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					                  In Search of Jimmy Ratt
                      By Rich Martens



                           Part I
                       London Calling

    Knowsley, England. 1982. The sky is grey, too grey,

even by English standards.

    The clouds clung to the sky like a giant wool blanket.

Every day in Knowsley is like this, an abysmal eyesore, a

scar on the English countryside, a horrid place where only

the worst kind of scum congregate for the most wretched of

reasons.

    The whole damn city is a red-light district. The women

are loose and easy, fast and crafty. One flashes me a look

as I walk past her alley on my way to the pub, her eyes

promising a bit of dirty fun, but even a newcomer like me

knows to keep walking. Her long legs, suffocating in the

mesh of black fishnet stockings, lead the eye upwards from

sparkling red flats to a skimpy blue miniskirt. Her tiny

breasts heave under a white, half-undone corset top as she

breathes. She’s trying to lure Americans looking for a

kinky lay, but I shall have none of that.

    She turns around, clawing softly with chipped, black

fingernails as she slides down the brick wall in a final

grab at my attention. Halfway to the ground, her black
panties peek out from under her miniskirt and, though she

is tempting with her bright green eyes, platinum-blonde-

and-pink streaked hair, and plump, rosy lips, I keep my

distance.

    She’s no goddess, but a wolf in whore’s clothing, a

modern day Siren of the streets. I pity the next fool who

follows her into the alley and lays down on the dingy,

soiled mattress behind the dumpster, but he’ll only have

himself to blame when she slices his throat with the

pocketknife hidden underneath the stained pillow, riffles

through his wallet for a few petty quid, and leaves him for

dead.

    But I won’t be that fool, oh no, not I, for I have

promise in this world.

    I walked down the streets of the city, my hands

clenched firmly in my pockets. I didn’t want to risk

flashing any kind of signals to the wrong passerby. I

walked briskly and with purpose as if two iron poles were

fastened to my calves.

    I kept my eyes fixed squarely in front of me, never

straying to glance at the various urchins of the street.

Even back home, I knew better than to lock eyes with them,

because once you did, you were trapped and forced to shake

them off with polite smirks and uncomfortable shakes of the
head. These urchins, though, they were different. Sure,

these urchins want your change just as much, but they were

willing to go a lot further than begging. These urchins

will gang up on you, tear the clothes right off your back,

and then fight each other for the spoils.

    The sidewalks consisted of various sizes and shapes of

slate laid out in winding paths that led up and down the

hills and valleys of the city. My walk to the pub took me

longer than expected as I made it a point to cross the

street every time I saw one of Knowsley’s forlorn souls

approaching.

    Along the way, I pass boarded up store fronts, too

many to count, some of which housed clans of young

miscreants huddling around games of jacks or marbles, their

supple faces covered in ash and grime. But I didn’t stop to

pity them, I couldn’t. If I did, they would surely rob me,

and if they didn’t, someone else would.

    The one time I did stop was to check the name on the

window of one of the few storefronts whose door wasn’t

boarded up, though it was still covered with graffiti. It

was The Racket, a sad, sinking drinking hall and unofficial

punk rock club immortalized in the song “Shake The Racket”,

or so I hoped it was. It was a long shot, to be sure, but

to find Jimmy Ratt, risks would have to be taken.
    I open the door and scan the interior of the pub for

signs of life. Clouds of dust dance hesitantly through the

dank air in the light of a single white bulb affixed in the

center of the ceiling. A few shards of broken glass garnish

the harsh concrete floor, still emanating with the stale

odor of a warm, English lager.

    To the right of the door is an arrangement of a dozen

or so pallets made to give the impression of a stage and

three large sheets of plywood to give the impression of

stability. A microphone stand stands rigidly near the front

of the stage, cobwebs growing around the base of it.

    On the far back wall is the bar, a black painted two-

by-four resting on top of three large pieces of plywood

nailed into the floor. There are no stools, just a chipped

brass pole for weary drinkers to rest a foot on. Behind the

bar is a foggy mirror with two shelves of unlabeled bottles

on either side. A pile of rags rest on the makeshift

counter along with a green, half empty bottle of cheep

brandy.

    “Hello?” I say in my no-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase,

east coast accent.

    “Eh? Ah?”

    A squeak comes from behind the bar. “Is someone back

there?”
    I edge cautiously inside and made my way towards the

bar. I peek over the counter and see a little blonde girl

no older than thirteen lying on top of a bulbous lump of a

man. She springs up from behind the bar and shrieks at the

sight of me. She clutches at the pile of rags, her clothes,

on the counter and uses them to hastily cover her naked

body. She runs around the open side of the bar and out the

door into the street.

    “What inna ‘ell? What’cha want?” The man behind the

bar shuffles in frustration on the floor as he struggles to

pull up his pants. His fingers are fat and stubby, like ten

little hot dogs clutching for his zipper. He grunts and

perspires like pig in a pen, cursing as he writhes on the

ground, his white, button-up shirt clinging to the wet

folds of his flesh.

    After some time, he manages to get up off the floor,

though not without some manner of difficulty. He clutches

at the countertop, his ham hock sized hands banging wildly

throughout the wooden structure causing the bottle of

brandy to dance off the edge in an explosion of glass and

caustic fumes.

    Slowly, his bald head crests over the counter,

gleaming at its peak from the solitary light above. What

few teeth he has peek at me through a vengeful snarl. The
maroon boil on his right nostril seems to pulsate in rhythm

as he speaks. “Yeah? Well, what’cha want now? Aye? You come

in ‘ere, ruin me shag, an’ now you’re just gonna stand ‘ere

lookin’ like some sorry sod in ‘a bucket? What’cha

wantin’?”

    He grabs a towel from under the bar an wipes the sweat

from his face.

    “I’m looking for Jimmy Ratt,” I say.

    “Jimmy Ratt?” he says while combing down the last

remaining wisps of hair left stranded on his scalp. “What

the ‘ell’s a Jimmy Ratt?”

    “So then The Ratz have never played here?”

    The man rests his full weight on the bar, the poor

thing, causing it to creak in frustration. He clenches his

fingers over the edge of the counter, exposing his chapped,

brown knuckles. “Look here, right?” he says, “Lots’a bands

come in ‘ere, thinkin’ in their plum gasket minds that by

playin’ their shitty rock ‘n’ roll music they’ll get outa

this begga’s arsehole of a place ‘n’ not ‘ave to worry

‘bout money the rest of they lives. Believe me boy, I seen

‘undreds, lit’rally ‘undrdeds of bands come through ‘at

door there and di’n’t one of them make anythin’ for

themselves but trouble. What makes you think these Rabits
of wha’ever you call ‘em should mean anythin’ different to

me?”

       I fish around in my coat pocket for a tiny slip of

paper. I’d made sure to carry as little as I could; there’s

my key to the hotel room, my pocket knife, my passport, a

couple of pounds for bus fare, and that precious slip of

paper, the whole reason I was here to begin with. I hold it

out at arms length and, gripping the sides between my thumb

and index finger, snap it to bring him to his full

attention.

       “Well, you see here,” I say, “I’ve got this check,

unendorsed of course, made payable to Jimmy Ratt for,

follow along with me on this one, one hundred thousand

dollars, American, along with subsequent checks of lesser,

though still worthwhile, values ready to be written out to

anyone with information on where to find him.”

       The man heaves his shoulders up in a brief, painful

sounding chuckle. A smile creeps along his face like a

toothless Cheshire Cat as his laugh grows larger and more

guttural.

       “Typical Americans, thinkin’ you can get wha’ever you

want just by tossin’ out enough swag! Ha!” He wipes the

tears from his eyes and I return the check to my pocket. He

gumes at his wrist in his last moments of composure. “In
all seriousness lad, I ‘ope you ‘aven’t tried buyin’ anyone

else ‘round ‘ere with that rubbish; ‘round ‘ere, the only

sorta barterin’ we do is over the drink.”

    He grabs one of the bottles from the shelves behind

him. He shakes it, uncorks to top, and takes a whiff. “Nah,

too gooda stuff to be wasted on the likes a you.” He waves

his finger over the other bottles and picks another one up,

a barely translucent brown one filled halfway to the top.

He grins and places it firmly on the counter between us. He

reaches under the bar and pulls out two square shot glasses

and fills both of them to the very top. As it turns out,

the alcohol inside (presumably a whisky) was darker than

the bottle itself. The tar-like stuff rests flat in the

glasses, so heavy and so thick I can’t see to the bottom.

    “Cheers mate,” he says before downing his glass in one

slurping guzzle. He laughs and I can smell the bitterness

of it on his breath.

    I pick up my glass; it’s warm to the touch. I curl my

tongue and turn the glass so that one of the square edges

rests in the crease. I close my eyes and tilt my head back.

My nose hairs burn as I feel the warm, oily stuff fill my

mouth, then my throat, and finally hit my stomach. It goes

down heavy but leaves a singeing trail like candle wax in
my throat. I choke and gasp. I slam my hand against the

countertop. “Good God!” I say, “What is in that?”

    “Aww, whatsa ma’er? Baby’s milk too hot?” He pours us

two more shots as a young couple walk in and stand next to

me. He downs another shot while I swallow furiously to wash

the taste of my first one out. Whether it was this forceful

motion, the lingering feeling of the alcohol clinging to my

throat, or a combination of the two I can’t be sure, but

the feeling that the stuff would soon be coming back up was

immanent.

    “Bathroom?” I gasp. With his thumb, he points to a

door next to the makeshift stage.

    I burst in and find a toilet stationed in the only

stall, the original door long since broken off its hinges

and replaced by a closet door. The young man follows close

behind and I spew into the toilet like a geyser.

    He pats me on the back and I lurch further into the

toilet, the stagnant water mixed wit the oily vomit washing

back and forth against the porcelain, leaving little chunks

of my breakfast clinging to the sides.

    “’at’s it. Let it awl out now,” he says.

    My eyes burn as I look up at the tank of the toilet,

chipped and covered with malicious graffiti written in blue

and black ink. One last stubborn thread of heavy viscous
saliva dangles from my bottom lip. I wipe it off on the

back of my wrist and spin around on my heels. I topple over

and land seated on the cold cement floor of the bathroom,

wedged between the toilet and the wall of the stall.

    He grabs my arm from its resting place on the rim of

the toilet and helps me up off the floor. “Feelin’ a bit

be’er now are ya?” he says.

    He’s dressed in a blue denim jacket studded with metal

chains that ring as he moves. A wet spot has soaked into my

gabardine trench coat; I can feel the weight of whatever it

was that I sat in bumping against my calves as I swagger in

the young man’s steady grip on my shoulder.

    “You goin’ ta be alroight?”

    “Yeah. I just needed to get it out of my system,” I

says as I wipe my nose with my sleeve.

    “Oh shit! American eh? Where abouts from?”

    “New York City.”

    “Get outta ‘ere wif ‘at! Wha’ brings an obviously

well-a-do business man like yourself to ‘is ‘ell’ole?”

    I clear my throat and spit into the toilet. “Just

that,” I say, “business.” Bitter and exasperated, I take

out my pen and wrathfully etch, “Where IS Jimmy Ratt?” onto

the flimsy wall of the stall.
    I walk around the young man and exit the stall to go

rinse my hands in the sink. The only working faucet handle

spits out an icy cone of water so cold that my hands turn

apple red before I even have a chance to turn it off. I pat

the chilly water onto my cheeks to sober myself up a

little.

    “I ‘ate ta break it to ya mate, but ain’t no business

doin’ ‘round ‘ere ‘cept the dir’y kinds,” he says as he

lights a cigarette that he pulled from the breast pocket of

his jacket.

    Given the absence of towels, I dry my hands on my blue

cotton shirt. “Actually, I’m here looking for someone. A

local talent. Goes by the name ‘Jimmy Ratt.’”

    Before taking even a single drag on his cigarette, he

throws it to the ground and grinds it into the cement floor

under his black combat boots. “Wait a tick, did you just

say you was lookin’ for Jimmy Ratt?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Jimmy Ratt of The Ratz, roight?”

    “Yeah, why? You know him?”

    He steps back and combs his grimey fingers through his

short, black Mohawk. “Know ‘im?” he exclaims, “we was

practically bruvers back when we was boaf shittin’ in

diapers!”
    “Really?” I say with great interest.

    “Oh yeah! Come back to da front wif me and we’ll talk

ova a couple a lagers!” My stomach quivers at the mere

mention. He chuckles and says, “Or be’er yet, I’ll ‘ave a

lager and you…well…” He leaves his thought unfinished and

wraps his arm around my neck.

    We walk out of the bathroom, his arm squeezing my

throat like a nutcracker. “Careful with that one ‘ere

Elsbrey,” the bartender says, “he’s a delicate flower there

that one is!” His burley arm lies dead on the bar

countertop, uncomfortably close to the skeletal hands of a

young woman wearing only an oversized white t-shirt that

reaches down to her shins. Her hair is matted and curly, as

if she’d just stepped out of the shower.

    “Aw lay of it will ya?” my new friend says. We walk up

to the bar and the girl holds out her hand.

    “’ose this you’ve found babe?” she says.

    He releases me from his grip, puts his hand on my

shoulder and says, “Sorry mate, I don’t fink I eva caught

your name.”

    “It’s George,” I say, “George Moyers.”

    “Ah, Georgie! Real good ta meet ya. Name’s Evan

Elsbery.” He wraps his spidery fingers around my wrist and

shakes it with the ferocity of a jackhammer. “’is is ‘ow
they shook ‘ands back inna day, you know? Nobles an’ kings

an’ folks a ‘at sort. Did it to check for daggas inna

sleeves of they guests. Not to say I fink you’ve got any

daggas up your sleeves, eh Georgie boy? Eh?” He jabs me in

the gut with his elbow a few times and stands next to his

lady friend. And he was right; I wasn’t carrying a knife in

my sleeve, I kept it in my pocket. “An’ ‘is ‘ere is the

love of me loife, Frieda.”

    “Pleasure to meet you,” she says with fluttering

lashes. “But please, just call me Freddie.”

    The bartender carries on wiping the same circular area

of the counter as if to purposely avoid being roped into

the conversation. That’s fine if he didn’t want to know my

name, I had no interest in knowing his either.

    These two, however, Evan and Freddie, seemed to want

to know every facet of my life. They asked about my love

life (of which there was little to discuss), questions

about where I bought my slacks, and what I thought about

the current situation in Lebanon.

    “Please, enough about me though,” I say as I take out

my notepad and pen.

    “Oh yeah, this guy wif ‘is ‘I’m here on business’

talk. No time for a bi’a conversation ‘ese days wif guys

like ‘im eh Georgie? Alroight, alroight, fair enough. I’ll
tell ya all what ‘ere is to know ‘bout ol’ Jim Jim, or wha’

I can rememba at least.”

    “So, you personally knew Jimmy Ratt? Correct?”

    “Yeah, ‘cept in ‘ose days we all knew ‘im as Lags.”

    “Lags?”

    “Yeah, Lags.”

    “Who knew him as Lags?”

    “Kids in’na neighbor’ood like. We all called ‘im Lags

‘cause every time we’d be out, playin’ games or wha’eva,

you know, like kids like to do, ‘e’d be like, way be’ind,

laggin’ as it was, and we’d all say, ‘Ay, Jimmy Lags!’ an’

you know, ‘e’d come runnin’ to try an’ catch up.”

    “What would he be doing usually?”

    “Like, to fall be’ind?”

    “Yes.”

    “Yeah, well, you know like, kids shit, skimmin’ stones

or kickin’ cans an’ all ‘at. ‘Course ‘en ‘e got olda ‘n’

‘e’d be talkin’ to girl, peekin’ at ‘er knickers an’ ‘er

muver would come outside ‘n’ tell ‘em, ‘Stay far away from

that ‘orrible Jimmy Roth!”

    And with that, I had made my first big breakthrough in

my search. I scribble “Roth” down on my notepad while he

keeps chattering on about childhood memories.
    “Well acourse ‘e was a trouble maka all along wun ‘e?

‘e’d not only go back ‘ere the very next day to poke at

they naughty bits an’ all ‘at, but ‘e’d break their li’le

‘earts soon afta, kickin’ sand in ‘eir eyes, spitin’ in

‘eir ‘air, wha’eva it took to send ‘em cryin’ back to they

muvers where they’d just get a lashin’ for their

socializin’ anyways.”

    “So when did you boys stop being friends?”

    “It was after secondary that we started partin’ ways

like. We all was movin’ in different directions, which I

guess is what’s s’posed to ‘appen.”

    “Different how?”

    “Well, like I was getting’ into politics an’

philosophy an’ ‘at while all ‘e eva wanted to do was shag

an’ smoke an’ shag. Tell you wha’, you go down the ways

‘ere, look for a young tart calls ‘erself Maggie Mae, she’d

be the one ‘at best knows where you might be able to find

ol’ Jim Jim now. Pi’y really, a boy wit’ so much goin’ for

‘im like ‘at; a real pi’y.”

    He painted a picture of Jimmy that I had in my head

the first time I heard of The Ratz: a group of rowdy,

filthy do-nothings that played loud music, partook in

copious amount of heroin, and slept with underage girls who

did much of the same. And leading them was Jimmy Ratt.
                            * * *

    Jimmy and the band took the stage the same way every

time.

    First, Frankie Krisp takes his seat behind the drums,

a fairly simple set composed of just one snare, a hi-hat,

two cymbals, a floor tom, and a huge thirty-inch bass drum.

The smacks the skins of the drums full force, steady and

rhythmically at first to get the crowd clapping along.

Slowly, the beat grows and then, Frankie lets it all out.

His wrists cut through the air, his drumsticks meeting the

cymbals in perfect harmonic clarity, a shrill and

thunderous clash of metal fills the tiny club while his

right foot pumps a devastating heartbeat into the hooting

crowd.

    Then, Jo-Jo “Jackhammer” Samson clomps onto the stage

like a bull being led into a pen. He’s a behemoth of a man

with legs built like fire hydrants and fingers strong

enough to curl a nail in its joints. His outfit, glistening

black leather adorned with studs and rings, make him look

like a shadow of insurmountable destruction on stage. If it

weren’t for the enormous biceps revealed by his sleeveless

leather jacket, it would have been hard to believe he was

human at all. The erratic rhythms of his opening bass riffs

pummel your body from head to foot. The rest of the band
hasn’t even come onstage yet already he’s sweating and

grunting.

    Next up, Billy-James McArthur-Paulson Jr., a shaven

headed, raving madman who comes out wearing only a

camouflage painted codpiece. He jumps around the stage like

a banshee unleashed, cursing and spiting on the people in

the front row while sustaining a squealing high E from his

guitar. So unpredictable are his antics, even Jo-Jo has

been known to recoil in fear at what he might do next.

    Finally, once everyone is plugged in and the crowd is

half deaf from the warm-up, Jimmy take the stage in all his

shirtless splendor, pink gashes running the length of his

chest and back from last night’s show. He snarls at his

crowd of adoring fans, each of them hoping, wishing,

praying to be kicked in the face as they attempt to claw

their way closer to his majesty. His hair is short, spiky,

and slick with sweat. Waves of perspiration flick off his

head in faint waves as he combs through his hair with his

skeletal fingers.

    “Fuck you Knowsley!” he hollers into the microphone,

grabbing it from the stand and hurling it into the crowd.

“This shit is bullocks in comparison to Bridgeport! I want

to see you all fucking on the dance floor! That’s right,

you there with the giant knockers, grab that scrawny shit
next to you! I don’t care if he’s your brother or a total

stranger, you fuck him ‘till the paint peels off these

fucking walls!”

    He gives the crowd one last look of disgust and pity,

turns to the band as they wrap up their showboating antics,

and screams until the speakers begin to smoke.

    Now, the show can begin.

                           * * *

    “’e’d always said ‘e was gonna make a name for ‘imself

wif ‘is music. None of us thought ‘e would but, you,

know…time makes fools of us all I guess.”

    I close my notepad and put it back in my pocket. Evan

and I shake hands once more and I excuse myself from their

company. And just as I’m about the leave the bar, the

bartender says, after not saying a word during my

conversation with Evan, “’ere! Wha’ about all that money

you was throwin’ ‘round when you first came in ‘ere? ‘A

check,’” he says, imitating the way I snapped the check in

his face earlier, “‘to anyone with information regarding

Jimmy Ratt’. Ain’t that what you said before? Well, where’s

all ‘ose big American baffos now, eh?”

    Evan and Freddie turn around and rest their elbows on

the bar behind them. “Was you really gonna ditch out on us

like that?” he says. “I thought we was mates Georgie!”
    I swoon and clench my fists. I had no such checks, of

course. Even the one for Jimmy was a fake. I wasn’t trying

to cheat anybody, per se, they money was just a prop, an

implication of wealth that could be very real. It’s world

economics, like the national debt; no one expects for it to

be paid back, it’s more of a running tab than a bill. So in

my mind and in Mr. Morris’ mind, I didn’t owe anyone,

including Jimmy, anything unless I knew I would be getting

something back. Like I’d told Evan in the bathroom, it’s

just business, something I couldn’t explain to these

people.

    “Well, royalties have to first be cleared through the

company, see, so I can’t really pay you now but -”

    Evan holds up his hand. “Spare it. I know what’s goin’

on here. You’re just anotha corrupt business man lookin’

for anotha soul to suck the life out of. I know that to

you, we just look like a buncha poor, ignorant folk ‘ose

time would be be’er spent diggin’ ditches, but we’re people

too Goddammit! And I will be damned if I let you walk out

that door wifout you getting’ wha’ you deserve!”

    He charges at me like a demon unleashed, his head

bowed down and his brow tightened into a solid block above

his two raging grey eyes. Calmly and without hesitation, I

take out my pocket knife. I press the silvery button on the
side of its maroon handle and the blade flicks out, nothing

great, a five-incher maybe, but it’s enough to get the job

done.

    I hold the knife out at waist height, my arm fixed at

a perfect right angle. He stops just short of the

glistening tip of the blade, rears up on the heels of his

boots, and holds up both hands in submission.

    “Let’s try this again, hm?” I say. Freddie stands up.

Her face twitches in fear. Occasionally, she snarls, both

angered and confused by the course of actions playing out

before her. She wants to reach for a smoke, but the pack is

in Evan’s back pocket and she won’t dare move from the

relative security of the bar, so she settles on biting her

fingernails instead.

    The bartender cracks a nearly empty bottle from

beneath the bar on the hard leather sole of his shoe.

Everyone turns at the sound, myself having to look over

Evan’s shoulder. The bartender sways his weight back and

forth between his two legs and points the fractured butt of

the bottle at each of us, unsure of who to target. “You!”

he says, pointing the bottle at me from the opposite side

of the room, “You’ve worn out your welcome ‘ere! I want you

outta my bar and I don’t expect you ta show your smug face

‘round ‘ere eva again!”
    “Fair enough,” I say and close up my knife. “But

before I leave let me just say -”

    He hurls the bottle across the room, causing it to

crash into some hundred glistening pieces against the wall

just over my shoulder. Freddie squeals, ducks, and covers

her ears at the frightening sound. “It’s always talk with

you American’s,” the bartender says. “Just leave and be

done wif it!”

    I press my tongue against my bottom lip, turn on my

heels, and leave The Racket.

                           * * *

    “I thought I had problems, this boy was inta some real

kinky shit.”

    “Like?”

    “Well, one time he wanted me to do him in the ass,”

she tells me. She takes a long, hard drag on her cigarette,

curling the smoke around her tongue.

    We were sitting in the alley, Maggie and I, our backs

against opposite walls and our legs brought in close to our

chests, my pale ankles masked under the dark elastic cloth

of my black dress socks.

    She rests her wrist on her knee between drags and

fiddles with the oversized wedding ring she’d undoubtedly

knocked off some sorry sap earlier in the day.
    “So whateva, I did what any girl in my position would

have done. I don’t judge and I needed the money, so I

grabbed a beer bottle from that dumpster over there,” she

says, pointing to it, “told him to bend ova and -”

    “No, that’s…that’s fine. That’s enough. I, um, don’t

need to hear-” I take off my glasses and rub my eyes clean

of the visual. Her black panties peak out from under her

skirt as she knocks her knees together rhythmically while

taking another drag, the smoke pumping out of her mouth

like plumes from a steam engine. As uneasy as her story

made me, it was encouraging to know that Jimmy did have a

weak spot. All these self-righteous rockers, they’re all

the same on the inside, nothing but a bunch of cowering,

naive punks with closets full of skeletons.

    “Any idea of where I might find Jimmy now?” I say.

    She grins and grinds her cigarette into the wet brick

wall behind her. “For that,” she tells me, “I’m gonna need

more cash.”

                              * * *

    I remember the first time Jimmy came around to see me.

He was so adorable. He walked sheepishly down the road,

both his hands buried in the pockets of his tight leather

pants. He peered into the alleyway and saw me leaning
sideways against one of the buildings, releasing a thin

veil of smoke under my teeth as I smiled back at him.

    Jimmy looked to see if there was anyone else around.

“Are you the one they call Maggie?” he said.

    I slinked towards him like a newt onto dry land, the

soles of my shoes emitting a shallow shuffle as they grazed

over the bits of rubble and broken glass. “You can call me

anything you want baby,” I replied.

    I combed my fingers through the back of his scruffy

head of short, blonde hair. I touched my nose to his and

said, “You’re shaking. Is this our first time?”

    “Yeah,” he said.

    “How old are you?”

    “Fourteen.”

    I giggled and licked the tip of his nose. “Don’t

worry, I’ll be gentle.”

                              * * *

    “Wait,” I say, “You say his hair was blonde?”

    “Yeah, I fink so.”

    “I need to know. How sure are you?”

    She squints her eyes and puckers her lips. “Alright,

you got me. What’s this all about?”

				
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