'Malone's Resurrection' is a short,fast paced gritty novel about heartbreak, despair and ultimately hope; often humorous in depicting events which affect the story.
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Timothy Malone was the son of an Irish Seaman and was raised amid the playgrounds given to the backstreets of Liverpool by the Luftwaffe. Set apart from the other boys because of a slight, but obvious deformity; under the guidance of his father he learns how to fight to gain respect from those who would otherwise mock him. Beguiled because of his feelings towards a girl from his youth he is taken into a world of prostitution, violence and drugs. The emotions he is unable to control lead to his demise and the resurrection are events that happen as a consequence of his death.
Following one of those rare late summer days when the sun was given no place to hide until after it started to fall, before the onset of dusk, the impatience of children spilled out onto the street.
Boys led by their imaginings of adventures in far off and more exciting places, scrambled amid mounds rising above the rubble. For some their fights were territorial, to gain and hold ground, to see who could remain longest king of the castle, while those younger or less inclined searched for treasure that may be hidden beneath any debris. In what appeared to be the natural order of things, while the boys fought or foraged the girls skipped or played hop-scotch on the pavement nearer to their homes.
Walking passed windows and doors which almost met in pairs beneath idle chimneys lodged upon adjoining slate roofs, a youth stopped when he turned the corner to take him into his street. He looked across at the children who were playing on the waste-ground where a small number of terraced houses had stood; the skyline now was lowered to the rooftops which were once hidden behind them. He turned to cross the road and where the shadow broke, the sun could just be seen squinting from some of the upper windows. In stepping down his attention was brought to the girl sitting on the floor above the top step within the shadow of an open doorway. Her feet were resting upon the pavement. Her legs, which stretched out before her, were slightly parted allowing the hem of a faded floral patterned dress to dip between her knees. Her shoulders were raised as she leant back on her arms, her hands splayed on the floor behind. Beneath the bodice of her dress her developing breasts were just noticeable. She was absent-mindedly watching the boys at play while they fought to gain and hold the highest ground. Losing his position, one boy noticed the youth before he reached the far side. He pointed.
‘Look!’ he yelled. ‘It’s Quasimodo.’
Not wishing to attract any further attention, the youth chose to ignore the boy pointing and lowered his head until he reached the pavement where the girl was sitting. She changed her position to allow him to pass. When he did it was without speaking and his senses were awakened by the musky scent of her skin, her full lips, and afraid to look back he longed for any excuse to return to her until he reached his front door.
His mother led him into the vestibule, passing the first room of the two-up and two-down which was overlooking the street. The door remained closed to most entering the house and the room hadn’t been used since his father’s passing. Inside it smelled of the geraniums his mother nurtured in pots on a low table beneath the window, also of the furniture polish which she applied constantly to the table, the veneer of an upright piano and the utility side-board. Small framed photographs taken with a Brownie box camera were displayed along the mantelpiece. A narrow flight of stairs led up to the bedrooms. The other ground floor room was the living room where the boy spent most of his time reading while listening to the wireless, which sat upon a green mantle covering a drop-leaf table beneath the window overlooking the backyard. The kitchen doubled as a bathroom in summer. Behind a drying rack, which could be lowered from the ceiling, a tin bath hung from a bracket fixed to the wall. In the yard outside, the lavatory was senselessly the furthest outbuilding from the house, requiring a short brisk walk to reach it during the winter evenings.
Returning from it, Timothy stripped down to wash in the kitchen sink before saying goodnight to his mother and climbing the stairs to his bedroom.
After undressing he crawled between the sheets and recalling what it was like at school before the summer break, he preferred to turn his thoughts to more pleasant things. He turned to embrace his pillow and thought of the girl that he’d walked passed while he was outside earlier. When he fell asleep she approached him in his dream. The sun passed through her thin cotton dress and silhouetted her adolescent frame. She came closer; lifting her bare feet above the low grass until she’d reached him and then looked towards the ground before raising the hem of her dress to kneel. Invitingly she lifted her face upwards before reclining back on her hands and parting her knees.
When he awoke in the morning, it was from an experience he longed he go back to. But outside, soon the quiet that had prevailed while the schools were closed would be replaced by the excitement of children meeting again after so long, eager to share their summer adventures with each other.
Churchill and Fitzpatrick – God alone only knows how – had developed a mutually exclusive relationship. Neither was capable of dominating the other although neither could stop trying, and because their rivalry was private, they were pretty much left alone. Fitzpatrick, deep in concentration, was bent on one knee, his right arm coiled in an attempt to hit the marble in the gutter ahead with his own when Timothy passed by and heard Churchill’s remark of ‘You’re fudging’.
Because of how unbalanced Fitzpatrick was in trying to take his prize made fudging seem unworthy of his effort. When his marble skedaddled from the gutter to disappear down the drain his attention was taken from the game and he became aware of how suddenly quiet everything had become. He rushed to catch up with Churchill and when they got to the school gates a teacher was standing in front of the lines of boys already assembled. He was about to address them when Churchill and Fitzpatrick entered the playground. When the teacher saw them approach he checked his watch and then exclaimed loudly, ‘My God, you’re almost early!’ and pointing to a line of boys he continued, ‘Take your places behind that fine figure of a youth at the back.’
Not by any stretch of his imagination could Timothy regard himself as such, and the teacher’s unkind attempt at humour reminded him of something he would sooner ignore. At first humiliated he became annoyed while watching Churchill and Fitzpatrick ambling towards him. Their hands were in their pockets, their shoulders were hunched, but it was how they chose to walk. Once they were standing in line behind Timothy, the teacher blew on his whistle.
The youngest class of boys left the playground first. Waiting beside the door until all had entered, the teacher followed Churchill into the building. The familiar sights, sounds and smells of the school building enveloped them. To those returning that familiarity brought with it the realization that the long summer days would soon be coming to an end.
Reaching the top of the stone steps, the echoing tone of the boys’ footsteps changed when they stepped onto the wooden landing overlooking the main hall. Each group of boys entered a new classroom, those new to the school entering the first while those in their final term entered the last. Nonetheless, the arrangement of desks in each was the same. A bare wooden floor was tiered up in four stages until reaching the burgundy tiled wall at the back of the class-room. Across each stage and going from wall to wall were four desks rising one behind the other, with sufficient space either side to allow the boys or the teacher to ascend and descend between them. Once the boys were sitting quietly, the teacher reached down to the ledge beneath the blackboard along the wall facing them for his cane, and then, holding it at either end, he bent it towards the centre in the manner of a swordsman with a rapier who was about to demonstrate his prowess. Releasing one end he brought the cane down to indicate, by tapping upon them, four stacks of exercise books on the front desk. The color of their covers was the only indication of what each would be used for.
‘Malone, take two of each to each of the desks.’
Being brought to the attention of the class once again, but this time by being given some responsibility, made Timothy feel more assured. But there was one who felt strongly about being overlooked. Dixon was a malicious youth and a bully. He had ginger hair and his only change from an expression of contempt was a sneer, which was accompanied by a snigger whenever he was amused.
Returning to the front desk after his final delivery, Timothy was again seconded by the teacher, this time into taking the ink bottle around the class-room and to carefully fill both ink-wells on each desk. Stepping down while passing Dixon presented Dixon with an opportunity he couldn’t resist. His foot shot out, catching Timothy’s leg as he stepped down. To prevent himself from falling or dropping the bottle, Timothy threw himself upon the desk beneath him.
‘Sir, Sir.’ Churchill whined. ‘Ee’s spilt ink all over our new books.’
The teacher fired a glare in their direction.
Thinking he’d been caught in the act, Dixon froze, but when the teacher continued with ‘Take the bottle from Malone and carry on.’
He was taken from his previous anxiety and expressed it in obsequious tones, replying, ‘Yes, Sir.’
Neither apologizing nor complaining because of the incident, Timothy returned to his desk and sat down. Within himself he was seething, but remained focused, not wanting to look up into the faces of anyone looking over towards him. When he did, it was to see Dixon on his way back to his own desk, strutting gloatingly with the air of a deceitful prima Donna, his eyes directed meaningfully over towards Timothy.
There were two breaks during the morning class; the first was the milk break, which was introduced because it was felt that the children from poorer families would benefit from further nutrition, and shortly after this was the play break, when the boys could leave the class-room to go down to the playground and toilets, which was known to all as the yard.
The prefects from last term had left to find their places in the adult world and had been replaced by Terry and Ely. Not that there was anything surprising about that, it had been an obvious choice, as not one of the boys at the school, nor the teachers for that matter, would want to fall foul of either. Ely was part African, with a lineage that more than likely went back to slavery, while Terry was of Irish descent and always smelled strongly of testosterone and nicotine. The similarity they shared was that neither would seem out of place in either a public house or a brothel.
Terry and Ely left before the class was assembled, to take up their positions on the steps down to the passageway leading into the playground. While there it was their duty to ensure that the boys descending did so in an orderly manner and to report any misbehavior, which they would only do if a teacher happened to witness any misdemeanor. To some extent there was a code of honor and snitching was considered to be the worst offense. If either Terry or Ely were given a reason to report anybody, it would be because somebody had been foolish enough to do something which left them with no other choice.
Passing through the doors Timothy was in the queue to the left and behind Dixon. When it was generally felt that they were far enough away from the teacher’s attention, the boys’ steps quickened. Before reaching the third and final landing in the stairwell, Timothy purposely tripped Dixon and clattered into him, causing him to collide with Ely. Ely stopped the few remaining boys from descending by stretching his arms across the stairwell and grabbing the banisters on either side. He took Dixon aside, who immediately pointed towards Timothy and claimed that he’d been pushed. But his voice reached a few octaves higher than it would normally making his accusation seem all the more unlikely, so he continued menacingly with ‘Didn’t yeah?’ hoping to intimidate Timothy into a confession.
Timothy turned from them shaking his head and was allowed to descend with the rest of his class. But Dixon wasn’t as fortunate and was restrained from doing the same until Terry had joined them. The punishment for any offence on the stairs had been the same for as long as anyone could remember and was known colloquially as ‘the bumps’. Dixon was to make his descent down the final flight upon his coccyx, using his hands to prevent his head from striking the stone steps, while Terry and Ely assisted him by each taking one of his ankles. Reaching the bottom they dropped him where he was left to taste the dust rising from the rush mat. Unable to control his anger Dixon stormed from the building and was unmindful of anything other than gaining satisfaction for what he considered to be a blatant injustice. Finding Timothy, he pushed him hard from behind. Before Timothy could turn, Dixon sucked the mucous from his nose into his mouth. And once Timothy had turned around, he spat it with as much force as he could into Timothy’s face. He kept pushing and pushing Timothy in the chest.
“Come on, you ‘umpty little fucker.”
Any conflict between the boys was best kept from anyone in authority and keeping watch while Terry had a smoke, Ely noticed Dixon’s ill-timed attempts to enact his revenge before it was brought to the attention of the teacher on yard duty. He called over to Terry to tell him to put his fag out before rushing over to separate them. Before the play break was over they all agreed on where to go later, after school hours, to resolve their dispute. The whereabouts of the venue for the occasion was soon to become common knowledge to all in the class but the teacher.
During the dinner break Timothy chose to leave the school premises, and once alone he reflected upon his circumstances. He realized that he didn’t have to return; he had a wealth of ready-made excuses he could use. But in the unlikely event of any deception of his not being apparent to others he would know the truth, and knowledge of his cowardice would return again and again to haunt him with every future excuse. And he also realized that if not stopped now, Dixon would grow in confidence and would continue to bully him.
After the dinner break, those anticipating the fight were heedless to what remained of the day’s lessons, but the afternoon for Timothy was passing far more quickly than he would have liked. He was no stranger to minor skirmishes in and out of school, but prior to this he’d never been the main attraction, unlike his father.
Throughout two world wars and prohibition, from the age of fourteen to fifty years, Paddy Malone had shoveled coal into the furnaces in the bellies of the boats crossing the North Atlantic, evading German torpedoes. And between the wars, the US coast guard whenever the crew were illicitly bringing spirits into the states. Throughout it all, and for as long as he could, he’d represented the boats that he’d sailed in at boxing tournaments. He’d been twenty years senior to Emily, Timothy’s mother, and had been proud of his son for showing the courage he had in overcoming the pain and isolation that were a consequence of procedures that would eventually allow Timothy to stand straight. His father had been his guide until the black dust and shag tobacco cruelly took him from his family.
Outside the school gates the boys gathered, meandering to and fro across the cobbled road from old pops corner shop. At that time his shop was always full of boys. The smaller ones reaching up to buy flying-saucers filled with sherbet, liquorice straws or anything from an assortment of novelty confectionery, while those taller could reach over them to buy loosies, which were woodbines taken from their packets to be sold individually. Also bubble-gum with glamor pin-ups inside their wrappers, which they could swap amongst themselves whenever someone received one that was already in his collection. How it was in the shop, and how quiet it was between school hours, would remain unknown to those leaving now.
Following a short distance behind the other boys Timothy felt isolated and became adrift of all but his purpose. He clenched his fist, stiffened the muscles from his chest to his wrist trying to remember what his father had told him. And watching Dixon striding confidently while being congratulated before the fight was over, Timothy became all the more determined.
Between the wall before the railway cutting and the fire escape at the back of the furniture factory, there was a place hidden from most - a place given for such occasions, and after dark to young lovers, by the inaccuracy of the Luftwaffe. Behind the wall was a sandstone gorge, the depth of which probably helped to protect the railway lines at the bottom of it from falling bombs.
Once they’d reached the waste ground the boys formed a circle around Timothy and Dixon. They began chanting at either one or both and giving Timothy no time to compose himself, Dixon rushed at him, grappling into the crowd before being pushed forward, their Spartan efforts throwing each other into the dirt. They rolled and rolled, each trying to gain the upper position, until, finally, Dixon using an outstretched leg managed to rise above Timothy. But his punches were ineffectual, his hail of blows deflected by the continual movement of Timothy’s arms and hands. Given the chance, when Dixon rose up lifting one of his knees to strike down more effectively, Timothy quickly turned around, pushing him aside and scrabbling to his feet before Dixon could. Given the opportunity, Dixon also found his feet and responded as quickly. He grabbed hold of Timothy’s arms and brought his head down sharply to butt him. The only evasive action Timothy could take was to lower his head, which fortunately for him, was to Dixon’s disadvantage when they clashed. Releasing Timothy he lifted his hands instinctively to staunch the blood running from his nose. Recalling all that his father had taught him, Timothy delivered a perfect boxer’s punch. To the amazement of everyone it was over in seconds. Dixon’s head shot up and his body buckled in a manner suggesting that he wasn’t about to rise anytime soon. A stunned silence followed, during which a couple of boys went to assist Dixon to his feet. Timothy turned from a gathering murmur.
Dixon’s reign was over, and with those ready to follow Timothy, an allegiance was drawn and a hero was born.
To be aware of being talked about in a manner exaggerated, but within the realms of probability, was an acceptable part of kudos. To respond to those doing so and to continue in such a manner would be to participate in bullshit.
With little to say to those who expected something more after yesterday’s affray with Dixon, Timothy managed to leave the playground. It had been his intention to return home, to be alone in the glory of the respect he’d gained, to be one with others in his comics, books and the stories he heard on the wireless. But seeing him leave, Terry called him over. He placed an arm around Timothy’s shoulder with an invitation that would make Timothy’s further adventures not solely imaginary.
Unable to refuse Timothy followed Terry and Ely, taking the same direction as they had the previous evening. A little further on from the factory they came to an alley, referred to colloquially as ‘a jigger’. A wall at the back of the remaining terraces, interrupted by the backyard doors and bin holes, continued with the railway wall facing it, which was a little higher. The short distance between them made it possible to defeat the purpose of the taller wall. With hands and feet pressed hard against both they could straddle up until they reached the beveled coping stone running along the top, and from there they could swing themselves over to the other side. Dropping down onto the bank was a far more daunting experience, the wall being no more than five feet away from a vicious fall to the tracks. It was an excursion fraught with dangers, and none more so than the mounds of soot tipped over by the chimney sweeps. Some were obvious, but many had subsided under the weight of falling rain and proved to be perfect bedding for moss.
Ely had taken it upon himself to lead. Acting as vanguard he stepped gingerly over or around the slippery deposits, and wherever the ground rose, he first tested it with his foot before allowing it to take his full weight. They continued cautiously until reaching a fissure in the rock known as the Devil’s Staircase. As imposing as this sounded the descent wasn’t that difficult. The steps were uneven and varied in distance from one down to the other, but the split was broad and deep. Facing it they could easily come to terms with the terrain and they stepped down gripping the rock with their hands while lowering their feet. Reaching the tracks they were given no place to hide and from then onwards had to hurry, each aware of the five pound penalty imposed upon anyone caught trespassing. The first safe haven that Timothy was taken to was an old abandoned station which previously he hadn’t known about, and it seemed strange to him that such a place could exist because of the number of times he’d crossed the roads above without seeing signs or hearing of its whereabouts.
The windows and entrances to the waiting room and toilets had been replaced with bricks, the only exception being a steel door behind the building, which at some time in the past had been forced open. Terry reached behind it for a paraffin lamp, lighting it before leading them into the dark. Once inside their shadows grew long on the walls and across the ceiling, stuttering to the flame like macabre silhouettes in some demonic production, until, once they were seated, the light from the flame drew shadows deep within their faces. The dank atmosphere was rancid, probably from the urination and defecation from an infestation of rats, but the smell was soon replaced by tobacco smoke.
Before leaving the platform, which sloped to the shingle bedding in the sleepers that supported the tracks, they entered a tunnel which went beneath the road and the buildings above. They stepped carefully from sleeper to sleeper, which were covered with the tar and oil that had dripped from the countless locomotives that had passed over them. It was explained to Timothy that before entering the trains would whistle, and that was to be their signal to take refuge in one of the many bolt holes recessed in the walls. Surely enough, before they’d caught sight of daylight, a whistle blew. Having just passed one of the recesses, Timothy returned to it and pushed from the balls of his feet, pinning his shoulders to the wall and felt a fur of soot covering the brickwork behind him with his palms.
Following a hellish red fire reflected from the underbelly of passing smoke and the overwhelming power of thundering steel the low loaders passed, known only by their sound until all that remained was the disappearing clickity click of their wheels. Leaving the tunnel took them from the taste of smoke, steam and oil, to the summer evening, where the air was sweet, locked in the quiet between night and day when smaller sounds could intrude.
The tracks had almost leveled to their surroundings when they left them, and upon the slight slope of an embankment grew a variety of plants vying with the waist-high grass. Insects, that had previously been uninterrupted, danced before them until they’d reached the top, which brought them to a barrier of old railway sleepers erected vertically. Both Terry and Ely pulled themselves to the top after stepping up from Timothy’s cupped hands, and then reached to assist him before dropping down the other side.
Away from the terraces, factories and main thoroughfares – everything appeared to be new and much cleaner in comparison. The side roads weren’t cobbled, the paving stones were near white, and the houses which had pebble dashed walls were set back behind front gardens. Outside some, cars or motorcycles with sidecars were parked on the roads, and with no apparent bomb damage, it would appear that the German high command had had a greater respect for this part of suburbia.
They came to a footbridge over another set of tracks where a small number of train spotters had gathered, and would gather at that time every day to witness the passing of a particular class of train-engine. Taking one from a small number of bikes leant against the wall Terry pushed it over the gravel path towards them. After establishing who the bike belonged to, Terry told him that he was going to have a go on it. He skipped with one foot to the floor and the other on the pedal, until gathering sufficient momentum to throw his other leg over the saddle. Returning after several minutes, he brought the bike to a standstill after skidding by braking solely on the back wheel before applying the front brake and hopping off. It was to the owner’s further anxiety that Terry strolled past him, pushing the bike towards Timothy and suggesting to him that he should try riding it - which was to further Timothy’s unease in Terry wrongly assuming that he could. Timothy became less anxious when the boy finally found the nerve to establish his ownership and right to say who could or could not ride it. But before Timothy could agree to his claim by handing it to him, Ely interjected, making it apparent that they were intent on a confrontation, implying that his refusal, after allowing Terry to ride it, was prejudicial and if it applied to Timothy it would further apply to him. Rapidly losing interest in their reason for being there, the other boys turned their attention to their bicycles with a preference to ignore what was going on. Ely continued to goad the boy and egg Timothy on until the boy snatched the bike from him and pushed him aside. Timothy responded without thinking and kept moving forward shoving him continuously with both hands with enough force to keep him moving backwards, until the boy had to drop his bike. Whatever had been aroused within him the boy went, as expressed gleefully by Ely, the color of boiled shite. He came at Timothy, his fists flailing wildly and persistently, giving Timothy no choice other than to hit him. Once, twice, three times before dropping him, but not for long. Driven by the demons previously awakened he rose immediately and rushed at Timothy, forcing him against the iron wall beneath the high mesh fence. He kept scratching, biting and kicking until Timothy could break free of him. To avoid coming under attack again Timothy had to act quickly and struck as hard as he could until the boy, to his further humiliation, dropped, this time without any inclination to rise up. He began to sob, beaten, shamed and alone without empathy or help from his chosen company.
After returning home and alone with his thoughts, recalling how he felt during his moments of isolation, Timothy couldn’t help but feel that he understood, to the point of empathy, how his opponent on the bridge must have been feeling. Unlike his confrontation with Dixon he’d had nothing to defend. The boy had been bullied, then beaten into submission and the temerity he’d shown was to his credit. There had been no reason for their actions earlier, and if there was, it could only be to establish that they were in some ways superior to those they were made to feel inferior to. What was more disturbing was that the fight had neither been of his choosing nor that of the other boys, and yet under the circumstances it couldn’t be avoided.
The following day, to the concern of some, Timothy kept himself to himself, and left school declining further invitations, with the intention of finding some redemption to ease his troubled conscience.
More boys had gathered on the footbridge than had the previous evening in the event of a possible further conflict, and when Timothy turned the corner to try to reason over yesterday’s activities, it was to a murmur of ‘that’s one of them’.
Realizing his mistake, Timothy turned and ran, but they were in immediate pursuit, some on bikes the rest on foot. With no chance of escaping them on the open road, Timothy cut through the gates of a recreation ground in the hope that crossing a field would slow them down. Those on foot followed, while those on bikes minimized his chances of escape by cycling along the footpaths either side. With nowhere left to turn, Timothy had to stand his ground and realizing how futile his efforts would be, he succumbed to them. They forced him down until his face was touching the ground and then they dragged him by his ankles over the grass. Whenever he tried to rise up on his hands someone would stamp on the lump that was to one side of his shoulders. When coming to a stop, they turned him, swung him and threw him. Before leaving, they stuffed sods covered in dog shit into his mouth and each bid him goodbye with a perfunctory kick.