Fan Week – Extract

Fan week continues today with an extract from the book.

Munching on toast, the phone erupting in the hallway. He waited for Kelly to get it.

“It’s for you,” she said.

“Not work…”

“No, I don’t think so. It’s nobody I recognise.”

He didn’t get up.

“Not a fucking sales call.”

Kelly moved across the kitchen to the sink, flushed her mug under the tap.

“He asked for John,” she said.

He lugged himself out of the chair and bare footed it across the cold tiles to the phone, lifted the receiver, listened, waited a moment.

“Alright?”

A voice on the other end. East Midland’s accent. A voice from the old town?

“Alright-“

“Remember me.”

“Who is it?”

“You don’t remember?”

“No,” he said. “No, I don’t.”

A fucking fruit machine, the images revolving and flashing. This face. That face.

“Black Jack,” said the voice.

His felt his stomach drop away.

Reels dropping into place.

“I’ve some news mate.”

“Right.”

“It’s not easy…”

Dead tone. Monosyllabic.

“It’s Stimmo.”

Struggling to remember, to picture, to place. Another reel spinning.

“He’s only gone and done himself.”

A chill in his bones, a raking down his spine.

“Hello?

“Yes mate, I’m here.”

“The service is on Friday. I know it’s late notice. Took me a while to find you…”

“Right. Cheers. For letting me know.”

“Ten am at the crem.”

“Right mate.”

“We thought you’d want to know. We’re all in shock. Right fucked up to be honest.”

“How did you -“

“T Gally. His mam called your mam. Friday. See you there.”

“Right. Cheers mate. Cheers for calling.”

Silence at the other end.

“Hello?” asked Finchy.

“Yes mate.”

“I said thanks for calling.”

“I heard. I said we’ll see you Friday.”

Finchy paused.

“Aye,” he said, at last. “I’ll be there.”

The reels at a standstill. Him at a standstill, in the kitchen, bare feet on the cold tiles.

Stimmo. Stimmo. Fucking Stimmo.

The black mares in free gallop, running wherever they fucking pleased. The black mares trapped in a mass of bodies.

Kelly came into the kitchen. He stared ahead of himself, feeling her in his peripheral vision. A blur. A shadow.

“Are you okay?”

An absent nod of the head.

“Who was it?”

“An old mate of mine. A bloke from years ago. Nobody you’d know.”

She stood there watching him. He didn’t say anything else.

“I have to go,” she said.

“Yeah,” he said.

“Will you be okay?”

He nodded.

He spotted the twist in her lips, knew what she was thinking. And then he said, “Tonight. We can talk about it tonight. We can talk about everything tonight.”

After she’d gone, after she’d shut the door behind her, he went upstairs to get ready for work. He pulled on a shirt and stood at the window doing up the buttons, looking down on the little patch of lawn, the scattered leaves, the cluster of houses.

The Close in Autumn.

Stimmo ahead of him in the queue for the Trent End, the turnstile clicking and counting them in. The two of them slipping in the side of the end pen, along the fence, into the centre pen, up behind the goal. Into the action. Stimmo at Derby giving the sheep-shaggers grief. The rain pelting down. Stimmo piling on top of the others at Tottenham as Forest nick a late winner. Stimmo on the train on the way back from Hillsborough, staring out of the window, blanking the guard when he came for the tickets, telling the guard to fuck off, telling each and every one of them to fuck off. Stimmo at the bar in the Hound

during Italia 90, older than his years, yet a lesser being. That was the last time he saw the guy. He’d stopped going to football, worked every Saturday, said he had to, said he had no fucking choice. Maybe it was true.

Or maybe it was bollocks?

He pulled a tie out of the wardrobe and placed it around his neck, thinking about method, wondering, imagining, trying not to imagine. The postman came up the drive. He watched him sort the letters in the bundle, pick out a couple. He heard the letterbox snap. The woman at number nine was in her window, standing looking in his direction, there in just her bath robe. She pulled the curtains shut. The postie was two doors down already. Finchy looked at the clock on the dresser. Time was ticking on. He had to get going. He coughed. He wasn’t sure he wanted to go anywhere.

Town was busy, the streets rammed, the sky full of charcoal clouds. It was raining again. Everything was blurred streaks. When he reached the school he sat in the car park with the engine idling, watching the kids meander through the gates and scatter in all directions, watching the buses pull in and kids flood out. He looked at the school building, bent out of shape by the water droplets on the windscreen. He sat there for fifteen minutes trying to drag himself in the direction of his classroom, lost in a fog.

He’d go up after work, stay overnight, get it over with and come home again. And tonight he’d give Kelly what she wanted. Because if he was anything, if he was man at all he’d do that at least, sit down and talk it all through, tell her honestly what he was feeling about the two of them, about babies and fatherhood, what he felt their next steps were.

Not that it would make a difference. She was set in one direction. There was no fucking doubt about that.

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