Johnnie’s heart sank. It would be a matter of minutes before it would start again.
“I’m not playing. I have to get my homework done and…”
“Shut up, Four-Eyes. Course you’re playing. You’re in goal. Get over by the Escort and look lively.”
No. Please. Not today.
“Listen up, you lot. We’re all gonna practice our shooting. Four-Eyes is in goal. I’m captain and ref. No arguing. My rules. Or else.”
Geez…why does he have to pelt that ball so hard? I swear one day he’s going to knock my head off. He’s got it in for me anyway. Pete Fraser; my own personal hit-man. Me, Johnnie Walker, aged 13. Rubbish at football and sticking up for myself.
“You’re supposed to save the ball, cretin!”
“I’m warming up.”
That nervous laugh is pathetic, Johnnie.
“Warming up for what? Stop-start animation?”
He’s such an idiot.
“But Mr. Harding in No.3 doesn’t like footie outside his house. Let’s move up the street and…”
“I don’t give a toss what Mr. Harding likes or doesn’t like. Kick the ball back, Four-Eyes. We’re not going anywhere.”
I’m rubbish at this. Ouch! Typical – it caught the side of my foot. Oh, bloody hell. I’m like that lamb to the slaughter. Which lamb was it, anyway?
“Yer, good one. Maybe try thickening those glasses of yours, eh? Shame isn’t it lads? When you can’t see! D’ya need a guide dog? A white stick?”
If I was 2ft taller and 5 years older…why can’t I be 18? I reckon I’d feel braver at 18, brave enough to thump him one.
“Right. Let’s show you all how to kick a ball. Set it down, line yourself up in front of the goal and…ooofff!”
Brilliant. Straight over the fence, Mr. Harding’s fence. Great example of ball skills.
“Well, go on then, Four-Eyes. Don’t just stand there with your gob hanging open; go and get it.”
“Why should I get it? Besides, he’ll never give it back.”
“You really are quite pathetic, Four-Eyes. What’s wrong with you? It’s a ball. It’s gone over a fence; you go over the fence and you get it back. There’s no asking involved, is there lads?”
They all look really awkward, like they’re pretending to join in.
“But he hates us playing football.”
“So what? What’s the worst he can do? Dribble a bit, wave his walking stick around?”
Oh, no, don’t come over…
“I think Four-Eyes is scared of Mr. Harding, what do you reckon, boys? Yes! My thoughts exactly.”
They’re all laughing at me now…don’t go red in front of them. DON’T go red.
“So are you going to get the ball or not? We’re waiting, Four-Eyes.”
“What are you doing?! Jump over the fence, you moron!”
Ring the bell. Be polite. Avoid getting lamped by crazy pensioner.
“We’re not at some tea party asking for the jam, Four-Eyes. Get over that fence!”
No answer. Ring the bell again.
“He’s not answering.”
“Yer, I think we’ve all worked that one out. Get round the back!”
Please, no, not that. Don’t start shoving me.
“I’m going to ring it one more time…”
“What’s the point? He’s not answering. You’re just stalling, Four-Eyes, and we’re all getting bored, aren’t we lads?”
He’s got an answer for everything. Those boys aren’t “his lads”; they’re as scared of him as I am. They’re only going along with him because it’s less painful. There’s still no answer. Shit.
“What if something’s wrong?”
“There’s gonna be something very wrong in a minute. Get your backside over that fence or else.”
Ouch! His punches really hurt.
“I’m going to try the side-gate.”
Oh, shut up, Johnnie. Like he’s going to care about you being considerate.
“Oh, geezzz. Lads, I hope you’re not in a hurry. Looks like Four-Eyes here wants to take the rest of the summer to fetch my ball.”
My face is going red, I can feel it. Open the gate. Damn, it’s locked. I’ll have to get over it. I know – move the bin. There we go. Now climb up onto it…shit, it’s wobbling…steady…right, I’m on it. Now, get one leg over the gate…and the other..
“Oh, would you look at that….”
Here it comes.
“Little Johnnie Four-Eyes can’t quite make the side-gate without a bunk up. How pathetic. Not only is he blind, but he can’t climb, either. Want a hand, short-arse? Here you go!”
No! Don’t! I’m balanced right on the edge….ahhhh!
“Ha! Ha! Ha! Looks like Four-Eyes has made it over! You alright over there?”
Like you care. Christ, all the skin’s come off my knees. It really hurts. No, don’t start crying – that’s what he wants.
“More importantly, where’s the ball? You should have it by now.”
Will you shut the hell up.
“I’m getting it now.”
“Newsflash, lads; Four-Eyes has woken up!”
God, I never thought grazed knees would sting so much. Ow. It hurts to walk. Right, let’s get this bloody ball. Mr. Harding’s got a really nice garden. It’s no wonder he doesn’t like football outside; he probably doesn’t want this lot getting flattened.
“We’re still waiting, Four-Eyes….”
Good. Keep on waiting. You can’t get me in here. Where’s that ball? I can’t see it anywhere. Maybe it’s over by the kitchen door.
“Do you want me to send in a sniffer dog?!”
One of these days, I swear…Right. Look for the ball. There’s the kitchen. It’s quite small. Hang on, what’s that? I can’t quite see. The back door’s open a bit…
“I’m gonna come over that fence myself soon, Four-Eyes. It’s a foot ball. Round. Made of leather. White with a blue stripe round the middle. You may remember it; it’s what you struggled to kick. Come on!”
Oh, no. It looks like someone’s lying on the kitchen floor. There’s a cup smashed on the tiles as well. It’s Mr. Harding! I’m not sure I can get in; his arm is right in the way of the door. What the hell is that banging?
“Right, that’s it, Four-Eyes, I’m going to kick this gate in if you don’t get that ball soon.”
There’s blood everywhere. I’ve got to get help. I’m gonna have to try and push this door….come on…that’s it. I’m in.
God, he looks so blue.
“Mr. Harding! Mr. Harding! Can you hear me? It’s Johnnie from across the street.”
He’s not moving.
“Pete, get help! Call for an ambulance!”
“Lads, I think Four-Eyes is trying to say something. Should I answer him?”
“Don’t be stupid, Pete, we need help! Quick!”
“He says he wants help. Maybe the blades of grass are a bit high for him. Isn’t that right, eh?”
Jesus. They’re all laughing at me now.
“Call. For. An. Ambulance. NOW!”
Okay, Mr. Harding, hang on in there. God, my knees really hurt to kneel on. Right, er, tilt the head back, lift the chin up. Look, listen. Shit. Definitely not breathing…there’s no pulse, either. Or is there? No. Shit. He’s dead.
“Did you say “ambulance”, Four-Eyes? What’s the matter? Filled your nappy?!”
One hand over the other. Oh, crumbs, I’ve only done this on a dummy. Sorry, Mr. Harding, I’m probably gonna bust some ribs. Here goes. One, two, three, four…
“You haven’t answered me, Four-Eyes. There’s no help if you won’t answer.”
Seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve…
“Lads, I think he’s ignoring me. Shall I break the gate in or the front door? Which would you prefer, eh? Yer, I agree. Front door it is! Come on!”
Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty! Right – firmly grip the nose. He’s so blue. What’s that gurgling noise? Come on, Johnnie, blow. And again. God…is he breathing? Listen. No. Start them again. One, two, three..
“I’m coming to get you, Four-Eyes…if this door would only give it up…eouff! Come on, lads, give us a hand. Lads? Where are ya going?! You bloody chickens! That’s right; flaming leg it. You wait ‘til I next see you! You’ll regret it!”
Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one…
“Bloody door, come on! One more go – ahhh! That’s it, done it!”
Twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty.
“Right, you little pig, where are you? Four-Eyes!”
Come on, Mr. Harding. One more. Listen. Watch. Nothing.
“Pete! In here! Get a sodding ambulance!”
Where’s he gone? Where’s my mobile? I’m gonna have to ring…quick…right, dial it – 999…gosh, I’m shaking so much…come on, answer, damn you…
“Yes, hello, ambulance please. No. 3 Brookland’s Road, Tensley. Come quick. There’s an old man who’s not breathing. No, I can’t feel a pulse. I’ve been doing those chest things and breathes but it’s not working.”
“Four-Eyes! I can hear you…”
“Yes, okay, I’ll keep going. Is someone coming?”
“Who are you talking to, Four-Eyes? You better not be mucking me about.”
“There’s lots of blood coming from his head, too…”
“Right, you’re downstairs…you little…”
“Okay, thanks. Yes, I will, but I’ll have to put the phone down next to me. Yes, please. Don’t leave me!”
God, what if I’m not getting this right? Shit. Count out loud this time so they can hear me doing it.
“One, two, three, four, five…”
“Four-Eyes! Where are you?”
He can’t be far away; he’s been chatting to someone, probably having tea and cakes with the old boy. Let’s try the kitchen.
“Eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen…”
What’s with the counting? There’s a really weird noise. What the hell is going on in here? Oh, my…
“Shit! Four-Eyes! What the hell…?”
“Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty…”
Christ, he’s jumping up and down on the old man’s chest. What the hell? All that blood. Whoa, I don’t feel so good. I can’t see properly…I’m going to…
“Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty. Bloody hell, Pete, don’t faint on me! No! Not on the phone!”
Whoa, where am I? Why am I on the floor? Oh, my head…there’s a large lump on my head. What’s going on?
“Johnnie, what’s happening?”
“Pete, I can’t get him to wake up!”
Oh. My. God.
“Well, do something, Four-Eyes!”
“I have been! Help’s coming. They’re on the phone. Or they were. Check it; see if someone’s still there.”
Phone? What phone? Where is it? I can’t move. I don’t know what to do.
“Pete, for Christ’s sake! Snap out of it! Pull yourself together! Grab the phone; it’s by your leg!”
“There’s so much blood…”
“Don’t look at it! I tell you what, pass me the phone and get outside and keep a eye-out for the ambulance! Do it!”
My legs are like jelly…I can’t walk. My head. God, it’s thumping. All that blood. He’s such a weird colour…look at his lips, they’re purple…oh, no, Four-Eyes is snogging him…
“What the hell are you doing to him, Four-Eyes?!”
He’s doing it again. God, what’s that noise? My stomach’s churning…
“Get out, Pete! – Hello? Hello? Damn it. They’ve gone. Right. One, two, three, four, five, six…”
Right…get out…one foot in front of the other. All that blood. Where’s the door? Everything’s swimming again. Grab something, quick! There.
Just take a deep breath. In. Out. In. Out. No, don’t look back…bloody hell, he’s bouncing up and down on his chest again…shit!
“Twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five..”
Why is he counting? It’s in time with the bouncing. He gets to thirty and then snogs him. That’s so gross. Get outside, look out for the ambulance men. I can’t just leave him, though; I should be doing something.
“Four-Eyes, what can I do?!”
“Just wait there. There’s nothing else you can do. I’m doing my best.”
I think he’s crying. I should DO something. I can’t just stand around like a lemming. Maybe I should get the ball? Yer, get the ball. Keep busy, that’s best.
“What the hell are you doing?! Why have you come back in? Wait for the sodding ambulance, Pete.”
“I’ve got to get the ball. It was obviously too difficult for you to manage.”
That was bang out of line, Pete. He’s got his hands full of dead man and all you can do is be mean.
“Is that all you can think of? Is it really?”
Okay, Four-Eyes looks angry. So he DOES have a back-bone. He’s standing up. What’s he doing?
“You really are the nastiest piece of work I’ve ever known, Peter Fraser. Go and get your flaming ball and then leave me alone. Go on! Get out!”
Ooeeff! He’s just thrown me out the back door! He’s livid.
“One, two, three, four, five…”
What’s going on? Oh, no, the blood! I’ve walked through it – my trainers are covered! Gross – wipe it off on the grass…hang on, is that sirens? Quick! Get round the front. Don’t go through the kitchen. Use the side-gate. Oh, bloody bin, get out the way…right…
“Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen…”
There they are, I can see them! Thank god! Wave at them. That will help. Eeuw, that blood’s still on my shoes.
“Quick ! Over here! Yes, here! Quickly!”
I’ve never been more pleased to see flashing blue lights.
“You’ve got to come quick! He’s not breathing! My mate’s doing something to him. And there’s blood. Lot’s of blood.”
Oh, okay, I’ll just get out of your way, then. Follow you in. Probably best. Christ, I can still hear Four-Eyes counting. What IS that noise? It’s horrible. Sounds like gurgling.
“I’ve been doing this for about 10 minutes now. I asked Pete here to call for help but he wouldn’t so I had to carry on.”
“Well, I did what I remembered from Scouts. Yes, I had them on the phone but we got cut off.”
This isn’t good.
“Is he going to be okay?”
This isn’t good at all. Is Mr. Harding going to die?
“Can’t you give me some idea? Please?”
Has he already died? Did I kill him? Please let him be okay.
“Four-Eyes, I mean, Johnnie, come over here, mate. Let them do what they’ve got to do.”
“You’re not my mate, Pete. Never have been, never will be. And if Mr. Harding doesn’t make it, it’s all your fault. You get that? Your fault!”
He’s right. It’s all my fault. Why didn’t I get help? The ball. I wanted the ball back. Where IS the ball? I never got it. Bollocks. Maybe I should quickly nip round the back and get it?
“Are you okay, Johnnie?”
“No. I’m not. No thanks to you.”
Perhaps I should go and get the ball…
“Hey, where do you think you’re going?”
“Well, I just thought that now that they’re here, we could just, you know, get the ball and go.”
He’s even more angry than before.
“There’s an old man fighting for his life in there and all you can think about is your sodding football?!”
Maybe I shouldn’t get the ball.
“Well, it’s not like we can do any more for him, is it?”
“We? WE?! It was ME doing all the work!”
He’s got a point. I still want my ball, though.
“Yer, but you knew what you were doing. You didn’t exactly ask me to do much when I came in, did you?”
“I yelled for an ambulance! And instead, you did nothing. Oh, no, sorry; correction: you fainted. And in the process, you cut off the only help I did have.”
He’s got another point.
“You wouldn’t make a phone-call. You wouldn’t do as I asked. I needed someone, Pete, REALLY needed someone and what did you do? You took the piss, that’s what you did!”
Yes. That’s right. I did.
“Do you have any idea how that made me feel?”
He’s crying again but this time he looks mad.
“I was on my own with Mr. Harding. All I needed was a phone-call and you couldn’t stop yourself from being horrid. Not once! Why didn’t you listen to me?”
I think he’s going to hit me.
“It was the other lads…they pushed me into it.”
“You what?! It had NOTHING to do with the other lads!”
“And where are they now, eh? Where have your little band of merry men gone? Just as I thought; legged it before you dragged them into something they didn’t want to be part of! Well, no thanks to you, I’ve had the worst day of my life today, and I’ll NEVER forgive you! Do you hear me?! NEVER!”
Apologise. Go on – just do it. The lads won’t hear you.
“Look, Johnnie…I didn’t mean to…”
“If you even think for one second you can make this all better, you’re wrong. You’re always bullying me, my mates. Everyone hates you.”
What’s he on about? Everyone loves me. Don’t they?
“Why do you do it? Why do you pick on people the whole time? Do you think by making people scared of you you’re gonna be more popular?”
“Oh, now come on, Four-Eyes..”
“My name is Johnnie. You did scare me. Until 15 minutes ago. That’s when I realised what a spineless wimp you really are, putting a stupid football before a dying man. Whatever problem you had with me, you didn’t have to take it out on Mr. Harding!”
Whoa. Four-Eyes is turning psycho.
“And after all this, I bet you still want to get your ball, don’t you?”
“Look, Johnnie, I know you’re in shock over all this but I’m sure…”
“In shock? You’re not even close, Pete. I reckon you should just go. Just get out of here. You’re not wanted!”
“But what about Mr. Harding?”
“Like you care! You’re more concerned about your bloody ball. Go on! Go!”
He’s walking away from me. I ought to leave the ball. Get out of here.
“Okay, I’ll go. But I want to know how Mr. Harding is.”
“I’m not sure you deserve to know. If I hear anything I’ll tell you.”
I didn’t expect that.
Leave, Pete. Just go home. Don’t be tempted by the ball. Turn round and go. Don’t turn back.
“Oh, and Johnnie…”