Walkways in the sky.
Buurrr buurrr lips pursed, Harry blew out the trumpet sound of the last post. The wail of his voice was in mockery, not respect. The funeral was real, the death was real in Allerton cemetery grounds, the trumpet and tears were real. In the act of grieving for one of their own, uniformed boys became men. In the act of grieving their own, parents and siblings became less.
Buuur Burrr he trumpeted to his wife’s tears.
“How can you be so cruel?” Karen asked. But she knew the answer. Surrounded by uniformed youth in the company of real men, Harry was diminished. He knew it and she knew it. His bravado and cruelty were in place of strength.
“It’s not fair,” said Carl watching as his sister cried. He feared what was coming but didn’t know how to stop it.
“Those fucking bastards, they are nothing. Did you see them strutting around in their uniforms? I could have had any of them one to one. The hardest in Halewood I was, no one messed with our family.”
They were not in Halewood where he was from. They were not in Speke where Karen was from. They were in Netherley where back then people lived, but no one was from. Built on the Eastern edge of the city, that was how they lived, on the edge. A planner’s paradise and a tenant’s nightmare. Prefabricated concrete panels in a new system of construction. Living by design, thousands of people moved out of the city centre in slum clearances, now trapped in damp ridden, vermin-infested concrete boxes, four or five storeys high. High-level walkways and connecting bridges between blocks.
When the first slap hit Karen she stifled her cries. Carl knew she was trying to hide her pain and fear, Nothing could hide the anger and cruelty in Harry.
“Leave her alone,” Carl pleaded, too scared to shout or demand.
“Shut up, or you’ll get it as well.”
“Go in the bedroom, look after Sharon,” said Karen.
Sharon was Carl’s niece, barely walking, and sleeping now. Carl knew Karen was sending him away to protect him.
Harry stood and crossed the room, he leaned over Karen who curled into a ball. Carl knew what was coming. Karen cried in fear.
Harry boomed in anger, “All of them, I could have had all of them.”
Carl said,. “Karen I’m going to phone mum.”
Karen looked up and shouted, “No.”
Harry punched. Carl saw it hit. He felt the blow on his sister’s face. The tears poured from his eyes. Tears of anger and frustration. I’m phoning. He choked, and fled the flat.
He ran through the concrete walkways, his feet pounding out his hatred. A phone, a phone. Through the tunnelled high-level connecting bridges, down the rancid urine-stained staircase, across the shit covered grass. He found a phone, he had no money to phone, his mum had no phone to answer. He stood and cried as he waited, how long do we wait till we know it’s over? When do we admit we have made mistakes?
Built in 1968, demolished fifteen years later, the flats were turned to rubble and dust. The planners awarded and moved on. Karen and Harry divorced, Carl and Sharon grown, everyone battered and bruised by walkways in the sky.
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