The Kings of the Swingers

by AJ Kirby

It’s not like we doing it for attention. But we do kind of make a show of it; build up the tension and that.

We limber up like. Do us stretches. Yank off us tees so we just in our playtime scrubs: thick trackie bottoms, socks pulled up over the ‘lastic bit at the bottom; Nike Airs. Come out swinging like we about to fight, or fuck, or just jump in canal.

All of us have wiry bodies. Knotted muscles. Shaven heads. Some of us have tatts. They’re prison-ink style like the ones some of our dads have – those of them who’re still around. The Ding has a great big one on his back of a cartoon man covering up his cartoon mouth with his cartoon hand because he was always getting told to shut the hell up at school and at home and pretty much everywhere he went. Now though he does his talking with his feet, with his legs. He’s one of the best of us and he’s definitely the best showman and you get the impression he likes all this crap before we get into what we get into. Manny has one which says JUNGLIST MASSIVE on his pecs above his heart. A right noisy tattoo that one. I had one too and it was supposed to be like a copy of that but it hurt like twatbags and the tattoo-feller took beards of time over it so in the end I had the slow bastard stop when he’d just writ JUNG which is a bit shit especially when I scratched at the writing too much and made all the colours run. Manny won’t let none of them say nowt about it though and he put his arm on my shoulder once and said JUNG’s a good tatt anyway on account of Jung was a Swiss psychology-feller who knew all about dreams and that, and I was a dreamer.

Where we are is down by the canal like I said, where it’s all concrete. Buildings like mountains looming above us. Some of them like offices and that, and some of them like, dreaming of becoming more offices when they grow up and have big yellow signs in they windows saying ‘FIVE HUNDRED SQ. FT. COMMERCIAL SPACE’ or somesuch. And we could do freakin wonders with that space if like we had it.

We used to know this underground carpark place what rented out bays to people lived in town for about three arms and ten legs a month. Only the city twatbags didn’t reckon for the canal like and when it was proper siling down all that autumn all they bays flooded and there was all these like yellow and shit sportscars turning into boats like in that James Bond film. After they sandbagged up all the water and all the crap what was in the water like cans and pizza menus and whatever, no cars wanted to sportscar back down in there, so for a age we had the carpark as our batcave. All empty it was and dark and greasy too.

Manny said it reeked like a rainforest, and we all used to make oop-oop noises like monkeys in trees and generally monkey about down there. Making all kinds a noise. Nobody gave two-shits till some rum bastards out of St. George’s Crypt started bedding down there and all, and then the city twatbags were all like ‘you’re trespassing’ and shit. Put up all kinds of signs and barriers and fences. You know, like keep out, or private property. Might as well have said piss right off we don’t want your sort in here.

St. George’s Crypt though. When I was weer than I am now Manny used to tell me it really was a Crypt like in Tales from the Crypt, and the shabby fellers what shuffled about in it, eyes all wonky and wet, was zombies. Easy to believe when you see them bastards even now. Not surprising neither once you’ve tasted they White Lightning what they sup.

Not that we drink a lot, like. You get all the papers like what me Gran reads says all kids are boosted-up on jungle juice all day long. Scare stories is all they are. Manny sometimes gets called the Muslim on account of he never drinks anything and he is quite militant about it, and he once kicked shit out of me when he found me on the Special Brew down in that carpark I was talking about. After he said he was sorry like, and he did what he sometimes did and sat letting me have my head bleeding into his lap like he was really my dad – and I wouldn’t of minded that – and he said you, meaning all of us, was brought up amongst the wolves like Mowgli in the Jungle Book. So the Man Village don’t trust you meaning us, on account of they think you are feral. So don’t give them no excuses.

I miss Manny, like. He used to tell me what way was up and what way was down and he was kind of like one of them compasses what walking twats have in their rucksacks or hanging round they necks like a noose. Only Manny was different from that because what ways he told me to go, he’d just kind of hint I should go that way, and sometimes it wasn’t even a direction at all. Like it wasn’t always ‘hey, we should try out that underground carpark’. Sometimes it was just ‘have a think about what it really means when you launch that brick off the expressbridge onto the number 45 bus’. And when I’d tell him like what the CCTV cameras on the expressbridge was broken, he’d just make a shrug and be all like, ‘yeah, but does it matter if anyone’s watching you?’ Or else he’d be ‘just because they treat us like animals don’t mean we should behave like them.’

Dunno about that, but you know, we none of us bozzed so much with chucking stuff after on account of it wasn’t as much fun when Manny was in your head, pecking at your brain like a crow or something. When he first came about on our ends he looked a bit like a crow and he had all they black clothes and lank hairs and once Cov or someone swore he had all kinds a make up on his fizzog. I never saw him have make up on his fizzog though. But after a bit he changed from being a crow-goth or whatever and like trimmed his hairs and he was posting his ‘A’ symbol inside a circle on all the doorstops and walls. He started hanging at the ends and like at first we thought weirdo, but after a while he was part of the furniture and he tagged along, and then became the main tagger, or whatever. Sometimes he tried to teach us stuff but he did it in a roundabout, arse over tit way so it wasn’t like the freakin do-goods at youth club and that. Manny had a edge, see?

So anyway, we down by the canal like I say, us wolves. Whole pack of us. Only we ain’t all who let the dogs out. We quiet. Hackled-up. Cov, or one of the other very young uns will be sat up high, maybe have shinned up a drainpipe or somesuch, or be hanging off a CCTV camera like a Urangutan. Be looking right now out for five-oh or security jobsworths and that who’d chase us off or freakin fling stuff at us. Once this bod in a yellow coat picked up half a freakin wall and wanged it our way but he followed-through when he wanged it and went over on his fizzog and got all cuts and scratches and it was funny as.

What happens is when we get Cov or whoever’s signal it’s time what to get serious. We chalk us hands and then clap them together so it makes this cloud of dust like what a teacher makes when they cleaning the chalk bits off a board-rubber. Windmill us arms just to get us good and loose. Sup a last chug of Red Bull makes us oiled. Chang or The Ding might of brung they iPod and dock-shit so we might whack on some tunes, but like as not we won’t have it.

Sometimes one of us might give a bow.

Sometimes one of them might, like, give us a timid little clap or mouth some words of encouragement. A few of they mates might join in.

Loads of them come out their offices at lunch time now. Sit out on, like, these picnic tables and stuff they fizzogs with chicken wraps and cous-cous salads and damn great chimney-size coffee containers. Fat, concrete-limbed bastards who need a good oiling. Move like they on slow-mo. Or stopped altogether. Like they froze, like broke Blu-Rays. With crooked-backs and heavy heads they watch us like we a show put on direct for them, like. Like we the hand to mouth version of the freakin Cirque du Soleil. Some of them making videos of us on they mobile phones which they’ll fnar-fnar about on they Facebook later, or they Youtube, like we a cat or a dog just said sausages or learned to knit. Some of them, when they creak up to go back into they offices like come forward as though they looking for a hat to drop a few coins in.

But we don’t do it for money. Only one of us really needs money is Manny on account of he is old enough so money matters but up until recent he was in a squat anyway so hell knows. I can’t rightly say why we do it, but I know it isn’t for money, hand to mouth as most of us are. Might as well say we’re doing it for the chalk. I do like it putting the chalk on my hands like that, like a temporary tatt. Like a like gang badge what we all have. I’m not going to mither saying I never fitted in at home or like the only thing what I got off my dad was freakin bruises and shit, but it is nice feeling a part of something. My dad: never saw much of the blert. Shadowy was what he was. Just spent all his time at the bookies and the pub and that was all what interested him.

Everything interested Manny like, especially what we did when we went in town. Thing what Manny stormed out on though was this thing he said he was getting sick-stomached about they office workers looking at us like we chimps. He used to be able to egg-nore this. Once he told me that what we was doing was reclaiming the streets or somesuch. He said we were asserting our ownership on the buildings and the landmarks of the city. He said it was sick how we got us white pawprints all over the city, like we’d fingerprinted it all, or got it under us thumbs, until they get rubbed out by wind or rain. But Manny said all sorts and thought he was like, some voice of the people or something, so whatever. And Manny was like the weather in the city and you never knew what he was going to do next from one minute to another. And when he stopped with doing the ‘A’ with the circle about it, and started in with another of his ‘schemes’ it was like all his views were different like God or someone had snapped his fingers.

Do you know who Manny would be if life was the Jungle Book? I used to think it was Baloo, because he was big like a bear, but nimble with it. Now I don’t know but maybe he is Mowgli on account of Cov or maybe Ding were all like they saw him down the employment centre in the ‘Man Village’.

So like I say Manny isn’t here but everyone else is, like. We come down here on account of there’s loads of steps, barriers, railings, palisade fencing, walls, ramps. We come down here to get loose and jump and freakin make like Spiderman. Parkour is what they call what we do but we don’t call it that. It’s just jumping or, like dancing, or, like climbing and that. It’s a freakin-A way of showing who has paid the cost to be the boss because what we do is we, us hand to mouth twatbags, pay no freakin heed to the laws of nature or of the body and we just run up buildings and we leap over fishermen who think like they will have fish in a canal which is a dead space of water, and we land on us feet, or with chalked hands grasp a rail or somesuch. Using the city like it a playground: the one they owed us all on account of the one back at our ends was pure for babies and Antony Shawcross knackered-up all the animal seesaw rides within like five minutes of them opening the bastard.

We do us a freedom dance then, and then bus-it home later, whistling I’m the king of the swingers, the Jungle VIP, while all they bastards in the offices have to go back in and do what some other bastard says until they let out to get a later bus when all the traffic is snarled up and angry like tigers. Us laughing at them like hyenas, like Jungle VIPs, getting stuck in on the games already, moving up levels while the office shits stuck doing something else. Flaunting what we are in front of they fizzogs and do it with the rage in our veins icy-cold and acidy.

See this is why some of them call me a dreamer and they sing them a old song what goes but I’m not the only one. I get a bit boss-eyed thinking on stuff sometimes and it is like the whole world is controlled by me and blinks out of existence like it only a mirage, while I think on stuff like acid in veins and who’s who in the Jungle Book. I once had a dream – a real one not one of these waking ones – that me and Manny was brothers. Don’t laugh but I did. Even though he is older than me and not far off my dad’s age and even though my dad had his tubes tied anyway on account of he was sick of me and my sisters. The dream wasn’t like most dreams because it was a long dream, like as long as a film almost. At first I only knew Manny was my brother and that he was also a Spiderman. But at the end there was this revelation when I was chipping up some big column outside some portico entrance and I fell a bit and before I could smack down on the concrete I like flailed with my hand and then this like string of cobweb stuff came out of me hand like jizz and rescued me back onto the building. And right at the end me and Manny did the high-fives like we was in the old U.S. of A, and we’d just double-teamed some girl or something, and I was at the same time me feeling the hands slapping and I was outside of me too, so I saw the chalk-dust kind of teachering in the air, and man it was boss. Told The Ding about it afters and he punched me.

So anyway we is limbering up doing the final stuff today, and today there’s more fellers and birds out on the picnic tables and even perched on the steps watching us than they’s ever been before. And they all have they mobile phones up in the air like they in an old fashioned rock concert like me Grandad used what for go to and they not mobile phones but cigarette lighters.

We just about to launch into it when something happens. Something bad. And it’s like a freakin spell has been cast or like a bomb has gone off.

What happens first – and this is like, split-seconds, I’m talking – is Cov falls off the high-place where he’s been lookout and lands crack on his shoulder. And at almost the same time, The Ding is collapsing down onto his knees and clamping his hands about his lugholes like a loon. Chang, his mouth is open in a silent scream, or howl, or it might not be silent at all, but none of us can hear it. And Porridge is rolling about like he on fire. And Chips is practically about to fall in canal on account of he is stumbling backwards, his hands like up in surrender like some invisible monster after him.

And me, I’m freakin… Freakin. And it’s like all my joints have gone rusted and I can’t move.

On the picnic tables and the steps, they office workers are sat there with amused expressions on they fizzogs like this is all a part of the show even though it aint. Some of they have cocked heads and some of them are raising they eyebrows at us like we just told one almighty joke and it hasn’t quite registered with them. Or naah, maybe it not all like that because there are two or three of they which are also feeling the pain and are all scrunched up and shit and yowling or else flailing arms about and all. But it’s hard to tell because you don’t notice much while you’re still rolling, farting, screeching about on floor, or yelping in pain, or watching your mates dropping like stones into dead water. It’s like some forcefield or glass barrier has dropped between us and they office workers, the older ones of them anyway, because none of them are experiencing the pain like what we are.

None of em have trails of blood snail-trailing out of they lugholes.

None of em have bit they own tongues.

None of em are running, now, like cats had they whiskers burned off.

Or cowering like they have guns pointed on them.

Okay, a handful are. But it is only a couple of em or a handgrab of em and it is the young uns, the ones who look like they have to do the cleaning up after the others or else answer all they phone calls or wipe arses and shit.

Though it’s hard to think, I believe I’m starting to work out what is happening. Pieces of the like, jigsaw are starting to click into place. And it is only because I seen a couple of the office bods suffering like we are that I know. See it’s one of they alarms. New ones. They call them like mozzies or something. Mosquitoes. Like what they get in foreign farflung, jungly places like where Chang’s auld feller is from and what give you malaria like what that Cheryl Cole got.

And it’s like what we’ve got malaria us all. Like we diseased, suddenly took ill. Normal behaviour out the window, cracked its shoulder as it fell. Kings of the swingers with us crowns knocked off. What a mosquito is, if you not read the news or swung about on the grapevine a bit, is it is an alarm which can only be heard by people under a certain age. I don’t know how it works, maybe like the frequency of the sound waves or something, like when only dogs can hear dog whistles in the park, but what it’s done is it’s split us from all they office workers.

Criminalised us, Manny would have said.

And while most a they office workers sitting about laughing now, poor Cov is maybe suffering a broken shoulder from his fall, and Chips is now trying to drag himself onto canal bank but the chalk has washed off so he can’t get no grip. Two auld fishermen standing near him are unsure as to whether they should offer a hand, or a line, or a hook.

Manny tellt me like what they had similar alarm systems put up now in all kinds of places. He said something like it was in foreign like what Chang’s ma would say; he said it was ‘psycho-geographical apartheid’. They have mosquitoes up the theatres, cinemas, museums and that. Not that we would have wanted to go in them places, but. But maybe once or twice it would have been okay to go in and see the dinosaur skellingtons and all that. Now they have they alarms around offices and around clinic too, I hear. They squeezing us out. Making us go where they want us to go.

We all running now, half up walls and rolling on tops of barriers. Leaping gates and flailing steps. Limboing rails too. Chang and Cov coming too but lagging behind. We can’t come back here now. Not ‘til we’re older and can’t hear the noise any more. Maybe not even then. I take one last look back, my white hand clamped on top of this big chainlink fence what has a huge sign saying FUCK OFF YOU SCUM writ on it. Or something like that. And I’m looking, with this sound still jingle-jangling my brains in my lugholes and my breath all raggedy and completely undreamlike. And I see him. Him. Following. Manny. Got up in this like yellow nemesis in a Spiderman film, or else like Shere Khan. He is in a security jobsworth’s outfit and he is like giving chase to us because it is more than his jobsworth to let us go.

It is Manny.

It isn’t Manny. It just looks like him.

The shrieking of the alarm is so persistent it just rips into my head and I don’t know what I’m seeing or nowt and so I just scatter.

***

I’m down by the garages where we go. The dregs of a White Lightning bottle on me and twos-on a spliff what The Ding’s left. Sees Manny chipping down to me and I chinny-reckon he looks sheepish or maybe something else. Hurts to think about it really. Me lugholes are still killing like and when your lugholes go, so does your balance. It’s freak-weird, like what I saw on a docco on telly where some chump chopped his little toes off to see what would happen and what happened was he couldn’t walk proper. So if you were thinking what I would do was maybe Spiderman up and onto a garage roof before Manny spotted me, then you’re all kinds a wrong. All I did was I yawned to try and get the sound out a my head. Stretched. Then put on me mean look on me fizzog.

So Manny comes up and he’s like telling me he knows about what’s gone down by the canal. Says Cov has been hospitalised and Chips maybe might be later on account of he is showing he might have that rat-piss disease offof the canal water like what Jelly Bentley in our school got once. In so many words he says this – Manny don’t know about Jelly Bentley.

But my name is Schtum.

And Manny’s like nothing whatsoever has changed and that he wasn’t haring after us by the canal. And in me, I’m dreaming about that other dream I had about me and Manny being brothers and you know, it embarrassing, man. Gets me burning up inside like school used to. Like there’s been some wool-pulled or whatever-Trevor.

I make my voice growly like a cat-cornered. Tell him he didn’t just know what happened at canal, he’d seen it with his own peekers.

And he narrows they peekers like he trying to look between a couple planks in a fence. Like he a spy. Or a changecoat definite.

So I’m like, ‘where’s your yellow coat now, jobsworth?’

And he’s like, ‘what yellow coat?’ And then he’s asking me if I’m okay. Looking at me funny like school nurse did after we had BCG jabs and lots of dodgers pretended like what they were fainting and most of em were just using that as an excuse to feel up girls’ boobs as they fell like, but then some of em were actually fainting too.

I shrugged and chucked down some of the White Lightning. And Manny’s like trying to grab the bottle offof me and muttering something about how White Lightning brutalises you and turns you into just a sponge for what they want.

And I’m like, ‘Manny, man, will you ever shut the fuck up?’ And then I’m like, ‘and who are they exactly? Are they the wolves or the tigers or the lions or what?’

He hunkers down and sits by me, trying to get me to put my head on him or whatever. So I tells him about what I seen by the canal. Him in his security guard’s gear. And I tell him how easy it is what for adding two and two and what all them lot told me about how he’d been seen at the job centre place. When I finish I hawk up a dockoff load of gob and spit it on the garage door and it blangs.

Manny’s hands are up like he’s playing pat-pat like my sister used to all the time when she wasn’t making them cradles for cats. And he’s going whoah, whoah. Denying that he was ever a security guard in all his life and that.

I tell him I saw him.

He cries no, I didn’t, that it ‘must have been the mosquito playing havoc’ with my head, making me see things that were, like, not there.
Total twatbaggery, you axe me. I seen through him now. Seen he’s not what I thought. Seen around him, you know? Or seen him around. Whatever.

He grabs for me and makes to say I must have got something like a malaria after hearing the alarm and it has made my head west. He says these are the sorts of control-devices we’re up against. He says they’ll stoop to anything.

‘They again’, I’m like.

And he’s like, ‘yeah, they’re all-pervading.’

And I’m like, ‘no, it’s you, not they.’ Jabbing my finger into his chest, like. ‘You change. You’re different all the time like when you used to wear make up and then didn’t, and when you used to paint the Anarchy signs and then not.’ Basically I’ve tellt the bad bastard I can’t trust him no more.

He’s sniffing. He jabs his chest, where I was jabbing, right on where he has his JUNGLIST MASSIVE tatt. Tells me he hadn’t changed what’s here. That I can always trust him.

I get to my feet and I’m all like, well, a bit like, upset. I tell him well at least I know who he is in Jungle Book now anyway. He is that Kaa, the snake, always saying like what Mowgli could trust him while he was planning on squeezing him to death. And anyway, only people who can’t be trusted are forever banging on about trust and that.

And Manny nods, like Churchill. Sighing, he goes like this. He goes I’m right to be careful with my trust, that Parkour should have taught me to see that everything isn’t as concrete as it might appear. That I can, if I want, use the truth. Bend it. Hell, Spiderman-walk all over it. Because that is what they do all the time. It’s why they-they, and we-we.

Had enough now. Wee-wee is it? I growl again, like Shere Khan. Don’t say nowt, just growl. Only jamming the spliff in me mouth shuts it up.

Manny extends a paw to me for as to shake. And I look at that hand and I see chalk on it, and for the life of me I’m not sure what it means. Is he still at the Parkouring? Is he a security guard? Can I trust him?

I take one last slug from the White Lightning. Wang it at the garage door where it blangs. Hoping I’ll make my mind up on it, but the blang starts to bounce about in my head all over and kind of moulds in with the noise of that mosquito alarm and it’s like I can’t think no more, and really I don’t even want to.

I’m off then, because you stick me in front of a mobile phone now, I don’t even know I could say sausages. Could do the freedom dance maybe a bit, but not as free as down by the canal. Feel sandbagged really. And kind of like the ends, the city, all slippy now, that not even the chalk on my hands could grip it. It’s some kind of cunt’s trick, and I got no idea who pulled it off whether they or him or me or whoever. You know what I mean?

Okay, it this: it a Man Village now, not no playground. Get to thinking I try, I won’t magic up on them rails any more. It won’t let me.

The End