a long and spicy Bloody Mary
“Is he my real dad?” Henry looked up at his mother visibly shaken after the most recent fight with the man in question. He had just left, slamming the door so hard it was a miracle it was still on its hinges.
His mother Jocelyn stopped momentarily from picking up a chair that had been knocked over in the fracas, to wipe the blood that was trickling down her chin from a cut on her lip.
“That truly is a good question son, I ‘spose you are of his blood, (in truth she wasn’t absolutely sure), but if you want to call him dada, that’s up to you.” She moved over to the sink and wetted a tea towel under the cold water tap and dabbed cautiously at her cut lip.
“Well, is there anyone else I can choose?” At ten years old and never living with anyone other than his mother all of his life, the question was beyond him.
On the one hand Henry didn’t want to choose the man who periodically bursts in on their lives creating mayhem, but conversely, somewhere in his undeveloped sense of male loyalty, it seemed wrong to deny him as his father if in fact he was.
As if to delay answering the question he carried on where his mother left off, picking up bits and pieces that lay strewn around the floor.
Jocelyn’s thoughts turned to more immediate problems of what to feed the boy with before she went on her night shift at the care home.
“I’ll make you a fried egg sandwich for your tea. You like them don’t you?” The boy had not eaten since his school dinner at midday but looking in the fridge she knew there was little choice.
“Yes, that’s okay and anyway I ain’t that hungry ‘cos I got Abbie’s piece of pizza at school. I dunno why her mum puts her in for school dinners ‘cos she only ever eats the puds and not always them.”
“That’s ‘cos they’s free boy, that’s why. If she be payin’ herself she wouldn’t, believe me.” She finished tending her lip and set about making his sandwich.
Looking up from the egg sizzling in the frying pan she glanced over at her son. “What you goin’ to be doin’ tonight boy? Did they give you any homework?”
“No, I was thinking of going along to see Abbie but she said her dad was a visiting so I might just watch TV for a while, I fink there’s a football match on later.” He shoved his hands deep into his pockets and shrugged his shoulders he did his best to smile even though he was still concerned over the father subject.
“Ain’t you got no boys to play wiv?
“Yea, but the uvver side of Peckham so we only get chance at school or sometimes at the weekend. I’m alright mum, really.” He wasn’t and the truth was he was scared to leave the flat by himself at night. He’d been threatened more than once for not being a member of any of the gangs.
She finished the sandwich and put it down on the table for him along with their last can of Coca Cola.
“There you are, I knows it ain’t much but it should see you right till I gets paid tomorrow and we can have a real meal. Now, Leroy said he was coming back later so you’d better keep the door locked. Is that understood? Lock it and bolt it after I leave for work, you hear me now?”
“Yea momma okay I will.”
He carried his plate and can to the sink and went into the other room, flopped into the sofa and switched on the television with the remote control and started to channel hop settling on ‘The Simpsons’ halfway through an episode.
His mother came into the room dressed in her care home blue and white uniform. She had managed to hide some of the cut on her lip with make up.
“I’m off now Henry, remember what I said about locking the door now. I’ll see you in the morning before you head off, bye. Oh, I nearly forgot if you get into any problem you call Mrs. Ayalougu in number 32. I never thought that we would ever need the help of some Hausa, us bein’ Christian an all but she’s been good to us and she knows how to deal with the likes of Leroy.” With that she left.
Henry woke with a start; Leroy had cuffed him around the head. He had fallen asleep during the football game and had no idea what time it was. Startled and scared he realised he had forgotten to lock the door.
“Where is she? Come on look lively you little shit, where is that bitch? I won’t ask you agin before you get the choice of ‘ospital or the morgue,” he thrust his tattooed fists one after the other at the boy who was attempting to shrink away from him to the far end of the sofa.
Leroy unsteady and the worse for drink leaned over and grabbed the boy catching hold of him around his slender upper arm. Henry instinctively bent his head and sunk his teeth into Leroy’s index finger and bit with all his might.
“Yeow, you little shit you’re goin’ to regret that,” he snatched his hand away and Henry shot around the room away from him into the kitchen and out of the main door on to the balcony.
His first thought was to go to number 32 as his mother instructed but something changed his mind. He knew if he ran he would possibly escape this once but it would not be permanent.
It seemed as though a red mist took over his fear as he braced himself against the balcony wall and faced the vision of Leroy lunging out of the door at him. Instinctively he dropped to his knees grabbing hold of the big man’s right thigh with both his arms. The combination of Leroy’s mad rush and completely missing his prey he was already off balance, Henry heaved himself upright with all his strength sending his assailant clean over the balcony. With a blood curdling scream Leroy sailed head first into thin air landing with a loud crash onto the rubbish containers three levels below.
Everything went eerily silent for several moments. Henry sat on the floor his legs now outstretched in front of him. His face devoid of any expression apart from the mildest look of self-satisfaction. Job well done. Several doors opened and residents ran to look over the balcony first to where Leroy’s body lay in an ungainly repose over the bins, then to Henry.
Amongst the gasps and chatter Henry heard the calming voice of Mrs Ayalougu from 32 who was patting his arm and helping him to get up. She was smiling a huge grin on her broad face showing the big gap where her front teeth used to be.
“It be alright now there young Henry. You go on back inside and I’ll call the law. You and me will have a little talk before they get here, okay? We’se goin to tell them that pigs can fly ain’t we?”