Charlie Tupp, 12, had three fingers on his left hand and four on his right. Growing up in Margate without thumbs wasn’t easy, but he managed. With the help of Smashing Syd, Charlie managed just fine.
Weekends were difficult. Even more so now that everyone was on lockdown due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. School was shut for the foreseeable future, and the scumbags and bullies were out in full force. Saturday morning started with Charlie straddling his bicycle in the dark, musty foyer of Arlington House, overlooking the picturesque Margate beach front. Dreamland Amusement Park was a stone’s throw away but currently abandoned. He wouldn’t have to leave the building if it weren’t for his mum needing a few things from the shop. She was self-isolating, which meant shopping was his job now.
As ever, a strong smell of alcohol and cigarettes lingered from the night before. The dark green paint peeled from the walls, littering the cold floor that was already covered in broken bottles and cigarette butts. Shadows loomed behind the mottled glass window next to the letterboxes waiting for him to open the door. An antiquated security system prevented the scumbags behind those shadows from entering at will.
“Here we go again, Syd,” Charlie said looking down at the rusting bell on his Muddyfox Atom BMX.
With his right foot firmly on the pedal he took a deep breath, leaned forward and slowly turned the latch on the security door. He pushed the door open and simultaneously down on his pedal as hard as he could. Head down, he whizzed through the small crowd of youths standing outside on the landing before they knew what was happening.
Usually everything was over in seconds. This time was different. This time the shouts and heckles didn’t fade into the distance the further he pedalled away. This time the hooded teens had bicycles too. Charlie felt a tightening in his chest and a knot in his stomach. He stole a quick look behind as he sped down All Saints Avenue. There were three of them in hot pursuit.
At top speed the three scumbags closed in on Charlie as he cycled under the railway bridge in the direction of Hartsdown Leisure Centre. Their laughter cut through the air, sending chills down his spine. In the distance he could faintly hear the rest of the group egging the three on. Broken glass and gravel crunched under hot rubber as his legs started to ache from exertion. Roadworks loomed in the distance with a narrow gap for pedestrians to walk through. He had no other choice as there were cars on the road. The black and yellow poles were close together and posed a serious threat to Charlie’s getaway.
“What do I do, Syd?” he screamed as cold air filled his lungs.
All of a sudden Charlie heard a loud crashing noise behind him followed by two more. He skidded to a halt metres from the poles and looked back down the road. All three bicycles and riders were lying in a mangled heap. One of the scumbags, his arm bent in a weird shape, was crying for his mother as the other two moaned and groaned.
Two young brothers, a little younger than Charlie, stood in their back garden watching the events unfold across the road.
“Did you see that?”
“What did they hit?”
“Should we tell Mum?”
Charlie laid his bicycle on the ground and folded his arms. Looking across at the young boys in their garden and then slowly back down towards the pile of bodies, he cracked a wry smile. “Smashing, Syd! Smashing! When will they ever learn?”
With that he raised his left hand in the direction of the scumbags, lowered two of his three fingers and left just one to convey his message.
© 2020 Lee Thompson
Lee Thompson is a Student Support Worker at an SEMH school. He is also a singer in a band called The Skatonics and a freelance photographer.