A Kid Named Joey - A Novel

Chapter 3

A Kid Named Joey

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 003

There was a moment’s silence after Edward's statement, then Edward sighed. "I don't really want to speak about it, but suppose I ought to. There are a number of issues that I need to deal with."

"I'm here to listen, if you want," Ben informed him.

"Thanks, I'll keep that in mind," Edward replied. "I will probably need someone to listen but not sure I am ready to speak about it yet. Some things just take time to sort out in your mind."

Ben just nodded, then got back to eating his dinner. Once they had finished, Ben collected the plates and put them in the dishwasher. He suggested they take their beers through to the sitting room.

"So, what happened to you and Ruth?" Edward asked.

"It's not so much what happened as what did not happen," Ben admitted. "The oneness and togetherness that is supposed to come from marriage just never developed, till one day we both came to the realisation that we were two separate people living in the same house. I think we both tried to keep it going for a bit for the sake of the kids, but in the end it wasn't working out. Then Ruth met someone. That's when she decided to leave me. I had to go on a two day course in Birmingham. When I got back, there was a letter on the table saying she had gone to her mother's and had taken the kids. She stated they would not be back."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Edward said.

"I'm not," Ben declared. "It had never been a marriage right from the start. We only got married because everybody seemed to expect us to. It seemed everyone regarded us as a couple when in truth we were just good friends."

"I had not realised," Edward stated. He looked across the room at Ben. To Edward it looked as if his friend was missing something from his life, but what that was, Edward could not guess.

It was a couple of hours later, and a couple more bottles of Grolsch, before Edward made his way back to the granny flat. He realised as he made his way back that he had drunk rather more than he should have. After twelve plus years of not drinking, four bottles of Grolsch and a couple of double whiskies was a bit much.

That fact was confirmed for him Friday morning when he woke with a hangover, trying to remember why he had set his alarm for so early. Then he remembered that he was taking Joey to Raycoat. Carefully, he eased himself out of bed, wondering if there was any way to remove the clog dancing team which had apparently set up residence in his head. Two cups of strong coffee and a hot shower later, he decided there probably was not, and he would just have to live with them in residence.

Fortunately, by ten, the clog dancers had apparently decided to move elsewhere, thanks in no part to at least two pots of tea and a bacon sandwich. Though to be honest, the couple of paracetamol he had taken were probably responsible, at least in part. He did at least feel somewhat more human.

It was nearly ten to eleven when he got to Laura's. She opened the door to him.

"Hard night last night?" she asked after taking one look at him. "You better come in. Joey's just gone up the road to collect Danny."

"Had a couple of beers with my mate where I'm living," Edward replied. "After twelve years without I'm not used to it."

"Best stay not used to it then," Laura replied. "You've got a son to set an example to, remember." Edward nodded in agreement.

"Who is this Danny?" he asked.

"Danny Meadows," Laura answered. "Him and our Joey have been best mates since kindergarten. Except for the fact that Joey is black they could be twins. You hardly ever see one without the other. If one is into something you can bet your life the other will be into it as well."

"And you are asking me to take Joey away from here when his best mate is here," Edward observed.

"Yes," Laura replied with emphasis. "You know what happens to intelligent lads like Joey. You've got to get him away from here, otherwise he'll end up just …" She stopped.

"Just like me you mean," stated Edward. Laura nodded.

Just then the back door opened, and two boys came in. Edward saw immediately what Laura meant. Both were dressed in the same style, both had the same unruly hair. In Joey's case it was black, in Danny's case it was a very light blond, almost white, but just as unruly. Both the boys had the same mischievous look in their eyes, as if they had been up to something they should not have been. Edward knew that look too well, he remembered the number of times it had been in his and Ben's eyes.

"OK, what have you two been up to?" he asked.

"Nuthing," Joey replied.

"It's nothing, not nuthing," Edward answered. "And you two have definitely been up to something, so you better tell me now or I am not going to take you to Raycoat, understand?"

Both boys nodded. Danny looked at Joey, who looked back. There seemed to be some unspoken agreement between them. It was Joey who spoke. "We pinched a couple of apples from Mr Parson's tree."

"Let's see them," Edward demanded. The two boys produced some apples from their pockets. Edward smiled as he looked at them. "So, why did you steal them?"

"We wanted to have something to eat on the way," Danny stated. It was the first time Danny had spoken since they came through the door.

"Didn't Joey tell you I was taking you to lunch before we went to the museum?" Edward asked.

"No," replied Danny. Edward looked at Joey.

"Sorry, I forgot," the boy mumbled.

"Have you taken apples from Mr Parson's trees before?" Edward asked, knowing damned well the answer.

"No," both boys affirmed in unison.

"Then I suggest you both take a bite out of one," Edward said. "Do it NOW."

The two boys both took a bite from one of the apples they were holding. Within moments their faces contorted into grimaces and they ran over bin to spit out the contents of their mouths. Edward laughed. Laura looked puzzled.

"Right boys, what have you learnt?" Edward asked.

"Mr Parson grows bad apples," Joey stated.

"Actually, he grows very good apples," Edward said.

"But they’re sour," Danny commented.

"Just as they are supposed to be," Edward informed him. "Mr Parson makes his own cider, so he grows cider apples. Do you know what the lesson from this is?"

The two boys shook their heads.

"Never steal anything until you know that it is worth stealing," stated Edward. "Most of the time it is not worth the effort.

"Now, come on you two, I'll take you Raycoat, and I will make sure you don't starve."

"But first Joey Chapman, you can put a coat on," Laura said. "And you better loan one to Danny, as he will need one other side of the mountains."

Joey indicated to Danny that he should follow him, and the two boys went off upstairs.

"How come Danny had not got a coat on?" Edward asked.

"Probably does not have one that fits," Laura commented. "Probably not had any breakfast either,  which’ll be why they took the apples. There's a Big Mac on the way out of town, by the motorway junction." Edward nodded, understanding the instruction he had just been given.

The boys came back downstairs, Joey wearing a coat which fitted well, Danny wearing what was clearly an older coat, that seemed somewhat tight on him. Edward knew better than to ask any questions at this point, so he herded the boys out to the car. Once he was certain that both boys were securely buckled up in the backseat, he set off in the direction of the motorway.

As they approached the motorway junction, Edward commented he’d better fill up. He pulled into the petrol station for the supermarket that was on the retail park. As he was filling the car, he noticed both boys looking across the road at the MacDonald's.  After paying for the petrol, he returned to the car, climbed in, then asked the boys if they had had breakfast.

"No," replied Danny.

"I had some toast," Joey replied.

"Is that all you had?" Edward asked.

"Yes, I was in a rush to get Danny before you arrived."

"I think you need a bit more than that. How about we pop into the MacDonald's?"

The resultant smiles and yeses from the two boys made it clear that this was a good choice. Edward started the car, exited the petrol station, then turned right, into the main car park. Finding a parking spot close to the MacDonald's, he parked up, let the boys out and locked the car. 

"Now we haven't got long and remember, we will be having lunch before we go to the museum, so just have something quick for now, enough to tide you over," Edward informed the boys. They both went for an apple turnover and a cola. Neither of which took either of the boys long to consume.

Some fifteen minutes later they were back out on road and Edward took the turnoff for the motorway.

"How far is it to Raycoat?" Danny asked.

"This route it is a bit over thirty miles," Edward responded. "There is a shorter route, which is about fifteen miles, but it is minor roads and you can't go any speed, so whilst this way is longer, it is also quicker."

"But we couldn't cycle this way," Joey stated.

"No, you could not," Edward confirmed. "For a start bicycles are not allowed on motorways. Also thirty odd miles is a bit too far for boys your age to cycle, even in good weather."

"I don't have a bike anyway," Danny informed them.

"That's okay," Joey responded. "I would take you on mine, you could ride on the handlebars."

"No, he can't," Edward said, with some intensity. "It is far too dangerous, it's also illegal, and it would be far too much effort for you to take Danny all the way to Raycoat on the bike with you. You would be worn out before you got out of town."

"I wouldn't," snapped Joey.

"I can assure you that you would be," Edward replied. "I tried it when I was a bit older than you, with Ben. I was a lot tougher and fitter than you are, and I did not make it to the Black Swan."

"What's the Black Swan?" Joey asked.

"The pub on the Eastleigh Road, by the roundabout," Edward responded.

"That’s the Pickwick," Danny said.

"Since when?" asked Edward.

"I don't know. It's always been the Pickwick," Joey stated.

"It was the Black Swan last time I saw it," Edward commented.

"Is it true you were in prison?" Danny asked.

"Yes," replied Edward.

"What for?"

"You shouldn't ask that," Joey snapped.

"It's  okay, Joey, Danny's just curious. I was in prison for something I didn't do. That's why I am out now. They know I did not do it."

"How do they know?"

"Because of DNA fingerprinting. It showed that the blood on my shirt, which they said came from the victim, in fact, was not the victim's blood," Edward told Danny.

"Couldn't they have done that before you went to prison?" Danny asked.

"No, the technique for doing it was only discovered after my conviction," Edward told Danny. "Even then it was very slow and very expensive. It is only in the last few years that new systems have been developed that have speeded it up and brought the costs down to where I could afford to pay for the tests to be done on the evidence. Once they were done they proved my innocence, and the Court of Appeal let me out."

"You must have some money," Danny observed.

"I'm not badly off," Edward confirmed.   

I wish we had some money," Danny stated. "It gets boring not having stuff and not being able to do things."

"I take you places and do things with you," Joey asserted.

"Yes, Joey, but you don't have that much either, and I hate to scrounge off you all the time. Ma keeps telling me off when I let you pay for stuff. She does not like anyone knowing how badly off we are."

"And how bad is that?" Edward asked.

"Pretty bad," Danny replied. "Dad scarpered a few months after I was born, so it's always been hard. Ma's been ill for ages but two years ago she got really ill. Up to then she could just about manage but now things are bad, we are on benefits now and they don't come to much."

"Well, you don't have to worry about today," Edward stated. "I'm paying for everything."

"Just hope Ma doesn't find out," Danny stated. "She will go ballistic if she does."

"She knows you're going to Raycoat?" Edward enquired.

"No, I just told her I was spending the day with Joey and his dad," Danny replied. "She probably thinks we're down the park playing ball or something."

Edward gave a heavy sigh. He was not sure what the legal situation was with having Danny with them without his mother's specific consent. The one thing he could not afford at the moment was any problem with the police.

Edward's phone rang. He ignored it and kept on driving.

"Ain't you going to answer that?" Joey asked.

"No, I'm driving," Edward replied.

"Why not answer it?" Joey enquired.

"Because it is dangerous to use a phone when you are driving; it distracts you from what you should be concentrating on."

"Oh, I see," Joey said. He did not sound convinced.

The phone stopped ringing. A couple of minutes later there was a pinging sound.

"You've got a text," stated Joey.

"Is that what that sound was?" Edward replied. "I'll have a look at it when we get to Raycoat."

The rest of the drive was executed in comparative silence, Joey and Danny seemingly playing a variation on stone, scissors, paper in the back seat whilst Edward navigated his way to Raycoat. Shortly after twelve, they pulled into a parking spot in the municipal car park, just off the market square. If Edward remembered correctly, there was a nice café on the square called Betsy's. He hoped it was still there and that they still did their fish and chip dinners.

It turned out Edward was in luck; Betsy's was still there. As far as he could tell, it had not changed at all in the last twelve and a half years. Neither had the menu. It still had the Friday special of fish and chip dinners. He ordered three without asking the boys what they wanted. Not that it was a problem ­ both boys smiled when they heard they were getting fish and chips.

Whilst they were waiting to be served, Edward looked at his phone. There was a text message from Ben asking for Edward to phone him. Edward told the boys that he had an important phone call to make, then he phoned Ben.

"Thanks for calling back, Teddy," Ben said as he answered the phone.

"How did you know it was me?" Edward asked.

"Caller ID," Ben replied. "As your number is in my phone and linked to your name, it displayed your name when you called." 

"Oh," replied Edward. "What did you want?"

"First, to tell you we have an appointment at the Nationwide at twelve thirty on Monday to get you set up with a current account," Ben informed him.

"Don't I need proof of address and such like?" Edward asked

"You are an existing customer," Ben pointed out. "With what you have got in your savings account, I don't think they are going to be asking too many questions."

"How much have I got in it?"

"Just over eighty thousand," Ben replied.

"Is that all?"

"Yes, Teddy, I had to keep it under the deposit guarantee scheme limit," Ben responded. "By the way I suggest you leave it there. As soon as the current account is open, I will set up a direct debit to put two grand a week into it."

"Ok, I've got that," Edward stated. "You said that was the first. What's second?"

"I have to come over to Middlecoat this afternoon," Ben informed him. "One of my clients who is unable to get out needs to sign some papers. It is only three miles from Raycoat. I thought we could meet up after your museum visit. How about afternoon tea for the boys at Betsy's?"

"We're in there now, having fish and chips," Edward replied. "Afternoon tea sounds fine. What time?"

"My meeting is at two thirty, so I should be finished three thirty at the latest. How about if we meet at four? I know the museum closes then."

"Right, I'll see you here then," Edward replied.

Finishing his call, he looked over at the two boys who were both looking at the display of cakes on show behind the glass counter. There was a conversation going on between them as to which they would like.

"You can decide which cake you are going to have later," Edward advised them. "We are coming back here after the museum for tea. The friend I'm staying with will be joining us."

Joey gave Edward a questioning look but said nothing. Probably because just then the fish and chips were served, and he became too busy eating. Once they had finished their meal and the ice cream Edward allowed the boys to have as dessert, Edward paid the bill and led the boys out of Betsy's and across the market square. On the far side of the square they made their way into Guildhall Road. A couple of hundred metres down the road, the museum stood on the left hand side. Posters outside it proclaimed an exhibition of 'The Art of Saxon Britain'.

Entering the museum, Edward paid the admission charge, which he thought was a bit steep. He also bought both boys a guide to the exhibition. Once he was inside the exhibition with them, he realised that he probably could have saved the money on the guide. Neither boy was consulting it, but both seemed to know a lot about the objects on show. For the next hour, between them, Danny and Joey gave him a running commentary on the items in the exhibition. Though he did notice that Danny seemed to know more about them than Joey.

As they came to the end of the exhibition, Edward asked Danny how come he knew so much about Saxon Art.

"When it's cold I go into the library after school. It's warm in there. They've got a pile of books on Saxon history and art, and I spent most of last winter reading them," Danny informed him.

"I'd go in with him sometimes to keep him company," Joey said. "So, I ended up reading a lot of the same books."

Having finished the exhibition and still having an hour before they were due to meet Ben, they looked around the rest of the museum. In one of the upper galleries there was an exhibition of Japanese items. Amongst them was a samurai sword, in its decorated scabbard, sitting on a sword stand.

"That's wrong!" Joey exclaimed.

"Why is it wrong?" Edward asked.

"Look at it," Joey stated. "The curve of the scabbard is going down, so of the sword edge, is pointing downwards."

"So, what's wrong with that?" Edward enquired.

"It means that the sharpened edge of the blade is resting against the inside of the scabbard," Joey explained. "That will damage the edge. A katana is always placed so the curve of the scabbard is upwards, so of the blade rest on its back, not its edge. That way the back of the blade rests on the inside of the scabbard and the sharpened edge of it is protected."

"How do you know that?" Edward asked his son.

"I read  Miyamoto Musash's 'Book of Five Rings', back during the Easter hols. It was interesting, so I read a couple more books in the library on kendo and kenjutsu."

"You seem to have spent a lot of time in the library," Edward commented.

"We do," Joey replied. "It's somewhere to go when it's cold or wet. and it is one place where we are safe from Ranjeet and his gang."

"Who's Ranjeet?" Edward asked.

"Ranjeet Bhat," Danny supplied. "He's fourteen and a bully. Has his own gang in the school. Everybody is scared of him."

"Except for Chris," Joey pointed out.

"Yes, but he'll be gone soon," Danny replied.

"And who is Chris?" Edward enquired.

"Chris Conner," Joey answered. "He's in year eleven. Big lad, plays rugby."

"I didn't think they played rugby at your school," Edward commented.

"They don't," Joey replied. "Chris plays for one of the youth teams. He caught Ranjeet and his mates laying into us one day and told them to stop. He also told Ranjeet if anything happened to us whilst we are in school, he would deal with Ranjeet. I think Ranjeet is scared of him because his dad's a copper."

A sudden thought struck Edward. He decided, though, that this was not the time or place to pursue it.

"Is there a lot of bullying in your school?" Edward asked, knowing full well the answer. It was the same school that both Ben and he had attended, and attitudes had not changed much in the intervening years.

"Yes," Danny replied. "It's hard to get any work done; they don't like you if you are smart."

"And you are smart"" queried Edward.

"Yes, I am, and so is Joey," Danny replied. Edward chuckled in response.

As they were leaving the museum, Edward made a point of getting Joey to tell one of the women at the information desk about the sword being displayed wrong. She took a note of what Joey told her, also his name and address, and said she would pass the information on to one of the curators.

It was not quite quarter to four when they left the museum. The trio took a slow walk around the market square, looking in shops rather than cutting across the square like they did on the way to the museum. Edward noticed Danny looking with envy at some bright yellow padded coats in the outdoor pursuits store. He decided he needed to ask Laura about Danny when he got the boys home.

Arriving at Betsy's, Edward found Ben seated at one of the round tables in one of the bay windows.

"Been here long?" Edward asked.

"Got here about five minutes ago," Ben replied. He looked at the two boys. "You must be Joey. You look just like your uncle Mike looked when he was your age. That means you," he said, turning to the other boy, "must be Danny." The boys nodded confirming Ben's observations.

Edward and the boys took their seats. A waitress came over and they ordered the afternoon tea, but with cola for the boys. It was not long before plates of sandwiches and cake stands with a variety of cakes were being placed on the table. The boys quickly laid into the sandwiches.

"You wouldn't think they had fish and chips less than four hours ago," Edward commented.  

"At that age, four hours means starvation," Ben replied. "I remember what you were like when we got out of school. It was directly over to Murphy's for two packet of crisps and a chocolate bar."

"Well, one packet of crisps was for you," Edward stated.

"What about the chocolate bar?"

"I shared it."

"Sometimes," Ben responded with a chuckle before turning to the boys. "So, Joey, did you and Danny have a good time at the museum?"

"It was great, though a lot of the Saxon stuff was repro," Joey informed Ben.

"I did not know that," stated Edward.

"Yes, it was," Danny confirmed. "If you looked at the description labels for the items they  would say 'copy of'; that means it’s a reproduction. Had to be really ­ there was no way the British Museum would let the Sutton Hoo helmet out to a small exhibition like this."

"Makes sense, when you think about it," Ben observed.

"I suppose it does in a way," commented Edward.

In what seemed to be an inordinately short amount of time to Edward, the pile of sandwiches on the plates and the cakes on the cake stand had been reduced to a few crumbs.

"There's not much left," commented Edward.

"What do you expect?" enquired Ben. "You bring twelve-year-olds near food and expect something to be left? The average twelve-year-old makes a plague of locusts look like amateurish when it comes to consuming food."

"You sound as if you speak from experience," Edward said.

"I do, my sister's two boys are eleven and twelve. You should see what they can get through in a day. Took them to the all you can eat Chinese buffet the week before last; the place went into administration last Monday."

"I'm sure you can't blame that on your nephews," responded Edward.

"I'm not, they were just a contributing factor. I saw how much that pair consumed. There is no way the place could have made a profit on them."

Edward laughed.

"Wish I could go there," Danny stated.

"Why can't you?" Ben asked.

"No money," Danny replied.

"That does not mean you can't go there," Ben said. "I am sure Edward will take Joey there sometime and I think Joey would probably like you to go along with him. Wouldn't you Joey?"

"Yes," Joey responded. "Can you take us there dad?"

"I'll think about it. Probably have to wait till they are out of administration though," Edward stated. "I will have to speak to Laura about it. Now, am I right in thinking you two would like some more cake?"

"Yes, please," announced Joey. Danny just nodded his head, but his eyes lit up.

Edward called the waitress over and asked her to take the boys to the cake counter to select a couple of cakes. Within a moment, the boys had disappeared from the table and reappeared at the counter. The waitress smiled and told Edward she would get it sorted out.

While the boys were at the counter, Ben turned and asked Edward, "What's the deal with Danny? Who is he?"

"Danny Meadows," Edward replied. "He's Joey's best mate."

"Oh, shit!" exclaimed Ben.