Martin slides his brand-new captain’s armband into place and smiles at his reflection. Mum waits in the car to take him to the match, but Martin is now old enough to ride there on his new bike. Mum helps secure his helmet despite his protests and offers to ride with him.
“I don’t need you! You're embarrassing!" he screams.
His big wheels wobble up the hard concrete drive.
"Be careful then," she shouts after him. A skinny arm waves back dismissively.
Later she will sit for hours at a time, the engine running, reliving every detail of his exit and willing his return so hard it could almost happen. She will hear his soft voice sung by the wind and believe for a moment. Then shut her eyes bolt tight and weep.
Martin’s teammates wait on bikes and swear like men. They mock him as a mummy’s boy when he fails to show. Later they will deny their words and blame each other. Later still they will revel in their newfound attention.
Dad’s purchase of a bike "to grow into” haunts him. Later he will confide in a slowly nodding vicar, whose consoling words neither will find adequate. Both will pretend otherwise to avoid another futile conversation.
John is breathalysed after the collision. Although he makes the legal limit, his lunchtime drinking buddies’ faces will tell him he was lucky. He will never go back again. Later he will drink at home alone and watch pornography for hours at a time, to try to mute the boy’s last high-pitched screams. Sometimes he will fail.
The pub's lunchtime takings will fall for nearly two weeks and then return to normal.
© Kevin Owen