Into A White British Ghetto

“The real tragedy of the poor is the poverty of their aspirations.” — Adam Smith

“Into A White British Ghetto” by Catxman

. . . . . . . The gun lay on the table. It was six o’clock in Great Britain and the shadows were long upon the land. The kid crept up on the gun slowly like it was a snake that was about to bite. He nudged the gun with a bony knuckle and when it didn’t fire he slowly wrapped his hand around the handle of the device.

. . . . . . . “Look innit special,” he said in crude poorboy-accented British English. There was a shadow in the doorway suddenly, and the kid dropped the gun and whirled around.

. . . . . . . “That’s my gun,” the American kid said.

. . . . . . . The British kid was so angry. “You don’t belong here, Yank. Go home. I hear your momma’s callin’ ya. America’s callin’ ya, too. Stay away.”

. . . . . . . He bent to pick up the gun. The American kid came in and stepped on his hand, causing the Brit kid to yelp and back off.

. . . . . . . “I said that’s my gun. My dad’s in the U.S. Air Force and he left that gun for our protection. So leave it alone.”

. . . . . . . “Where’s your dad now?” the Brit sneered.

. . . . . . . “He left my mom and ran away with a cabaret dancer.”

. . . . . . . “Sucker! Sucker! Your dad bailed on you. You’re alone! You’re alone!”

. . . . . . . The American kid expertly held the gun. “You want me to shoot you, kid?”

. . . . . . . “You wouldn’t dare. You wouldn’t –“

. . . . . . . The bullet fired off in the room noisily. The Brit kid screamed. Although he was alright, physically unhurt. The bullet had been deliberately fired wide. The American kid tilted back his head and laughed. “The gods of America have forgiven you,” he said. He put the safety on and tucked the gun in his waistband. “Now I’m gonna leave. Your place is a pigsty. You’re poor, but do you have to be messy too? I’m gone.”

. . . . . . . The American kid left for the darkening streets of Liverpool.

. . . . . . . The pool hall was called The Arms of America. It was named after lyrics in an obscure song by George Michael. The owner was a big fan of gay British music — Boy George, Elton John, George Michael, all these big pop stars who had a pronounced limp in the wrist were catnip to him.

. . . . . . . There were a solid dozen pool tables in the establishment. Three of them were being used. There was also a beer tap on the premises and the owner let the kids sneak a taste here and there for the hell of it. Beer was an exciting forbidden fruit.

. . . . . . . The American kid sauntered in. He carried a backpack now and his gun was tucked in it. He went everywhere with his gun, wanting to remember his Dad by it, wanting to be a part and parcel of the Adult World. Adults were a mesmerizing feature to the kid, who longed to be grown up and able to vote, drink, and fuck. Adults were very cool. Kids were nothing in the American kid’s book.

. . . . . . . “Hey, Chad,” the Brits called out to the American kid. “How’s it hangin’?”

. . . . . . . Chad smiled shyly. “I’m doin’ okay. Still lookin’ for my Pa. Have you seen a really tall, really skinny dude with a buzz cut around here?”

. . . . . . . “No, man, tall guys don’t play pool around here. Tall guys have jobs. We’re all short.”

. . . . . . . The six men around the three tables laughed at that. The truth was, the tallest of them was medium height, and the others were height-challenged.

. . . . . . . “Why are construction workers all short?” Chad wondered out loud. “Didn’t there used to be 6’1″ guys who worked with pipes and welding equipment?”

. . . . . . . “Long time ago, son,” a pool player said, by the name of Ian. Ian continued, “Tall guys get preference in jobs. The tall guys left construction for easier work pushing paper in offices. They got even better pay for even less work. Who can blame ’em for their jumping ship on the industry?”

. . . . . . . Chad looked forlorn. “Ian, I gotta find my Dad. It’s his birthday. I got him a gift.”

. . . . . . . Ian looked tenderly down at the kid. “What’d ya get him, kid?”

. . . . . . . “I got him bullets for his gun. When I got the gun, it was empty. There were no bullets. I thought … you know … I figured my Dad might want his gun ready to go. Ready to aim & fire.”

. . . . . . . “Violent Americans,” another pool player murmured.

. . . . . . . “Is that gun even street legal?” another man asked out loud.

. . . . . . .I don’t care!” Chad shouted suddenly. “It’s my gun until my Pa gets back and takes it from me! Nobody in the state can have it!”

. . . . . . . Ian raised both hands supplicatingly. “Calm down, kid. No one’s going to rat you out and tattle on you. If you got a piece, that’s yer business alone.”

. . . . . . . “That’s right,” Chad said defiantly, hugging the backpack to his chest.

. . . . . . . Ian smiled. “Can I see the gun?”

. . . . . . . “No!”

. . . . . . . “Just a quick peek.”

. . . . . . . “Well …”

. . . . . . . “Don’t give it to him, kid,” a pool player laughed. “You’ll never get it back.”

. . . . . . . That stuck Chad on “no.” Ian looked pissed, and turned his head to stare down the pool player who had blocked his attempt at curiosity.

. . . . . . . “I gotta go,” Chad said, backing off step by step. “Places to go, people to see … Nice seein’ you guys, ‘specially you, Ian. Be safe. Don’t trust nobody with a gun ‘cept me.” He turned and ran.

. . . . . . . The swinging door moved in and out in descending, slowing arcs behind the kid’s exiting form.

. . . . . . . He went down to the Canal & River Trust docks in Liverpool to look at the Post-Panamax ships coming in.

. . . . . . . The really big ships cast vast shadows on the water. They were docked close to Liverpool land, taking shelter in the river’s peaceful tides. Chad sat down on the edge of the water, dangling his feet above the muddy brown liquid, feeling sad and forlorn. His Pa should by all rights be here with him.

. . . . . . . What made a man fixate on a woman? He knew his mother was no hot shakes, but she was a known commodity. Why would Pa lock onto that cabaret dancer to the exclusion of the rest of his known life? It was a mystery that gnawed at Chad’s breast and wouldn’t let go.

. . . . . . . He took the gun out of the backpack and looked at it. When he’d gotten the gun, he’d been ten years old, two years ago. Every night he looked at the gun and pondered its meaning. Why had his Pa left without it? It was strange. He knew his dad was going to dangerous places with the cabaret slut-queen, but despite this, the gun had stayed behind. He told the Brit kid his father had left it for his protection, but it was almost like in the rush to be free, his father had forgotten it instead. It was strange, forgetting a gun. A gun was the power of the gods, like lightning. Point and die, and that was the end of the story.

. . . . . . . Two shadows, tilting left and right, appeared on the scene. Bigger kids, British teens.

. . . . . . . “Eh, lad. Whatchoo got there? A deadly weapon?”

. . . . . . . Chad looked up suspiciously.

. . . . . . . Thug #2 chuckled deeply. “Yeah, I think the kid’s got a revolver. Looks like an American revolver, too … nifty piece, that. What d’ya think it’d fetch on the streets?”

. . . . . . . “Don’t come any closer,” Chad said in a tremulous voice.

. . . . . . . Thug #1 put his hands on his hips, stopping ten feet away. “We just wanna have a look at your revolver. Come on, give it over. Jus’ be a sec.”

. . . . . . . “No.”

. . . . . . . “Don’t be obstinate,” Thug #2 said. He held his hand out. “Let’s see it, kid. We’re bigger. We belong here. You don’t. Think of it as a toll for being on our territory.”

. . . . . . . “I won’t think of it as anything. I’m armed, and you bastards aren’t!” Chad declared resoundingly, but inside he was quivering. What if these two big kids laid hands on him? They’d beat him silly. And Chad didn’t want to shoot them. He could — the gun was loaded — but he really didn’t want to. Not now. Not after bantering with the Brits in the pool hall. He had come away with a warm feeling for the British. Shooting one or two of them would wreck those nice feelz.

. . . . . . . They sensed his hesitation and moved a little closer, without being overtly threatening.

. . . . . . . “Come on,” Thug #1 said in a breezy way, cajoling the kid. “Let’s see the revolver. Share with your new friends. Share and share alike, whassit?”

. . . . . . . “I agree,” Thug #2 said. “We need to share to stay alive. And you want to stay alive, don’t you kid.” Now the threat was implicit in the words.

. . . . . . . Chad lifted the gun and put it against his own skull.

. . . . . . . He clicked the safety off.

. . . . . . . “Hey, whoa, kid, what’re you doing?”

. . . . . . . Chad didn’t reply. It was a clear ultimatum: leave, or I’m gonna blow my brains out and you’ll be responsible.

. . . . . . . The thugs came closer and sat down on either side of Chad, who was holding the gun up. One thug nudged Chad, and the other began touching the gun, as if preparing to pry it out.

. . . . . . . There was a bang and Chad, bloodied, fell backward onto the pier material. The gun flew off into the water.

. . . . . . . Silence descended and the gulls climbed higher into the sky.

Fin

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