Riot

Riot

By Bonnie Meekums

I lay in the darkness, the sound of my breathing like crashing waves.  Chapeltown was in silence since the events of the day.  I felt a million miles away from home.  Mum would be worried by now.  I felt a pang of guilty panic knot in my belly.  I knew what I was about to do broke all the rules, especially my Mum’s.  She had tried to bring up her six boys to be good Methodists.  So far, she hadn’t succeeded with any one of us.  Apart from Winston that is.  And he was dead.

The ginnel between two shops into which i had jammed myself was so tight I had to lie half on my side.  The rifle was aimed.  I was ready.  I shifted ever so slightly and my back made contact with the cold, dank wall.  I shivered, and almost lost my nerve.  But then I thought of our Winston.  16 years old, never been in trouble with the police.  God fearing, the stupid pratt.  Never taken so much as a quick cough on weed.  Never shagged a girl despite getting a boner every time he looked at that pretty girl with the even brown skin, big black eyes and pert little breasts who always served him on his frequent trips to the supermarket.  We used to tease him for it, poor sod.  But then we never saw what was coming, did we?  Shot down by the fucking boys in blue before he even got up the nerve to ask her out.  Wrong place, wrong time, wrong skin colour.  Those stupid bastards wouldn’t be able to tell Nelson Mandela from Malcolm X if they came out with neon name badges on.

How long will I have to wait, I wondered.  I dared not light up until they came into view.  Then I would do it, to draw them nearer.  I mentally rehearsed my plan.  Aim for the balls on one copper, then try for as many as I can take out.  Assuming I get them before they get me, hide the rifle in the ginnel until I can get it into the canal.  Run home and be sitting in my mother’s kitchen drinking tea, with my A level books open before their mates come knocking house to house.

A car door shut, startling me out of my reverie.  Footsteps.  Shall I light up?  It could be a plain cop car.  I hadn’t thought of that.  I peered at the form approaching.  Wearing a hoody.  Aha!  A disguise, the cunning bastards!  Judging by the size of him, wearing a bullet-proof vest underneath.  Just one of them.  Perfect.  I drew a breath, and lit up.  His head turned in my direction.  He walked towards me, his footsteps ringing out on the Yorkshire stone pavement.  I cocked the trigger.  Then he called my name.  ‘Malcolm!’  My brain turned to jelly.  How the fuck did this copper know my name?  Who had rumbled me?  No-one knew.  I had told no-one.  Shit!  It was my uncle Moses, out looking for me.  My cover was blown.  I let out a regretful sigh, as I realised there was nothing for it.  I would have to show myself, and leave the rifle as far down the ginnel as possible.  I shifted upright and threw the rifle backwards as I emerged to the left of the opening.

The next bit happened in slo-mo.  Before the rifle hit the ground, I remembered I’d left the trigger cocked.  A thumping in my ears, I shouted to uncle Moses to get away.  But he, being the loving, forgiving pastor he was, moved closer.  The bullet whistled as it travelled straight for his knees.  I heard the sound of snapping bone as his head hit the concrete.  I rushed up to him and shook him, tears now streaming down my cheeks.  My voice was lost to me.  I cradled my uncle’s head against my chest and a warm, sticky liquid oozed onto my hands.  Time stood still.  I felt numb.  I thought of Winston.  This wasn’t meant to happen, brother.  It was meant to be for you.  I thought of my mother.  Saw her stoical, pained face.  My chest hurt, and I clutched my uncle’s body closer to me.  Blue lights flashed in the distance.  As two uniformed police officers walked towards me, I carefully lay Moses down on the cold concrete, took off my jacket, and covered him up.  Then I stood up, faced them, and held out my bloodied wrists.

ENDS

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