It was a couple of weeks ago. I was down the pub with my mates, not the pub that I usually go to, one that I don’t go to too often. That’s when he walked in, Ian McKellen. You know the geezer? Gandalf? Yeah anyway, he walked in and bought a round for everyone and then walked back out again. I didn’t know what to say. Just turned to my mate and said “Gandalf just bought us all a pint.” Amazing, I don’t know how these things happen to me all the time. I must be one of them lucky people.
Not sure why people complain about life, really. It could be a lot worse. I’ve picked up my giro this morning. Got a load of dough in my pocket. A mate of mine is going to sort me out a job next week, somewhere in Spain, being an extra in some film he’s making. I can’t wait to get a bit of sun. Get out of this gaff for a little while. I do love it here, it’s just the people here, they don’t have any ambition. Not like me. The rich and famous buy me drinks in the pub and I go off to Spain to shoot films. Unique round here I am. That’s the problem, none of them are like me.
The missus will be pleased too. I’ll be able to bring a bit more dough, maybe take her on a holiday. Somewhere nice. She reckons it’s a bit boring going to the caravan down the seaside every summer. I like it though. I don’t go there because I am skint. I go because I like it. You don’t need all that foreign food, they don’t even speak English in these places either. I can speak a bit of Spanish though, dos cervezas por favor. All you need to know in one sentence. Yeah, anyway, I go to the caravan because I like it down there. I’ll take her away somewhere nice this year though. Some exotic gaff, she’ll stop moaning then.
I went to see a man about a dog yesterday. A geezer I met in the pub last week reckoned he had a load of nicked clothes that he needs to sell. I told him I’d get rid of them no problem. I’ll sell them to a geezer I know down the market. It’ll give me a few quid spending money for Spain. So I walks into his flat and there’s clothes all of the place. The problem is, they are all pink. Scarves, t shirts, trousers, even jeans. What’s he reckon, I own a pub in Soho? I told him I could get rid of them. Just might take me a bit longer, he’ll have to give me a bit more too. He didn’t seem too happy but what else can he do. I’m in the driving seat here.
Like I said before no one around here has any ambition. Most people would have turned all them clothes down, said no, I can’t do that. Not me. Last year I, just before I met the missus, I did a bank job with my mate Dave. Dave don’t live around here no more otherwise you could ask him about it. Anyway, this bank we robbed has the best security system in the world. I did a computer course at school which is why Dave asked me. It was a piece of piss, we were in and out in twenty minutes. Well over a million quid in cash. The problem is, I can’t spend any of that money. It’s all marked, have to leave it as my retirement fund when no one will remember.
I probably won’t even need all that money though. Not when my acting career takes off. I reckon he chose me to go out there because he sees my potential. He knows I am going to become a big star. I’ll be able to buy a gaff in Monaco or one of them places. I’ll be able to mix with the starts properly then, not in one of these muggy little pubs that you get around here. McKellen must have heard my name about, bought us all a pint because he didn’t want to leave anyone out, didn’t want it to go to my head either. My feet are properly on the ground.
I knock the people that live around but there’s some good ones too. There’s the old geezer that rides his little scooter to the shop every morning. He used to be in the SAS. Riding the scooter is all part of his act, doesn’t want anyone to know that he’s hard. He told me one day when we were having a chat in the pub. Obviously knows who he can trust. He could kill a person with one hand, some kids tried to rob him once and he pulled out a shotgun. Right hard bastard. You don’t want to mess with him. I always buy him a pint now, you know just to show that I respect him and that. Nice fella really. Feel a bit sorry for him.
The best one though is that geezer that lives on his own. You won’t believe this story, it’s too good to be true, but it is true, I know him well. Anyway, when he was a kid his mum left him, apparently she was on the game and smoking crack. The poor kid was always outside the door kicking a ball against the wall waiting for whatever geezer was in there to leave. When the geezer was walking out the door he used to kick the ball at them. His little way of taking out his aggression on them. He’d go back inside until the next fella came along or his mum sent him to buy something from the shop.
Everyone on the estate knew what was going on. You could see it when they walked past the kid, looks of pity in their eyes and all that. Sometimes they’d try and talk to him, ask him if he was okay, if he wanted anything. He always said he was okay, though. He didn’t really want anyone interfering, if his mum found out he’d been talking to people she knock him about. They all felt sorry for him. The thing is round here, you kind of keep yourself out certain people’s business. Even if they wanted to help, what could they have done? The mother would have got someone to go round and smash their windows in.
Some nights when the mother as at home and there was no one else around he used to tell her stories. He just used to make them up off the top of his head. She’d sit there listening to them, a little smile on her face. Sometimes she would even laugh and ruffle his hair. This was the only time that he was happy. The rest of the time he was angry, alone and frightened but when she listened to his stories, that was his time with her. At least he made her happy, not like all them fellas that used to come in the house. Sometimes they’d hit her.
One day she had come home from where ever it was that she went and told him to wait outside. There was an important man coming to see her and she didn’t want him around. She said he had to go and wait in the park opposite their flat. He couldn’t wait outside the door tonight, the man couldn’t see him. He’d never seen his mum so excited. Even when he told his stories and she ruffled his hair she’d never had this look on her face.
He stood over in the park, kicking some broken glass about. Pretending to be some football player, half his mind on scoring a goal in the cup final and half his mind on watching the house. He knew he wouldn’t be able to do anything if they hurt her, but he would still try. He watched as a big, expensive car pulled up outside. A man with a suit got out and went into the house. He looked like he had loads of money. The kid was thinking about whether or not he should turn the rich geezer’s car over or not. He’d better not, his mum would kill him.
When the fella left, his mum actually went to the door with him. She never usually did that with the other geezers. She was smiling, he heard her say “See you tomorrow”. When the car had gone he went back into the flat. His mum sitting on the sofa. She called him over to sit by him and tell her a story, he usually had to start telling them before she listened. Not her asking to be told. As her told her his latest tale, she seemed to listen more intensely. Even showing emotion, a tear falling down her face as she ruffled his hair.
The next morning, he woke up and went to the kitchen to make something to eat. There was £100 on the table and a small note. On the note was written “sorry, but I have to leave”. He was a clever kid, but he didn’t really understand the meaning behind the note. He just thought she’d gone out for the day. He didn’t know what the money was for though. She only ever gave him money when he had to go to the shop and buy something for her. At least he had the house to himself for the day. His imagination could run wild, no need to worry about his mum. It was easier not to worry when she wasn’t here.
After three days she still hadn’t come back. He still had most of the money. Going to the chip shop in the evenings to buy something to eat. Hoping that she’d be there when he got back to the flat. All this time on his own and he’d come up with loads of new stories. She’d love the one about the old fella that had a scooter. Or even the one about being an actor. But she didn’t come back. Night after night he waited. Until one morning a lady knocked on the door and asked him if he knew where his mother was. He said he didn’t, the lady said she was going to take him to a nice place for a few days, just until they found his mum.
It wasn’t a few days though, he was in the home for four years. They never found his mother. Those four years he would wonder where she had gone, where she had gone, why she had gone. Maybe his stories weren’t good enough anymore. He didn’t understand why she didn’t want him, he had tried his hardest to make her happy when she was sad. The place he lived in was full of kids whose mums or dads had ran away. All of them angry and hurt, all of them doing what they could to survive on their own.
When he was 16 he left, the council found him a place of his own. Back on the estate that his mum had abandoned him on. He still told his stories to anyone that would listen. It was the only time that people would listen to him. When he used to go to the pub, he would have all his stories ready in his head, ready to tell anyone that would listen. He knew they weren’t real, well sometimes. The line between reality and fantasy was becoming thinner. He got what he craved though, and that was people’s attention, even if they did laugh at him.
It’s weird ain’t it? Poor kid. The story seems quite believable, but that kid was me. I’ve never been in a pub when Ian McKellen has walked in to buy everyone a pint. I’ve not got a mate who is making a movie in Spain. I’ve never robbed a bank, but I bet you believed that one though? I haven’t even got a wife. I still live on my own. Opposite the flat that I lived in with my mother. Every day I’m reminded of her walking out of my life. What else can I do but tell stories? Do you want a pink shirt by the way, I think it’d suit you.
This short story is where the idea for my upcoming novel ‘Liar’ originated from . You can pre order it for Amazon Kindle here. My First book of short stories ‘The Unwashed’ is also available on Kindle and paperback here.