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

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

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)

Jedland Chapter 2

Two – 1976

Jed felt Simon’s hand tightening around his throat. He was convinced that this time he was going to die. He clawed at Simon’s hand, digging his nails into skin as Simon towered above him, goading him to fight for his life. He lashed out with his feet and landed a direct kick on Simon’s bare shin. Simon screamed, but still maintained his grip. Jed kicked again, but this time managed only a glancing touch. Simon recovered quickly and landed several punches to Jed’s stomach, winding him badly. He closed in until his nose was touching Jed’s cheek. Simon’s breath was rancid. A globule of spit hit Jed in the face and he gagged as he felt it slowly rolling down his cheek, and touching his lip.

Simon grinned and turned to his mate. “Search his bag, Jonno. He must have something good in there to eat.”

Jonno did as he was told and pulled out a lunch-box. He ripped off the lid and a mound of sandwiches fell to the floor. He grabbed one and squashed it in his hand. Tomato sauce squelched between his fingers and he screwed up his face. He tossed the bread to the floor and smeared the thick, red sauce over Jed’s white school shirt and then his face. Jonno sniggered as he pushed the sauce into Jed’s eyes and up his nose. Simon reached over and mixed the sauce into the spit and began to laugh, a sickening and cruel sound emanating from deep in his gut.

Jonno paused abruptly, his sauce-caked hands before him, his mouth wide. “Shit, Simon, somebody’s coming.”

Simon told Jed to shut up, or else. His grip started to lesson and Jed took his cue, aiming his knee at Simon’s groin. Simon went down hard, gasping, his hands between his legs.
Jonno took off even before Simon hit the ground, and Jed was determined not to be far behind. He stumbled over Simon as he grabbed his school bag. As he was about to run, he turned back and raised his foot and delivered a thwack to Simon’s stomach. Simon groaned and Jed heard footsteps closing in. Fearing he would be found, he ran, rubbing his throat and gulping for air.

The emergency exit was in sight and Jed watched as Jonno hit the exit bar and stormed through to freedom. The door banged against the wall and ricocheted back as Jed reached it. Jed took the blow to his side, but his momentum kept him going and the door slammed once more against the wall before bouncing back into place, shutting out Simon’s cries. Jed stumbled but managed to stay up. He clutched his school bag to his chest and took off.

It was only mid-morning, but Jed was not heading for class. As the school bell rang, he ducked and made his way off the school premises, heading for the canal. The route was familiar to him, having bunked on numerous occasions, and Jed knew exactly how to stay out of sight of patrolling teachers.

He took the long route past the hall and headed for the edge of the field. From this point, he would be concealed by the trees. As he crossed into the wooded area he leapt over a log and collided with an oak tree, bashing his shoulder. He managed to stifle a cry but refused to slow down. His arm felt numb but he just kept going until he reached the canal.

The canal path was quiet and he slowed his pace. His shoulder still hurt although the feeling was gradually returning to his arm. He pulled his tie over his head and opened his shirt to check for bruising. There didn’t seem to be any, but he still probed and found a tender spot.

The heat of the mid-day sun was baking down and he could feel the sweat running down his back and chest. He pulled his shirt from his trousers, a slight breeze lifting the cotton fabric and circulating his body. The shade of the trees and the sound of rustling leaves were inviting; he considered taking a break. He decided instead to head towards a safe spot at The Globe Pub, situated by one of the many locks. It wasn’t far, and he knew that once he was there he could hide out in the barn, a place where he had sought safety before.

Touching his face, he could feel the tomato sauce beginning to congeal. And the thick layer in his nose was gross. His shirt was no better, and he knew there was no way he was going to arrive home looking like this, if for no other reason than his mum would have a fit and demand to know what had happened. And then who knew what she would do. He daren’t take the chance of her phoning the school-head demanding retribution. Yes, it might get Simon and Jonno in major trouble, but he’d never live it down with his peers. It was a well-known fact that any student who’d had parental intervention spent the rest of their school year being mocked and labelled as a mummy’s boy or girl. He already had enough to deal with at school; he didn’t need that as well.

He removed his shirt and rinsed it the best he could, tying it as a sail to his school bag to dry. He cupped his hands and tossed water onto his face. It was cold but welcome and he quickly removed the stickiness from his skin.

The pub was still closed, and Jed dropped to a crouch as he made his way past the windows. He could hear the publican telling his barmaids to show a bit more cleavage over the bar, and they, in turn, told him to take a running jump into the canal.
Jed didn’t wait to hear anymore and took his chance to sneak in the back door to the kitchen. Scouring the room, he spotted a box of chips and a crate of coke and grabbed some items from both. He froze when the coke bottles clinked together, half expecting to be pulled into the bar by his ear. When nobody came, he headed for the barn.

The barn door was closed and he tugged at the handle. When the door began to open he smiled and squeezed his way in. It was cool and the light was muted; with luck, nobody would be in and out for the next few hours. He made his way to the back where he settled down amongst a mound of bunting and umbrellas. He flipped the lid of the coke and gulped half of it down. He belched and grinned, then downed the remainder.

From his school bag he pulled out his latest song lyric book, thankful Simon and Jonno hadn’t found it. He’d been waiting for this one for weeks, having left an order with the local newsagent. It had cost him a week’s pocket money, but it was worth it. This edition was the mother lode, a special once off of all Jed Parsons lyrics, and he was determined to learn them all.

He started with “Flamin’ Hearts”, reading and memorising the lyrics. Once he was sure he’d got it, he closed his eyes and began to sing. After several attempts, his head nodded forward and the lyric book fell to the ground.

End chapter 2

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

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