It’s Friday afternoon on the council estate, kids limp home in stiff duffle coats. Debbie thumps jam jars down onto the table, butters a pile of white Mother’s Pride. She and her three siblings sit down, grubby hands unwashed and eat quickly.
Get down from the table.
You take the plates to the sink, put away the jam.
You shake out the cloth. Outside you dumbo.
You switch on the telly and all sit still til Mum gets home.
Debbie takes two stairs at a time, flits into Mum and Dad’s bedroom, sprays herself with Mum’s scent, brushes her hair with the silver backed hairbrush, strokes some mascara over her lashes. In the bathroom, she strips down to her bra and pants, skims a stale hardly wet flannel under her arms, drops her knickers to the floor and does the same down there. Back on with her school shirt and into her and her sister’s bedroom.
What shall I wear?
Something nice but not so nice it looks too nice.
So jeans but not my new jeans.
God, these stink, forgot to put them in the wash last Friday.
New jeans it is then.
My T-Rex t-shirt, got nothing else.
It’s a bit tight, that’s a good thing.
There are boys who play football and boys who preen. On the scrubby triangle of grass on the corner of Yeovil Road and Williton Road, Brian and Trevor chuck their school bags down for goal posts, Rob arrives with a football and three other lads join in.
Pass it over here.
What game are you playing?
Am I invisible?
Shut up and play on.
It’s a team game.
Just because it’s your ball….
Debbie’s Mum walks down the long curve of the hill. She’s spots her two youngest children, Sarah and Jimmy, climbing out of a bedroom window onto the porch roof and she breaks into a run. She shouts to the children to stay still and runs to the back door shouting for Debbie.
The phone rings and Debbie grabs it just as her Mum appears at the back door.
Debbie: Yes Maggie, I’ll be right round in 10 minutes.
Maggie: What are you wearin’?
Debbie’s Mum: Maggie, she’s not coming. Goodbye.
A posse of 10 year olds arrive on the chalk hill, some on bikes, some on scooters and some on foot. The same game is played every night after school, longer on Friday nights. One of them is “it” and has to chase the others until they tag them and they’re “it” and so the game goes on.
Mrs Lacey at no. 5 lets her mongrel out of the house and it bounds over to join the game of tag, barking wildly.
Craig scoots out from under his Ford Escort, greasy hair, greasy face and black oily hands.
Hey, Mrs Lacey your dog’s shat on the pavement next to my car again.
Tracey and Melanie clump by on their 6-inch high platform shoes. They both look disdainfully at Craig and continue making plans for their Friday night out in town.
Wanna lift into town later girls, I’m going to the Hat and Bonnet.
The girls ignore Craig and he can’t work out why. Debbie’s Mum runs up to the front bedroom and makes sure Jimmy and Sarah climb carefully and safely back inside.
Jimmy: Why does Mrs Lacey always wear a flowery apron that fits all around her? Doesn’t she have a proper dress Mum?
Mum: That used to be the fashion, so women could do housework without messing up their best dresses.
Jimmy: What about next door then, why does she wear pale green hot pants and white leather boots? Can’t do much housework in that can she.
Sarah: I’m not going to be a housewife when I grow up, I’m going out to work every day in dead modern clothes like those two girls who just walked by.
Mum: You won’t get to grow up if you keep climbing out of upstairs windows my girl. Whatever did you think Jimmy, letting your sister do such a thing.
Jimmy: But she’s older than me, she said we could do it.
Mum: That’s the back door slamming, Debbie doing exactly what I asked her not to do.
Sarah: What age can we start doing what you ask us not to do Mum?