and turning I saw he’d slipped the dog’s lead and it was scampering towards me, its teeth bared and spit flying from its mouth.
I ran. From somewhere I found the energy and ran, speed of light for the gate, got through it and slammed it shut on the barking dog. It jumped up at the bars as if it would bite through them.
“Ring the office in the morning!” the fat man shouted and began to laugh as if it was a real good joke.
I kicked the gate and set the dog barking even more.
I was so pissed off I stamped all the way back home.
Home. A mobile home. A bloody caravan.
As I went through the gate Earl came out. He ran the site, he was a little thin whippy guy and he always smelt of cat’s pee.
“Hey, Blue!” he called to me. The wind was up and it lifted his long greasy hair and he had to keep his hand on it to cover his bald head.
“See you, Earle,” I said trying to walk more quickly. I knew what he wanted and I didn’t want to hear it. I’d had enough shit today and my legs and back were killing me.
“Hey Blue,” and he caught up with me and took my arm. “Look I need the money. You’re two months late with the rent and you’ve got to give me the money.”
“You’ll have to see my old man,” I said, trying to pull away.
“Yeah, well, he’s indisposed isn’t he? Look I’ve got to have the money. I understand, and it’s not me, but Mr Goode, he’s the boss and he wants his rent. It’s not up to me, I only work here.”
“I haven’t got any money, you’ll have to see my Dad,” I said, getting really angry now. The fat bastard I’d worked for all day – if he had paid me I could have given Earl something. As it was I had worked all day for sod all and now –
“Yeah well, Blue if Mr Goode isn’t paid he’ll have to take action, won’t he?”
“Well, he can take a jump,” I pulled my arm away and started to walk up towards the caravan. It was beginning to rain and I was hungry and sore and angry.
“Look Blue – “
I turned round and socked him in the face. There was no power in it but he fell over all the same,
“I’m calling the police!” he scrambled away on all fours. “You scum won’t be here much longer – “
I managed a hobbling run and kicked his arse so he toppled into the puddle by the overflowing rubbish bin.
Without a backwards glance I marched up the road to the van. I got there and the door was open and swinging in the wind, banging against the side of the van. With a sinking heart I climbed the steps and went in.
The place was always a tip, piles of stuff, clothes, dirty dishes, fag ends. As I looked into the lounge I saw that the telly and video were gone. I went into the kitchen and all the cupboards were open and everything pulled out and the drawers tipped on the floor.
Was it dad? Had Dad done this?
I went into his bedroom. It stunk as much as usual but he wasn’t there. His cupboard was open and the clothes scattered everywhere. Not that unusual.
I went through to my room, my tiny little room. Even before I looked I knew. I knew I would not find my Gameboy, my Walkman, all my tapes, and my best trainers were gone.
Jesus. Oh Jesus.
I picked up my tin. The bastard had taken the silver chain and locket that had been Mum’s. It wasn’t worth anything to anyone but me but he’d taken it. And the necklace I had made at primary school. It was rubbish, it was only cheap glass beads but I’d kept it all these years.
I sat on the bed and if I’d felt like crying earlier, I sure felt like it now.
Had Dad done this? Had some other drunk broken in and taken the few things we’d had.
I sat and stared at Bob Marley and he stared back at me.
“Well, Bob,” I said. “I shot the sheriff but I didn’t shoot the deputy down.”
I pulled out the drawing pins and took down the poster. Taped onto the wall behind it was an envelope. I took it down and stuffed it in my pocket. Then I folded Bob and took him too. I found the sports bag I’d used when I’d bothered going to school. I stuffed in a few of the old clothes I had.
As I went back through Dad’s room I happened to glance out of the window.
Earl hadn’t bothered ringing the police. Walking up on either side of him was Timmy and Tommy Goode, Mr Goode’s twin brothers. They had baseball bats in their hands, Tommy was swinging his backwards and forwards as he walked. Timmy was thwacking his against the palm of his massive hand. God, they were evil.
I went back into my room, kicked out the window, jumped out and legged it.
Copywrite © Lois Elsden
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