Rats and Flats

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January 21st 2013  |  2  |  Category: Fiction , Moral , Philosophical  |  Author: Daryl  |  1502 views

I’d always been indifferent to rats, always.
Even from when I was a little child growing up in Morgan Street Flats, they were something part-and-parcel with everyday life.
They were used as a derogatory term for those who told on others. They were seen scarcely at all, even then only near the canal. We were told not to go too near the edge, should the rats get us.
Of all the things that interested me about my area, the rats were the worst. There were other things though.
Like when they found a dead body in the canal when I was eight. I remember walking past on my way home from school. An ambulance and a Police car were there, along with a soaking mattress and a football. The body was already closed up into the plastic bag they keep for dead things.
We used to build a raft out of tyres and planks of wood, whenever we could get our hands on enough material for 5 kids to stand on. The water-rats used to survey our work beadily, and then scurry to some unseen rat-hole on the bank.
I never went on the raft because the lads would make a game of it sometimes to throw each other into the murky green waters. Trolleys, traffic cones, pikes and all-sorts made that sickly canal their home. I didn’t want to catch anything bad, I knew about germs.
Mam would always keep the house spotless and would freak out if I came in wearing my muddy trainers. She would also tell me of the old man who lived in the cottage at the sluice gates of the canal. My mate Robert told me that he’d seen him with a shotgun once but Mam said that was a load of bollocks.
“He’s just a man”, she said, “who wouldn’t be paid off and leave his home.”
I always wondered about that man, I’d only ever seen him here and there. A short man he was, with a shock of white hair and no patience for us kids who liked to throw stones into the canal. He’d throw up his hands, shout and threaten to get his gun.
Another character was Billy gill. He’d had a Jack Russell, an awful thing that chased me down the street before on the way to the shops. Some people, myself included, called him Willy Gill. To this day I don’t know why.
He’d tie up the dog to one of the rusting benches near the edge and throw bits of Brennan’s bread to the few ducks brave enough to eke out a living in this narrow strip of sea. I saw a strange bird there a couple of times, with a red beak and black feathers. It looked like the forgotten cousin of the Swans who glided in now and then, mostly on Thursdays.
The seagulls were bastards. I’d had a nightmare once that they pecked my eyes out because Mark Sutton said that’s what they did if you came too close. They used to swarm around the left-over bits of bread passers-by had thrown and bully the pigeons.
Three attacked me, or at least they flew sure as hell too close for my liking and so I ran into the library across the road. It was a red-brick building and looked brand-new.

Growing up where I did, getting new things was sometimes necessary. We had to buy new cars after a riot one night and our neighbours on the same balcony had to invest in a good few new windows.
That was a rough night, one I won’t forget in a hurry.I remember being woken up and the block where I lived was in pandemonium.
My aunt, who lived with my cousins and uncle above us shouted down insults to a woman two doors down from us. She’d been accusing my Aunt of ratting to the police and getting her son carted off to prison, a claim she vehemently denied.
My own mother added her voice to the din, defending her sister and then it was a full-on riot as one of the husbands took a hammer out and smashed Violets windows. He’d been accused of ratting as well, and decided immediately to retaliate, but not with words.
To be called a rat was a big thing in my flats, it meant lots of things. It meant you couldn’t be trusted, you where always looking over your shoulder for the street gangs.

The community of the streets wasn’t behind you it was against you. It was Us against Them. No outsiders and no back-stabbers. Seeing as this immunity only counted towards those who stole and killed and torched cars, it didn’t seem to bother my dad all that much.

Then again, he is from a little vialleg where they don’t lock their doors and probably didn’t get it too much. He just didn’t understand the intricacies of inner city life. Something the media the rest of the nation do not get so they analyse, mock and parody it.

At age nine I was walking from my Nanny’s house and saw my cousin Blaize leading a group of the local kids I hung around with. He had a tennis ball in one hand and they were all screaming. I saw a blur of sleek brown ahead of them. There was, and is, a recycling centre that forms a cul-de-sac around the corner.

This is where they trapped their fleeing quarry, its tiny body shivering as my cousin held the ball tightly, poised like a cobra ready to strike. As I watched incomprehensibly, he let fly the ball with amazing strength and speed.
With an audible meaty thud it impacted on the tiny body. Quick as a flash the ball was in his hand again, the kids shouted more encouragement, their bloodlust evident.
Hurling it again, the creature tried to scurry away before it collided with the fragile bones of its head. A glassy black eye popped out and little trickles of blood poured out of unseen wounds as it lay still on the pavement.

At the sight of this the small crowd dispersed and it began to rain. My cousin saw me looking the broken body and saw my eyes begin to water.
“What the fuck are you crying over bud?” he asked as he slouched off. “It’s only a rat!”


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2 Responses to Rats and Flats

  1. Priyanka says:

    Really enjoyed reading your story

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