Authors: Cj Flood
I braced myself for him to say he knew about my friendship with Trick, and that I wasn’t allowed out by myself any more because I couldn’t be trusted, because I was as bad as my
blasted brother, and worse than my mum, but he only said, ‘I know what you’re like, Eye, you see the best in people, and it’s a lovely thing, but . . .’ He turned away from
me, nodded towards the paddock. ‘I’ve been in the world a long time, and those people down there, you can’t trust them. And I know you think I’m being unfair, or
,’ he said, as though prejudiced wasn’t a real word, ‘and I know you feel sorry for them – I’ve
you watching – but they’re not
like us. They’re parasites, Eye. It’s what they do.’
I uncrossed my fingers then because it was obvious that he didn’t know a thing, and I realised that even if I did tell him the truth – that Trick was my friend, and that he’d
never steal from us, that I
him – he wouldn’t take my word for it. He
‘I was wrong to let it stand for so long,’ he said. ‘They bite the hand that feeds them, I think everyone agrees about that. Come here.’
He opened his arms out for a cuddle, and I stepped inside, inhaling his warm smell of wool and sweat and grass.
‘Don’t like you thinking I’m a pig, Eye,’ he said, and his voice was gruff again like it always was when he admitted something, and I told him that I didn’t think
he was a pig, which surprised both of us, because he
he thought I was too silly to decide anything for myself, but I meant it.
The police stuck to their word. By nine-thirty a.m. on Monday two officers – WPC Baker and PC Todd – were standing in the kitchen looking as though they
couldn’t quite believe they’d come all the way down this potholed lane for not much missing from a tree surgeon’s shed.
It turned out that as well as the window at the back being smashed, and Dad’s monkey wrench having gone, a claw hammer was missing, and a stretch of thick chain. I wondered if Trick had
heard anything, but I saw him on Saturday. He would have said.
Dad gave the police cups of his finest cabbage water. He loved giving officials weak tea; he put a single tea bag in the pot, and filled it right to the top so that when you added milk it turned
grey. Once he did it to Nanny Ferris, and Mum noticed and went mental.
PC Todd read Dad’s statement back to him, and when he reached the bit where Dad finds the tools missing, he looked up, as if to check Dad’s reaction. Dad looked straight back, the
heel of his work boot resting against the Aga. Between me and Dad, Fiasco’s tail twitched.
PC Todd was getting to the end of the statement when the door opened and Sam walked in. I stared at his head. All his brown curls had gone. I could smell his shower gel and deodorant as he
walked past, and I watched for Dad’s reaction to his shaved head. PC Todd nodded an acknowledgement, but Sam just took a seat on the bench by the phone, straightening out his Adidas Stripes.
His face was blotchy from having the shower on too hot.
WPC Baker was furthest away. She hadn’t said anything since she’d introduced herself and plonked her bum on the edge of the table. Now she watched Sam. He looked bored. He was
rubbing his little finger across the full moon scar he had on his forehead. It had been there since he was a toddler: a decapitated chicken pock. He used to fiddle with it at the same time as he
sucked his thumb, until Mum started covering his nail in this ointment that tasted like earwax.
PC Todd took a pen from behind his ear, and clicked it open against his clipboard.
‘And you’re certain that when you locked the shed nothing was missing?’
‘Nothing missing. Nothing smashed,’ Dad said.
PC Todd’s trousers were a half-shiny navy blue, like Sam’s school trousers. It didn’t seem right they should be so similar.
‘And how about the children? Were you two around that night? You didn’t hear anything, see anything?’ he said.
Dad looked at us. He’d been at the Stag. Friday was always a late one.
I shook my head. ‘I was in, but I didn’t notice anything.’
‘I was at my friend’s house,’ Sam said.
Todd wrote our answers down.
‘It’s like I said on the phone. There’re gypsies down the paddock. A whole load of them. A lad, two men—’
‘We’re not here to talk about the eviction, Mr Dancy,’ Baker interrupted. ‘Far as we’re concerned, this is an entirely separate case.’
Dad made a scoffing sound. ‘We’ll see about that,’ he said. He threw an amused look at Fiasco, who seemed to grin back.
WPC Baker looked annoyed.
‘Will you need statements off them?’ Dad asked, meaning me and Sam.
I held WPC Baker’s gaze, though my throat was tight at the thought of her watching me with those grave blue eyes.
‘That depends on whether either of them have any information,’ Baker said, and her voice was devoid of expression as she looked at each of us. I stroked Fiasco and tried to look
Silence filled the room, and I got that feeling, like when you’re watching a play and you’re not sure who’s meant to speak next, that the pause was for dramatic effect, or
because someone had forgotten their lines.
I nudged Fiasco with my foot to set her tail wagging again. Sam stroked his little moon absently. His head gleamed. He looked like a different person. I hated it.
‘Could we have a word, Mr Dancy?’ Baker said finally.
Without being told, me and Sam left the kitchen. I walked to my bedroom then crept back to listen at the kitchen door, expecting Sam to do the same, but his heavy footsteps up to his room
hadn’t been for show.
‘There’s been a period of over . . .’ Todd paused. Paper flicked. ‘Three weeks, with the gypsies present, and no criminal activity—’
‘Except for the illegal squatting,’ Dad interrupted. ‘And the fly-tipping. And God knows how much of my wood they’re chucking on the fire.’
Baker intervened, ‘As I said earlier, we aren’t here to discuss your plans to evict today, Mr Dancy.’
She had a weird way of talking, emphasising the wrong words, as if she’d got bored of saying the same things all the time. ‘We’re here to talk about the break-in to your
‘I think you’ll find the two are quite closely related,’ Dad said.
‘We’ll be the judge of that.’
‘And you say this is the first time anything like this has happened down here?’ Todd said.
,’ Dad said, and there was another silence, a longer one this time, until Baker spoke again.
‘You know, the last time we ran into you, Mr Dancy, you were hiding, half-cut, in the back of your car. We had to take you in to do a little blood test. Are you
to get to
She was talking about when Dad got done for drunk driving. It wasn’t long after Mum left, and I didn’t know what had happened, just that Dad wasn’t allowed to drive any more.
That was why Austin had gone from part-time helper to full-time apprentice, so he could drive the pick-up as well.
The kitchen tap dripped, and I wondered what Dad’s face was doing.
‘The fact is, without any evidence, this break-in may not strengthen your case with the council at all,’ Baker said.
‘Couldn’t bloody weaken it.’
‘I wouldn’t be so sure, Mr Dancy. This
be construed as sabotage.’
Dad made a strangled noise.
‘All we’re saying is, there’re proper channels for dealing with these situations,’ Todd put in.
‘Oh don’t get me started on your flaming channels,’ Dad said. He stopped himself, and when he spoke again his voice had changed completely.
‘Righty-ho then. I know where I stand.’ The back door creaked open.
‘Wish we could be of more help, Mr Dancy, but the fact is—’ Baker sing-songed.
‘Don’t worry, love. Got it. Loud and clear.’
There was some shuffling as the police left, and Fiasco jumped onto the table to bark at them as they walked to the shed.
That afternoon, I found Dad sitting in the living room, watching telly with the sound off. He never watched telly in the daytime, except for at Christmas.
The living room curtains were closed, but there was a gap in the middle where they didn’t quite meet. Mum had talked about replacing them ever since she shrank them in the wash last year.
I promised that as soon as I had some money, I would do it myself.
Sunlight pierced through the gap, turning bits of dust to glitter. Fiasco lay on Dad’s feet with her head on her paws. I sat in the chair next to them. Her tail thumped the floor in
‘You all right, Dad?’
‘Not really, Eye. I’m fed up.’
I scrunched my mouth over to one side, trying to think of something to say.
The walls in the living room were exactly like rice pudding except for being a pale green. I reached out to touch them, feeling the familiar lumps. Stuck to the ceiling above Dad’s seat
was a dollop of tomato sauce of which all three of us had denied knowledge. I looked up at it.
‘I’ll clean that tomorrow,’ I said.
Dad blew air out his nose.
The remote control had fallen from the arm of Dad’s chair, and lay on the floor with its batteries nearby. I leaned down and picked them up.
‘What you watching?’ I said.
‘Cool,’ I said.
I looped the elastic band that secured the back around the remote and handed it to him. He tapped his finger on the buttons.
‘That was the pig who took my licence,’ he said, and I did my best That’s News To Me face. ‘Sow, I should say. Got it in for me.’
Sunlight came bright through the gap in the curtains to rest on the telly, and for a second the dust on the screen glowed as a great white shark swaggered out of the dark towards us.
‘Don’t be a copper, Eye, whatever you do.’
He settled back to watch telly and I did the same, but I was thinking about Trick and his family out there in the paddock.
Mum still rang every Monday night at seven o’clock on the dot and Sam still refused to answer or even be in the house at that time. There was always this awkward bit at
the start of our conversation where Mum would say, ‘Is Sam—?’ And I would cut her off as cheerfully as I could, and rush on to a different subject. At first it made me feel bad,
like the consolation prize kid, but after a while I stopped noticing.