by R. M. Francis 

THEY ALL USED his chippy, but I couldn’t bring myself to. After a night out we’d go up passed the market and they’d all go in.

‘’Is chips am too salty,’ I said.

‘‘E told me iss part of his faith—having salt before and after you eat.’

‘Like warding off evil?’ I asked.

‘Fuck knows.’

‘Or to cleanse things?’ I asked.

‘Fuck knows. Jesus James, yo’ bin thinkin’ too much, ay ya. Iss that degree of yowers, ay it?’

In year seven He turned up out of nowhere. His family had moved him over from somewhere. He was the first born and he was big, and he stood straight with shoulders back. He came and went throughout school. He’d be off for months then be back. He’d be back a little bit bigger and a little bit angrier. He pushed Mr Dunn down the stairs once and we never saw him again. He ate a pinch of salt before he sat down to eat, we heard he thought it cured him of something. 

He made his mark pretty quickly that first year. I was seeing Hannah then and he’d refused to move from her seat in Science—that’s what started it.

‘I’m not moving for some dirty bitch,’ he said.

‘That’s where I sit,’ Hannah said. She was good at shrieking but not much else. I stood up and walked over.

‘What you gonna say, pussy?’ he said.

‘I’ll say yo’m a fat, stinky prick,’ I said. ‘Now get the fuck out of my wench’s seat.’

He smiled. Crossed his arms. Shook his head. He spat on me. A full snot-thick hawk and spit. And I tried to swing for him, but he was massive, and he jabbed back, and I hit the deck. 

‘You can’t go around saying that, James,’ Mr May said.

‘But sir…’ 

‘…but sir nothing. I’ll see you in Thursday night detention.’

Smithy called him out a week later and he did the same there too. And when me and Smithy tried to tag-team him he turned up with six of his cousins too. Me and Smithy did two weeks detention that time and some bloke came down with a group of Youth Theatre guys to talk to us in Assembly.  

And I recall years later, outside his chippy in Dudley, when the police were taking Hannah’s little sister away in handcuffs, he stood at the door smiling, arms folded, shaking his head slightly. And he looked up at me and he spat at the ground. Hannah’s little sister was thirteen.


R.M. Francis is a lecturer in Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Wolverhampton. His novels, Bella and The Wrenna were published with Wild Pressed Books and his poetry collection, Subsidence, came out with Smokestack Books. He is the Poet in Residence for the Black Country Geological Society.