Cuckoo
extract from short story

Catriona Yule

 

"I could feel them... his fingers... on the back of my hood. That's how close he was. Honest to God. He really wanted to get me. He really wanted to beat the shit out of me."

I'm avoiding eye contact with Mrs Dewar, the bitch in the tweed skirt. She's been writing it all down, this so-called "journey" of mine. Self-esteem. That's her favourite word. Thinks I'm going to spill my guts out to her. Says it'll make me feel better. Fucking speccy bitch.

"Seriously... he just went mental cos I trashed his birdhouse. Well, like, burnt it down. One minute it was standing there: next minute, bye bye house. One strike of a match and woosh!"

"Who was there with you Robert?"

"All of us... we're all crowding round, me, Rat, and wee Jimmy, when out he comes. Starts bawling at us, like, and we're all just hanging around... laughing ourselves stupid... tinnies in our back pockets, getting a fine heat off the fire."

"And you thought that was a brilliant idea?"

Seemed like it at the time.

"Well, it was kind of like when something's up with your TV at home... you know... when the sound's all screwed up, cos we're staring at his face but the volume isn't getting through. And we, must have like, started talking to each other... like, Cuckoo's invisible, like he should bog off back to his house cos..."

"So what you're saying is, Mr Lawson was angry because he heard you telling him to bog off?"

"Yeah, kind of. Then he comes striding towards us, like, raging. And he's got this cricket bat... like some kind of psycho... whack! He's whacking it off wee Jimmy, and wee Jimmy's on the ground... clutching his chest all curled up like a stunned hedgehog."

"Are you aware that this is an extremely serious accusation to make, Robert?

Duuh!

"Do you think I'm making this up? To get myself in the shit about a birdhouse?"

Christ! She's not Dotty Dewar for nothing. Dumber than my sister and she's pretty thick. And Lawson? Some kind of saint? Everyone in the school knows. He's a stampeding rhino on a bad trip when he loses it. That's the whole point. Do me a favour with this angel shite?

"And what's this about Cuckoo?"

"That's what we call Mr Lawson."

"Cuckoo?"

"Yeah, we call him Cuckoo because when you wind him up, he keeps coming out of his house."

"So this is not the first time you've been round to his house then?"

Didn't I just say that? Christ, she catches on quickly.

"Only a couple of times, to ring his doorbell and then leg it. That kind of thing."

"OK, Robert, I think I'm getting the picture. Tell me exactly what happened that night."

"Me and Rat legged it over the fence. Wee Jimmy's yelping like a dog but Cuckoo's on to us. He's a fat git, but he's nippy."

"Right, let's try and stick to the facts please, and we won't have any of the fat jokes, thank you."

"I was just saying that he's always boasting about coming second in the 100 metres. It's dead funny, you know, when you see his gut..."

"What did I just say?!"

Keep your hair on.

"So-rayyyy! Anyway, I was bolting through the park. It was well, dark, like, all you could heard were his trainers after me. I steamed past the swingies, bombed it along the edge of the pond, then over the wall."

"OK, so at this point, according to your version of the story, Mr Lawson's still chasing you. How long did that go on for?"

"I can't remember, OK, but I couldn't hear him after a while so I looked round to see where he was, to get my breath back, like, and he'd caught Rat by the back of the hoodie. And he's, like, trying to get a real grip of him so he can smack him one."

"I doubt that very much!"

"Look I saw it all. Rat's swinging with his arm out wide... looked weird... like they're doing some ice-skating routine. Cuckoo's getting well angry and he's gripping so hard that Rat wriggles out the hoodie and he's off."

"So what happened after Rat ran away?"

"Cuckoo hovers a bit. He's weighing it all up... weighing up the options, and then he spots me at the side of the road waiting for the cars to pass."

"You can't be serious about this Robert."

"I'm not kiddin' you. I dodged in and out like I was dribblin' ma basketball. I just about hit this bitch's banger... she blasts me, thinkin' she's really hard. I flash her a finger, then I'm off."

"How can you be sure he was still behind you? Did you have time to look?"

Can't remember a fucking thing.

"He was there. I saw him, like, twitchin' at the side of the road, not wantin' to get his fat belly run over... I mean... he didn't want to get knocked over, like... but then he spots a gap in the traffic. Zoom — he's off like a maniac."

"Off where?"

"Behind me, over the wall, the other side of the road. I had to cross the river. It was freezin'. I'm not kiddin'. I just swam for my life. Like ninety miles an hour or somethin'."

"Are you really expecting me to believe all this Robert? I've known you a long time, remember — you're not carrying a clear head these days."

"Look, honest to God, I just dragged myself out, shot up the slope, over the dyke and into the field. I coulda just dived on to the grass, I was so knackered, but I kept on running. I ran up the hill, totally shattered like, but I get to the top. The wind's in ma face... and... em... likeā€¦there's a crescent moon between the skyscrapers."

"But why did you keep on running? Why didn't you just give yourself up if you thought he was closing in on you?"

"Cos he would have whacked me! I could hear him panting behind me. Anyway, I take a deep breath and charge down the hill. I'm really flying down, getting faster and faster, faster and faster. And that's it. I legged it and Cuckoo was lost."

"But that wasn't it, was it Robert? Do you want to fill me in on the rest of the story now?"

No! Really thought I'd nailed her with the skyscrapers thing. She was scribbling a lot then. Some guidance garbage, like, Robert appears to be a very troubled but intelligent boy.

"There's nothing to tell. I went home. My mum asked me what I'd been up to. I told her Rat pushed me into the pond at the park for a laugh."

"But then you got a phone call, didn't you?"

 

Published in Spinners and Spoons, 2005
(Koo Press)

Spinners and Spoons


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