By Matthew David Scott
Wilmslow Road bleeds neon into the night. The Curry Mile pinks, blues and yellows are caught in black puddles, quivering between onion skins and thick cabbage leaves. On the other side of the road, two boys share a spliff in the unlit doorway of a closed jewellery store. The shorter of the two boys tucks the joint away in a half-fist to protect it from the drizzle. The roach-end spills smoke through the grazed knees of his middle and index fingers. They call him Full Stop because he’s small and doesn’t say much.
Straddling the crossbar of a silver BMX, he listens as the taller of the two puffs plumes of words out into the night. Both boys are negatives to the synthetic rainbow around them – black tracksuits, black trainers, black hats and black bandanas. The taller of the two calls himself Future.
Full Stop passes the spliff on and sits back on the bike. His fingers roll out a rhythm along the handlebars as he lets out a sticky laugh at the conclusion of Future’s anecdote. ‘Tellin’ you. Dirt mate. Fuckin’ dirt!’
The rest of crew have gone out in town. Future and Full Stop decided to stay and see if any students were about. They used to hit them straight away during freshers week. Duck season. The robbers and thieves, muggers and sex pests, con men and drug dealers of the estates and districts that encircle the city would descend to hunt. Nowadays, people wait. Wait for the students to settle in a bit. Lull them into a false sense of security and then pick them off over the course of the year. It’s a long-term economic strategy.
‘You sure the girls aren’t there?’ Tonight Future and Full Stop are waiting for one particular student – a lad who has recently moved into the area. Full Stop spotted him a couple of weeks ago. The student walked tall past him, unconcerned. Intrigued, Full Stop zigzagged slowly along the other side of the street on his bike.
‘And he’s got no mates over?’ Over the next few weeks Full Stop blended into the background, as his size allowed, and watched the student. He was tall and slim with cropped, sandy hair, always wearing a T-shirt and jeans, always in Adidas trainers and sometimes a denim jacket. Over time Full Stop discovered he lived with four girls, student nurses by the uniforms, narrow-eyed as they took the mornings on through hangovers. They were always out at night but he stayed in.
‘He hasn’t got any mates, just them girls. And they’re out.’ Full Stop is sure. He saw them getting into a taxi earlier with hardly anything on. That’s Full Stop’s job. He watches people, cases houses, keeps dog. He can’t fight, doesn’t even like to carry a knife, and everyone knows he doesn’t have the gift of gab, so he has found use in being the all-seeing eye.
Future takes a final draw of the spliff. ‘You think he’s a faggot?’ He tosses the roach to the ground in the shop doorway.
Full Stop shakes his head. ‘He’s livin’ with four birds.’
Future pauses and shakes his head. ‘You have got a lot to learn little man.’