Jedland Chapter 7

Seven

Jed took up his usual seat in the school dining-hall, right at the back, as far away from Simon as he could possibly make it. He fingered the note that had been thrust into his pocket and watched as its sender, Simon, sat down. The message was clear, he knew Jed had messed with his bike and trouble was heading his way. Jed was sure nobody had seen him, so how Simon knew he had no idea. But however he did, Jed was now on edge. He glanced furtively towards Simon and could see he was already holding court. Jonno was taking up the second in command position to his right, and the remaining seats were coveted by hanger-ons, who considered themselves important through association.

Simon looked up and caught Jed staring. Simon sneered and dragged his thumb slowly and deliberately across his throat. He mouthed one word, ‘dead’.

Jed felt his stomach turn but refused to drop his eyes. He hoped this would show Simon he wasn’t afraid, even if he was petrified. He began counting, his plan being to reach eight before he looked away. Simon took up the challenge and they locked eyes. There were close to a hundred pupils in the dining room, but there might just as well have been only the two of them as each vied for victory.

Two. . . Three. . . The mental count was excruciating. Jed felt his eyes beginning to sting, he desperately wanted to blink. Four. . . Five. . . Simon didn’t look as if he was going to back down, and Jonno had now joined in. Six. . . Jed took a deep breath and almost broke the stare. He thought Simon twitched, but no, his eyes were perfectly still. Seven. . . Jonno dropped out. Seven-and-a-quarter. Jed felt his hand lifting to rub his eyes, but he forced it down. Seven-and-a-half. Jed was sure the corner of Simon’s eye twitched. Jed bit the inside of his lip. Seven-and-three-quarters. He inhaled. Eig-. Simon blinked.

“Yes!” Jed roared and leapt from his seat, thrusting his fist in the air. His eyes darted around the room. People who usually ignored him were smiling. He pumped the air again and couldn’t help noticing, even more, faces grinning and pointing. He looked over at Simon, anticipating a look of defeat.

It took less than a second to see this was not so. His face dropped. Simon was laughing. As were his friends and a good portion of the students surrounding him.

“Sit down,” Jim said and pulled Jed by the arm. Jed hesitated and only moved once Jim had pulled him again.

Jessie slammed her food tray on the table and stood with her hands on her hips, sneering at those closest. “What you lot looking at? Why don’t you lot shut your gobs or better still shove some food in it.”

Jed closed his eyes, but could still see Simon’s face. One day, he told himself, one day I’ll get even with you. But even as he sat down he couldn’t help wondering if that day would ever come.

“Here, eat this,” Jim said and slid a bowl of apple crumble towards Jed. “Jessie can share her chips with you.” He looked at Jessie’s protesting pout, “Can’t you Jessie?”

Jessie nodded and pushed her plate closer to Jed.

“I hate him,” Jed said. “Next time I’ll do more than slashing his tyres.”
Jim didn’t stop chewing, “Thought as much – that it was you who did that. Brill job Jed, brill job.”

Jessie grinned, chips hanging from her mouth. “Heard his old man gave him a good wallop when he got home.”

“How’d you know that then?” Jim said.

“Me dad heard his dad telling his mates down at the working men’s club. Said he was right angry. Me dad asked me if I knew anything about it.”

Jed stiffened. “You didn’t split on me, did ya?”

“Course I didn’t. We’re mates aren’t we?” She wiped her fingers on her skirt. “Even if I had, dad wouldn’t have said anything. He hates Simon’s dad as much as you hate Simon.”

“Why’s that then?” Jed said.

“Dunno,” Jessie said and slurped the remains of her milkshake. She wiped her face with her sleeve and pushed her tray away.

Jim eyed the uneaten pudding. “You gonna eat that?”

Jed shook his head and slid it back to Jim. The bell rung for the start of class, but Jim ignored it and tucked in. Jed watched as the hall started to empty; he could see Simon and Jonno were holding back. He looked to see how far Jim was and willed him to slow down his chewing. He knew he risked detention by being late, but it was a far better option than confrontation with Simon.

Jim lifted his bowl and using his stubby fingers slowly wiped what little custard was attached to the sides, before sucking them clean. Jed couldn’t help smiling. It was almost as if Jim could read his mind.

“Come on you lot. Class. Now,” the head teacher shouted as he appeared at the entrance.

“Anybody not immediately exiting this hall will be in detention, scrubbing desks for the next two weeks.”

Jed was relieved when Simon and Jonno were out quickly. He grabbed his bag and looked towards Jim who winked and motioned thumbs-up for him to get going. Jed turned and headed for the door and heard Jim’s bowl clatter to the table and his chair scrape across the floor. With a little luck Jim would make it out, and if not, he knew full well Jim would be able to sweet talk himself out of any detention tossed his way.

As Jed ran for his next class, he passed the cloakroom and leapt over some bags that were in his way. Mid-air he failed to see the heavy bag aimed directly at his head and was stunned by the impact. He fell against the wall, his knees buckling, but somehow he managed to stay on his feet. His ear was throbbing and he reached to feel for blood, pleased to find there was none.

“Told you I’d get even, you shit-head,” Simon said, kicking Jed in the shins before running for his class.

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Jedland Chapter 4

Four

At the sound of the front doorbell ringing, Jed shouted down to Mum to open up for him. He knew it was Jim and he knew Jim wouldn’t mind waiting while he finished getting ready. Jim was a good sport like that, he never moaned or anything.

He left the record player out and pulled on a pair of tight jeans, a white short sleeved t-shirt and the fake leather jacket his mum had found at the weekly market. It was a little battered, but it looked good in the dark and he loved it. He grabbed a jar of Brylcreem and rubbed a dollop between his fingers, smoothing it on his hair. He styled his hair with a pocket comb using a picture of Jed Parsons for guidance. It took a couple of attempts, but finally, he had his hair slicked back and a single loose curl in the middle of his forehead. The comb went into his back pocket and he checked out the total package in the full-length mirror on the wall, another purchase by Mum from up the market. He grinned at his reflection; he could pass as the son of Jed any day. He attempted a hip roll and decided he needed a bit more practice before he would demonstrate that particular move in public.
***
Mary opened the front door. “Hello, Jim. Oh hello, Jessie, I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Hello,” they both sang out.
“Is Jed allowed out tonight?” Jim said.
“And why wouldn’t he, Jim?” Mary said. “Something I should know about is there?”
Jim swallowed the last of his Milky Way chocolate bar, and offered his biggest smile, exposing the extensive gap between his front teeth. “No. I meant, is he ready to come out.”

She wasn’t sure she believed him but decided to let it go this once. For some reason, Jim had that effect on her. In years to come, she had no doubt Jim would be a womaniser of note, even with the growing girth, that is. She turned her attention to Jessie.
“Jessie, nice to see you, dear. Your mum OK? Haven’t seen her at work for a couple of days.”
“I think she’ll be missing a few more days,” Jessie said, as she chewed her bubble gum and began to blow a pink bubble.

Mary scowled. She couldn’t help noticing a bra strap poking out from beneath Jessie’s sleeve. She was about to remind Jessie that nice girls didn’t reveal their underwear and that a safety pin might restore her dignity when Jessie’s bubble burst. Jessie grinned and pulled the sticky mess from her face, twirling it around her finger and poking it back in her mouth.
“Oh dear, nothing serious I hope?” Mary said, purposefully turning her attention back to Jessie’s mum.

Jessie shrugged, “Could be. The police were around and I heard one of them saying something about doing time for stealing. After that, I went out, and when I got home, me dad said we’d visit mum on the weekend.”

Mary would have liked to know more but was prevented from further questioning when Jed came bounding down the stairs and dashed out the door with his friends.
“Don’t be late,” Mary called after him.

End chapter 3

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Jedland Chapter 3

Chapter 3

When Jed woke it was still light and after taking a quick look at his Casio watch he saw it was closing in on six o’clock and tea-time. By now his mum would be wondering where he was. And if there was one thing he knew for certain, it was never to be late for tea-time. On more than one occasion he’d had a clip to the ear for being late, and just as many times he’d gone hungry when his food was deposited in the bin. He loved his mum, but boy she was a stickler for meal times.

Home was only a short walk, and he was thankful he no longer needed a covert operation to get there. Schools had closed well over two hours ago, and nobody would question why a schoolboy was up the town. He pulled his shirt on and covered the stains with his jumper. He knew he’d be hot wearing it, but rather that than arriving home with visible red streaks on his shirt.

“You almost went hungry,” his mum called as Jed bolted up the stairs to his room.
“Sorry, be down in a minute.” He raced into his room and slammed the door, throwing his school bag on the floor and ripping the jumper over his head. He fumbled with the buttons on his shirt and almost pulled several off as he rushed around looking for a t-shirt. His mum had left a clean pile on the end of his bed. He grabbed one but managed to knock the pile to the floor. That was another reason he could end up with a clipped ear this evening; he grabbed the pile and forced it into a chest of drawers.

The school shirt stared at him as he heard his mum telling him to get down sharpish for his food. There was no time to think; he grabbed it, rolled it up and shoved it at the bottom of the washing basket. With a bit of luck, she wouldn’t notice the shirt when it went in the machine. And if she did . . . well, he’d worry about that then.

Taking the stairs two at a time, he bounded down to the sitting-room as the first bars of Crossroads theme tune began to blare. His food was on the coffee table, egg and chips and a couple of slices of white bread with a thick spread of butter. He grinned, this was his favourite meal.

Mum didn’t like to chat while her programme was on, and that suited Jed just fine tonight. He wasn’t up to fibbing about school today, and mum was an expert on spotting his lies.

Jed layered a slice of bread with chips, lining them up neatly between crusts. He decided against tomato sauce – he’d had enough of that today – and put a second slice of bread on top. He flattened the chip butty with his hand and dunked a corner into his egg. He looked at Mum as he took the first bite. She smiled and took a sip of her hot, sweet tea and then turned her attention back to Crossroads, where no doubt Jed assumed another tragedy was about to unfold.

While they ate, Jed couldn’t help but think about Simon and Jonno, and how one day he hoped he’d get his own back on them. Even if it was in years to come, he really hoped he would find a way to make their lives as miserable as they made his. Jed didn’t just dislike Simon because of the bullying, he secretly envied Simon’s elevated status at school. Every girl he looked at ended up a giggling mess, and if word on the grapevine was correct, Simon had already touched-up most of the girls in his age-group. Jed could only dream of doing that, he squirmed on the floor as he thought about touching Carmen’s breasts. Fat chance, he decided, she doesn’t even know I exist.

“What you fidgeting down there for?” his mum questioned.
Jed felt his ears burn and he leapt up quickly, “Nothing, just getting up to take my plate to the kitchen.”
“Take mine will you.” She handed over her plate and cup. “You out tonight?”
“Yeah. Up the youth club. Jim will be here in a bit to get me. I’ll wait in my room.”
“Well, if you put on that record player of yours, try to keep it down a bit. I don’t need grumpy next door knocking on my door complaining about your noise.” She grinned, “But if she does, I might suggest she switch her hearing aid down.”
Jed laughed and went to the kitchen. He washed the plates and left them draining.

***

Up in his room, Jed hauled his portable record player from beneath his bed. This was his prize-possession, something mum had relinquished to him several years ago. It resembled a small suitcase, and he flipped the clips and pushed back the cover to reveal the playing table. He crawled to the end of his bed and plugged it in. As he turned a knob he heard the familiar whir and click that told him it was on.

A second box was extracted from beneath the bed, and from this, he took out a pile of vinyl 45s, still in their paper sleeves, every one of them being Jed Parsons hits. He rummaged through and decided on five good ones. He pulled them from their sleeves and piled them onto the spindle. He turned another knob and the table began to spin. The first record fell down and Jed picked up the arm and wiped the stylus to remove a build-up of fluff. When the needle connected with the grooves he settled back against his bed waiting for the cackle to stop and his song to begin.

Jed sang along and gazed at his walls. Every surface was covered with posters of Jed Parsons. Most of them had been torn from magazines, but some were posters the man at the record shop was throwing out and happily handed over to Jed. ‘Lovin’ Heart’ ended, the arm moving away to allow the next vinyl to drop down, and before long ‘Ragin’ Girl’ was in his ears.

He let the music drift around him and wondered if Jed would ever come to England for a concert. But would Mum let him go? Jed decided he’d go regardless. There was no way he’d miss that. The thought of being in the same room as Jed was something he found hard to comprehend. Would he shout and scream? No that was just for sissies. No, he’d be cool and keep a dignified stance. And what would he wear? Would the jacket be good enough, or would he need persuading Mum to buy him a new real leather one? That might not be too easy – she’d already told him he couldn’t have a real one until he stopped growing. He decided he’d work on her when the time came.

He started making plans for getting to London, which he was certain would be the venue choice. After some consideration he settled on the train; it was faster than a coach, and besides, he was sure it would be full of other Jed Parsons fans and they could talk and share sandwiches and a flask of tea as they travelled. Plus he wouldn’t get lost if he stuck with them.

He decided to write a letter to the fan club and enquire if a concert was being planned. Spelling wasn’t his best, and he had several attempts before he was reasonably satisfied. He read it through and was sure his suggestion of Jed coming in the next summer holidays around the middle of August would be best. He would have added that this date coincided with his birthday and that he would use his birthday money to purchase the ticket, but decided not to sound too desperate and left it out. He signed off with a ‘Thanks, Jed, see you next year’, and addressed the envelope.

Thankfully the fan-club was in England and so all he need do was attach his last first-class stamp and post it on his way out tonight. When he’d joined the fan-club last year, he’d read in the membership pack that all letters were personally read by Jed, so he was pretty sure his letter would be in Jedland within the next few weeks. And who knew, maybe Jed would write back?

Jed grinned. One day he was going to visit Jed in Jedland where they could sit down and talk about music and maybe sing a few songs together. One day, he thought, as soon as school is done with. He lifted the corner of his mattress and felt for his bank deposit book. He flicked open to the last entry, there wasn’t much there, but one day he’d have enough, and then he would be on his way.

End of chapter 3

(to read it all in one go, click here, or continue reading by chapter on the blog)

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