Firstly. Apologies. I’ve been a little hermit-like over the past few months. I’ve had the second Michael Violet novel to write (the first is out March 15th, incidentally), plus I had a screenplay to finish. Come the weekends, and all I wanted to do was lie in bed and stop my brain from melting. Anyhow, new year, and I’m going to write something a little different. Over the next few weeks I’m going to be posting a short story based on an event from my childhood. The story is called Jedi’s Delight.
Star Wars had only been out in the UK for three weeks, but Andy Surrey, Ed Beecham and I had already seen it nine times. It’s all we could talk or think about. The spaceships and The Force. To three suburban boys who had no interest in football, fighting or Leo Sayer, it was a meaning to life.
Friday evening, and we all sat in Andy’s flock-wallpapered bedroom in Pinner. We were going to see the movie again that night.
Ed breathlessly sucked down another fizzy gulp of Fanta. ‘I’m telling you, lightsabers are real.’
Andy and I laughed. Ed was a sweet kid, but the kind of twelve-year-old who still thought life’s problems could be reliably accredited to Ninjas.
‘Don’t be stupid,’ said Andy.
‘No,’ said Ed. ‘Phil’s brother’s got one.’
I eyed him dubiously. ‘You mean that torch he carries around with him?’
‘What?’ said Ed.
‘Yeah, it’s a torch,’ said Andy.
Ed stared at me like he was finding this hard to grasp. ‘But it shines this really strange beam of light.’
I sighed. ‘Alright, look, ever kill anyone with a torch?’
He thought about this for a moment. ‘I think my dad did.’
Andy and I laughed again. It was probably true about Ed’s dad.
I glanced at my Han Solo wristwatch. ‘We should get going, we’ll miss it.’
Andy nodded. We stuffed our pockets with Crunchies, Fantas and Fudge bars, and headed downstairs.
We reached the hallway and started putting on our jackets. As we did, Andy glanced at his mum, Carol, in the dining room. She was sipping a glass of wine as she emptied the contents of half a dozen boutique shopping bags onto the table.
‘You alright mum?’ said Andy.
She smiled sweetly and tried to focus her eyes. ‘Hmm? Yeah.’
Andy’s mum liked to drink. She wasn’t nasty with it though, just kind of giggly. Andy’s dad worked for BP up in Aberdeen and was hardly ever around. Carol spent most of her time drinking and shopping.
‘Off to the cinema again?’ she said.
She smiled. ‘Alright, have fun.’
She returned her attention to the shopping bags, reached into one and produced a silk blouse. She eyed it curiously for a moment, then laughed to herself. ‘Oh yeah.’
I shot Andy a look. I swear, alcoholics are the only people who can buy themselves surprise presents.
‘Come on, we’re going to be late,’ said Ed.
Andy nodded in agreement. ‘We’ll take Doomsway.’
Doomsway was the name we gave to a grassy path that weaved between the gardens behind Andy’s house. As the name implied, we didn’t like it much – it wasn’t lit, and the shadows were full of nettles and thorns – but it would cut the twenty minute walk to the cinema by half.
We scraped our way down the path, carefully avoiding the branches that leaned in through the darkness. Ahead of us, Andy then slowed to a halt. He went still and listened. The sound of raised voices coming from one of the houses beside us – an argument. Andy crept over to the fence, and peered at one of his neighbour’s houses. It was Helen Braddock’s house, this sprightly eighty-year-old who was well-known around the area. She was rich – most people in Andy’s street were, but she was a little horror with it. She was standing in her kitchen doorway with her carer – this weird-looking guy called Bertie, who had the worst comb-over you’ve ever seen. It looked like he’d grown his eyebrows and brushed them back. He was standing beside Helen as she argued with another of Andy’s neighbours, Clara Roberts.
Clara looked close to tears. She stared intently at the old woman. ‘You miserable little witch!’
Helen looked shocked at this, swaying on her feet like she like was about to faint. ‘Bertie!’ she said. ‘Bertie…water!’
Bertie quickly poured a glass of water and handed it to Helen. Helen then threw the water over Clara.
As Clara gasped in disbelief, Bertrie glanced at Helen.
‘Feel better, Mrs. Braddock?’ he said.
Helen nodded. ‘Oh yes, much. Thank you, Bertie.’
Clara burst into tears, then scurried back across the garden towards her house.
Andy laughed nervously.
‘Come on, let’s go,’ he said.
As he and Ed carried on up the path, I kept my eyes on Clara as she disappeared into the darkness of her garden. I could see her house in the distance – the French windows overlooking the patio had all been smashed.
‘You know her windows are all broken?’ I said.
Andy stopped and took a look.
‘Shit,’ he said.
Ed shuffled around uneasily. ‘We’re going to miss the ads, come on!’
Andy and I nodded. As flickering blue police lights gradually grew behind Clara’s house, I grabbed a Crunchie bar and followed the guys towards the cinema.