Jordan Macoll moved to our school as Bates and I went into fifth year. Like I say, about a month ago. He’d come from Greenock. Some shit tip housing scheme that was falling down. His mum had sent him up here to live with his uncle. She couldn’t handle him anymore. I don’t know that for sure. But that was the way it seemed. He had this big fucking scar down his face. One of those Chelsea smiles. He was hard looking cunt. Again, I’m sorry for my language. But he was.
“Who the fuck’s that?” I remember Bates whispering to me in the canteen one day. I was standing in front of him.
“I dunno,” I said, “Must be new.”
Bates didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. I knew him well enough to know what he was thinking. He did a lot of staring at lunch that day.
I got talking to the guy before he did. He was nice enough, but like I said, I get along with most folk. I was in his P.E. class. He was a dynamite footballer. Most of the boys from these places were. He was a forward as well. We linked up pretty well. We both knew the game better than most folk so we would know roughly where the other one was. But he was no Bates. Not in my eyes anyway.
The boys were talking when we got back into the changing rooms after class.
“He’s a fucking good player isn’t he?”
“Could be better than Bates”
“Maybe, and harder too.”
“He certainly fucking looks it”
All that sort of stuff. They zipped up as soon as I came in. They knew that if I told him what they were saying, he’d beat the shite out of them. They all went quiet. There are a few drawbacks from being Bates’ cousin. The biggest one is having people go quiet when you come into a room now and again. I knew that he would enjoy that sort of power though.
They got into a fight at the first training session for the school team of that year. Bates always played lone striker, but Mr. Ross recognized how good Jordan was. He tried sticking the two of them together. If it had worked we would have had one of the best attacks in the Highlands. But it didn’t. It didn’t work at all. They wouldn’t pass to each other. Jordan would take the ball and run with it. Bates would ping shots from everywhere. On that day Bates had scored two. Jordan had a hat-trick.
Right at the end of the game I dropped a cross into the box and they both jumped for it. They ended up head butting each other. The game stopped as the two of them hit the ground. Everyone sort of knew what was going to happen. People in school had been talking about who was harder since the start of term. Bates or this new guy Jordan. The football rivalry didn’t really come into it. Most people saw Bates’ red cards instead of his goals. In the same way they saw Jordan’s scar instead of his lightening quick feet. But they were more aware of the rivalry than anyone else.
As the two of them scrambled up to get at one another I felt everyone looking at me. Like I was the only one that could stop it. Playing lighthouse again. Seeing this happen as many times as I had I instinctively ran over to pull him away. I got there as Jordan threw him to the ground and was about to stamp on his face. I reached down and pulled Bates away just as the boy brought his boot down. His foot dug hard into the wet mud at the goal mouth.
“Get the fuck off me you fucking nigger!” he shouted. I remember that so clearly. I’d only ever been called a nigger once in my life. It was Bates who made sure that I was never called it again. He knocked a guy out who was three years older than him. One punch. Knocked him out. He kept kicking the shite out of him while he was out. I had to pull him off. He didn’t hit me that time. He knew it was me.
Everyone just turned and looked at me. It was one of those things where I knew that everyone had thought it at some point, but no one had ever said it. I was the only person of mixed race in the whole village. My mother’s black. I was shocked to hear it. It wound me tighter than I’d been wound before. But when I think back, I’m not surprised he said it. He was about to get the shit kicked out of him. But he was right up in my face. I couldn’t see through that mist. I was looking right in his eyes and I couldn’t see through it.
“Come oan then ya fuckin’ wee pussy!” Jordan shouted from behind him. I looked at him. And then back to Deo. His eyes were still gone. He pushed me and stormed off towards the changing rooms. He booted the ball into the trees as he walked off.
“I’m coming for you, you fucking cunt!!!” he shouted, without looking back. Jordan just smiled and walked back towards the halfway line. I watched Deo walk away. I remember being worried.