The Shackleton





Vern done it. I didn’t see him but I heard it.

‘Twatting bastard.’
The noise after. Thwack. Like when Rob tripped at school and busted his nose.
After the thwack, the bastard moaned and his head hit off the rail.
It was Chezzer who started it. He was dropping stones off the bridge on to the cars and lorries. It was a great laff. We had to duck down so the drivers wouldn’t see us. Rob hit a coal lorry on its roof. One car got smashed right on the windscreen.
‘It were a Triumph TC. We smashed it.’
We ran back up the line to where Vern was flying the Shackleton.
It was a great den. It were hidden from the tracks in some ash trees. Vern called it the Shackleton ‘cos his dad died in one.
‘Smashed the windowscreen on a car.’
‘It’s a windscreen, twat.’
‘Stones. We was throwing them off the bridge. Come on.’
‘I have to land.’
‘Come on then.’
‘This is RAF Shackelton requesting approach.’
I was navigator, Chezzer was tail gunner and Rob was engineer.
‘Course correction. Port 10 degrees.’
‘Gear down.’
‘Come on Vern.’
Vern was older than us. He had a red racer with curved handlebars and he was good at finding devil’s toenails in among the dried bog paper.
‘Keep your head down Rob, you twat.’
‘Go on Vern, it’s a Cortina.’
‘That’s my mum’s.’
‘No it isn’t. Your mum’s is a 1600. That one’s a 2000E.’
‘Look Mikey, there’s the crazy bloke.’
‘On his bike. He’ll be round the corner in a minute.’
‘Go on Mikey, you get him.’
I picked up some small stones. The crazy bloke cycled towards the bridge. I threw them over.
Rob laughed.
‘Bastards. You little bastards. Bloody stay there you bastards.’
Vern ran up towards the den and jumped into some elder bushes.
‘Stay there, I’ll give you what for.’
Chezzer didn’t move, nor me. Rob was running after Vern but he tripped on the sleepers.
‘Think that’s funny? Bastards.’
He was breathing hard after scrabbling up the side of the bridge.
He worked on one of the farms, always smelt of cow shit and he had yellow stuff in the corners of his mouth. His bike was stupid, too small for him. Even my dad thought he was crazy.
‘Stand in a line, on the rail.’
I was shivering. Rob had pissed his pants.
‘What am I going to do with three little boys?’
I could smell his breath.
‘Don’t you bloody move.’
I heard a branch break.
‘Think you need a good flogging. Pull your trousers down and your pants.’
That’s when Vern threw it.
‘Twatting bastard.’
I didn’t see him but I heard it.
‘What did you do?’
‘I threw a devil’s toenail at him.’
‘Is he dead?’
‘He’s not breathing.’
Chezzer got down on his knees.
‘He’s bleeding. His ear.’
‘You killed him.’
Rob kicked him.
‘What’ll we do?’
‘Leave him. The coal train will be here in a bit. It’ll run him over.’
‘Come on. We shouldn’t be here.’
‘Come on Rob.’
‘Twatting bastard.’
Rob gobbed on him.
The crazy bloke’s bike was where he’d left it, by the bridge.
‘We should hide his stupid bike.’
‘Nah, Mikey, leave it. ‘Cos if we move it we’ll leave fingermarks for the Police. We have to swear to silence. In blood.’
Vern cut each of our thumbs with his Swiss Army knife and we sweared.
‘We, the crew of the Shackleton, do solemnly swear not to tell a soul about what happened today.’
We didn’t wait for the coal train, we got on our bikes and peddled like mad to get away.
Nobody ever found out what happened. They all thought the crazy bloke had killed himself. His head was splatted all over the rails so my dad said. He read it in the newspaper.
Vern went to special school and Chezzer didn’t play with me anymore ‘cos he was in the football team. Rob moved house to the other side of Leicester.
We never flew in the Shackleton again.