Fuck it!” The red lights of the tube train disappeared down
dark tunnel, and he looked around for someone to shout at. Just
sometimes the world seemed to tip off balance. There wasn’t a
anyhow, well not like that made a change. The sign said ‘Next
12 Minutes.” Shit. No mention of the District Line was not a
like they were too embarrassed to admit how long you were actually
going to be
sat on this friggin’ cold platform, the September rains
seeming to seep down
into the earth and adding a chill to the winds that followed the
each train—in the opposite direction naturally.
Jamie shivered and pulled his way too thin jacket around his body; he could almost hear his mum, “Will you wear yer vest, James?” How he wished he had listened to her now…hahaha…though best not admit to that one, she’d be holding out hope that he would eat properly next. Thing was he liked this jacket; it was sort of retro, you know, kind of sharp at the collar, and it just touched his hips, brushed them when he walked, and though it wasn’t the point, of course not, that girl Janine had winked at him the first day he wore it out. His hands slid into the pockets as he smiled, fuckin’ thin cotton though. The thing was to try not to look up at the sign, maybe if he averted his eyes for a few minutes he could take it by surprise and catch it saying “District Line—Expected 2 Minutes,” and then if he ran at the other end, he could catch the start of the film.
He began to despise the London Underground. The
evening had been
planned—a perfect Friday night—fillum then beer.
Perfect any night come to
think of it, though the work his uncle had got him on the building
he waited for that perfect job to land in his lap, didn’t mix
too well with a
hangover. “Course I will, Brenda…look after him
proper, so I will, maybe learn
the lad a proper trade while he’s at it. Politics and
history…what use is that
to a man? Never did us any good.” Evidently Uncle Seamus has
less regard for a
college education than for a hod of bricks, mind he seemed to have no
politics and history in the Saracens Arms on a Saturday, always ended
same way with “We’re All off to
Anyhow perfect Friday night or not, here he was
in a windy corridor
staring at adverts for “Cash Converters—Send Your
Money Back Home the
He knew that at the very precise moment he stepped on the escalator to ask someone when the next train would be, a train would slide into the station, its door swish open to eject a few old drunks, and then it would glide off again. No he just had to wait. “Patience is a virtue,” now see there was a thing, why would anyone aspire to be good at that? Hobbies and Interests: waiting for something to happen. “Oh very impressive, son. The job is yours since you can hang around doing sod all.” Fuck, where was that train?
Sammy, Michael, Danny, and his girlfriend…shit now what was her name? Megan that was it, well they would be wriggling back in their seats at the cinema now, balancing popcorn and enough coke to drown The Isle of Wight between their knees, watching the trailers for Kilburn Car Showrooms where “the customer always comes first”, well at least he would if he had cash, and the Tandoori Nights takeaway on the High Street—they did a chicken dhansak that took the roof off yer mouth. Jamie sighed out loud. Fuck, he was hungry too. He took a quick exploratory glance at the Nestlé’s machine before he laughed to himself. You can’t fool me, Mr. Brown, buy the fuckin’ guns out of yer own money.
By the time he emerged from the tube station, Jamie had resigned himself to just the beer portion of the evening. He walked slowly now, long legs carrying him over the dirty pavestones to the King’s Head. The fillum had sounded good too. Michael had explained the main points as “Some Aussie fellas fighting coppers with iron masks, bit of a shoot out, not one of them chick flicks, yer know what I mean mate?’ Which seemed fair enough, though Katie from upstairs in the flats had gone all gooey eyed and grinned when Michael said it had that Orlando Bloom in it.
“Jesus, Katie, that fella with the pointy ears? Have yer lost yer marbles?” Jamie had leaned forward off the sofa with maybe just an edge of disappointment in his voice. So she liked blondes then, and not only that, but noble do-gooder blondes, to put the tin lid on it.
He shifted a bit in his hips as he sunk down
into the worn
pretend-velvet seat and took a deep gulp of lager, the mild buzz of the
one the night shooting tingles into hands that reached into dark brown
Anyhow Michael had assured him there were no “bloody
On distinctly the other side of
Wit and clever words, those he had to leave to
Sparrow—ah well in the best hands, or mouth rather, at least.
Maybe both, now
that he thought of it. Jack seemed to say as much with one flourish of
rings as his slightly stumbling protégé managed
in a whole scene. Still,
“Are any other roles coming up for
men of MANY rather than few
words? I didn’t go to drama school for nothing. I did those
voice classes too.”
Waving at the ever-present photographers as he
climbed into a car,
No, it was just left to spend time talking about his favourite colour, his hobbies and interests, which he could pad out considerably; they always liked those white-water rapids/dangerous sports escapades, and “the time I nearly lost my kneecap or broke my back” stories. Oh and his costars, he could talk about them, though best steer away from commenting on the women, otherwise he would trip himself up saying how lovely Keira was only to discover it all over the front page the next day that he had been about to have her there and then against the battlements if it hadn’t been for those pesky film crews, and that Kate better pack her bags now. No, the men, he could talk about them, about how Brad always assumed the paparazzi were there for him, and what a nice guy that big Aussie Eric Bana was, that would be good for a few minutes at least. Surely Sir John Gielgud never had to go through this? He had hardly noticed himself arrive at the magazine’s offices but Orlando Bloom smiled in his best slightly tongue-teasing way and sat back for the inane questions.
“So how did you get into character for Joe Byrne?”
Jamie’s face broke into a wild smile as he stood up to shake hands and clap the backs of his friends who spilled in though the heavy doors, straight into the heat of the London pub. “I am just about finished with me pint, what will yer have?” Eventually, with a tray brimming over with golden lagers, he sat down all bright eyed and “Friday night arrived at last” content. “So what was it like then, this fillum?”
“One too many freakin’ kookaburras if yer ask me If I wanted a scenic tour of Australia I could have gone to the travel agent, know what I mean? Pass me a pint, Jamie mate, me mouth’s dry as a dingo’s donger, not to put to fine a point on it.”
A laugh went around the table before Jamie sparkled from behind a sip, “You should do a write- up for The Guardian, Michael, in the Saturday review, ‘Views of the Outback From Out the Back.’ Did you not like it then? Were there no car chases or explosions?”
“Oh, aye, I forgot the resident literary critic. You’d have loved it mate, bunch of thieving gits running round pretending to be heroes, taking out coppers, and then claiming they had no choice…sounds like your lot all wrapped up in the tricolour.”
A stage-managed collective sucking in of breath
greeted that one and
Michael and Jamie dared each other across the table, regular sparring
across a familiar ring of beer and cigarettes.
“More guns, Jamie mate, they had more guns…and bigger beards, huge fuckin birds’ nest ones, and that’s what counts, I think you will find. You should have seen them things!” Sammy, forever the United Nations, threw a bag of nuts at them both and moved it on, not that it would come to blows, but another night on Irish history perhaps wasn’t what they all had in mind.
Megan took a gulp of her pint too, she had not said a word since they left the cinema, almost blown to the back of her seat by the last 2 hours but not quite ready nor able to say why. “What did yer think, Megan?” Jamie tapped a cigarette on the table and flicked a match over the bottom of his boot, the sulphur burn cupped in his hands to protect it, not that there was much of a wind blowing across the plains to speak off, more the bluster of Michael arriving back with more lager.
“Can you not just use a lighter like anyone else?” Danny was grinning at him, “Anyone’d think you were a fucking cowboy.”
“He bloody IS alright, got his horse tied up outside. That’s why he was late, had to stop for hay.” The “yeah, yeah” look he got back shut Michael up long enough for Jamie to repeat his question to Megan.
“It was incredible, Jamie! It showed
all that the selectors from
Michael roared out loud, “Oh give over with yer sociological theorizing! You fancied that bloke with the curls and the buttons! Hey, Daniel, reckon you should grow one of them beards, give the lass something to hold on to?”
A flying peanut caught Michael on the side of the head and Megan pulled a face; there wasn’t going to be any discussion here so she shook herself out of where she had been, at least for now. “Nah, could live without the beard, but I am serious about seeing it again. And since you lot thought it was a pile of shite perhaps Jamie will come with me. What d’yer say?”
Danny’s jaw didn’t noticeably tighten, but Jamie decided to let the conversation develop how it would before he expressed an opinion on that particular matter. Michael, too, decided for once that maybe a smart-ass comment might not be the thing. Megan however just looked astounded. “Oh come on! You are not about to turn Neanderthal on me, are yer? I am talking about going the cinema with him, maybe be even sharing a bag of sweets, I am not proposing to shag him in the back row.”
Jamie clenched his teeth. If he laughed, he might just end up with a smack in the mouth, but unless Danny intended on making a big scene, there was nothing he could do except agree to the suggestion with a characteristic comment.
“What you wanna shag him for anyhow? Skinny bastard that he is.” Yeah that had been it.
Megan chose to ignore Danny and reached for her mobile and pressed home the time and place. “Tomorrow then. What’s your number?” With some difficulty Jamie did his best not to make a big thing of giving his mate’s girlfriend his telephone number nor of finalizing the arrangements for the next night, and he hastily turned his attention to the next important business of the night—whose round it was.
“So how did you get into character for Joe Byrne?”
Orlando Bloom’s eyes were serious
now, a well-worn furrow deepening
between his brows as he laid back in the crisp cold sheets that were
tucked in too tight. The interview had gone alright, but that question
some nerves. It had sounded like a dream role when his agent had
playing an Aussie bushranger?…What’s that? Oh like
a cowboy except you don’t
get to be called Shane or Butch…hahahahaha!! As if, perish
the thought,” which
had made him sigh a little. “Lots of guns and horses and all
that. What do you
say?” Well what lad from
The reality had been a little different. Oh
there had been plenty of
guns and horses too, but this was no tongue-in-cheek spaghetti Western,
squinting into the sun waiting for the tinkle of a music piece to stop.
Only he had learned some things that deserved
to be shouted about,
that deserved the best shot he could give that role- he just wished he
never seen that picture of Joe Byrne strung up on the door of Benalla
Station. A cold shiver made the downy hair on his arms stand up, and
The next night Jamie stood outside The Odeon, freshly showered and, even if he had to say so himself since Janine hadn’t been in her flat, looking pretty sharp. He had spent a good deal of time that Saturday afternoon and a regrettable amount of his pay packet, which consisted of some rather less-than-crisp notes in an old envelope, on a pair of soft brown trousers that hung just right from his narrow waist. The boys had been off to the match, but the thought of mouth- scalding meat pies, tea so strong you could stand yer spoon it, and another thoroughly deserved defeat for the team had left him less than enthusiastic. Not that he was going to tell Michael that he had decided to go shopping instead of football—even the thought of that made Jamie chuckle—that might be seen as akin to preferring rugby league, and for that plainly untenable position there would be no quarter given. Not only that but he’d turned down a date with Janine in order to go to a film with his mate’s girlfriend, and he still wasn’t quite sure why as he stood in the chill wind waiting for her. He leaned back against the dirty wall and just watched.
Megan was pale as she walked down the street towards him, a face that made him bend and look at her with some concern. “Are yer alright, lass? Feeling ill? I can see you home instead if yer like?”
She smiled sort of and shook her head. “No it’s just this film, Jamie, I can’t get it out of my head.”
He would have admitted to feeling a little confused about a number of things had anyone asked; not least of which was what they were doing there if she found it so disturbing. What was nearly as galling was the small fortune he was in the process of handing to the cashier who was intent of getting him to smile despite the obvious robbery for a box of extremely salty popcorn and a bucket of coke. “And there was me thinking the bushrangers were just in the fillum” seemed to go right over her head, or maybe she was just too busy looking him up and down.
They followed the over-enthusiastic usherette to Screen 2, at least finding a seat wasn’t going to be difficult, and they sat right slap bang in the middle of the cinema at the optimum height where they could even afford to spread out some. He might even have relaxed had Megan not jumped out of her skin when his arm brushed hers as he wriggled his jacket off, so instead he settled rather uncomfortably in the flip back seat, careful not to let his thigh touch hers, and his mind wandered back briefly to whether all had been lost with Janine.
“Megan”/“Jamie,” their clashing voices sounded loud in the empty theatre.
“You first, lass. Is it Danny? Was he not so happy about yer coming?”
Megan let her shoulders fall and turned to smile at Jamie, he was too sweet really. She could smell the soap and see the pressed shirt, he couldn’t look any better if he had tried any harder, all intense brown eyes and curls that no doubt had been smoothed down in front of the mirror before he left but now decided for themselves where they would go. Sort of old-fashioned fella he was, it must have been how his mum brought him up. Danny’s opinion of course had some bearing on the matter, but she would see a film with whomever she liked.
“No it’s not Danny, though he did say to watch out for yer—“Don’t let him charm your knickers off” was his precise phrase as I recall, a way with words as you know. I am sorry I jumped just now; I just haven’t slept. I am glad you are here, Jamie, really, though I am not sure why.”
So she had noticed that jump then, that combined with the thought of charming her knickers off made Jamie feel warm someplace that he decided to ignore just now and instead he rolled his eyes. “Aye well no worries then, us being mates and all.” In fact he was quite glad when the adverts started. Whatever it was bugging Megan seemed like it was on the other side of a minefield and he had no desire to get himself blown away, so instead he let his legs fall to where they were comfy, pushed back in his seat, and offered her the coke with the most nonchalant smile he could muster.
It must have been about an hour and a quarter into the film when he could feel her tense in the seat next to him, abandoned popcorn on the floor, and he couldn’t quite remember blinking, sure his eyes felt as if he hadn’t the whole time he had been sat staring at the screen. It had started well enough, even a few laughs, but the march was relentless to where they were now, which was watching four men encased in metal stepping out onto the rain-hammered porch of the Glenrowan Inn and a whole platoon of police officers with guns trained on them.
The first volley of gunfire had Megan flinch and without quite meaning to Jamie reached to take her hand. The strength with which she gripped him back only registered for a second before his heart began to thud against the bones in his chest.
“Christ!” He was hardly taking anything more than shallow breaths now, soundless words on his lips, “Get out of there! Jesus, get out of there!” and he might just have been squeezing her hand tighter. A sound at the side of him was enough to make him drag his eyes away from the scenes of blood, death, and rain in front of him; Megan was openly sobbing, her cheeks streaked with tears and mascara, and for some moments he struggled to find the pocket of his jacket, sure he must have a tissue someplace, but he abandoned the search at the sound of bullets smashing glass.
“Ah shit!…No!” Jamie was right forward in his seat now, his hands gripping the one in front, and he was not sure whether to stand up, run as fast as he could out of there, insist they rewind the film, or hug Megan who was crying beside him. When a lifeless Joe Byrne slid to the floor, Jamie sat back; it must be the end of the fillum now. But it seemed that it wasn’t going to let up. In stunned silence he watched Steve Hart and Dan Kelly shoot themselves and Glenrowan burn to the ground, the last moments of Ned Kelly’s screen appearance hardly registering through his shock.
He wasn’t sure how long they sat there after the credits finished rolling but the cinema’s cleaners were beginning to give them funny looks anyhow, an age before he swallowed and spoke up. “We should go, lass, before we get swept up with the rubbish, and I don’t know about you, but I think I need a drink.”