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Authors: Cj Flood

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BOOK: Infinite Sky
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I looked out my bedroom window at the tall hedgerows of the paddock, and I thought of Trick less than a hundred metres away.

I opened my window and climbed out.

Twenty-four

One good hit. That was all I had. Any more and they’d get suspicious. Trick’s dad’s car was missing, but his Uncle Johnny’s was parked up. He could be
inside. The first acorn missed the white caravan; the second scuffed an edge. I searched for more. The third hit; a good solid, echoing hit. I prayed that Trick was in, that the telly wasn’t
on too loud, that he’d notice. I stared at the caravan door, willing it to open. And then it did.

Trick looked in the direction of the alder straight away. He lifted his hand, and I remembered this was the exact spot where we’d first met, when he’d caught me spying.

He ran to meet me, and we went to the stepping stones. Before I’d said anything he gave me a hug. His hair was damp. I started explaining, but I couldn’t get it out right. I got to
the part where Sam had tried to punch Dad but it didn’t make any sense.

‘They’ve both gone mad,’ I said finally.

‘Slow down,’ Trick said. He wiped my eyes with his vest. It was warm and smelled like him, and I breathed in, and started again. I told him everything, including the fact that Sam
and Punky had stolen the tools, and he didn’t look surprised at all about that.

I told him that Dad knew we’d been seeing each other, that Sam had told him, that I’d never seen either of them so mad, and he told me that families fell out all the time, it
didn’t mean anything, that things would be better in the morning. We sat on the bank of the brook, and the sound of it trickling by was so peaceful that I began to calm down.

That’s when we heard something. It was distant at first, but it got closer.

It chewed up the night around us. We ran across the stepping stones and through the pig farmer’s field to get a better look.

In the shadows of the willows and alders by the ditch, we watched a tractor approach the paddock. Its lights hit the hedgerow, sent birds flying into the sky.

Dad walked into the field first with Fraz. The tractor lights turned them to silhouettes. The pig farmer was at the wheel. Behind came Billy Whizz, the rabbit catcher who brought us skinned
rabbits and shot-filled pheasants, Big Chapmun, who worked on the Ashbourne Estate, and a few other men I recognised from The Stag or fishing trips or barbecues long ago. Even Austin was there,
looking uncertain at the back. They all wore work boots and gloves.

Trick swore, and sprinted to his mum and dad’s caravan. In the doorway, Nan stood wide-eyed in a dressing gown. I felt sorry for her. I didn’t care that she’d lied about
needing water, or that she was on our land.

I pressed myself against the wood, wishing I was a stick insect; that I could disappear against trees and leaves, that nothing made a difference to me.

Trick jumped down from the caravan steps. His hair shone gold in the headlights, and he held his hand out to shield his eyes. Dad’s face was grim. The pig farmer let the engine idle.

‘Me da isn’t in! It’s just me mammy and me sisters! We’ll move ourselves. Let me just go and get me da.’

I heard Dad shout something, but couldn’t hear what. It was clear from his face that he was past caring. Dad waved at the pig farmer, and the tractor revved again.

Trick ran past them, headed out of the paddock. I ran through the pig farmer’s field fast as I could to try and intercept him. He was halfway to the top of the road when a motorbike came
powering in. Its pale yellow light bounced across the road, picking out lumps of brick and stones, making the potholes look deeper than they were. It charged at Trick, and he jumped into the trees
at the side of the road. It carried on towards me, its lights making me squint, and in a storm of whoops and revs Sam and Punky passed by.

Punky turned the motorbike around, tyres screeching, and it roared past me again, stopping in a diagonal, across Trick’s path.

Sam jumped off the back. He was wearing his football boots and no helmet. Punky walked the motorbike over to block Trick in, but Trick wouldn’t give up. He tried to use the grassy verge to
get round them.

Sam put his hand on his chest.

‘Get your hands off me,’ Trick said.

‘Hey, hey,
hey
,’ Punky said. I’d caught up with them now, and I saw his horrible slow smile as he talked to Trick.

Trick told them to get out of his way; that he had to get somewhere.

‘What’s the rush?’ Sam asked. His lips were wet and he was smiling stupidly.

I told him to leave Trick alone, but I was worried about Trick going to get his dad too. I kept picturing his face when he found out what was happening in the paddock, the way he would knock
back his pint and rush to the car. Him and Johnny would tear back to the caravans, and then what?

‘Sam, leave him,’ I shouted, but it was too late, they were chesting up to each other. Punky laughed as I tried to get between them. ‘Stop it!’ I said.

There was a shout from the top of the road.

‘Baby!’

Leanne walked onto the lane with Dean and her pit bull.

She had a two-litre bottle of cider with the label peeled off, and her cap was propped up on her forehead, peak pointed to the sky. When she saw what was happening she laughed, and started
running. Dean trailed behind, as uninterested as ever. The pit bull raced ahead, stopping at Punky’s heels to bark and snap at him.

‘Pikelet!’ she cheered, and her tone was so light it made me shudder. ‘
Hello there!

Her Irish accent was Scottish.

‘Come
on
,’ Trick shouted. ‘Get out my friggin’ way.’ His voice was desperate as he tried to get away, and you could just hear the tractor in the distance,
and then there was a smack as Sam thumped him in the chin.

‘Trick!’ I shouted.

Trick moved back, shifting his feet into a better stance, and I remembered Matt Dunbar’s head cracking on the tarmac.

Punky shouted encouragement to Sam as the two boys weighed each other up. The pit bull circled them, yelping. Leanne watched, excited, her big mouth hanging open. Dean lit a new cigarette.

Sam ran at Trick. He grabbed him round the waist, trying to push him over while Trick dug his fist into Sam’s ribs. Sam stepped away, winded. He held one palm out to keep Trick back. I
rushed in, putting a hand on Sam’s shoulder and Trick’s chest, begging them not to fight. I pushed like the hero when the walls are closing in, but with less success.

Leanne’s dog growled at my heels as I pleaded with each of them to leave it, and then Punky grabbed me, and walked me back to the side of the road. He twisted my arm behind my back and
pushed it upwards.

‘Stay out of it, girlie,’ he whispered, and his breath was hot against my ear. It smelled like he was getting a cold.

Trick’s expression was stuck somewhere between disgust and pity. He started to walk off as Sam hunched over, panting.

‘I told you already. You’re not going
anywhere
,’ Sam shouted, and he launched himself after Trick, but he’d left himself open, and Trick turned round and cracked
him straight in the face. There was an awful popping noise and Trick’s knuckles came away slippery and wet with blood.

‘Prick!’ Punky shouted.

Sam ran his fingers over his nostrils, flicking blood from his fingertips. Trick brushed his knuckles on the sides of his white vest, smearing red around his middle. He guarded his face with his
fists.

‘Nothing I hate more than an unfair fight,’ Punky said.

‘He’s had training all right,’ Dean said.

‘Sly not to mention it,’ Leanne said, and I hated her most out of them all.

The two boys closed in.

They stood on either side of Sam, and I thought of Punky’s Stanley knife, the blade yoiked up, and I tried again to get between them. Leanne grabbed hold of me. I could hear her giggle as
she held my arms, my personal straitjacket. She was so strong but her laugh was so childish. It was horrible.

I didn’t know if I wanted to get to Sam or Trick now Sam was hurt, I just wanted to stop things, but whenever I moved, Leanne was there. She let go of my arms after a while, and stood in
front of me, blocking my way like the most aggressive marker in the history of netball.

She was enormous and fast, and I only saw bits.

Trick smashed Punky’s chin and swung Sam out the way. Dean ran at Trick’s waist, barging it with his shoulder like an American football player. Punky and Dean got hold of
Trick’s arms while Sam stamped against his chest. The metal studs on his football boots flashed in the moonlight.

Struggling to get round Leanne, I fell over. When I got up, she hit me. Her silver sovereign slammed against my temple. I held my head for a second. When I looked again, Sam was stepping away,
winded. I wondered vaguely if he had his inhaler. He bent over to get his breath back, and I was so relieved he was out of the fight I shouted encouragement to Trick.

He was the best fighter by miles, but Dean and Punky worked together. I could hardly watch.

Punky kicked him in the back, while Dean headbutted him, holding on to his ears. Trick’s face was swollen on one side, and blood was trickling from a nasty-looking gash on the side of his
head. I couldn’t believe he was still standing. He doubled over, and I thought this time he was really going down, but he only crouched on the floor for a second to get his balance.

He watched the two of them with big, white-filled eyes, one hand protecting his face, the other scratching at the floor. His expression reminded me of something, I couldn’t remember what,
and then I saw his fist curl around a chunk of brick.

As Sam charged in, Trick reared up. Heaving Dean from his shoulders, he brought down the hand holding the brick, and there was a loud crack, and Sam fell.

I ran to see if he was all right. Leanne had stopped marking me. We were on the same side suddenly. She knelt by Sam’s head, shouting his name, but he was unconscious.

Punky and Dean held their hands out, like footballers denying a foul. Trick cupped his ear, which was covered in blood. He stared at us, fierce-eyed and white-faced, still bobbing slightly.
Blood was caught in the dips between his fingers. The front of his vest was freckled with it. Red hand marks smeared around his waist.

‘You’ve killed him,’ Punky said, and he moved towards Sam as if he was going to shake him. I told him to get away.

‘You can’t move them,’ Leanne said.

‘What have you done?’ I kept saying to Trick, and then Leanne shouted at me to calm the hell down, and I realised I was screaming.

Time was sticky and thick as I sat beside Sam. He’d fallen sideways, and one arm was folded next to him, the other stretched out as if he’d been reaching for something. His eyes were
closed, and blood was making its way from the wound near his temple to the ground. It ran across his eye, and down his nose, a thin red stream.

I couldn’t stop saying his name.

Punky had backed off to where he’d dropped the motorbike.

‘Ride to a phone box and call an ambulance, and I’ll wait here,’ I said, but he wasn’t listening.

Leanne pulled at his arm. ‘
James
, we’ve got to ride to the phone box.’

Punky ignored her. He spoke to Dean. ‘I’ll take Lee home, and get rid of the bike. You just get out of here.’

Dean nodded, then turned and sprinted off. I shouted after him to call an ambulance.

Leanne was crying now, black tears full of eyeliner, and it seemed impossible that I could have been scared of her less than a minute ago.

Punky kick-started the motorbike.

‘Get on,’ he shouted. ‘Hurry up.’

She opened her mouth as if to say something, but Punky thrashed the accelerator again, and she clambered on, clinging to his back like a baby monkey.

The pit bull chased after them.

My blood was shifting back to something more normal. It was like waking up. I checked Sam’s pulse, asked him questions. I could feel his heartbeat, strong and violent.

‘Go and phone an ambulance,’ Trick said, and his voice was flat and insistent and I realised he’d been saying the same thing for a long time. ‘I’ll wait here. You
go and phone an ambulance.’

BOOK: Infinite Sky
5.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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