‘I sold the car, maw.’
A sharp slap echoed across his hollow cheeks.
‘Whit did ye sell the Escort fur, ye wee bugger?’
‘Fur a load ay magic beans, maw.’
Another slap clapped across Blake’s already stinging cheek.
‘I didnae ask whit ye goat fur it, ah said whit did you sell it fur!’
‘Fur money, maw. This guy at the market said he’d gee us loads ay money fur it.’ A sliver of snotters sniffed their way back up Blake’s nostrils and a grazed knuckle rose to sweep away a clove of tears. ‘Yer aye sayin’ yer efter a holiday, ah thought I wid get ye the money for yin, cheer ye up, like.’
Whoosh. Slap. Oyah!
‘Cheer me up? Whit holiday am ah gonnae git wae magic bloody beans, ye wee toley? And noo I’ve no goat a car!’
Blake’s mother slumped her plump frame into a chair and began to sob her woes out over the kitchen table. Blake felt helpless. He sunk a clammy palm onto her shoulder. Sensing his guilt and sadness, she rammed her elbow into his stomach.
‘Bugger aff!’ she wept.
‘But, maw,’ whined Blake, glad that the elbow hadn’t sunk any lower, ‘we kin sell the Magic Beans. Guy at the market says we kin make a killin’, like.’
The sobs clicked off. ‘The only killin’ around here’ll be dun by me, ye wee tyke,’ she spat, ‘An ah could caw ye worse than that, the way am feelin’ the noo, ye wee useless cunt!’
Blake reached into the pocket of his jeans and took out the small, clear plastic pouch containing the beans. He waggled them in front of his mother’s face.
‘Let’s sell them, maw, let’s sell the hings. Ah’ll get the money back, promise ah wull.’
Blake’s mother shot to her feet, grabbed the packet of beans, stormed over to the open window and tossed them down onto the grass below. She pirouetted in a whirlwind of rage to face his downcast head, and laid down upon it a demand for exile.
‘First thing the morra’s mornin’, you’re oot o this hoose, or ah’ll bloody fling you oot the windae!’
And so, as the moon revolved into its night-time slot, knocking the sun down below the horizon, the nocturnal denizens of Grangemouth scurried out from the back of supermarkets, from bus shelters, from alley ways and from play-parks, to gather in the flickering lamp-lit streets like zombies from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.
As if driven by some deep, buried instinct, they found the packet of Magic Beans lying in the grass at the foot of Blakey’s flat. A circle of baseball caps peered down, before a cygnet-ringed hand scooped them up and held them aloft. A cry of feral triumph whooped into the air.
In the morning, the magic beans were missing: presumed gubbed.
Outside the kitchen window, twelve baseball caps saluted skyward from the grass, attached to twelve bleary bodies in varying states of consciousness. A ghetto blaster, powered by a length of extension cable, bang-thud-jerked its techno-menace over the still-sleepy street.
A lone ‘dancer’ – the term applying loosely – shuddered violently to the beat of the bass-line, a carnival of jutting, punching limbs. His pupils shifted from big to small, like some demented camera lens, and sweat lashed his exposed skin.
‘They beans are magic, sir!’ he exclaimed with ecstasy, lost in the dance.
The kitchen window of the Blake household flew open on its hinges and the curler-clad head of Blake’s mum burst out.
‘Ho, John Travolta!’ she yelled to the ‘dancer’, ‘Shut that bloody racket aff, wake up that pile a’ deed ducks on ma gress an’ bugger aff the lot o’ ye!’
The slam of the window acted as a gunshot to the frightened herd of ravers. Twelve sets of heels pelted down the street, ‘John Travolta’ dancing after them as fast as he could. The wail of an encroaching police siren only encouraged him to dance harder.
‘Tha’s magic, sir!’ he exclaimed, ‘Ah didnae ken they’d released that tune yet!’
One of the fleeing mob ran back and dragged him kicking and dancing around the corner to safety.
Blake sat on the pavement outside of his flat, head in hands, rucksack slung over a bony shoulder. With all of the beans gone, Blake had a mammoth mission ahead of him: find a way to make back money for both car and holiday or… he didn’t even want to think about the ‘or else’ part.
The odds seemed insurmountable. Not to Blake, of course, simply because the boy had no idea what ‘insurmountable’ meant. Blake’s ilk juggled with a few balls less in their vocabulary, but perhaps their stripped vernacular was more efficient in its expressiveness.
‘Fuck,’ he sighed. ‘Fuckin’ shite.’
As if sensing his heavy heart, the magical powers above granted some hope to Blake in liquid form. Pouf!
‘Did some cunt just caw us a poof?’ snapped Blake.
The boy noticed quickly that an object had appeared next to him from thin air. He was bright that way.
‘Where’d that come fae?’ whispered Blake, puzzlement ruffling his brow as he eyed the newcomer. He reached to his right and clasped the ancient-looking glass bottle in his hand. Someone, or something, had scrawled ‘Drink Me’ in the film of dust covering the green bottle. Blake obeyed.
The magical brew tasted to Blake like a mixture somewhere between cough syrup and paint stripper. With a bit of piss thrown in for good measure. It did not take many gulps for the hope-shunned youngster to fall under its spell. A few gulps more and he was entranced. Half the bottle, and his eyes became windows to worlds of magic, his stomach slosh-pit to the ebbs and flows of wonder. The tonic – health-giving though it seemed – was not enough to quell the anger that had built in him since the evening before.
Just then, a gaunt old man shuffled out from a neighbouring block of flats and made his sure-but-steady way towards him. A shell suit hung on his rag-and-wrinkle body and a silver-flecked moustache obscured his top lip. Various species of crumb made the hairy monstrosity their home.
It was Jack the Alike. No one liked him, but he always seemed to be everywhere, rather like Gok Wan. ‘Whit’re ye drinkin’, Blakey son?’ he croaked.
‘Dinnae ken,’ hiccuped Blake, ‘Whit’s it tae you, ye auld fanny?’
Instantly bored by ‘Jack the Alkie’ and agitated by his unwelcome presence, Blake distractedly rubbed at his magical bottle. Dust smeared his palm.
‘It’s guid tae share, son,’ smiled old Jack, a mossy tongue licking at chapped lips, ‘gee auld Jack a swally, noo.’
‘Ma maw aye says that ah’m no supposed tae talk tae strange auld men on account that they might turn oot to be dirty peedos like yersel, ken?’
Jack’s top lip trembled beneath its hairy camouflage. His burst-veined cheeks flashed crimson.
‘Ye ungrateful wee bastard! Efter aw I did fur this country… If it wisnae fur the likes ay Auld Jack, well, you’d be a lad in trouble, that’s fur sure! I did time in a POW camp fur wee shites like yersel’!’
Blake took another teasing swig from the bottle.
‘Ken whit, Auld Jack, I wish the bloody Germans had kept ye.’
Pouf! Old Jack seemed to implode to the size of a marble in seconds, leaving a brilliant white flash of light and a veil of smoke in his wake. As Blake recovered from this optical onslaught, blinking and cursing his sight back to 20/20, he saw before him, through a grey, choking cloud, a bearish, blubbery gent, skin the colour of rust, with a large, blue turban writhing and teetering on top of his head. A giant pair of arms was folded against his massive, shining chest.
‘THAT WAS YOUR FIRST WISH,’ he boomed.
TO BE CONTINUED
PART 2 COMING LATER IN THE WEEK…