The Kingdom

A sharp electronic bleep sounded at infrequent periods, the first reflections almost metallic but the resonance fell dead quickly. There were over a dozen boys on the astroturf, in white shorts and white t-shirts, running from end to end at the clap of the beep. Palms placed at the edge of the pitch at the end of the length. Hands down by the feet of Kerin and Sam as they walked by the fence of the pitch. One boy had fallen behind, barely making full cycles, his strained reach and heavy footing pushing him into the ground, the quick and short breaths as though his whole body was about to haemorrhage. His hairline shined like his boots that bent and were forced like gloss, his hair jet black with sweat. Kerin and Sam walked with backpacks and wet hair the length of the astroturf on their way out of the sports complex.
—What do you want to do now? Sam asked Kerin.
—I don’t know. We could go into town?
—Are the schools out yet?
—What time is it?
—I think it’s about three.
—They’ll be out when we get there. If not we’ll just wait about until.
—Let’s do that then. I kind of want to get something if I can find anything.
—Yeah?
Kerin and Sam walked down a bank into the car park, the cycle path back to the city across the way. Kerin side stepped through the parked cars, rapid jumping movements, while Sam walked around the outside. Kerin stumbled, tripped several times, hit a wing mirror with his bag and stopped to put it back in place. He looked as though he was floating, side on, facing him, his back rigid, trainers spitting out from his ankles. He tried not to give Kerin complete attention, wanting to get home with little incident, walking head down with only casual glances across the way until Kerin didn’t appear anymore. Sam stopped and waited between chevrons, a car drove by. He had to look for him or leave. He passed quick between the cars, palms against doors, leaning his weight into the vehicle as support as he looked under it, palms on the roof and jumping. The car park was small but cramped, walking excessively for each corner surveyed. A few cars deep from his original standing position Sam saw Kerin speaking to the blonde wowomanman.
—Have you got a lighter Sam? Kerin shouted across.
—No.
The woman looked over at him and smiled, Kerin waved him over. Sam’s jaw ached, he pulled his backpack close, feeling like he was stumbling, each step momentum. Her hair was around Sam’s eye line, the ends of it still wet, a slight kink in the blonde lines below her ears, along her jaw as it dried, the tops of her ears visible. Kerin was stood behind the open driver’s door, the woman knelt across the driver’s seat.
—I can light it off the car. She said with a clenched mouth.
Sam could see the small of her back as she leant over, her top riding up. He glanced at Kerin who was looking through the driver’s door window. She turned in position and sat in the driver’s seat, legs hanging out of the car.
—Would you guys like a smoke?
—Yeah sure. Kerin answered as Sam stared at the car.
The woman turned her legs back before the pedals and leaned out closing the door. —You guys might as well get in if you’re going to.
The rear doors pop unlocked by Sam’s side, he passed his hand over the handle, Kerin looked him over before walking around the front and into the passenger’s seat. Waited for Kerin to click the door open before he applied any pressure of his own. The boys in white on the astroturf were few. He stretched out into the passenger seat, the woman leant over Kerin and shut his door before opening her window a little. She lit a few inches from the dashboard, blew the smoke towards the small opening in the window. Kerin sat with his hands by his side. Sam’s scalp felt cold in the car as his hair dried, the hair on his arms stood on end. Waves of dull orange passed by them through the centre of the dashboard. With the sound of air being sucked between teeth the woman’s body was too still to match her inhalation, exhaled and passed on to Kerin. Kerin inhaled in short quick breaths, billowed smoke.
—Should I open the window? Kerin asked the woman.
—Maybe a little bit.
His shoulder moved frantically as he wound it down, sitting upright in one swift movement, one long inhalation.
—So what do you two do?
—We go to college. Kerin said
—Yeah. Around here?
—Sort of.
Not looking at the woman Kerin’s voice was clear but a little too loud, both faced into and away from each other in the front seats.
—Shouldn’t you two be in school today?
—No, teacher training day today.
—Is that right?
—Yeah.
Kerin almost looked at the woman, his head titled, for a moment, askew from the vertical lines of the seat. Blowing smoke in thick plumes he inhaled rapidly enough to fill the space around his seat, tried to blow the last of the smoke out of the window through what was hanging in front of him. The back of his head dark, Kerin handed the cigarette back to the woman
—No, pass it on if you want. She waved her hand at Kerin’s.
—Sam mate.
Kerin struggled to turn in his chair, shuffled, almost knelt in order to face Sam who moved only in the slightest to reach Kerin’s hand. Sam inhaled deep and heard the crackling of whatever the woman had bought snap and pop quietly in his ear. Exhaling slowly toward the window Sam realised it wasn’t open and without trying to exert himself too greatly wound it down. All three sat with the heads facing the windshield. Outside was bright, the sounds faint. A row of three streetlamps turned on along the exit, the lights of the pitches still off. The reverberated sounds of children’s shouts and cries heard distant from the pool. Sam exhaled, the smoke passing between his knees. He felt faint, his limbs thin and weak, leant his head against the head rest, looked at the head rest in front of him. In the rear-view mirror he made some eye contact with the woman.

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