Derby day is sitting on the bus taking shit off your old man and not saying anything because the retorts don’t come so easy to you.
If you spent more time listening than looking in the mirror son…
That’s why you crane your neck beyond the conversation of your dad’s mate’s sons, trying to pick up on the way the men say things and what they talk about, because the other boys are your junior and you feel more like the men than them. It will take you a few years yet before the retorts come, maybe even into your twenties, but that’s ok because you have time.
You wear dark jeans and new trainers, a coat zipped to your nose with hands bunched in fists in your pockets. The city is alive and so are the skies, helicopters encircle and horns sound.
I hope it goes off today, you hear yourself saying. When you catch some abuse or violence in the periphery of your vision you turn and stand on the tip of your toes to watch glass being smashed and jaws being rocked by big meaty hands. You are in the presence of men who should be swinging axes or storming beaches.
You hold your head above the crowd, struggling to see over rolling shoulders and you watch the violence move through the air, silent, like a contagion. Inciting your comrades in claret and blue to let off flares and throw cans or a brick, swearing oaths and holding their arms out.
Come on then you fockin’…
Your dad's giving them shit, real shit, and you think thank fuck it’s them and not me.
Later, on the terraces, the sound is all around you and your legs are stamping and your hands are raw from clapping. Drums and sheet metal rumbles and hoarse throats meet each other over the pitch in a furious swarm, everybody starts jumping and you do too. Your hands find the back of heads and collars and bottles are let loose and a bin burns. Flares curve through the air. You smell phosphorous and beer and fags but all you see is the pitch. The game ends as a draw but the result is lost on this crowd, who are so full of booze and venom.
After, the fans circle each other and horses prance through. A man named Dingle with a hole in his head spits at coppers. He’s pulled out of the crowd and you all disperse.
You stop for fish and chips, but you ask for a battered sausage. Your dad glares and he says, don’t put ketchup on that, get the brown sauce, and you do.
The girl behind the counter has a tattoo on her hand and when she shakes the salt her tits jiggle and so you ask for more. She looks at you and blows the fringe from her eyes, your dad grins knowingly and clips your ear with a flat hand. You reason with yourself that you’ll say something to her next week and he catches this as if on the same wavelength of radio. He cups the back of your head in one hand and he says, you ent man enough, and then winks.
Later, in the pub, you drink cider and smoke fags. You take more shit because you drink cider and not beer. You say you don’t like it and they all say, you will.
You stand with some menacing distant cousins who play pool and walk with limps. They have tight jeans and huge arms, their initials tattooed on their necks and rosary beads around their wrists. They shook hands with your dad when you came in and he asks them to mind you. They do bumps of coke off the back of their hands and wrestle each other.
Someone gets glassed outside and the landlady sighs, pressing a dishrag to the gaping wound of a bricklayer with pegs for teeth. The ambulance is called and it goes. The policemen don’t say anything and the paramedics look tired.
You talk with a girl who presses against your chest with newly developed breasts and you find out she’s fourteen. It’s getting on now and your dad’s slumped in the corner and talking hot beer breath into the ear of a woman your mom knows. She has a leathery face and smudged lipstick. They exchange kisses and as they go out to the car park, he makes eye contact with you and holds one finger up to his mouth.
You get a taxi home and you’re chanting, your dad talks politics with the driver and finishes by calling him a paki, refusing to pay the fare.
He opens the front door slowly, shakes your hand and thumps your back. He says, blue bastards, and heads for bed.
You lie and listen to music, watching the duvet covering your little brother rise and fall you think about what to tell him and what not.
The headboard of your parent’s marital bed thumps rapidly and then stops.
It’s 2am, and you can’t wait for derby day.
By James Morris-Knight
Jim is a journalist, activist and writer from the West Midlands, he enjoys: fishing, boozing, raving, writing, walking, and fighting The Man.