Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Chapter 14

Before the band practice Danny stopped off at home for a wash. His dad was in the dining room. He looked lost, puzzled. Like he was trying to remember something. Like he’d walked into the wrong house.
‘What?’ Danny asked.
‘I don’t...’
The table was spread with crepe paper. Four places were set. There were balloons taped to the walls.
Danny’s mum came in from the kitchen without speaking. Her jaw was clenched tight. There was a smut of mascara on her cheek. She put Kath’s birthday cake on the table. She poured orange squash and made them drink it through straws.
Danny’s dad frowned in silence, occasionally plucking at the crepe paper near his wife’s elbow. Danny sat holding the edge of his chair, tight as he could, thinking, don’t let her get us to sing, I’m not singing, I’m not saying, letting, not all that, not letting. All that lot out.
It wasn’t like a proper fist. The thumb stuck out too much. A deep red quarter moon showed where the thumb-nail made contact.
She punched his dad in the face. ‘You shits! You act like she never happened.’
Danny sat silent. You shits. Two shits. Us two. Me too.
That first Easter had launched Danny and set him running, with his own fury snapping at his heels. He didn’t let much remind him of it. But that shape on his dad’s cheek reminded him.
Most boys of his age would do a paper round for money. Before that Easter, Danny mostly baby-sat. He said it was less hassle and more money, but he was suspected of enjoying it. Afterwards nobody asked him to baby-sit. As if he were jinxed.
When he returned to school after the inquest he was different; hard. Nobody would go near him. It was what he wanted. Rumours rustled around like notes passed in class. That he let go of Kath’s hand. That he sent her up the shop to get fags on her own. That her head came off.
One lunchtime in the corridor Glen Byrne said something to Danny. Nobody who was passing heard what was said. Danny took his hand out of his pocket and swung a punch. A thin red line appeared on Glen’s face as if he’d been swiped with a felt tip pen. At the end of the line there appeared a curl of skin like a woodshaving. As Danny swung another punch, the door key sticking out between his knuckles showed more clearly. Mr Henry appeared from nowhere and rugby tackled Danny to the ground. Danny got away with a two week suspension.

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