Monday, 15 November 2010

Published story number three . . .

This is the third story I ever wrote, and the third I was lucky to have published in the magnificent Radgepacket collections from Byker Books.

This story was published in 2009 in 'Radgepacket:Tales from the Inner Cities, Vol. Three, and is available here

I later used this story to form the basis of my unpublished novel, 'Abide With Me'.  I changed the plot almost entirely, and the ending, and loads of other things, but the roots of the book, at least in my mind, are all there.

Here we go . . .

The Rise and Demise of Fat Kenny
Fat Kenny was an arsehole.  No-one ever doubted that.  Not even his own mum.  I remember in the Bell and Bucket one time, Bethnal Green, Kenny starts givin it the biggun, gettin all intimidatin, like, just cos some kid's bumped his pint.  Next thing, Kenny's old girl comes over, grabs Kenny by the ear and twists it hard as you like.  And she kept twistin it till he apologises to the kid for scarin the shit out of him.  Kenny was almost in tears at the end.  So was we, it was fuckin hilarious.  He was forty-one at the time.

Yeah, Fat Kenny was a proper arsehole, but what become of him, well, it was a cryin shame.  That's what it was, a bleedin cryin shame.  

We all knew he was runnin a couple of brasses out of a flat in Tilbury, and that he dabbled in a bit of a puff.  He could get hold of a half-decent pair of trainers if you wanted, snyde after-shave, jewellery, stuff like that.  Strictly small-time, you know.  But back end of last year, everything changed.

We was in the boozer, Sad Keith, Thommo, and me, and the door bangs open.  And in strides Fat Kenny.  Now, Kenny weren't never a strider.  He was more of a shuffler, like the rest of us.  Always had been.  But this night he strides in like he owns the whole fuckin world.  Gone was the oversized, Chinky-stained t-shirt and gone was the arse hangin out his jeans.  He'd come in all suited up in top Italian clobber.  My old man was in the rag trade, so I knows top clobber when I sees it.  Fuckin Brioni suit - three grand a pop.  Black cashmere overcoat hangin off his shoulders, silk scarf round his neck.  Looked like he just walked off the fuckin Sopranos.  

Sad Keith spits out his beer, Thommo's fag drops out his mouth, and I nearly choke on me pork scratchins.  

Then Kenny up and buys a round for the whole fuckin place.  It was like he'd gone all big time overnight.  Fuckin unbelievable.

Couple of hours later, he squeezes up to me at the bar, smellin of aftershave and hair cream.  For the last ten years he'd smelled of nothing but chips and piss, so it was a bit of a change.  Aftershave and hair cream, for fuck's sake.

'You all right, Kenny?' I says.  'Had a touch on the gee-gees?'

He smiles at me, sort of conspiratorial, like.  Doesn't say a word.

'So what's up, Kenny?  What's with all the clobber?'

Kenny tries to tap his nose, and misses.  For a fat bastard, he never could hold his drink.

'Come ere,' he slurs, pullin me close.  'And I'll tell you a secret.'

They're not really the words I ever wanna here from a grown man, but my curiosity gets the better of me and I lean in.

'You won't tell no-one, will you?' he says.

He's proper creepin me out now.

'No, Kenny,' I says.  'Course not.'

'Good boy.'

Then he tells me how his brother's mate, Ronnie Swordfish, a well-known face on the manor and one horrible cunt, taps him up one day and asks him to do a little job.  Kenny's given a pile of cash and told to put a certain amount on a certain dog at half a dozen different bookies.  I suspect it's a blood-dopin scam straight off cos the odds he's talkin about are fuckin long as your arm, but Kenny's fuckin clueless.  He's happy just to be mixin it with the big boys.
All over town, there's probably twenty-five othere desperate lookin fuckers doin exactly the same, hand-picked for the job, same as Kenny.  They put on just enough to keep the odds long, collect the winnings, act like they can't believe their luck, then hand it all over to the big man.  Each time, a different dog, different track, different bookies.  Four or five races a week and Ronnie Swordfish has got cash comin out his arse.  Kenny and the other mongs get their cut, and everyone's a winner.

'So when you goin down the track next?  I ask Kenny, half jokin, not really expectin nothing back.

He puts down his pint, and looks me straight in the eye, really serious, like.

'You're me mate, John, ain't you?'

'Yeah, course, Kenny.  We go back a long way, you and me.'

He's eyes go all glassed over.  Fucker's gettin all emotional.

Kenny was the lad we never picked for football, but who always stayed to watch anyway.  The lad who'd turn up on me doorstep, out the blue, askin me mum if I could come out to play.  I'd signal her I was doin me homework, or somthing.  Even if I weren't.  It weren't just me.  I'd see him knock up and down the whole street.  One door after another.  All bang in his face  In the end, no-one even bothered to answer the door.  Poor bastard.  

And his dad used to beat the shit out of him for bein so fat.  So did we.

Kenny puts his hand on me shoulder.  Looks at me hard, like he's really sizin me up.  Then he whispers, 'Biscuit Boy, second race, Walthamstow, this Friday.  Put your fuckin house on it, mate.'

'Cheers, Kenny,' I say, not quite believin me luck.  

He gives me a big hug, and heads for the shit-house.


Friday night comes round, and me and Thommo and Sad Keith are stood at the dog track freezin out bollocks off.  I had to tell em.  They was me mates.  I reckoned I wouldn't put me house on it, like Kenny said.  Council would never have stood for that, but I put a monkey on it, all the same.  Everything I had, that was.  Keith and Thommo stuck on a long'un each.  Thought we was the only ones in the know, but when the odds start droppin from sevens to nigh on fuckin evens, I knew something was up.  And when the race starts, and Biscuit Boy comes round the last bend like Linford fuckin Christie, and half the crowd's on it's feet cheerin him on, I know Kenny's fucked up.  Me, Thommo, and Keith made a packet.  

So did every other fucker Kenny told.  Stupid bastard.

The pub had a lock-in that night, in honour of Fat Kenny.  We was all shakin his hand, slappin his back, and the birds was all over him.  See, us all in here, we was all pretty strapped, just makin ends meet, you know.  Kenny helped us all out that night.  He done us all a right favour.  

Kills me to think what we did to him as a kid, lookin back.  He grew up a right lump, in the end.  Soft as shit, mind, if you knew him.  But he had a chip on his shoulder, Kenny.  You could see it in his eyes.  Yeah, we still took the piss, but we never pushed it.

People like Ronnie Swordfish, they can smell that in people, that anger, you know.  But they don't get it.  They just think it's something they can use for a bit of muscle.  They don't think how it got there in the first place.

Comin on midnight, Tony behind the bar hands Kenny the phone.  Couldn't been a few seconds on it, Kenny, before he hands it back.  I make out to Keith and Thommo I need a piss, so I can get wind of what's goin down.  It ain't good.  I know that.  I get to the other side of the bar, and Kenny's back on the blower.  Place is packed and some fucker pushes in front of me, blocks me view.  When I get past him, Kenny's half-way out the door.  I ask Tony whats up.

'Business,' he says.


They pulled Kenny out the Thames a couple of days later.  Some old girl with her dog says she see him walkin down the steps to the water, and he just kept on goin.  She said it was like the river just swalled him up.

A few days after Kenny, Ronnie Swordfish and a load of his knuckle-draggers get hauled in by the Old Bill.  Anonymous tip-off, they reckon.  With the form he had, Swordfish weren't never gonna get less than twenty-five.  That cunt ain't gonna be seein the light of day the rest of his fuckin life.

Funny, you never know what festers inside a man, layin there.  Waitin.  It took a lot of bollocks to do what Kenny did.  A lot of bollocks.  The way I sees it, that last night in the pub, Kenny knew it weren't gonna get no better than that.  Not in his whole life.  So rather than face Ronnie Swordfish and his apes, he'd decided to call it a day.  Go out with his head held high and a fuckin smile on his face.

And he made sure he was takin Ronnie Swordfish down with him.

Yeah, Fat Kenny was an arsehole.  No-one ever doubted that.  But he was our arsehole, and I miss him every fuckin day.  

We all do.


  1. I read this just recently (I just got caught up with the Radges) and loved it. The voice is so clear. Nice job, as always.

  2. Cheers, Jools. I've rejigged these stories a little bit whilst typing them onto the blog. Tightened them up here and there, that sort of thing. Funny to look back on this one and think Abide With Me came out of it. It was the voice, John's voice, just wouldn't go away.