Jimmy Feathers stood outside the gym bellowing into his phone
‘What do you mean he’s in the police cells again? Well it’s hardly a surprise is it. No, I’m not picking him up. Let him stew in there for a bit’.
Jimmy was a tall, well-built man and a regular at the gym. His hair was very black, and his eyes were a beautiful blue. If he hadn’t looked so menacing, he would have been described as a ‘real looker. A ‘bit of alright’. But few women would have anything to do with him nowadays. His reputation went ahead of him. Everybody knew Jimmy Feathers and most were frightened of him. Jimmy lived in Stratford, a regenerated part of East ondon, and he hated what they had done to it for the 2012 Olympics.
‘Ponced it all up’ he would grumble.
Today he was seriously upset. It was his brother Billy, in trouble again, and in the nick. Jimmy was sick of him. Every few weeks it was something and it was all related to Billy’s drinking. He went into the gym determined to pound out his frustration with an hour of kick boxing. But first a good session on the treadmill to warm him up. He wondered why he was bothering. He was 42 now. But keeping fit and trim was a lifelong habit.
‘I suppose it’s my pride really. Still want to look Ok’.
Deep inside, Jimmy was worried about his younger brother, and had been since their mum died so suddenly. He’d always looked out for his little brother, but Billy was 40 now. It was ridiculous. Why should he bother? If he wanted to drink himself to death, let him get on with it. But how many times had he said that? How many times had he said he’d had enough, or he wasn’t doing it anymore? Moving onto the treadmill, Jimmy started pounding away.
His phone rang again. The screen showed it was his brother.
‘What?’ barked Jimmy.
‘They’ve let me out. Drunk and disorderly, Magistrates’ Court next Wednesday’
‘Well, I’m not taking you’.
‘I don’t expect you to. I know you’re fed up with me’.
‘Fed up’ barked Jimmy’ you don’t know the half of it’
Jimmy looked up at the ceiling and sighed. He realised that he felt tearful.
‘We’re getting too old for this Billy’.
‘What should I do Jim?’
‘Get yourself over to the gym. I’ll just have a shower and meet you downstairs’.
Jimmy stood under the shower and let the hot water pour over him. If only life could be as simple as this. Just wash all the dirt and grime away. He sighed, stepped out of the shower and quickly towelled down and dressed. He walked slowly down the stairs, through the revolving door and saw Billy was waiting for him outside. They got into Jimmy’s car.
‘Jeez Billy. You look terrible’.
Billy was a good-looking bloke like his brother but there was a puffiness to his features now, a greyness to his skin and he had put on a lot of weight in the last couple of years. His black hair had streaks of grey in and his brother noticed how blood shot his eyes were. When had the drinking become such a problem? He realised he had never talked to his brother about it, where once they had talked about everything. Jimmy sat for a while wondering what the hell to do or where to go. He started the car and drove slowly out of the car park and turned onto the main road.
Where we going?’
‘I really don’t know Billy. I just don’t know what to do anymore. Is there anywhere you would like to go?’
The brothers glanced at each other and laughed.
‘Seriously? Home then’.
‘yeah, let’s have a day at the seaside. Be lie old times’.
Jimmy joined the motorway carefully. ‘You’re not going to be sick, are you?’ he said to his brother. There was no reply. Billy was fast asleep. He woke up just as they reached Margate and the lovely sweep of the bay came in sight. They both sighed and felt better. This was their childhood playground. Jimmy parked the car and they walked down the hill to the high street. They hadn’t been back for some six years. Billy looked around with interest.
‘Christ. It’s gone all up market. It’s got quite posh. Look at all these coffee shops and restaurants.
The brothers walked over to the far side of the bay, past the new Tate Art Gallery, and to the end of the little pier where they stopped at a small coffee kiosk, right next to the statue of the Shell Lady. Billy grinned at his brother and Jimmy thought ‘That’s the first time he’s looked OK in an age’.
They sat down at one of the little wrought iron tables and gazed back over the bay to the town.
Jimmy watched his brother carefully. ‘Do you feel like drinking now?’ he asked his brother.
‘I don’t’ Billy said and looked puzzled ‘I wonder why that is?’
‘Maybe it’s because we were happy here and you’re remembering that. We were doing alright until Mum went. We should have come back more often’.
‘Yep, well this time we are going to sort me out. We’re too old for this. I look ridiculous in the clubs now. I just look a loser. I’m a drunk. The sooner I admit that the better. How am I going to stop Jimmy?’
His brother looked thoughtful and not so belligerent. ‘ I’ve been thinking about that on the drive down. You can’t carry on. You’ll end up killing yourself. We’ve never talked about your drinking. Just thought it was none of my business. But I do know this. We’re both on the road to nowhere. I think we’ll stay and rent somewhere until you’re sober. I don’t care how long it takes’.
‘What about work?’
His brother looked incredulous. ‘Are you mad? When did I last work? I do crime Bill, crime’. Jimmy looked grim. ‘No little brother it’s time for a fresh start for both of us. Mum would be so ashamed if she could see us now. Two washed up, middle age losers. Time for the Feathers brothers to get their act together.’
They looked at the statue of the Shell Lady and remembered happier times. They had played on this beach every day throughout their childhood Summers. Through their teenage years and twenties the beach had been their social club. Smoking, swigging cheap lager, getting off with the girls. Billy looked closely at the statue of the Shell Lady and laughed out loud.
‘Do you remember when we used to decorate her with seaweed? Happy days’.
Jimmy looked at his washed-up brother and said, ‘Time to stop it all Billy. We used to be nice blokes. Let’s try and get back to how mum raised us. We’ve so let her down’. Billy smiled and blinked back sudden tears. He raised his coffee cup to the Shell Lady. ‘Cheers. Here’s to better times Jimmy Feathers’. 1160 words