4th Chapter of Granite Grit by Lee Cooper, building the main character (JOE) as he finds himself sliding towards a dangerous path
Things took a strange turn one late Indian summers night around eight o'clock. The sun beaming down over the red cloudline and the air fresh. Taking advantage of the fine night I went out jogging, the streets quiet enough at this time for some solitude. Jogging the odd night was a great way to get out of the house, helping to clear my head of all the stress and worries hounding me from the ever increasing bill stack in the top drawer.
Quite a long run, around four and a half miles, which took me about forty-five minutes. A good amount of time to be out the house, the longer the better. The fresh air and time on my own was therapeutic.
I worried so much, not knowing how we would be able to pay the mortgage and bills in the coming months. The £155 welfare went into the bank each week along with May’s £135, but it just wasn't enough for us. The savings now gone. Our pot was empty.
My jog took me round the outskirts of Inverurie via the dual carriageway, returning over the river Don bridge heading back into town and toward my house. This bridge was the main road in and out of the place towards Aberdeen. Passing the bridge and listening to Oasis ‘Morning Glory’ blasting in my ears, I vaguely made out somebody shouting at me.
“Joe! Wait! JOE!”
I stopped on the pavement, removed my earphones and turned around looking to see who the hell was shouting. A silver Mercedes was doing a U-turn in the middle of the road, redirecting straight towards me as I stood silent on the pavement. As the car approached I still couldn’t figure out who it was with the low sun blinding me. The car pulled up beside me, the window rolled down and I instantly knew exactly who it was. My old boxing pal Tim! I started to grin, happy to see my old friend again after all these years.
“Well well, if it isn’t the famous Joe Marks!”
“Jesus Christ. Is that really you Tim?” Taken totally by surprise. I hadn’t seen this guy for years.
“The one and only. How’s tricks?”
“Just grand mate. How’s life treating you?”
“Aye fine lad.”
“Still boxing?” Curious to know what he was up to nowadays.
“Na, not fighting any more. Just doing the coaching side of things at the Kilgour Club. What about you? When’s the last time you threw some leather?”
“Ooh, Jesus, it’s been about eight or nine years since I’ve been in a gym. Kilgour Club?”
“Aye, in Tilly. It belongs to a pal of mine now.”
“My old gym? What happened to Stevenson?”
“Aye, that’s right. No idea about Tommy, retired, moved on, I suppose.”
“Jesus, that brings back some old memories. What you doing through these parts on a Wednesday night?” I asked.
“Visiting my gran, she's in the Garioch care home.” Tim replied with a sigh.
“Where you staying now? Manor Avenue in Aberdeen still?”
“Na. Got myself out of there when the wife started to show a bump. Didn’t want my kids growing up in a place like that. I’ve got a place in Kingswells now, just outside town. It’s a lot quieter there.”
“Aye, you’re right mate. That’s why we moved out here from Tilly, get away from the kind of life I had there.”
“Hey, how about coming to the gym one night, have a wee work-out, ‘en we’ll get a proper catch up? Judging by the size o’ your gut, you need it.” Said Tim with a smirk.
“I’d love to, but I don’t have any way of getting there and back.”
“I’ll take you. I'll visit my gran beforehand and pick you up afterwards. There's a guy I know at the gym who could give you a lift home. He stays around here somewhere.”
“Give me your number ‘en, and I’ll give you a shout. I'll have to clear it wi’ the wife first, you know what women are like eh? Could be doing with something to do like, been out of work for a while and bored out my tits.”
Tim wrote his number on a receipt and handed it over. “You’re still wi’ that gorgeous May are you?”
“Of course mate, married wi’ a couple sprogs. Have you just the one?”
“I wish. Twin boys and they're a fuckin’ handful.”
“Bet they are. Tim, it’s been great to chat but I’d better finish this run before the old legs seize up. I’ll call you, alright?”
“Sure, no worries Joe, nice to see you. Catch you later.”
Tim rolled up his window and sped away in his flashy silver Mercedes C63 AMG, with the twin exhaust roaring through the big engine.
I hadn’t seen him since ending my boxing career nine years ago.
He was a tall gangly guy around six foot two, wide, bony shoulders, gnarly fingers on the end of long snarly arms, with more muscle in his elbow than his bicep. His face hadn’t changed, thin and gaunt with high cheekbones, a bony jaw usually coated in stubble and a ruffled head of shabby hair that hadn’t seen the use of a comb in years.
He slogged around slowly but not sloth-like, never appeared to have a worry in the world as he scraped his knuckles across the deck like an orangutan.
Nothing would phase Tim, wise beyond his years and had been since we were young tearaways. Back in the day we did a lot of training together, competing at the same weight, but fortunately we never had to fight each other, only spar. We didn’t want to fight, we were too close.
He was in an awkward category of boxer, limber with long arms, feet moving quicker than his hands and brain. He's the kind that would drive me insane inside the ropes. The constant game of chase was similar to trying to catch the Roadrunner, once you thought you had the clever cunt stuck in the corner or up against the ropes, he would slip away like a mongoose slips a snake. Just as your brain registered where he had slipped to, he would lay his counter-attack, leaving you weary and confused.
We knew each other too well, in and out of the ring. When sparring, we knew what each other had planned almost before we knew ourselves. Sharing countless rounds together, we were like two long lost brothers brought together over the love of throwing leather.
Our two coaches constantly got us together for sparring and training sessions when we had upcoming bouts. He fought for a club in the centre of town called Aberdeen City Boxing Club and I fought for the Drones Club, now renamed to Kilgours. It was good to see the guy after all these years.
Finishing my jog, the memories flowed back, giving a much needed spring to my steps.