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    northie
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Never Too Late To Believe - 4. Monday

One week gets off to a more than usually memorable start.

[Caution for rather more swearing than usual.]

Tyler Jackson stood at the top of the stairs and surveyed the usual Monday morning chaos down below. His mum rushing to get to a dead-end job and to make sure his two younger sisters went to school. He scowled and scratched his balls through a tattered pair of boxers. Fucking losers, the lot of them. Herd instinct never brought anyone fame or fortune. If he was going to follow in someone's footsteps at all, they'd be his dad's. A quick tap on his battered phone summoned the familiar image of a dark-haired, cocky individual. Tyler appeared pretty much a carbon copy.

“Bummer you're never here.” He shrugged and let the phone turn off.

From the kitchen, the sound of his mum's tired, shrill voice headed in his direction. “Tyler! Get down here now.”

With a curl of the lip, the youth turned on his unclad heel and retreated back to his bedroom, peeling wallpaper obscured by large, battered music promo posters. The two girls shared; he had the luxury of his own space. Ideally, all he needed to do was to wait there until his mother gave up on him, as she often did in the morning. Pushing open the door, it caught on his school uniform as it lay in a crumpled heap on the floor. His plans for the day had fuck all to do with going there.

“Waste of fuckin' time.” With few exceptions, the teachers treated him like scum. Too stupid to ever make anything of himself. He had a brain; not that they ever got to see it in action.

A thought of checking the prison's visiting hours drifted through his mind. He dismissed it immediately – if he wanted to visit his dad, he would. Maybe he'd get to ogle some of the other inmates. Immediately his left shoulder joint let out a sympathetic pulse of pain.

He hadn't been careful enough the last time. Tagging along with his mum for once, he'd sat ignoring their conversation, which was mostly muttered insults, complaints, and threats. So he'd looked around him? What the actual fuck? Three months later, when his dad had been released – only temporarily, as it turned out – he'd taken his revenge. The price for such 'filthy perversion' had been one arm bent until it felt as though it would pop out of its socket. Like dismantling one of his ancient, battered, plastic action men.

He scowled. Even his dad could be a bastard sometimes. First though, there was a little matter of some unfinished business.

“Tyler! Don't make me come and get you.” She sounded pissed off. So what was new?

His stomach gurgled. He kicked the door in annoyance – the previous evening's curry should've lasted longer. If the plan was to hitch later to Wolverhampton and HMP Featherstone, he'd better have breakfast. He sure as fuck wouldn't eat there. Dragging on a grubby tee, the youth stomped downstairs.

He slouched into the over-crowded kitchen. His mum fussed over a basic packed lunch for the other two. A thin, harried woman in her mid-thirties, he didn't feel love for her; she'd screamed in his face too often for that. And he had the memories of being beaten when he was the girls' age. Contempt and loathing threatened to bubble over.

She turned. “Where the fuck have you been? You and your tosser of a father are just the same. Lazy bastards.” Her gaze focussed on his clothes. “And where's your sodding uniform?”

Tyler opened a cupboard, grabbed a bowl and filled it with cereal from the box on the table. He turfed one of the girls off a seat, occupying it himself to eat dry clusters from the bowl with a fork.

“You never fucking answer me.”

A shrug acknowledged the truth in the accusation while he continued eating.

“You going to school today?” She moved closer to glare at him.

“We are!”

The chorus from the opposite side of the table made no impression on the youth. He reached out to snatch a half-empty mug of tea, drinking it in one gulp.

“Oi! Make your own, why don't you?”

Tyler gave her a stare before turning his attention to slices of abandoned toast.

His mother started to clear the table, shooing both girls out of the way. “Go and get yourselves ready. I want you with your shoes and socks on waiting at the front door in five minutes.”

He noted they didn't get sworn at – yet. As the girls left, the spotlight returned to him.

“Well? Are you?” Her mouth was a thin, mean line. “Haven't finished paying off the last fucking truancy fine.”

A well-worn expression of sullen defiance covered over thoughts of how he fucking hated being picked on all the time. Even when he did stir himself to help in some way, two minutes later she'd be at him again. For some reason, he recalled the time she'd drunkenly taken his few battered, well-thumbed books and burnt them in the squalid pretence of a garden. Reading was for fucking pansies.

Another half-shrug was all the answer he felt like giving.

“You're gonna have to change your ways, young man.” She attempted to grab the plate and the last of the toast; he resisted. “How d'you think it made me feel, that interfering tosser coming round yesterday and making his complaints? Poking his nose into our business. What the fuck were you doing in some old man's garden anyway? It's not as if there'd be anything worth nicking.”

“What's it to you?” Fed up of hearing the same things over again, Tyler stuffed soggy toast into his mouth. The row following the unwanted visitor's departure had been spectacular, even by their usual standards. She'd left him feeling like shit – again.

“Yeah? Once you sit them GCSEs next year, I'm washing my hands of you.”

“What? You can't do that.” His guts tightened.

“Oh, yeah? Just you wait.” His mother turned to pick up the carrier bag with the food before coming closer. “'til then, this is my house and you'll fucking do as I say.”

Tyler gave her the finger, pushed past on his way out and ran upstairs, slamming the bedroom door behind him.

Once he heard the others leaving, he thundered down the staircase, ancient backpack bouncing around. First to the off-licence for ciggies, then his day would begin in earnest.


Eric stood in his small kitchen, whistling tunelessly through discoloured teeth. He contemplated the brief, scribbled shopping list in his hand. The absolute essentials – Andy would be back in a day or two. The list for his return was much longer. The old man shook his head. It was amazing how quickly he got through stuff nowadays. There was no scrimping with one eye on the difficulties of restocking, or more of his habitual penny pinching.

Not that he ever greatly loosened the purse strings. A brief vision of him parading through the store with an overflowing trolley made him frown. What he saw on some visits made his jaw drop. How did people eat and drink so much? He patted both jacket pockets to check he had everything. The forecast was a for a hot, sunny day so he'd made the effort to get his breakfast earlier than usual. That was all well and good but his brain objected, and other parts of his anatomy. A call of nature made him go upstairs to the bathroom despite the bus being due. He couldn't risk waiting until he reached the town centre.

“Not that there're any public loos now anyway. Bloody cuts. It'd have to be the cafe.”


Having negotiated the stairs in both directions, a glance at the wall clock convinced Eric it was too late to hurry. He recalled what happened the last time he'd pushed himself in pursuit of a bus.

“Daft bugger.”

The ankle damaged as he tripped over the pavement edge felt OK now though it still stiffened up on occasion. Placing more weight on the joint than usual, he gave it a quick test before taking his jacket off and sitting down at the desk. He poked the laptop into life to check the bus timetable. To his surprise, another arrival was scheduled in half an hour. The interloper puzzled him. Maybe it was intended for students at the FE college or the last commuters?

Giving it a mental shrug, the old man settled to read the latest queer news. Loading the site, he navigated the carefully remembered route to his favourite topics.

Next to him, the phone rang. He turned to glare at it. “I'm rapidly going off you, damn thing. Nobody seems to have anything better to do.”

Stretching out a hand, he let the receiver hang for a moment before answering. “Yes?”

You always sound so suspicious, Eric.

Andy's chuckles caused an eye roll. “So would you if the same number of people bothered you as have plagued me. Not sure why I answered at all.”

Everything died down now?

“Yeah.” Eric hesitated. “I'll be glad to see you back. Not that I can't manage on my own--”

We've missed you as well; me especially. Betty's would've been loads more fun with you there.

An unexpected lump appeared in his throat. “You've more money to burn than I thought.” He coughed. “Don't know why I've not mentioned it before but there's work being done on the house opposite.”

Oh, yes?

Andy's interest encouraged him to continue. “I've met one of the owners, a woman. She's called something fancy. Ehm.” An unhelpful memory sidled round the name until he grabbed hold. “Emily – that's it. We had a talk yesterday. Didn't like her at first – too much like Adam–” He sat there, mouth open.

Don't worry. He heard Andy's faint amusement with relief. No offence taken – I know what you mean. From the little I've seen, they'd have to be pretty loaded to take that house on.

“And the jungle of a garden. That reminds me–” Eric lodged the phone in the gap between shoulder and ear while he scrabbled around, trying to find the woman's details. He remembered the notebook. “Hold on a second.” Putting the receiver down, he went in search.

He settled down again. “I recommended you.” One finger flicked through the notebook's pages.

To her?

“Yes.” The search continued.

As a garden consultant? Wow. Suppose there's a first time for everything.

Mock surprise made Eric's lip curl. “Don't jump the gun. I could've mentioned your usefulness as a window cleaner.”

He heard a snort.

Yeah, right. But seriously?

Eric focussed. “She said neither she nor her husband were proper gardeners. So they're in search of someone who is.”

OK… I've never seen the garden beyond what's visible from the street. Those old places can have an acre or more of land attached.

“Small beer for you.”

Depends what they want doing. A complete overhaul with planting scheme and landscaping would be an interesting project. Even one consultation is a useful amount of money. Hmm…

Eric sensed his friend was hooked, work brain getting into action. “Do you want her number?”

Err… no. I won't chase the job. There's enough work on the books to keep me going. That reminds me – it'll be Wednesday evening before I can make it round. One of those appointments-all-day kind of things. How soon do you need a trip to the shops?

“I'll manage fine until the end of the week.” Eric found that day's list and hastily added several things. He'd have to do without spuds of any kind until then.

Sure? OK – that's less pressure. We can start the search for your friend as well. What's his name again?

“Rob… Rob Bairstow.” Eric's heart ignored his brain and thumped.

That's right. See how much you can recall about him over the next couple of days, yeah? All grist to the mill. With any luck, we'll find him without too much trouble.

Again Eric was conscious of the faint ache from not receiving a message from Rob following the videos. He frowned. Why? Why on Earth should he expect one? He shook his head.

I won't be able stay long though, Andy's voice broke through. There's always so many things to do when you get back from holiday.

He recalled his neighbour, Deborah Turner, saying much the same thing. Why did people go places if coming back, they had to work themselves to a bone again?

At Andy's end, Eric heard a door bang in the background. A muffled You ready? was countered by Just a minute from Andy.

His friend returned to the call. Right – for our last full day, we're off to Whitby, Dracula and all. Should be fun. See you soon, Eric.

Putting the phone down, Eric felt calmer than he'd done for a while. That lasted only until he saw the clock.

“Bloody hell. The next bus's due.” Grabbing what he needed, the old man hurried out.


Tyler Jackson squatted down on a grass verge close to the busy traffic junction. Just outside the town centre, it acted as a mini bypass. He panted a little; a dash across four lanes of moving traffic had resulted in a close encounter with a truck.

Only losers hung around for the lights to turn red. His mother's demand to 'Always wait for the green man' drove him mad as a child.

He spat on the ground then produced the pack of cigarettes. A keen sense of anticipation evaporated when a search of every pocket failed to produce a lighter; he'd have to do without. Allowing himself another minute, he chewed over the previous Friday's session with a bored, harried social worker. Do-gooding cow, lips pursing every time she looked down at his file. He had been matched with a volunteer for the school holidays and possibly beyond. This was great chance for him. Hah, fucking hah. If he didn't co-operate, the school would permanently exclude him. Bastards. They'd never fucking given him a chance.

Despite himself, he wondered what the weekly, half-day session would involve. It could hardly be worse than the grinding, isolating boredom school holidays brought. He spat again. Sometimes he missed school. How fucked-up was that?

Springing to his feet, the youth moved to the pavement and strode towards the shops. Nothing going on around him made much impression. Instead he replayed parts of the previous evening's set-to and the events leading up to it.

“Bitch.”

Passers-by turned before hurrying on their way.

She hadn't even bothered to defend him. Listening through the lounge door, he heard the feeble comments of 'It's his age', or 'He never listens to me'. That's what she always did. Appeasing bullies and old farts never made anything better. As the final humiliation, he was dragged into the lounge to spout a fabricated apology she'd hissed into his ear. His mother's fawning and craven smiles towards the burly stranger made him want to vomit.

Cigarette smoke drifted past. Tyler spun on his heel to see two guys chatting outside an office or something. “Got a light, mate?”

One of them put a hand in his pocket then hesitated when the youth approached. With a shrug, the lighter was offered.

“Cheers.” Tyler took a deep drag, continuing on his way.

Before becoming too lost in himself, he spotted one of the local buses unloading up ahead. Last off was the old guy from the cottage in a worn jacket and cap, carrying a shopping bag. Tyler hugged the near side of the pavement, getting as many people between him and the man as possible. Had the other bloke shown him a picture; warned him? It would be just Tyler's luck if he was spotted. At least that meant there'd be no trouble later on. He realised his luck; planning wasn't a strong point.

Normally, rows between he and his mum were limited by the girls' presence. Short, venomous exchanges took place behind closed doors. This time, his sisters were away at some stupid birthday party, stuffing their faces until a neighbour decided it was time to bring them home. It was as if the gloves were off.

The first cigarette burnt down rapidly – he just managed to light a second from the embers. As the pace picked up, a voice carried across the street.

“Tyler Jackson! Why aren't you at school?” One of the neighbours out shopping glared in his direction.

He ducked, edging round a baked potato stand. Another fucking woman interfering in his business. Seconds later, he escaped with a burst of speed, bringing him closer to the edge of the town centre.

Settling down to a more manageable pace, he returned to the events of the previous evening. Almost from the start, a jabbing finger accompanied a stream of shrill, penetrating insults from his mother. And the slaps she gave him at one tempestuous point. He rubbed a cheek. She'd hardly stopped to take breath.

“Fucking cow.”

What had she called him? 'Jail bait', 'waste of space', 'pain in the arse', and 'lazy fucker' were some of them. His dad would never have allowed things to get that far. A small part of him admitted his dad wasn't exactly the perfect parent either. One foot kicked up some gravel. How he'd managed not to punch her in retaliation was a mystery.

“Why you never fucking here, Dad?”

Suddenly he realised he'd arrived. Stopping mid-stride, the cottage and its garden were on the other side of the road. Usually it was only he who hung out there – his few so-called mates thought it too tame now. What the fuck did they know? It was somewhere to hear himself think. Pretend he was a human being with worth. Pent-up fury, resentment, hurt, and shame threatened to boil over.

Tyler ditched the latest cigarette and forced himself to take several deep breaths. A technique taught him by a sympathetic teacher, it blunted the sharp edge of his feelings. He'd show that tosser of a builder what he could really do; something to be complained about. To achieve all he had in mind, the youth looked round for an implement of some kind. On the other side of a gate, he spotted a wooden mallet leant up against a pallet of building materials.

“Fuckin' ace.” Leaping over the gate, he was equipped. An experimental swing or two produced a smile. “Now for the fun.”


An hour later, Emily brushed back hair from a sweaty forehead. She emerged from the back garden in search of an implement. Some vegetation needed to be tied back until she made a decision about its fate. A search on the driveway produced nothing.

“Tommy!”

The young man followed, wearing a sleeveless tee and shorts. “Yeah?”

“Where's that mallet we need for the pegs?”

He shrugged. “There?” One hand indicated where she stood. “The builders left it yesterday.”

“Not now, it isn't.” She sighed. “Remind me to get on to the security camera people later.”

“Think it's stolen?”

“Maybe.”

“Weird thing to nick.”

Emily sighed. “The gate's open as well. I'll go and see if some idiot's dumped it out in the street.”

“OK.” Her son gave a shrug.

Out on the pavement, she looked up and down the street. The mallet wasn't expensive, but that was hardly the point. Drawing a blank, her gaze moved to the cottage opposite. Something was different. A frown replaced puzzlement when she realised what it was.

“Tommy!”

“Yeah?”

“Come with me. There's something wrong at Mr Whitehouse's cottage.”

Her son closed the gate behind him. “How d'you know?”

“I can't see any of the foxgloves growing next to the path.”

“Oh.” Tommy peered into the distance. “Maybe he's–”

“What? Dug them up just as they're reaching their prime? Don't think so.”

Emily strode across to the other side, anger lending her speed. She took a few paces up the path before coming to an abrupt halt. “What the heck?”

I welcome any comments, speculations, and anything else you care to add to the conversation. If you're enjoying the story, please consider recommending it to your friends or use the recommendation buttons on the story's front page.

Copyright © 2021 northie; All Rights Reserved.
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Parker Owens has accompanied me throughout the writing of this story. He has my heartfelt thanks.

Your comments, speculations, and personal reminiscences all add to the conversation. Please consider adding your voice. 

Story Discussion Topic

This started out in late 2016 as my first attempt at a multi-part story. I remember pestering @Parker Owens for his agreement for me to start posting after I'd produced ... four chapters or thereabouts.   His wise counsel prevailed, and I've spent a long time both completing this part, and refining the writing so it comes up to my current standards.   The reception of the first two chapters has been such that I've ventured to start this story topic.   Feel free to discuss or

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Chapter Comments

1 hour ago, quttzik said:

No one to catch him this time around either.

No, but there are people to help Eric. Tyler may be unlovable and lacking parental control but that shouldn't be a reason to give up on him.  The volunteer might get through his defences. Maybe.

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12 minutes ago, mayday said:

Lots of different story lines now.

Yes, hopefully not confusing. It's part of my development as a writer, I think. Eric's story has tracked my writing evolution. 

15 minutes ago, mayday said:

I am struck by how vivid you paint these scenes of vain hope for support from his father,

Absence makes the heart grow fonder? Kinda. Even Tyler acknowledges his dad can be a bastard. Maybe it's the hope (however useless) that the absent parent can't be as bad as his current homelife. Tyler's a mess, basically.

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Do I sense Tyler will be caught, was there security video on the house across the street....

Will Tyler's penance be rebuilding Eric's garden and then doing the work on the gardens across the street at Eric's supervision?

What to make of this snippet???

He hadn't been careful enough the last time. Tagging along with his mum for once, he'd sat ignoring their conversation, which was mostly muttered insults, complaints, and threats. So he'd looked around him? What the actual fuck? Three months later, when his dad had been released – only temporarily, as it turned out – he'd taken his revenge. The price for such 'filthy perversion' had been one arm bent until it felt as though it would pop out of its socket.

 

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dughlas

Posted (edited)

I weep for both Eric and Tyler ... and Felicity. 

I'm curious as to where you'll take us in this installment.

Edited by dughlas
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2 hours ago, drsawzall said:

The price for such 'filthy perversion'

In case it's not clear, that's Tyler's dad who's being quoted. The 'filthy perversion' is then pretty obvious.

2 hours ago, drsawzall said:

Do I sense Tyler will be caught, was there security video on the house across the street....

:X You'll have to keep reading...

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1 hour ago, dughlas said:

I weep for both Eric and Tyler ... and Felicity. 

I'm curious as to where you'll take us in this installment.

Yes, it would be easy to curse Tyler and leave him to rot. All three have a story to tell. Confession time. I wrote this chapter without any plan or real intention of involving Tyler in the story after this. When my long-suffering editor @Parker Owens re-read the opening chapters, that was one of his main points. So Tyler has been retro-fitted into the story, mostly seen through another character's eyes. He does have a part to play though.

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My regular email commentator makes one of his insightful contributions:

Quote

It’s unlikely that the ‘filthy perversion’ was anything other than the one the site is named after. 😉

Tyler targeting the known Gay man is a reaction to his internalized homophobia. If he hurts or attacks an example of what he fears most about himself, he temporarily feels better. He is symbolically punishing the other person for being what he hates about himself.

Working as an apprentice to Andy might help him to unlearn some of his misconceptions about LGBTQ+s. Andy would be a better supervisor than Eric when he replants Eric’s garden and assists in the remodeling of Emily’s yard and garden. Tyler could be the muscle who fetches and carries the heavy stuff. It’s not as though his family can afford to pay for the damage he’s caused – and that hasn’t caused Tyler to change his ways in the past anyway.

 

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3 minutes ago, northie said:

Tyler targeting the known Gay man is a reaction to his internalized homophobia. If he hurts or attacks an example of what he fears most about himself, he temporarily feels better. He is symbolically punishing the other person for being what he hates about himself.

Of course, this makes sense but it doesn't make Tyler's actions any more acceptable. Grist for a social worker, volunteer, or someone else though.

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Tyler is in a vicious circle of poverty and emotional neglect.  He is acting out to get attention, hopefully it will end in at least one person (Eric, Emily, Andy?) taking a big chance on getting to know him.  His mom has given up, his dad is not involved and wouldn't care anyway.  I feel so bad for Eric and his beloved flowers.

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3 minutes ago, CincyKris said:

Tyler is in a vicious circle of poverty and emotional neglect. 

Yes, indeed. And he's also confused, without an emotional compass, and has no-one to turn to. 

Eric is likely to be upset. Exactly how much, we'll have to see. ;) 

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Cliffhanger, huh? Doesn't look good for the next chapter. I can imagine a lot, but I think I'm willing to wait on your imagination, since it is your story!

And a good one! 🙂

 

 

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17 hours ago, Geron Kees said:

Cliffhanger, huh? Doesn't look good for the next chapter.

At least, being a latecomer, you have the option of going straight on. 😉 Your next chapter awaits... 

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On 11/11/2021 at 4:11 PM, northie said:

At least, being a latecomer, you have the option of going straight on. 😉 Your next chapter awaits... 

I know. But I always hate to burn up a good thing too quickly! :)

 

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20 minutes ago, Geron Kees said:

But I always hate to burn up a good thing too quickly!

😳☺️ You're too kind.

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