Friday, 1 July 2016

Chapter Two of Kevin And The Atomic Bomb

 Chapter 2 (Part 1)

 Later. All quiet outside, not much work going on. Lots of people in hi-vis covered suits and hard-hats, some with pencils behind their ears staring at trees. Electricians, probably. The two groups watch each other from their trenches, the frackers and the anti-frackers, a symbolic truce under the trees.  It is raining and no-one feels like fighting in the rain.

Tired young people are meeting around the table in the main tent. Lance chairs. Two young men peruse an A4-typed sheet. The first; lanky, pointy-elbowed, and awkward, wearing Buddy Holly spectacles that are much too big for him, as if he had bought them from an optician over the Internet, after getting the measurement box slightly wrong. He wears a near-fluorescent red Jake Bugg tee-shirt, ripped skinny jeans and scuffed purple Vans. 
This is Kevin Taylor, to give him his full name.

The second is shorter, handsome - almost pretty. Thicker set - the beginnings of a tan, tousle haired; wearing a royal blue and black checked shirt, a purple and yellow lace choker wrapped around his neck. 
This is Ricky Rolleston. Best friend of the above.

‘So. Can you two handle this job or not?’ Lance speaks, his voice impossibly deep and lacquered.
‘Course we can handle it. Trust us.’ Ricky responds.
Lance turns to the other. ‘And you? Can I trust you, sir?’
‘Deffo,’ Kevin replies, without conviction and without effectively disguising how much he dislikes Lance. The leader knows this. It doesn’t offend him. In fact, it energises him. Spotting a weakness in an enemy - or a friend - is as valuable as gold in Lanceworld .

‘Ricky, how often have you driven to London?’ 
‘A few times,’ he lies.
‘What about South London? Mate, my dear old aunt Fanny can find Kings Cross, but a place like Peckham can be a nightmare to reach on the roads.’
‘Won’t be difficult to find with my dad’s Satnav.’
‘All the same…’ the leader nods at the young man sitting to his right…‘ if you take Lee with you.’

Ricky struggles to stop the constituent parts of his face - the muscles, the veins, and the throbbing bit just below his jawline - from sinking: Lee Parsons is his least favourite member of the group. Up there competing with his least favourite people on the planet. Ever. ‘Mate, no need. We’ll be all right on our own - won’t we, Kev?’ 
Kevin nods. “Yep,” he says. 'We'll be fine, Lance.'

Lee Parsons and Ricky do not get on. That much is obvious to everyone. Including Lance.Especially Lance.

Lee detests everything Ricky is; handsome, popular, express intention of turning up at University for a three-year shag festival and a doss. Never going to earn enough to pay back the loan, so it doesn't matter to him whether the commitment is nine grand a year or ninety grand. The least politically motivated member of the group (apart from Kevin, that is), his  mates love him for his carefree attitude to uni and his willingness to take a risk.

Lee, looking on, his eyes like pissholes in the snow, is Ricky’s antithesis. You could not find two more different people. An eternal PHD student, hook-beaked, heavy lidded, as bald as a billiard ball, as thin as the pinstripe in a suit, his complexion pockmarked and pitted, like craters on the surface of the moon. 
Left cheek permanently scarred from malfunctioning experimental anti-acne medication, the construction of his face asymmetrical and imbalanced. He has the sense of humour of a statue and even his few friends describe him as obsessive, amoral, scheming and manipulative.

Worse, girls label him creepy. 
If there is a word that spells social death in a university more than creepy, it has not yet been added to the Oxford. 

As well as creepy and strange (and some more cruel than that), some of the regulars in the History department call him The Lizard. He looks at Ricky with barely-concealed contempt and has been doing for the duration of the morning. Then he stares at Kevin: doesn’t care for him much either. 
In fact, The Lizard doesn’t care for Ricky’s best friend at all.
Lance weighs up what Ricky has to say. Then he makes his final decision.
‘If you want the London gig, Ricky, Lee rides shotgun. He’s been to Peckham before and he’ll make sure it proceeds how we want it to proceed,’ he confirms, with a knowing smile, picking up a solid silver fountain pen from the picnic table in front of him and making a note. 'This is critical for the group.'
‘If that’s what you want,’ Ricky replies, reluctantly.
“It is what I want, Ricky.” Lance replies.
‘Can I go too?’ Rachel, Kevin’s girlfriend, asks. She’s been outside, has just entered stage right, and has only just caught the last bit of the chat. ‘I’ve only been to London once and that was, like, on a school trip. We went to see the Bank of England and St Paul’s Cathedral and stuff when I was in Sixth Form. Awesome.’
‘Sorry. Not this time. I’ve another job in mind for you,’ Lance interjects. ‘I want you to help co-ordinate Saturday. The demo. Our involvement. The meetings and the prep. How does that sound?’
Rachel Christian, a down to earth Yorkshire girl, is shocked. She’s only been in the group for six weeks. ‘Me? Co-ordinate? Oh My God!’
‘We’ve spotted some potential in you,” Lance says. “Hidden depths, as it were. It’s time we exploited those for the benefit of the group.’

Rachel melts inside and flushes ever so slightly. She isn’t used to anyone commenting on her intelligence and she didn't know she had any hidden depths. She certainly never received this kind of attention back in Wakefield. No one ever asked her to co-ordinate in Sixth Form there. If anything, she was seen as a bit of an airhead. It makes her feel glad she came to Uni in Nottingham, away from her home town.

Kevin flinches: He isn’t happy at all. He has never liked Lance, not from minute one. He is a cynic about a charismatic leader who they all seem to respect and admire. He has had a feeling: An inkling, as his mum would say. A little inkling. A notion that something is wrong with Lance Brando. 

Admittedly, it is partly due to the fact he suspects Lance has a thing for Rachel. The way he looks at her. The tone of voice. Up until now, up till this very moment, he has felt comfortable with it, because Rachel would never go for someone like Lance. 

If it weren’t for his best friend, he’d leave all this behind, but Ricky likes being part of the Piglets and Kevin doesn’t want to cause a fuss.

Fashionably brunette, slim, brown eyes, slit-jeans, boots, a combat jacket over a scarlet-red tee-shirt to keep her warm, Rachel is the prettiest girl in his tutor group and he is lucky - extremely lucky, a slightly envious Ricky reminds him on many occasions - to be seeing her. He knows this. He has no idea why she is with him except to say they get on like a house on fire. Deep inside, in those guilty recesses just below the threshold of consciousness, he cannot help feeling he is out of his league.

He also suspects Lance knows this. No. He knows it...

Rachel said to Kevin a fortnight ago that she’d never met anyone like Lance. She had that girly look on her face when she said it. Kevin nearly puked, but in the end, he just changed the subject.
 ‘You’ll have to take me to London another time, Kev,’ Rachel says.
‘Okay,’ Kevin replies, flatly.

He knows that Lance would be planning to take Rachel to the San Salvador Coffee House to discuss her new co-ordination role. He will buy the coffees and she will think him ever so sophisticated.  It hurts. It hurts him a lot.

Kevin And The Atomic Bomb is published on Sunday 3rd July by Green Wizard Publishing.

Green Wizard Publishing
Southwell. Nottingham.

Publishing the work of Mark Barry, Lynne Morley, Luke Rock, Nick Petrocelli
and students of the Creative Writing and E-Publishing course at Central College Nottingham,

GW is the official publishing partner of Brilliant Books: encouraging reluctant readers to
pick up a book again.

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