I always got on with most people. I’m a decent footballer. I’m fairly smart. I’m always pretty chatty with folk. But the main reason people seemed to like me was because of my connection with Bates. Everyone knew that I was the only person that could calm him down. It was like I was a lighthouse or something. I could guide you to safety when ‘The Mist’ got thick. The times I’d been punched in the head were down to me turning up after the fight started. I’d get in the middle and get clouted. If I was there at the beginning, I could calm him down and pull him away. For the time being at least.
Bates had this swagger about the school that seemed to terrify people. I always used to tell him that he walked like he was carrying a couple of rolled up carpets under each arm. I didn’t hang out with him all the time, but it sounded like he was worse when he wasn’t with me. He would terrorize wee guys. I’d always been able to distract him with something when it looked like he was about to start harassing someone. No one else really seemed to have that sort of control over him. But when I wasn’t there and he was left with those primitive arseholes that followed him around, he could be a bit of a bully. Everybody kind of knew that the way he was wasn’t really his fault. His dad fucked off when he was about six. He left his mum and went off with some slapper. They live in England somewhere now. He hasn’t been in touch with him since he left. My dad stuck around a bit longer granted, but you can’t blame someone for having a heart attack. I never had that rage that Bates had. Like I said, I was just sad.
I remember the day his dad left. I went round to call in for him. His mum, my aunt, was in tears. She looked like she’d been crying for months. That was what I thought at the time. I know now that it was more like years.
“Deo’s gone somewhere Kevin. Can you go and find him?” she asked me. I remember that fag hanging from her lip quivering as she spoke. It’s funny how you remember the little things. I went out looking for him. I checked a few places I thought he might be before I saw someone throwing stones in the river under the wee bridge. I recognized that orange Nike jumper he worn until it fell off him. I climbed down the bank. He had been crying as well. Not as much as his mum. But enough. I gave him a big hug. He didn’t say much. Neither did I. I didn’t know what to say. I just helped him pick some stones to throw.
After that day I sort of acted like his older brother. I used to do his homework for him and take the rap if he ever got in any trouble. That was why mum got so pissed off about me hanging out with him. The police brought me home a bunch of times. I’d always come straight out and tell her what happened though. But after my dad died, he took over as the older brother.
“Nobody is ever going to give us any shit” he said to me. He was ten at the time. We both were. He started swearing before anyone else our age in the village.
He started fighting a lot after that. I saw him take a few beatings from older kids. I didn’t start getting involved until a few years later. My dad had always told me to talk my way out of a fight. His dad taught him to hit the mouthy cunts. We were different like that. I used that mouth of mine to stop his punches. As I said, I was always pretty good at it. But when the boy Jordan came to our school, I was pretty helpless. My lighthouse bulb couldn’t really shine through that mist.