Satelite Stories #1 Bowling
Bowling by Paul Cree. Copyright 2019
Probably a Friday night; Crawley high street. We must’ve been around seventeen, as we were in the old bowling alley, one of the only places we could get served; getting beered-up and pissing about. This new entertainment complex had opened up, on the edge of town, a few minutes walk-away, sort-of-like a mini-Vegas for Crawley, just without most of the glitz and replace the slot machines with Time Crises, that punch-out one and that dance thing, with the disco squares. Add a TGI Friday’s, the cinema, some shite nightclub, a Mac-D’s and you get the picture, took a lot of the punters there with it. The old AMF was dying a death but it had booze. We were all there, Gareth, Mo, Rich, Brendon and me and there was always other faces you’d bump into.
I don’t remember why, for some reason me and Brendon had gone outside, probably on some little in-flight mission, more-than-likely, on a jaunt to the new place to see if there were any girls around our own age, we could attempt to talk to; as if we’d ever actually get anywhere. Even with the odds stacked against us, it never pissed on that little fire of excitement, that something might actually come of it; risk, reward and all that. Few beers, bit bleary-eyed but that faux-confidence you get from watered-down-bowling-alley lager was flowing in the system and we were bowling.
We’d barley got out the door, though and onto the pavement, when this group of five or so boys, all YSL polo’s with the collars up, tight-hats sat at imposable angles, trackies and classics, stops us in our tracks. This tall, pale, ginger one, hands full of sovereigns and keepers, face screwed up like he’s constipated, comes up fast, in that classic rude-boy stance: chin tucked in, shoulders forward, asks us for snout or something. I knew enough to know, this was never really a request and more of a demand. This ginger prick’s made a bee-line straight for me; never under estimate the psychological instincts of a cunt like this, they got a homing-beacon on the weak ones, he knew and so did I. My mouth must’ve feebly mumbled some incoherent bollocks, heart-beat rising and ring loosening, in response to this rather impolite but almost customary greeting. All I know is, that my voice just went up an octave and if I hadn’t given away that I was already scared, then I had now, dickhead.
Before I know it though, Brendon chats something back and is now butting foreheads with this kid, talking in that vocab you learn fast round here, all wot, wot and do you know who I am etc. This ginger prick doesn’t like that fact that Brendon has stood up to him, I don’t know where this is going and there’s a few raised voices, with this whole merry-dance feeling very familiar. Anyway, turns out, that in amongst this little mob, there’s a geezer that both and me Brendon know; was in the year below us at school and he’s alright. He’s holding a Stella in a blue-puffa-jacket, mad red-eye, looking like he was probably having a nice evening until this, like a parent on a night off, who suddenly has to step back into mummy mode; he’s now in the middle, splitting up Brendon and this aggy ginger kid, trying to calm things down. Thing is, me and Brendon are now separated and three of the others are now in front of me and too close for comfort. This brown-skinned one, with light freckles on his face, is asking me for fags, not quite as aggy as the ginger one but I ‘aint chancing it. I think I tell him that I don’t smoke, because he’s now pointing at the box shaped-bulge sticking out of my too-tight Teddy Smith jeans, that I got from Street Talk in Redhill; suddenly I don’t think there so tasty anymore. I weren’t lying, though, I don’t smoke, not cigarettes, but at the time I’d been nicking packets of fags and selling them on to my mates, for cheap, I’d flogged a couples of boxes to Rich, that night. I tell ‘em it’s my wallet, then one of them asks for a pound, which was a standard Crawley shake-down back then and probably in the guidebook for something you had to experience, at least once. Like some shit-instinct I didn’t know I had, I’ve whipped my wallet out and am opening up the change compartment, packed full of squids from where I’d sold the cigarettes, what the fuck am I doing!? I must really wonna’ ingratiate myself to these pricks. Funnily enough, the brown skin boy with the freckles tells me to the put my wallet away, he aint’ trying to rob us, he says, he just wants fags.
This kid has just spared me and you’d think that’d be it but suddenly my lips are trembling again, bumbling out some extra-curricular bollox, which entails giving them the name of my mate Rich and that he’s in the bowling alley and has fags. Course this caught the ears of the ginger prick, who by now has had to back down from Brendon and probably don’t like it, now he’s back on me, demanding I repeat those details and I do, surname and everything, like I can’t control my lips, like it’s an involuntary reaction, like I just lost my arsehole and threw my own my mate under the bus, in front of all these pricks and in front of my other mate, Brendon. I’m praying they don’t go in there. Fortunately, the kid that we know, Stella in hand, is now leading the ginger cunt and their little firm away and back up the high street, turns around and says sorry boys, as me and Brendon walk off, resuming our little mission, whatever it was, me, heartbeat still pumping trying to slow it down and keep pace with Brendon, lowering the tone of my voice, back down to normal, as if nothing just happened. Brendon don’t even look at me, stays quiet and just stares ahead, as we resume, back to bowling.