Henry Falworth goes to the Central Cinema every Saturday, paid for from his paper-round earnings. This Saturday, in 1954, he sees ‘The Black Shield of Falworth’ starring Tony Curtis as Myles. He’s so excited: how could there be a big Technicolor film with his name in the title? He leaves the cinema, as usual, in a state of euphoria. What is different is that though he knows he isn’t Myles, as he’s only eight years old, he, like Myles, has to stop the baddies.
He’s in no hurry to go home. Instead he goes to the chippy in India Street and has a feast of a tanner’s worth of chips out of newspaper with lots of salt and vinegar. It’ll help Mum, he thinks, If I’ve already had my tea. He hesitates on the pavement in front of the terraced house. Then, remembering that City are playing at home and his father will be watching, he pushes open the front door and shouts, Mum, I’m home. Mary and Henry hug and he pretends not to notice her black eye that he’d also pretended not to notice when he had his breakfast.
In the tiny back garden he takes the lid from the dustbin and tests it as a shield. Holding a hammer from the coal shed and the lid in his other hand he waits. His heart pounds. It’s not long before Roddy, his father, clatters in through the front door, drunk as usual after the match and shouting, Where’s my fucking tea?
There isn’t any tea, Mary says. You stole the food money from the pot on the mantle so you could go boozing.
Where’s yer handbag? Roddy shouts, grabbing the bag from the kitchen table and turning it upside down. A purse falls out. He opens it. It’s empty. Where’s the money? He grabs Mary by the hair. Where?
Henry comes in through the back door, carrying the dustbin lid and hammer, shouting, Stop it!
Fuck off, you little shit! Roddy bellows trying to grab his son. Henry ducks under Roddy’s arm, and, shielding himself with the lid smacks the hammer into his father’s shin. Roddy roars with pain and anger, I’ll fucking kill yer. Mary jumps onto Roddy’s back. He throws her off and in a drunken stumble chases Henry out into the garden as Mary runs after them brandishing a carving knife. Roddy punches her full in the face; she drops like a stone and the knife clatters to the floor. Roddy rips the dustbin lid out of Henry’s hand. Henry swings the hammer, misses and ducks under Roddy’s haymaker punch. As Roddy bellows and charges, Henry grabs the knife and rams it up between his father’s legs. Roddy screams in agony as blood gushes from the wound.
Mary regains consciousness to see her husband thrashing on the ground. She reaches for Henry and cradles him as he says, Myles stopped the baddies hurting his sister; she looked just like you, mum. What happens now?
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© Phil Cosker 2021
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.