Alleyways

Dark plastic panging at the teeth Ryan walked with his hood up, inhaling through his teeth to pull back the saliva from around the zip in his mouth. The velcro fastening of his hood fastened tight around his chin. His eyes down, his hood rustled around his head, the lip of the hood falling back in stages to his crown to be pulled forward by the hands in his pockets. The street was open, an estate near the border Ryan liked to walk through, one of the few accessible places with some amenities of the city, public spaces, UV glass, whether dummy or not, it was different if you wanted quiet. Modern courts surrounded box like houses, perfectly square, old stone alleys breaking them apart, all roads stopping dead in the distance. Perfectly discorded constructions sat opposite each other with plastic oak trims framing reflections of empty parking spaces, tall beige buildings, beautifully laid out like breathing organs, casting angular shadow and light down on black putty streets.

Footsteps behind him slowed Ryan’s pace, in order to let them pass, then no one passed. They remained a constant behind him, walking steady. He crossed the street, about to step onto the pavement on the other side, a quick rhythmic voice spoke to him.
—Here, lad.
Ryan felt a chill go through his body, closed his eyes briefly, for as long as he thought he could, and continued to walk.
—Oi. Here.
A man walked up either side of him. Ryan didn’t look up. He knew they were taller, knew they were heavier, dark clothes, frayed jeans around the heel over white trainers. Knew they walked with purpose.
—Are you Jason’s son?
—What, why?
—Do you know us? We know you? Your dad ever talk about us?
Ryan took a brief glance at the man talking. He wasn’t looking at him, he looked toward the end of the road, looked purposefully toward a fixed point. The guy on the right was wearing sunglasses. Must have been in their late twenties, early thirties.
—I don’t know.
—Oh you don’t know do you?
—I don’t know. I don’t care.
—Alright then. The man laughed.
—What’s your dad been up to?
—I told you I don’t know.
—Come on son, you haven’t told us anything. What’s he been up to?
—I told you I don’t fucking know.
—You don’t fucking know do you?
—No I don’t.
—Alright then. The two men remained close alongside, their hands in their pockets.
—Well it just so happens we know what your dad’s been up to. We know your dad you see? Ryan didn’t say anything. —We think your dad’s a bit of a cunt.
—Do you?
—Yeah, we do actually. You see, your dad knows a good mate of ours, I think you know who we mean actually.
—No.
—Don’t fucking lie to me kid I fucking know you do. He could feel the man looking down onto him. —You see, I know you do because his son goes to the same school as you, same year in fact. I think you know him don’t you?
—No.
—I thought I asked you not to fucking lie to me.
—Fuck off.
The man grabbed him by the shoulder, gripping the fabric slipping from his shoulder. —I asked you not to fucking lie to me and I know when you’re fucking lying to me alright? Yeah?
—Yeah alright. Ryan pushed away at the man and the man shook him and pushed, calmly stood back.
—Keep walking then, he said.
The boy looked up at the man, the other man stood staring with vague intent.
—Go on.
Ryan continued. He took a few paces then broke into a run. He could already feel the two men chasing him, could feel that they were faster, that they would catch him, he felt the same hand on his shoulder gripping at his clothes.
—Don’t think you’re going to run away lad, that we’re going to let you just run away. Get the fuck. The man dragged him to an alley they had passed several feet earlier, dragged him in a dozen feet or so to a recess by a garage.
—You see we’re a bit sick you people thinking you can throw your fucking weight around and nothing happen, that you’re fucking untouchable or something. I don’t know who the fuck you think you are. You’re dad gave that up long ago. And now he’s only doing to you what he did that mum of yours gone. Fuuucking. If you want to run see if she’ll take you on. Go see if you can run. Are you listening? Do you hear me you little prick? The man slapped the boy hard across the face with a cupped hand. —How is your dad doing then?
—… I don’t know.
—I told you not to fucking lie to me. I know when you’re lying, I know when anyone’s lying. Isn’t that right Kev?
—Yeah.
—Yeah, you fucking see. I’ve got a gift for it so-
—Yeah. Ryan was burying himself into his jacket.
—I said fucking alright?
—Yeah, fucking hell. Alright.
—I bet your dad wishes he was watching you a bit didn’t he? Wouldn’t want to see you like this. Maybe you shouldn’t be such a prick yourself.
—Why don’t you let fucking go of me. Ryan spoke into the collar of his coat.
—I’ll fucking say when you can go alright?
—Fuck off. Ryan’s voice still muffled in the collar of his coat. Swaying backwards every few seconds, hoping to gently pull away.
—What the fuck did you say?
Ryan pulled his mouth out of his collar but still looked to the man’s shoulder. —I told you to fuck off.
—And you think I’m just going to fuck off if you ask do you?
Ryan’s mouth was back in the collar of his coat. —I don’t know.
—What?
He pulled his mouth out of his coat. —I don’t know.
The sky looked like a damaged screen with specks of black dirt in flocks of birds swooping down foreshortened so that a mass of dark colour generated in itself and expanded and contracted again, and Ryan’s vision kept on becoming blurry, streaks of colours running across everything he looked at, like patterns on petrol on water. He felt light headed.
—Listen to me alright you little piece of shit. Don’t think you’re going to feel fucking safe around here anymore, don’t think that you’re fucking dad is some fucking prince-
—Hello.
The man looked up, his friend also.
—Hello. Who’s out there? Who’s shouting?
—Hello. The man responded
—Hello. Who is that? Who’s shouting? I’ve called the police so if you think you’re going to cause trouble around my house you better move on. The woman's voice was croaked, frail and angry. This was a real threat, and people here would do good to avoid it.
—Come on you little prick. The man grabbed Ryan by the collar and began to drag him out of the alley.
Dogs began to bark on the other side of the wall.
—Get the fuck off me. Ryan pushed away
—What’s going on?
—Get off.
The dogs were violent, pierced the scene with violence. The woman’s voice was in a ball, unaffected.
—Shut up. Just shut up. The man grabbed and Let’s go like rattling the space around Ryan, was frantic, shouting and talking in all directions.
—What’s going on? Go away now. The woman calling. Dirt began to fly over the wall near to which they were stood, small rocks, then red bricks. Thrown with a scattered aim. —The police are coming so go away.
The man was hit by dirt, Ryan pulled away from him and drew close to the wall as the garden gate beside him started rattling. The dogs’ breath, heat, dirt flying overhead. The men left out of the alley. Ryan flat against the wall, palms against the brick behind him, the sound of dogs.

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