Jam’s stubborn shoelace dangles from his size 6 Adidas; he’s lost count of how many times he’s tucked it in today. Hopping onto his yellow BMX – he visualizes himself somersaulting over his handlebars and landing on his tender skull; with a lone trainer stuck in the spokes. Jam grimaces as he raises his knee – leans forward and scoops the lace tightly under the bridge of his foot; he can’t take any chances he thinks. As Jam looks back up – a souped-up white escort screeches past, playing drum n bass at top volume; the driver is about eighteen years old, wearing a black cap with a peace sign imprinted on it; he has a scrawny, freckled face – slightly pointed like a weasel.
The lad sticks his middle finger up at Jam and sniggers like a jubilant child, who’s just discovered swearing. Jam thinks of the irony as he scowls at his peace cap. Jam’s thoughts overrun him again; he thinks – please, please crash, as he visions the offensive driver in tears, as his pride and joy bursts into flames. The car races off and the weasel remains jubilant, nodding his cap to the erratic tunes blasting out of his stolen stereo.
Ready to go – Jam flicks his blonde hair out of his deep blue eyes and puts his foot down; off to the pub he goes (to meet his Uncle). Whizzing through the country lanes, the sun splits the clouds and spring tantalizes the open air. Emerald green hedges and yellow daffodils merge with the roadside, sucking the winter blues from Jam’s mood. A nearby woodpecker strums away meticulously like it’s performing a song for Jam; he slows down and salutes it, then speeds up again. Turning into a sharp-left bend he begins a downhill descent. A red-faced, red-haired, middle-aged man is walking his dog up the hill; a shaggy Irish Wolfhound – nearly as tall as Jam. Jam says ‘hello’ to the man but receives no reply; he mutters ‘tosser’ under his breath as he comes to the end of the hill and arrives at the “dog and otter” public house.
Jam parks his BMX outside the pub and heads through the dilapidated door; he nods at the landlady and she replies ‘hello son’ in her deep, manly voice. Her spotty pink, kebab patty arms make Jam quiver as he witnesses her pouring a pint. Walking through the restaurant area, he passes a tanned, old couple, who look like their conversation died out fifteen years ago. Jam’s face drops as he sees Weasel sat by a noisy, tropical fruit machine; he’s with a girl and appears to be talking about fighting as he mimics a head-but and says ‘innit’ several times. He then proceeds to tell the girl he has a boot-full of stolen stereos. The girl looks ecstatic and brushes her slimy black hair to the side of her pasty, sun-starved face. She re-joins with ‘is it, that’s mental’ before taking a swig of her alcopop.
Jam strides past, avoiding eye contact with Weasel, but Jam’s young ears suffer a malicious under the breath onslaught aimed his way; followed by ‘haha’ from Weasel’s ghoulish looking date. Jam finds his uncle Tony at the back of the pub, by the pool table. ‘Alright mate’ Tony announces in his deep booming voice ‘Alright’ Jam retorts in his not quite broken voice. Tony picks up two pool cues, making them look like twiglets with his wide, muscular arms. Jam looks up at him like he’s a merry superhero as Tony gulps his pint and burps.
The back of the pub is quiet with a low beamed ceiling, lined in copper coloured lampshades – dimly lighting the pool table. Wall paintings of the village’s landmarks (a church and a school) space out carelessly and unevenly, making Jam twitchy. The sticky red carpet has lost its clarity through the beer spillage and crisp crumbs, that have now absorbed into its soft textures. ‘Rack ’em up’ Tony exclaims; ‘Cool’ Jam retorts as he follows his Uncle’s instructions.
The triangle of balls smashes and scatters the table like a ping pong show – as Jam makes his break. ‘You are on fire’ Tony booms from his well-developed lungs. They continue to play and declare a draw after they forget how many games they’ve had. Deep in conversation – Jam tells Tony about Weasel and the incident earlier today. Two pints down – Tony thinks that he’s a genius as he quickly darts out the back door announcing – ‘I’m just popping to the shop for a paper’.
Three minutes later – uncle Tony is back, and Jam thinks – he’s either a gigantic lightweight or he’s just won the lottery as he’s grinning like a Cheshire cat. A tall, well-built man, with a shaved head, enters the pub and strolls up to the bar bellowing out ‘can I buy you a drink’ to the entire pub; which consists of the old couple, Weasel, the girl, and the landlady. They all accept the offer and the old couple find something to talk about; mostly – what a lovely young gentleman he is. Unfortunately, they get drowned out with Weasel’s latest story; involving him punching someone through a windscreen and stealing their car stereo.
‘Sorry to interrupt’ announces the man as he delivers the drinks to Weasel’s table; ‘fanks, yeah yeah, innit’ is the reply the man receives when he asks – ‘one hooch, one Stella?’. ‘I hope you don’t mind, but I’m after a stereo and couldn’t help overhearing’ he continues. Weasel’s face lights up and he ushers the man out of the back door to his escort; naturally, he blasts out his drum n bass as this is how he conducts business.
It all goes silent; a distant woodpecker pecks, an Irish wolfhound howls, a pasty white girl moans, and a kid and his uncle cry with laughter. Immediately outside the pub, slowly cruises the second white car Jam has seen today; this time with POLICE written on the side and Weasel in the back, howling like the wolfhound. The well-built man steps back into the pub and says – ‘thanks for the tip-off’. The old couple both nod, wave and leave the pub. The old man complains about the youth of today as he wheel-spins out of the carpark, annoyed he didn’t get his stereo.
A.T Hawthorn – 28.7.19