An Extract From The Book: Fish – Operation Electric Man By Kelvin Rush.
The next day I went to see Benny, who lived a few doors down from our house. He answered the door in his pyjamas, and didn’t look well. ‘Are ya coming out Benny?’ I asked. ‘I can’t Fish, I’m made up with cold. Mum said I’ve got to go back to bed. Do ya want the paper round job?’ ‘Yeah I do Benny, what do I need to do?’ ‘I’ve told Mr Kirk I’ll be leaving at the end of the week. I said you might be interested. Go and see him, tell him you can start next week. He’ll show you the ropes.’ ‘Ok Benny, I’ll go and see him now. Thanks very much pal, hope ya get better soon.’ ‘Yeah, cheers Fish, see ya.’
Poor old Benny looked awful, and he loved his paper round job, and obviously didn’t want to give it up. Oh well, one man’s loss is another man’s gain, at least that’s what gran always says. I went to see Mr Kirk all excited. I’d never had a paper round job before, in fact, I’d never had a job before. Mr Kirk was an oldish man with a distinctive mass of wayward grey hair, that had a life of its own, especially if the wind got hold of it. He wore thick round, black rimmed specs, and a white lab coat, that always had a selection of pens attached to the lapel. We all called him the mad professor. He owned and ran Kirk Newsagents, situated just off the main road. Just about everyone on our council estate shopped there. You could buy newspapers, magazines, cigarettes, sweets, milk, and a few groceries. I knew Mr Kirk quite well, as I’d been going in his shop, for as long as I can remember.
He sold me cigarettes, and even fireworks on bonfire night, even though he knew I was underage. I always used to tell him they were for my dad, (which most of the time they were), and he never quizzed me once, which I thought was great. Sometimes his daughter Sammy would help out in the shop. She was a pretty girl with long blonde hair, and was always smiling at the customers, (especially the boys). I don’t know how old she was, but she looked about sixteen. Some of the boys would queue up at the counter, drooling all over her, as they bought sweets and cans of pop. Of course none of them ever stood a chance. Sammy would never be interested in any of the snotty-nosed toerags that lived on our estate.
I walked in the newsagents and straight up to the counter. Mr Kirk was serving old man Hargreaves, who was at least ninety years old. He was a bit on the fragile side, and could only walk at a snail’s pace. It took him ages to get to Kirkies for his newspapers every morning, even though he only lived across the road. He would set off after breakfast, and by the time he got to Kirkies, it was dinner time.
‘Hello Mr Hargreaves, how ya doing?’ I asked. He looked up and squinted a few times.
‘Alright owd love.’ He was a man of few words was Mr Hargreaves.
‘Hello Mr Kirk.’
‘Hello Fish, have ya come about the job?’
‘Yeah, is it still available?’
‘Yes it is. It’s yours if ya want it.’
‘Great…..! I do want it Mr Kirk.’
‘Now ya won’t let me down will ya Fish? Don’t be late, and make sure you deliver all the newspapers. I don’t want any complaints from the customers. I never received a single complaint when Benny was doing the round, so I expect the same level of service from you.’
‘Oh no worries Mr Kirk, ya can rely on me. I’m ya man. I won’t let ya down.’ Mr Kirk Smiled. ‘Do ya know how many times I’ve heard that Fish? Right, you can start next Monday. Be here for 6.30am.’
‘I’ll be here Mr Kirk, 6.30am on the dot.’
‘Ya know it’s three quid a week, don’t ya?’
‘Yeah, Benny told me Mr Kirk, that’ll do me. Ok Mr Kirk see ya.’
‘See ya lad.’
‘See ya Mr Hargreaves.’
‘Ta-ra owd love.’
I left the shop bursting with adrenalin, and ran all the way home with a big cheesy grin, plastered right across my face. I couldn’t wait to tell mum and dad and the rest of the family. The week flew past, and before I knew it Monday morning had arrived. The alarm clock went off at 6.00am. It was my first ever day at work. I leapt out of bed full of excitement. I quickly got dressed and went into the bathroom. I brushed my teeth, and splashed a little cold water on my face, patting it dry with the towel. I then made my way downstairs to the kitchen. I opened the curtains, and then closed them again, as it was still dark outside. It was great being up so early, while everyone else was still in bed. I’d never known the house to be so quiet. I put two thin slices of white bread under the grill, turned on the gas, and lit the grill, using the matches on the sideboard. I removed a plate from the cupboard, and the margarine and strawberry jam from the fridge.
I sat down at the kitchen table, waiting for the toast to be done. Five minutes later, I was tucking into hot buttered toast with strawberry jam, washed down with a glass of cold tap water. After breakfast, I put on my duffle coat and eagerly set off to Kirkies. It was freezing outside, and the cold wind bit right into my face. Luckily, I only had to walk to the end of our street and across the main road. I strutted down the street with real purpose. I was one of the workers now, a proper wage earner. Ok, I still had to go to school, but even so, I would be earning a wage packet, and that made me feel great. I walked in the shop and up to the counter. Mr Kirk was writing the street names, and house numbers on the newspapers. He looked a bit disheveled, like he’d been sleeping in his clothes. His hair was all over the place, as usual. I think his hair should be put in a museum when he dies.
‘Here I am Mr Kirk, all ready for action.’
‘Morning Fish, give me a few minutes, I’ve almost done.’ Five minutes later, Mr Kirk put the last newspaper into the delivery bag, and lifted it onto the counter, while yawning. ‘Right Fish, your round starts on Beacroft Road, followed by Meadow Hall Gardens. After that, go and do the Rockingham Estate, then Pepper Close, and finish off on Barbers Avenue. Is that clear?’ ‘That’s clear Mr Kirk, I know those areas.’ I picked up the delivery bag off the counter. It weighed a ton. I couldn’t lift it high enough, to get the strap around my shoulder. Mr Kirk chuckled, as he came from behind the counter. ‘Let me help ya lad,’ he said, as he lifted the strap over my head and onto my shoulder. ‘Don’t worry lad, it’ll get easier once ya get used to it.’ I felt a little silly. ‘Yeah, no worries Mr Kirk. Thanks very much Mr Kirk.’
I left the shop and turned right onto Grange Close, which lead onto Beacroft Road. The bag was so heavy, and the strap was ripping right into my shoulder. I could barely walk a few metres without stopping. As soon as Kirkies was out of sight, I bent down and lifted the bag over my head, before dropping it with a thud onto the pavement. I sat on top of the bag, and wondered if I was even capable of being a paperboy. It hadn’t occurred to me, that the delivery bag would be so heavy. How on earth was I going to finish my paper round? Just then, I noticed Gazza coming towards me on his go-kart. Gazza (who’s real name was Gareth Robinson), was a good mate of mine. We both went to the same school.
‘Alright Gazza, what ya doing up at this time?’ I asked. ‘Hello Fish, I’m off to Kirkies for mum’s newspaper and fags.’ ‘At this time in the morning?’ ‘Well there’s only me who can go Fish. Dad goes to work at five, and our Jimmy won’t get up at this time. Mum’s got to av her fags. Anyway, what are you doing up at this time?’ ‘I’m doing Benny’s paper round, he can’t do it anymore. If you remember, he fell asleep in the history lesson, and Mr Langdon sent a letter to his parents, so he had to pack it in.’ ‘Oh yeah, I remember that. I can’t stand that horrible Mr Langdon, he’s a right old tosser. Benny loved that paper round. How come you got the job then Fish?’ ‘Well, Benny asked me if I wanted it, and I said yeah. Simple as that really. This is my first day Gazza.’ ‘Oh, how’s ya first day going then Fish?’ ‘Not very good Gazza. I can only just about pick up the delivery bag, it weighs a ton. I’ve got over eighty newspapers to deliver, and some of them have a magazine inside.’ ‘Ya know what ya need don’t ya fish? Ya need a go-kart like mine.’
— Gazza’s homemade go-kart was made from an old wooden door. The four corners had been sawn off at an angle, to make it look more like a go-kart, and less like a door. There were two rather large pram wheels on the back, and two smaller ones on the front. There was also a piece of old red carpet glued to the top, so you didn’t get splinters in your arse or knees. Finally, it had washing line tied to the front wheels, so you could turn it left or right. That was it basically. It didn’t even have a brake. It certainly wouldn’t win any awards for enterprise of the year, that’s for sure. But despite what it looked like, it was very effective and easy to drive. I knew this, as I’d driven it before on a few occasions. The best way to drive it, was to kneel down, with your legs hanging over the back. You then pushed yourself forward with your feet. It was a lot easier going downhill, as you simply jumped on and enjoyed the ride. However, because there were no brakes, it wasn’t always easy to stop. Sometimes you had to jump off the go-kart while it was still going, and hope and pray, that it didn’t smash into anyone or anything.
‘Can I borrow it Gazza?’
‘Oh, I don’t know about that Fish.’
‘Go on mate, just for today. I’m struggling to pick up the delivery bag, and if I don’t get these newspapers delivered, Kirkie will go mad, and I’ll get the sack.’
‘Ok Fish, say no more. Now ya will look after it won’t ya?’
‘Of course I will Gazza. Nice one pal, thas done me a big favour. I’ll see ya right when I get mi first wage packet.’
I dropped the heavy delivery bag onto the go-kart, and was off like a flash. I was fuelled with pure adrenaline and excitement, as I went bombing down the street, just like James Hunt in his Formula One Car. I arrived at Beacroft Road shortly after, and pulled up outside the first house. I lifted up the flap on the delivery bag, and took out the top newspaper. It was The Sun, with the headlines: ‘BEEB ON THE BLINK’ splashed across the front page. It was something to do with the BBC. There was also a story about the pop singer Rod Stewart, who was trying for a baby with his girlfriend. All boring stuff really.
My first delivery was 6 Beacroft Road. I sat on the cart, and stared at the newspaper for a few moments, savouring this momentous occasion. I then neatly folded the newspaper in half, and then in half again. I got up from the cart, opened the gate at number 6, and proudly walked down the path to the blue front door. I pushed the newspaper through the silver letter box, and smiled to myself as it hit the floor. I’d just delivered my very first newspaper. I felt a sense of pride, as I walked back up the path and closed the gate. There was over seventy houses on Beacroft Road, and I must have delivered a newspaper to at least half of them. It was a good thirty minutes, before I pushed the Daily Mirror through the final letter box on the street. I felt great, and all the initial worries had quickly disappeared. It was as if I’d been a paperboy all my life. I was jumping over gates and fences, nipping through gaps in hedges, and flying around the houses like a whippet on speed. I left Beacroft Road and headed off to Meadow Hall Gardens.
Meadow Hall Gardens was a large complex of houses and flats, with quite a few roads and side streets. To get to it, I had to go right to the very bottom of the infamous Fenton Road. Fenton Road was long, steep and dangerous. It had a sharp, right hand bend near the bottom, known locally as The Devil’s Corner. This was where all the accidents seemed to occur, and one accident in particular, made the name even more chilling. Seven year old Jessica Piper, who lived at 234 Fenton Road, was going to see her best friend Holly Jenkins after school. Holly only lived a few doors down, on the other side of the road. Jessica was crossing the road near the right hand bend, when suddenly out of the blue, came a souped-up Ford Cortina MK3, speeding towards her. The boy racer skidded around the bend, lost control of the car, and sent little Jessica flying through the air. She travelled a fair distance, before landing head first on the concrete floor. According to the local news reports, she died instantly, and didn’t suffer any pain. That was the only saving grace, if you can say that. The boy racer, who had only just passed his driving test, received a lengthy prison sentence.
If anything, the death of Jessica only made Fenton Road even more of an attraction, to the thrill seekers. Because it was so long and steep, it was ideal for driving down at high speeds. People (mainly boys and young men), would race down it in cars, on motorbikes, bicycles, go-karts, scooters, and anything else they could lay their hands on. Even me and Goody had been down it, on an old car bonnet in the snow. We set off from the top, pretending to be the British bobsleigh team, doing our final run for an olympic gold medal. However, we only got halfway down, before the car bonnet spun around a few times, hit the curb, and crashed into the lamp post. Me and Goody went hurtling across the ice on our backsides. The onlookers thought it was hilarious. Luckily we didn’t get hurt, (apart from our bruised egos). Other people weren’t so lucky though, and there were many broken arms and legs, and numerous other injuries.
The police were often seen driving on Fenton Road, trying to catch the joy riders. There was even a demonstration by the local residents committee. They marched into the town hall, demanding that the council install a zebra crossing immediately, before there were any more deaths. I don’t know if the demonstration did any good or not, but there still isn’t a zebra crossing on Fenton Road.
Wisely, I decided not to ride down Fenton Road on the go-kart. Instead, I walked slowly down, pulling it behind me. By the time I got to Meadow Hall Gardens, time was pushing on, so I needed to speed things up. Now that the delivery bag wasn’t as heavy, it was quicker for me not to use the go-kart, so I hid it behind the garages on Studmoor Road, and delivered the rest of the newspapers on foot. I belted around the houses and flats, and completed Meadow Hall Gardens, the Rockingham Estate, and Pepper Close, in about forty minutes. The final leg of my paper round was Barbers Avenue, and there was only six more papers to deliver. It was an amazing feeling, as I pushed the final newspaper through the letterbox, at 134 Barbers Avenue. That was it. I’d completed my first ever round as a paperboy.
It took about an hour and twenty minutes to finish the round, which I don’t think was too bad, considering it was my first time. I retrieved the go-kart from the garages on Studmoor Road, and sped back home ecstatic, like a bat out of hell. I was back in our house for eight o’clock, in plenty of time to get ready for school. Over the next few weeks, the paper round got a lot easier, and I didn’t need Gazza’s go-kart anymore either. I got used to the weight of the delivery bag, even at the weekends, with all the Saturday sports additions, and the Sunday gossip magazines. Before long, I was completing the round in under an hour. I timed myself every morning, to try and beat my record, which currently stands at 57 minutes, 48 seconds.
I’ve been doing my paper round for a few months now, and I really love it. So far, I haven’t missed a single day, and I’ve not been late once. I’ve managed to pay back all the money I stole from the electric meter, and dad was able to pay the deposit on the rented house at Scarborough. I also gave Benny a quid, for getting me the paper round job in the first place, and I gave Gazza fifty pence for lending me his go-kart. I even lent Goody some more money, to get Psycho Sid off his back. Guess what…..? He still hasn’t paid me back. Oh well….. some things will never change.
I’ve got enough money saved up to buy Christmas presents for all the family. It’s kind of an apology on my part, for all the trouble I’ve caused. I think my New Year’s Resolution should be:
‘FISH….. STAY WELL AWAY FROM TROUBLE!’
An Extract From The Book: Fish – Operation Electric Man By Kelvin Rush.