`WE GO AROUND IN THE NIGHT AND ARE CONSUMED BY FIRE’ (Graffiti on Bonsall Street Flyover. Hulme/Moss Side Border. Manchester)*.
I’m not gonna fool you, ’cos like the man says in’t nothing shabbier than those farewell fucks. An’ I still feel pretty bad about it if I’m honest, Louise still sobbin’ on the comedown and me, I’m already half out the door.
I hit the street and just as I’m breathing back out, slow and careful, Mina legs it up from the next door alley, grinds her tail to a halt just as she reaches me.
Hey Donna, how’s it goin’, she says.
I keep right on walking and try for polite. Hey Mina, what’s going on girl, I says. All the time I’m going – past the bricked-up Fiesta, dodging the broken glass – but she just follows me, hangin’ onto my arm. Not that I mind. Maybe I even think she’s cute, looking up at me like that with those big storm eyes. But she goes with Carla, on and off, and that’s way more woman problems than I need right now.
I’m trying not to look over my shoulder, just in case Louise is watching, but already I’m feeling pretty good, like something brand new is about to happen; the cold fresh air hitting my lungs like menthol poppers. She smiles. I like the way her top teeth show, all even and white.
I grab her hand. C’mon, I says, Lets get outta here.
Ok, it’s not clever, but now we’re in the yard behind Fozzies, all dustbins and ice-blue neon EXIT over the fire-door, and I got her pushed up against the wall, biting her lip like I can’t get enough of her smooth sweet skin, and I’m just thinking how I should stop now before it all gets way too messy, when she pushes my hand up between those creamy soft thighs, my gut falls out through my knees and I’m gone.
Not long after the comedown she lights up a cigarette, leans on the wall, buttons still all undone, my arm still numb from holdin’ her up against the wall and the salt of her still in my mouth.
Don’t tell Carla, she says.
Yeah. As if, I says.
What we gonna do now, she says.
And it’s not like I owe her an explanation or anything, but I gotta punch this day back into shape somehow, so I look at the ground, stay away from the eyes. Nuthin’, I says.
Then I look up and she’s lookin’ straight back, and the storm’s all backed up right there on the horizon, heading right for me.
Hey, don’t worry baby girl, ’cos this in’t gonna happen again, I says. But soon as I says it I know it’s a lie.
Yeah right, she says. An’ she gives me those teeth.
Its only later, when I’m chillin’ with Carla in Fozzies, knocking back Gold Label and eating fried chicken, laughing, watching Marta workin’ it up with some loose-limbed chick from the Gooch, that Carla looks at me, goes, So? And I know she means Hey, C’mon, tell me what happened. I’m just hoping she means with Louise.
Its over, I says, mouth full of dumplin’.
Geez, goes Carla, I bet she took it bad.
I shrug, but then I’m thinkin’ about Mina how slick she was and how she shuddered so long and how I put my hand over her mouth to stop her cryin’ out.?
I don’t wanna talk about it, I says.
Next thing, Carla slaps my shoulder, an’ I follow her eyes to where Fatboy and Dex are just fillin’ the door. I check out my blade an’ Carla’s the same.
What the fuck? I says. But she in’t even listening.
What’s the score motherfucker, she goes, under her breath. An’ like, it’s not a question, ’cos she never takes her eyes off that door.
Well, that’s when Fatboy strides over, hands in his jacket, lookin’ like someone just fucked his old lady in the tail.
I look sideways at Carla. Aw, tell me you didn’t, I says.
So now there’s not much time for conversation and I’m just trying to figure out what’s with the jacket, when Fatboy leans down with one scrawny hand, grabs Carla by the T. I’m up fast, and reach for my blade. Carla pushes back and her chair goes over. Sonn an’ Lise come outta nowhere; then it’s the four of us, facing him down.
Then Deej jumps the bar goin’, Hey Hey. C’mon now, Just take it outside.
Fatboy throws him this look and it’s just enough for me to grab his hand and twist it up behind him, slickety-dick, then I got one arm over his shoulder, blade pushed in right under his eye. And I’m in at his ear. Someone’s a long way from home, I says.
Now usually, if something kicks off, it’s like girl on girl. Or other times we might just let the boys do their thing, but if its girl on girl then me and Carla both got stripes so we pretty much get to say what goes. On top of that, we got five border patrols; like there’s the Gooch an’ the Young Gooch; which counts as one border-wise, the Dodds’, which is us an’ our boys, then there’s The Longsight, Cheetham Hill, and Salford.
Anyways, apart from us and the Gooch, who stick together since White Tony and Mikey went down, we don’t mess with each other. That’s the rules and mostly they work out fine. So two Cheetahs walkin’ smack into a Dodds bar without permission is bang out of order. I’m telling you, that happens and it’s pretty much fair game to us and no reprisals. Even if someone did tup your old lady behind your back. And by now I’m wondering just what the fuck Carla was thinking.
Anyways, Fozzie’s is deffo our patch, so Fatboy musta known what he was getting into when he came looking for Carla. I think about nicking his face, right under the eye, just so he’s got a reminder. I sneak a look back but the door’s just a wide hole now, right into the night, and that fool-boy Dex in’t nowhere to be seen.
Who says you could come over here? I says, blade still tight to his eye.
Then I know by the silence, just by the fact he says nothin’ – nada; zilcho – he’s got no pass. And now he knows that I know. So by now I’m smiling.
Hey girls! It’s playtime, I says.
After a while we drop him off, way out on the East Lancs, him still screeching like a girl with his hands backed up to his feet and Carla’s red boxers shoved down his throat, wrapped round with her belt for a gag.
Sonn’s just howlin’ at Lise, like, Oh girl, did you see him when you pissed in his face? An’ everyone’s laughing fit to shit, ’cos a few pokes with a blade got nothing on sheer out an’ out humiliation, anyways not where a Cheetah’s concerned.
And Carla’s got this look like she’s flying. I hope he fuckin’ chokes on ’em, she says.
Then we’re all off again, laughing so hard the van hits the pavement, drags the bollard right along the wet tarmac, throwing out sparks, ’til Carla puts her foot down, drives up an’ over some old-boy garden, scrapes it off good.
We’re still laughing when Carla pulls up sharp on the edge of the estate. Then we’re just starin’ down the border, and ’cept for the engine, it’s like someone turned the amp off. Shuuuttte.
Carla chews her lip like she does when she’s thinking, and now Lise and Sonn and me are just looking at her. Then I’m on it, just shaking my head.
Aw, No way, I says.
I’m goin’ in to get her, she says. And it’s not loud like when she wants me to talk her out of it, just dead quiet, like when she means, You say what you want, but I am.?
Are you mad, Bitch? goes Sonn. You wanna lose those stripes for some sugar, baby girl? That’s gonna be ha-ard candy, girlfriend, I kid you not, she says. I swear it, ever since she got Sky Plus, she’s been talking like that.
Anyone don’t wanna come, can get out now, says Carla.
Did I say that, goes Sonn, I’m just sayin’, is all.
Woah, we gotta talk about this, I says. I lean across Carla and turn off the engine an’ everything goes dead quiet. Just the sound of the rain and nothing moving. The smudges of streetlights all down the estate.
Me, I’m seeing it all stretched out in front of me an’ tryin’ to work out who to call. Tryin’ to figure out what’s gonna happen if Carla struts in there and takes a Cheetah’s old lady, an’ what if it kicks off like a full-on war and who’s gonna side with who if it does, and like who’s gonna win. And whoever wins, who’s gonna get wasted, ’cos although it ought to amount to the same thing, it never does.
Then I’m thinking, maybe me and Carla gonna get wasted anyway ’cos its not just girl on girl so it was never our call, and the way I seen it people?get wasted for less.
So then I’m thinking, what if our boys go, Sorry girls, like you’re on your own with this one. We can’t be backin’ you up on this. `Cos they’re thinking maybe then there’d be no end to it, and maybe some Cheetah or Longsight chick could just shimmy up and smooch their old lady right out from under them skinnny-boy arse. An’ maybe they’re right.
What you smilin’ at, goes Lise.
Nah, nuthin’, I says. What we got in the back?
Hold on, goes Lise, then she’s up and over and pulls up the floor. The Mac, the revolver, three bats an’ the tyrearm, she says,
Then I’m shakin’ me head. The Uzi, I says, Look under the seat. An’ I’m not being picky for nothin’ cos’ I swear not one of them can hit shit on a barn door with that Mac10, an’ one day the kickback’s gonna take us all out.
Then Sonn leans down and she’s scrabbling under the seat, pulls out her nail gun and grins. You gotta hand it to her, she loves that fuckin’ nail gun even though no-one else with a gram of sense would touch it. God love her, chain of evidence means nothing to that girl.
Yo, Uzi! shouts Lise from the back.
Right, I says, wedging my feet on the dash, Listen up now ’cos this is the score. Girl on girl, Dodds to Cheetah, we got no problems. But Carla’s not just dippin’ her swizzle in some other chick’s sherbet, so we got no real argument girl on girl - well ’cept we’re on their patch but that’s no sweat if we’re in an’ out quick-time, I says. Real problem is, I tell ’em, We got no pass. We go straight in now an’ it’s gonna piss them Cheetahs off big time, an’ then they’re gonna come mob-handed, thinking we musta cleared it, which we haven’t. So then we got Cheetahs all over us and our boys are well-pissed, but they got no option ’cept to get involved.
I wait a bit to make sure they get it.
Then we got us a war, I says.
In’t we supposed to ask before we kicks off a war, goes Lise.
Well I’m tellin’ you, I love Lise like a sister, and in a showdown there in’t no-one I’d rather stand with, but for someone with all them GeeCeeEsEees, she just in’t too bright. I’m watchin’ Sonn, polishin’ the nail gun with the hem of her T. An’ even though she’s lookin’ down, I can tell she’s grinnin’.
Yeah, you could say that Lise, I says.
I look over at Carla for some help. Well, I’m hoping for some kind of back-down if I’m honest, but she’s looking straight down the road into the estate like she’s expecting the three wise men to rock up, do some tricks with a camel.
I can’t say I like the way this thing is going, so I got one more thing I can try. It’s a low punch, but it beats a good kicking, which is deffo what we’re all heading for if things don’t slow down.
You sure about this chick, Carla? I says. ’Cos this could be a shit loada trouble. An’ what about Mina? I says. An’ right off I wish I hadn’t, ’cos maybe I’m imagining things but she gives me this look.
What about her? she says.
So that’s it then. Game on. ’Cos whatever goes down, I’ve run with Carla for more years than I been without her, and one way or another she’s my sister, my blood. An’ maybe if we get out of this even half alive I won’t ever have to think about what happened with Mina, ’cos Carla must want this new chick pretty bad, so she’s not gonna care about what Mina gets up to, I guess.
Then Carla leans forward, an’ with the streetlight on her face and her mouth pressed together like that, she got the face to make a heart turn.
Then she looks right up at me, says Girl, you coming or not?
Hey Guapa, You got it, I says.
Then she starts up the van and turns off the lights, an’ we’re moving slow across the border an’ down the estate. And its all dead quiet, ’cept for the click-click of Sonn loading up the nails, an’ the thumpa thumpa thumpa, of our hearts.
*Karline Smith. Moss Side Massive.