Published by the Black Country Arts Foundry 2018.
‘Who am ya?’ screamed Kyle at the top of his lungs.
‘Wolves ay we,’ the group chanted back to him. A wave of orange-topped fans, mostly young men, flooded off the coach, just back from an away match against Leeds United. It wasn’t a bad game, but it wasn’t a good game either. When the final whistle blew it was 0-0; not what the Wolves needed. People spilled off the coach and into the street, a sea of orange slowly dispersing.
Kyle felt a surge of pride. It was his first away game and even though the result wasn’t what anyone wanted, he’d made sure he got a few good punches in with this fat fella who thought he was something. His shitty white top soon turned red. Kyle’s fist balled around the Leeds badge; hearing the material rip had made his hairs stand up.
He knew his father wasn’t going to be pleased he’d gone, but they were his brothers and he loved the rush he got from giving the Loiners a good kicking. Kyle had never known a rush like it, it was even better than sex with Stacey. Mind, he knew better than to say that to her.
He looked at his watch, trying to decide if he had time for a few with the lads. Scully slapped him on his back, startling him a little.
‘You looked like a right natural out there today, our lad.’
‘Ta. I was just thinking of getting back… to the missus,’ Kyle said.
‘You ay even gonna have one drink wiv us?’ Scully looked at Kyle like he had kicked his dog.
‘Yeah. I have time for one or two, I suppose,’ Kyle grinned nervously, but Scully just frowned and Kyle worried he had offended him. This could result in serious shit. Exile, then a beating, or a beating then exile.
The rest of the gang had finished getting their stuff from the coach. Scully and Kyle joined them walking towards The George, where the landlord didn’t ask too many questions and the drinks were cheap and didn’t taste like pisswater.
It was getting dark. The streetlamps were flickering into life, offering barely any light. Kyle felt a drop of rain land on his back. The longing for a pint was getting the better of him. All that chanting on the coach had made him parched.
He could hear The George before they even got near it. He knew there was trouble when he spotted a group of woolly-backs hanging around outside, leaning against the wall, fags hanging from their lips. Kyle’s body tensed.
‘No trouble, ay Scull?’ Kyle nudged Scully in the side but he didn’t acknowledge him. Kyle knew what Scully was doing. He was surveying his prey, figuring out his odds, deciding who he wanted to take down first. It’s why Scully was feared. He calculated, weighed up, knew how to inflict maximum damage.
The lads fell into a line opposite The George and Kyle could feel the bile rise… he knew he was going to have to fight but he didn’t really want to be there, he just wanted to be at home. There were about fifteen woolly-backs, and no doubt more inside. Kyle could sense Trevs and Johno next to him. They were readying themselves to charge. He could feel the blood pumping. The rain started to fall heavier, making his hair flop into his eyes.
‘What ya gonna do then?’ taunted Mark.
The woollies looked at each other and one of the lanky lads knocked on the window of the pub, signalling trouble.
‘Who am ya?’
Mark ran towards the woollies and took two of them down in one go. The rest of the gang followed and before Kyle knew what was happening, Scully was stamping on some bald man’s head. Kyle’s fists were flying, his heart racing. Blood was everywhere.
‘Let’s be having ya!’ Kyle shouted.
The grunts of the other gang were becoming louder. Kyle could hear shouts from inside the pub. He saw other woollies coming outside. They were outnumbered, but they would never back down. Kyle started throwing punches at two men in front of him. He felt a thud, and a pain travelled up his left side. He decked one of his opponents with an uppercut and spun around to face his attacker, landing a headbutt clean on his nose.
The woollies started to retreat into The George, and Kyle could hear the shouts of the army around him as the last of them ran back inside and locked the doors. Kyle didn’t feel the surge he usually felt after a victorious fight. His left side was burning. He couldn’t believe a single punch could hurt so much.
‘Fuck me,’ he cried out as he tried to twist round to see the damage. He fell to the ground, clutching his side; his top felt wet. He thought it was beer at first but noticed a dark crimson, just like the fat fella he beat up. Lying on the street amongst the glass and broken bottles, Kyle looked up and could see the streetlamps flickering against the dark sky, the lights from The George spilling out and dancing around him.
‘Oh shit, Kyle!’
‘Kyle is down, oi! Kyle is fucking down,’ Scully was waving his arms. Mark was at the phone box with Trevs standing next to him. Most of the others had run off.
‘Oi Johno, give us ya scarf and come ’ere!’ Johno bent down over Kyle’s body; Scully folded the scarf and applied it to where Kyle had been stabbed.
‘Push down on it!’
Tyres screeched around the corner and a red car pulled up. Police sirens were wailing in the distance. Ark popped his head out of the driver’s side.
‘Shit, man, get him in the fucking car, let’s go!’ he shouted. Mark calmly walked round and got in the front.
‘Trevs, get in the fucking car. Johno, help me lift him. Careful! Just put him against Trevs. Keep the scarf tight!’ Scully barked his orders at what remained of the army and they listened. Somehow, they all managed to pile into the back of the car. Kyle’s blood was covering them, the stench of copper filling the back seat.
‘Don’t go on the A460, police will be everywhere. Do you want us to get caught?’ Mark yelled at Ark.
‘The back way will be an extra five to ten minutes!’
‘Kyle ay got an extra five minutes!’ Trevs shouted.
‘Which way am I going, straight or left? Make a fucking decision!’ Ark shouted back.
‘I’m in charge, now go fucking left,’ Mark leaned over Ark and grabbed the wheel, swerving the car.
‘For fucksake Mark!’ Johno shouted and hit the passenger seat. ‘Can this shit tin not go any faster?’
Scully held Kyle’s head in his lap, watching his eyes flicker, knew he didn’t have long.
The glow of the hospital came into view, where Scully’s wife Molly had given birth to their daughter, Leah, only a few months ago. Then he remembered what Molly had said the other day. Stacey was pregnant. She hadn’t told Kyle yet. She was only a few weeks gone, only told our Moll because she needed advice for morning sickness or som’ut. Scully didn’t want to let him die. Kyle was a kid himself really.
Ark stopped sharply outside the emergency entrance. It was quiet for a Saturday night, no one outside.
‘Get him out, let’s go!’ Mark bellowed at the lads, edging down in his seat as he looked out of the window.
‘We can’t just leave him,’ Trevs shouted but Scully saw what Mark was looking at… blue lights down the road, getting closer.
‘Trevs, get him out, shout for someone, then run back. Fucking go!’ Scully yelled.
He watched as Trevs dragged Kyle out and left him on the pavement outside A&E, heard him shouting in the doorway, watched a nurse run outside. The car spun around and Trevs dived back in as Ark was driving down a footpath, over a verge and away from the blue lights. The last thing Scully saw was more nurses rushing to Kyle.
The coffin was a sleek black, in contrast with the bright orange Wolverhampton Wanderers flag draped over it. Stacey stood at the graveside next to Kyle’s parents, emotionless as his mother wailed into a handkerchief and his father tutted at the general lack of smart attire. She watched Scully and the rest of the lads lower the coffin into the ground. Then she turned her back on the service and on those people. As she walked away she heard them chant.
‘Who am we? Wolves ay we!’
Not me, she thought. Not me.