Gaz had the paint, left over from a project his dad was working on before he pissed off with the chick from the petrol station, but Mower had the idea. And it wasn’t hard to get the others on board. After all, what were their big plans for the evening apart from hanging out in Gaz’s caravan, leafing though old pornos, watching skating videos on their phones and scratching their zits?
“Just fucking do it then.”
“I am. Stop being such a tool.”
“There. Done,” Gaz stood up, arched his back, and pushed his stringy orange hair out of his eyes, leaving a black smudge on his cheek.
Mower surveyed the work and smiled, “This is going to be awesome. You can’t even see where the lines were.”
Behind him Dezzy and Sonny were working on the give way sign but with bugger all to show for it but burning lungs and hands like ice from the cold steel post.
“C’mon you two. We’ve done our bit,” Mower called out, his words edged with irritation. He narrowed his blue eyes at them, picked up a clod of dirt and piffed it at Sonny who winced as it smacked into the middle of broad back.
“Well you fucking do it then,” he said, rubbing the sting out of his skin.
Gaz sighed, “What if we just paint the sign out?”
“Like that’ll work,” Mower snorted but Sonny nodded encouragingly.
“Yeah, if we paint the whole thing, no one’ll see it in the dark will they?”
They looked at Mower who shrugged, “Just hurry up will ya?”
Gaz spread the black paint thickly over the sign and then painted the pole as a bonus. Even Mower had to admit that the sign pretty much disappeared into the night.
The sound of a car, some little shitbox with a crapped out muffler, made them look up. A single headlight winked at them and they scurried into the bushes, pushing and shoving to get a good look.
The car approached the intersection and tore past their hiding place and into the intersection. The crash barrier glowed suddenly in the headlight, there was a squeal of breaks and rubber on road, the car spun around in a full circle and came to a stop. The driver’s side door swung open and the driver fell onto the road where he crouched for a few minutes. Mower sniggered.
The driver picked himself up, slid into his seat, restarted the car and drove off.
“Did jya see that? He fairly shat himself,” Dezzy said.
“I told ya it would be awesome,” Mower agreed.
Another car approached but it’s growl was drowned out by the rumble of a truck coming the other way.
“Shit, actually, I’m not sure this is a good idea,” Gaz said, suddenly feeling sick, “I mean, what if they hit each other?”
“Awesome,” Mower growled.
The car, a tiny pink hatchback with a green P plate hanging in the back window next to a yellow diamond which said, ‘Bitch on Board’, flew into the intersection. There was an explosion of sound from the tanker and the tortured whine of the engine breaks but the mass of grey metal continued to slide and crunched the hatchback under it’s front wheels.
There was silence.
“Let’s go,” Mower said suddenly, pulling the others from their trance.
Gaz started towards the accident but Mower grabbed him roughly by the arm, “Not that way, dickhead,” he hissed, “we’ve gotta get out of here.”
They climbed onto their bikes and headed for home, not stopping until they collapsed at Gaz’s caravan, hot and red and gasping for breath.
“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,”
“Shut up,” Mower barked pushing Dezzy up against the side of the caravan.
“We did that, they could be really hurt or…”
“Just shut up!”
“He’s right. We should have gone and helped. We should go back,” Gaz added, pacing backwards and forwards, tapping his phone against his teeth.
“Don’t be an idiot. They’ll be fine. The ambos will be there by now.”
Sonny took a deep drag on his cigarette, the only one who could inhale without chucking his guts up, “I think we just need to keep quiet and wait till it all blows over. We can’t do anything now anyway.”
The boys fell into silence. No one argued.
“Right. So we all just keep our mouths shut,” Mower said gruffly. He eyed his friends until they nodded in agreement.
The phone in Gaz’s hand began to ring, making them all jump, and he slid a finger across the screen with a groan.
“Hi pet. Look I’m going to be home late, there’s been a terrible accident on Buccannon’s Road and they need me to stay on.”
“Oh, right. Is everyone ok,” he asked, feeling sick.
“I can’t really talk about it right now pet. Tell your friends they need to head home, ok. I’m going to ring Des and Paul’s mother’s and tell them they’re on their way home and James’s dad is already on his way over there to pick him up.”
“Great. Love you,”
“Love you too. See ya later,” he hung up.
“Mum says you have to go home. She’s ringing your mums. Mower, your dad’s going to pick you up.”
“Here he comes now,” Mower said, nodding at the headlights coming up the drive, “remember what we said, ok? Just your mouths shut.”
“Whatever. See ya,” Gaz said.
A blue sedan pulled up next to them and Mower pulled the front door open, his dad said something and he turned back to the others, “Do you two wan’ a lift home?”
“Yeah, that would be great.”
A few minutes later Gaz was standing alone watching the red tail lights grow smaller and then wink out altogether.
Gaz slurped another spoonful of cereal into his mouth and wiped the drips off his chest with the palm of his hand. His brother Steve flopped down next to him on the couch.
“Watch it!” Gaz said, his cereal slopping against the rim of the bowl.
“What’s up your arse?”
“Nuffin. You almost made me spill my breakfast, ‘s’all.”
They stared at the tv, watching a half naked singer gyrate across the screen.
“Ok,” Steve rubbed his eyes, “I’ll be glad when I stop doing double shifts, but,” he shifted into a more comfortable position, “you coming to see dad today?”
“He’d like to see you.”
“Fuck ‘im,” Gaz said with a shrug, drinking the rest of the milk from his bowl and heaving himself off the couch, “anyone in the shower?”
“Nah, Dean stayed with Lindy last night,”
“I’m jumping in then.”
Gaz turned back, “What?”
“You’ve got to forgive him some time,”
“Whatever,” he walked away, threw his bowl into the sink and headed for the bathroom.
Steam curled up from the kettle and condensed on the kitchen window. Gaz poured some water into a mug and placed it on a tray with a plate of toast and a glass of water. Balancing the tray in his hands he walked carefully up the hall way and knocked lightly at the door. There was a muffed call from the other side and Gaz eased the door open and stepped into the gloom shrouded room.
“I brought you some breakfast mum.”
There was a groan from the bed, “Thanks hun.”
He place the try on the bedside table and waited while his mum pushed herself up on her elbows with a sigh, “I’m wrecked. What a shift,” she said, bringing the hot black tea to her lips, “beautiful. You’re good to me, you are.”
“You remember that when you’re writing up your will,” Gaz said with a laugh.
“Shouldn’t you be getting ready to head to your dad’s?”
Gaz shrugged and changed the subject, “So what happened last night?”
His mum sat up against her pillow and pulled the tray onto her lap. Between mouthfuls of toast she explained what had happened the night before. Gaz felt sick.
“So, was she ok?”
“It’s hard to say, she was pretty messed up. She’s in an induced coma but, you never can tell. Some people come out of it pretty well. She’s lucky to be alive at all. Whoever painted that give way out should be locked away for a long time, rest of their lives.”
“They were probably kids just stuffing around,” Gaz protested gently. His mother scoffed.
“That’s no excuse. That girl could die, the poor truck driver is a mess emotionally. In my mind their as good as murderers.”
Gaz swallowed hard and gave his mum a weak smile, “Yeah. Well. I’ll leave you to it ok mum. Love you,” he backed out of the room, pulled the door shut behind her and wiped a hand across his face. Fucking Mower and his brilliant ideas. He’d been getting him in trouble his entire life but this was way out of hand.
He pulled his phone out of his pocket and tapped at the screen, sending Mower a text. Only a few seconds later it vibrated in his hand. He scowled at the message, “Keep your mouth shut,” and kicked the wall, leaving a crack in the plaster.
Gaz approached his friends reluctantly. If it weren’t for his brothers giving him the shits about their dad he would have stayed at home. Dezzy and Mower were sitting on a wooden bench chucking a footy between them. Sonny was slotting coins into a yellow money spinner, watching the money run on it’s edge around the plastic cone until it clattered out of sight through a hole in the middle.
“Why don’t you just catch it before it goes through?” Dezzy asked.
“Don’t be a prick. It’s for charity,” Mower answered before Sonny could say anything. Sonny shrugged and sent another coin racing after the others, he looked up as Gaz approached.
“I thought you might be at your dad’s today,” he said.
Gaz shook his head, “Nah. Steve and Dean have gone, but.”
“I heard him telling dad he’d like to see you.”
“Shut up, ok?”
Sonny shrugged. There was a pause and then Dezzy caught up with events, “O, I get what yiz are talking about. She’s pretty hot though, the chick your dad hooked up with.”
Gaz rolled his eyes, “Not any more. She’s fat as.”
“Mum says that happens when people get into a relationship,” Dezzy said, nodding sagely. Gaz laughed.
“No dickhead. She’s knocked up. She’s due in a couple of months or something.”
“Wow. So you’re going to be a big brother. That’s cool.”
Mower shook his head, “Your mum must of dropped you on your head or something. C’mon, let’s go.”
The group moved off, Gaz trailing behind, his face serious. No one has put it like that, you’re going to be a big brother. Definitely no one had said it was cool, but maybe it was. It would be cooler if his dad wasn’t starting a new family with someone else though.
He looked up, the back of neck prickled.
“Where’re we going?”
“Back to Buccannon’s,” Mower said over his shoulder.
“Why,” Gaz felt his guts turn over.
“I wanna have a look, that’s all.”
Dezzy met Gaz’s eye and shrugged.
The road was empty, only some black streaks of rubber on the bitumen remained. Gaz felt light headed with relief.
“Mum says she’s in an induced coma,” he said.
“It was that girl who works in the takeaway. What’s her name?”
“Abby,” said Sonny, looking at his feet.
“Yeah, Abby,” Dezzy agreed.
“Your mum wasn’t on the night shift though, was she?” Mower asked, looking at Gaz intently. Gaz suddenly felt hot despite the cold wind. Mower smirked at him.
“My mum was. She said the girl died just before she got off this morning.”
“She’s dead?” Sonny said, his voice cracking on the last word.
“Yup. Her family turned off her life support this morning.”
“We’re murderers,” Gaz said suddenly.
The others looked up sharply.
“We killed her. It’s our fault. Oh shit.”
“We should go to the cops,” Dezzy said, “if we go and tell them it was an accident then we might be ok.”
“No one is saying anything. No one. Gaz,” Gaz looked up, “if I even think you’re going to spill your guts then I’ll fucking kill you. I mean it.”
Gaz believed him.
When Gaz got home there was an unfamiliar car in the drive way. Fear rose in him but he told himself that it wouldn’t be the cops, not in a green Corolla. He pushed through the front door.
“Mum? What’s for tea,” he called out, kicking of his shoes and heading for the kitchen, “I’m star…” he trailed off.
“Dad. Mum, I’m going to my room. Call me for dinner?”
“Wait a minute Gary. You’re dad just wants to talk to you. Sit down please.”
Gaz groaned and threw himself into a chair with as much bad grace as he could. His dad smiled awkwardly, giving him that ‘take pity on me, you know I don’t know how to do this stuff,’ look but Gaz just kept his eyes on the table.
“I missed you today. Thought, if you wouldn’t come to me, I should go to you.”
“You shouldn’t have bothered. I don’t want to see you.”
“I know you’re angry…”
“Oh great. If you know everything already then why did you have to come here,” he interrupted, rolling his eyes.
“C’mon mate. Don’t be like that.”
“How am I meant to be? You left us. Why don’t you just go home to your new girlfriend and your new kid. I don’t need you here.”
“I didn’t leave you. I left my marriage but I would never leave you Gary,”
“Whatever,” Gaz said, standing up suddenly.
“I know you don’t understand now…”
“Here we go again, you know everything.”
“Look, whether you like it or not I’m your dad. It doesn’t matter if you want me, you’ve got me.”
“Right, well I bet that changes once the new baby comes along,” he said and stormed off to his room, knuckling tears away from his eyes.
Gaz kicked his bag under his locker and tried to shrug deeper into his faded school jumper. Usually he’d go and pretend to smoke behind the woodwork room with his friends but today he loitered next to his locker and waited for the bell to go. His stomach dropped as he heard a crackle over the PA system, then the principal’s voice telling students to go to the gym for an assembly. Of course, she would have been a student at the school once and, judging by the weepy year 12 girls who drifted past him, she still had friends here.
She was dead. She would be missed. She’d been popular, likable, much loved. For all Gaz knew she could have been a psycho bitch who slept around and sold drugs to little kids but now she was dead, so she was a saint. Then the bell went and everyone shuffled out and headed for class.
He threw his books onto the a desk at the back of the room and sat down. Mower, Dezzy and Sonny took the seats next him as they usually did. He suddenly felt claustrophobic. Sonny’s eyes were pink and he looked around vaguely. Dezzy jogged his leg up and down, making the table shake, until Mower reached over and smacked him across the back of the head.
“What is wrong with you?” he growled.
“We killed her,” Gaz said.
“We didn’t do anything except paint over a few lines. Just keep it together.”
“What if they find out it’s us?” Dezzy asked, always piss weak in the face of danger.
“They’ll only find out if someone tells them,” he slapped a hand heavily of Gaz’s shoulder, “and you’re not going to do that are you.”
Sweat prickled on Gaz’s forehead. Even Sonny was looking at him intently. He scooped his books into his arms, stood up with a grunt and went and sat at the front of the room. He could hear Mower swearing behind him.
Gaz was spread out on the couch. The images flashed across the tv but he wasn’t really watching, just staring in that general direction. It had been a hard, lonely, week.
He heard his mum come in but he didn’t look up.
“It’s lasagna for dinner. Ok?”
“Are you going to James’s place tonight?”
She perched on the edge of couch, “Have you two had a fight? I worked with Annette yesterday and she said that she thought you might have.”
“He’s a dick.”
He heard her click her tongue, “Don’t use that language.”
“You’re dad’s expecting you at his place tomorrow.”
“No. He’s your dad and you should make the effort. You owe him that much at least.”
“What? I don’t owe him anything. He left us. Doesn’t that upset you?”
“Of course. It made me upset and angry and hurt and then, and here’s the important bit, I moved on. And you need to as well,” she shrugged and stood up, “life goes on. Crap stuff happens and Blake might have turned out to be a jerk of a husband but he was always a great dad.”
“You should have a relationship with your dad. You might regret it later. You think you have all the time in the world and then something happens. Look at that poor girl last week, and the driver. Poor man.”
“He wasn’t hurt was he?” Gaz asked, paying proper attention for the first time.
“He killed himself. Couldn’t cope with the guilt of killing that girl. Not that it was his fault,” she drifted away into the kitchen, “dinner will be ready in a few minutes.”
Gaz barely heard her. He stared up at the ceiling and wondered if he could just run away.
“I think dad really liked having you there,” Dean said as they pulled into the driveway of their mum’s house.
“Yeah, it was the happiest I’ve seen him in ages.”
“I don’t understand how he could have done what he did to mum, that’s all.”
Dean shrugged, “Neither do I but I think he’s trying to make up for it.”
“By being there for us, by making things easier for mum, that sort of thing.”
“He left mum,” Gaz snorted.
“Yeah, but he paid her out for the house and stuff,” Steve said from the back seat, “he didn’t contest anything or take her to court when they decided to get divorced.”
“I don’t he know. He said, he couldn’t undo what he’d done but he could try and do the right thing now.”
They sat in the dark, looking at their home glowing against the night.
“Do you think that works for everything?” Gaz asked.
“Like if you did something really bad but you didn’t mean it? Do you think if you do the right thing later it sort of…makes up for it?”
“Dunno. Maybe. Maybe you have to do the right thing whether it makes up for it or not. What did you do?”
“Me, Mower, Dezzy and Sonny. We painted out those lines. We killed that girl.”
The air seemed to fizz.
“What?” Dean asked.
“We painted out the lines and the sign. It was just a joke.”
“I wanted to tell the cops but Mower said if I tell anyone he’ll kill me. I think he might.”
“Jesus. You need to tell the cops Gary.”
Gaz ran his hands through his hair.
“But what will happen?”
“I don’t know but…Jesus she’s dead. You need to tell them.”
“Maybe…I ‘ll think about it.”
Gaz walked towards his friends slowly, dragging his feet. He could feel their eyes on him as they leant against the wall of the woodwork room, soaking up some winter sunshine.
“Hey,” Dezzy said.
“Nah. I just wanted to come and let you know that I’m going to go to the police this afternoon and tell them everything. You can come with me if you want. I’ll wait for you out the front of school.”
There was silence. Mower flicked his cigarette onto the ground and scuffed it out with his foot. He shrugged.
Gaz nodded and turned away.
A weight hit him in the middle of the back and he fell forward, his arms spread out in front of him. Grit and stones cut into the soft flesh of his hands. He struggled for breath, it felt as though a car had driven over his chest, and pushed himself up onto his forearms. A few metres away Mower was scrabbling to his feet.
Gaz jumped up onto the balls of his feet and ran at Mower, charging into him with his hip and shoulder.
Mower stumbled but didn’t fall. He turned and launched himself at Gaz. They fell to the ground and rolled apart.
Gaz felt the back of his head with trembling fingers, they came away red and wet. He began to sit up, his surroundings dipping and swimming in front of his eyes, but suddenly Mower was on top of his chest, forcing him back down.
Mower rose up over Gaz and drove his fist into his face. There was a crunching sound and Gaz felt his nose crack and something warm gush over his lips and drip down his neck. Another blow connected with his left eye and then he felt Mower’s hands grip his neck. He tried to push the other boy off his chest but Mower held on with his knees. He pulled at Mower’s fingers his hands were too slippery with blood to get a good grip. His vision began to blur.
“Mower. Jesus, get off him. Mower!” Gaz could hear Sonny screaming but it seemed like he was a long way off.
“Fuck Mower, you’re going to kill him!”
Suddenly the grip around Gaz’s neck loosened and the weight was lifted off his chest. He rolled to his side and threw up.
Mower stood over him, red faced and panting hard.
“Keep your fucking mouth shut,” Mower hissed at him and then Gaz heard a retching sound and something slimy and hot landed on his face.
Then he was alone.
Slowly, Gaz pushed himself into a sitting position. He grappled for the phone in his pocket, slid his finger across the screen and tapped aimlessly, hoping to call someone who could help. Blood ran into his eyes from a gash that had opened up above his brow. He tried to wipe it away with his sleeve as he held the phone to his ear, hoping to hear his mum’s voice.
“Dad, help,” he croaked into the phone.
“I need you. Help.”
“I’m on my way. Just hold son, I’m on my way.”
“I don’t feel good,” he heard a car judder to life.
“It’s ok. Where are you?”
“School, behind the woodwork shed.”
“Ok, I’ll ring the school and get them to send a teacher round to you.”
“No, don’t go. Don’t leave me.”
“It’s ok, I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
“I fucked up dad.”
“We all do son, I’m coming.”
Gaz slumped back against the wall and closed his eyes. He could hear his dad talking but the words were thick and unclear. It felt like hours but suddenly he could hear footsteps approaching, running towards him.
“Gary. I’m here sweet heart, I’m here.”
“Dad. I’m sorry.”
“Everything is ok. I’m here. I won’t ever leave you.”
Gaz rested against his dad’s chest and finally slid into blackness.