The Manchester Review
C.D. Rose
Years With No Head
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While others were content to hang around the estate, Sean and Sweeney fare-dodged into town, loving the grit in their eyes, nicking stuff from Kendal’s or the endless building sites on Oxford Road, imagining London or New York, places they told each other they’d go to find work when they left school. Sometimes a walkway appeared, from Marks’ on Cross Street or at Deansgate station, and they’d stop themselves getting bored for an hour or two, running back and forth above busy roads, delighting in the city from a new angle, gobbing on peoples’ heads with greater accuracy and invisibility. Once they had a school project to do and went to the Central Ref, nicking books because they had no idea how to borrow them.

Sean never got to New York, though had tried London for a few weeks and hated it.Sweeney, he’d read, had stayed put. Aged sixteen they’d signed on and got the flat, thought the world theirs anyhow. They went to see bands at the Caribbean Club, Sweeney scoring bags of weed and smoking what he couldn’t sell to students. Blood, he’d mumble, when stoned, blood and fire!, turning up the bass until the speakers quailed. Zion! Redemption! Sean amazed to find his spindly mate talking like an Old Testament prophet.

Once, Sweeney had turned up in a car, told Sean to get in then raced round the streets, their laughter louder than the squealing tires. A murder weapon waiting to happen. They junked it on one of the greens; its torched carcass would reappear as an art installation, hanging from the roof of someone’s flat.

As he wandered a place he no longer recognised, Sean tried to remember how many years they’d spent with no heads. Time had vanished; the drugs had worked. Sweeney got politics in him, something Sean had never given a toss about, and moved in with some random Fenian smackheads. They’d still see each other, but cautiously now. Sean never fitted with the artists or the anarchists but found himself in demand from all of them, being handy with power tools, unfucking blocked toilets, knocking out walls, running cables from one flat to another.