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Turning Point Ch4

by Zigeroon 

Posted: 07 September 2005
Word Count: 3483

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This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.


The Cliftonville pub flanked the entrance to the Hove Railway Station car park. Looked at from the entrance to the Lido picture house that stood at the other end of the road that ran parallel to the railway line it was as though the pubs right hand flank wall formed support for the cast iron glazed canopy that covered the set down, pick up area. The canopy had steel columns to do that. The pub was a Victorian construction, the brickwork dusted with grime from passing steam engines. Electrification had improved air quality. The flaking black paintwork of the doors and windows could do with a refreshing coat.

Inside it was warm and welcoming. The smell of beer soaked floors and stale cigarette smoke predominated. It was early evening. The after work drinkers had been and gone, the pub was nearly empty.

For now the four young men who sat at a scarred table in the corner speaking in subdued tones were the only patrons. Harry the barman assumed they were up to no good. It was that sort of pub, even here in the Saloon Bar.

It had been two months since the party. Long enough to start to forget what had happened. Avoiding each other had been easy. They hadn’t been close friends before so why start now?

They found things to talk about, the conversation ranging over football, the Cuban missile crisis, rock and roll, anything but what they had come to discuss. Part way into the first round the conversation faltered into a wary silence.
‘You called it Howie,’ said Ed.
‘Jeanne’s not coping very well,’ said Howie.
‘And you would know that, wouldn’t you Howie,’ said Keith.
‘I’m not apologising Keith. You dumped Marie.’
Keith picked up his glass and toasted Howie. ‘Just joking. You did me a favour moving in so quick to mend Marie’s broken heart.’
‘Ignore him Howie,’ said Pete placing a restraining hand on Howie’s arm. ‘What’s this all about?’
‘Dixon of Dock Green steps onto the pitch to ask the awkward question,’ said Ed.
‘PC Plod more like,’ said Keith. They laughed.
‘Look I’ve travelled all the way down here from Hendon. I didn’t want to come. It’s only because my mum had to pass on Howie’s message that I came otherwise she’d have been giving me earache asking me what it was all about.’
‘That and the opportunity to shag the delectable Chrissie,’ said Ed.
‘We’re not seeing each other,’ said Pete.
‘What happened there then? Love affair of the century that one, a miss match, but still a binding that no man could cast asunder,’ said Keith.
‘Christ, you been taking lessons from your old man?’ said Pete.
‘I’m in training. My old man’s sending me to London to work in a City firm, get some experience and then come back in a couple of years, keep my nose clean, maybe take over from him when he retires,’ said Keith.
‘He’s heard the rumours then has he? Move you out of the area to protect you from the fall out?’ said Ed.
‘What rumours?’ said Keith.
‘Don’t tell me you haven’t been asked what all four of us were doing in with Jeanne, on the night in question.’
‘Oh, that, I just ignored it. Nobody seems to have bothered to follow it up.’
‘We didn’t rape her. She wanted it,’ said Pete. His recollection had been edited by constant revision of the scene, cutting out Ed’s terrorising and Jeanne’s reluctance.
‘Not with all of us, she didn’t,’ said Ed.
‘What if she goes to the police?’ said Pete. There were a few nervous giggles at Pete asking the question but they had all thought long and hard about it.
‘Don’t be stupid. How could she? She told Keith’s mum and dad that Paul did it with her. She can’t go back on that can she?’ said Ed.
‘What if she did? Can you imagine the headlines in the Gazzette?’ said Keith.
‘You’d have to go a lot further away than London,’ said Ed with a big grin that flashed into a serious expression. ‘We’re here to discuss what we say if anybody starts asking awkward questions Keith not to protect your career alone. We’re all in this together.’
‘So?’ said Keith, directing the question at Howie.
‘She seemed all right at first. She didn’t tell Marie about what happened.’
‘Bit of luck there,’ said Ed.
‘Are you going to let me talk?’ said Howie.
‘Hey, hey, touchy,’ said Ed.
‘She was quiet. Bound to be I suppose. Wouldn’t talk to Paul. She went back to work and after a couple of weeks she seemed to get over it, well not over it, just accept it. She stopped looking at me as if I was the devil incarnate and began talking to me. She even began going out, with Marie at first, and then in a crowd. She even started seeing Paul again. He was beside himself, wanting to know if I knew anything about what might have happened to her at the party. He’d obviously heard the rumours. Nobody seems to have told him that he was supposed to have slept with her.’
‘Only my mum and Angie would have known,’ said Keith. ‘I asked Angie not to say anything and my mum wouldn’t want to discuss it.’
‘Thank God,’ said Ed. ‘Going up against Paul would be a bit like taking on Chrissie’s brothers except Paul’s not a nutter, just.’
‘Yeah, well, She was drinking too much but she was happy,’ Howie said. ‘Then a couple of weeks ago, just after I phoned you all, she suddenly withdrew. She wouldn’t go to work, stayed in her room and whenever I saw her she looked like she’d been crying. She wouldn’t talk to Marie. Her mum and dad got the doctor in but she wouldn’t tell him what was wrong.’
‘Perhaps it’s just all come back again,’ said Pete.
‘Women get a bit funny when they’re pregnant,’ said Ed voicing the fear that was creeping furtively around all their minds.
‘Shit, don’t say that,’ said Keith. ‘We’d have known by now wouldn’t we? It’s been two months.’
‘That’s true,’ said Ed.
‘Don’t suppose you know when she has her periods?’ said Pete to Howie.
‘How the hell am I supposed to know that?’ said Howie.
Keith instantly thought of something sarcastic to say, debated with himself and decided Ed was right, they were here to help each other. ‘She told me, after we’d done it, that she’d only just finished her period.’
‘What does that mean?’ said Howie.
‘That’s what I asked her.’ Keith shrugged his shoulders. ‘She didn’t explain.’
‘Weren’t any of you awake during sex education?’ said Ed.
‘Too busy being embarrassed for Mr Tulley, poor old guy didn’t seem to know much about the mechanics,’ said Pete. Their laughter released some of the tension.
‘Most women ovulate towards the middle of the month,’ said Ed.
They stared at him.
‘And?’ said Howie.
‘There’s only a limited time when they can get pregnant, usually towards the middle of their cycle. So, to spell it out to the stupid amongst us, if she’d just finished her period, it’s unlikely that she could get pregnant.’
‘Even with four of us coming inside her?’ said Pete.
‘There could have been ten of us, if her body wasn’t ready she couldn’t have got pregnant, the volume of sperm doesn’t matter,’ said Ed.
There was a relieved silence.
‘So she’s not pregnant then,’ said Howie.
‘Unlikely,’ said Ed.
‘Is that a yes?’ said Pete.
‘But she could be,’ said Ed.
The relief dissipated.
‘She is or she isn’t?’ said Keith.
‘That’s right,’ said Ed. ‘What she said to you indicates that it’s unlikely but there’s always a chance.’
‘What do you think?’ said Keith.
‘She’s not,’ said Ed. He hadn’t got a clue either way but they needed to hear him being positive. It was an unusual experience for him to be discussing things rather than dictating what people around him should be doing. It had been happening more and more since the party.

They sat and stared at their drinks each lost in futures that were now distorted by possibilities that would not have appeared in their nightmares before they had listened to Howie.
‘What’s wrong with her then, if she’s not pregnant?’ said Pete.
‘God knows,’ said Ed. ‘We just need to make sure we all stick to the same story if she is. She changes her story that she did it with Paul then we say she invited Keith upstairs and she wanted all of us when we came to find him. She wanted it, we’ve got to make sure they understand that.’
‘They?’ said Howie.
‘The police,’ said Pete.
‘Right,’ said Howie.
‘And you’ve got to keep us posted Howie. Forewarned is forearmed,’ said Keith.
After sipping the top off his pint Ed said, ‘I hope she’s going to be all right.’

There was a general murmuring of agreement that tapered off into another silence. Harry the barman wandered over, more waddled than wandered, his size had increased in relation to the time he had served at the pub. He cleared the empties from the last round.
‘Long faces gentlemen, beer not to your liking?’
‘It’s bloody awful Harry, as always,’ said Ed.
‘Good to see my standards aren’t slipping.’
‘They couldn’t get any lower.’
‘Just so long as you appreciate me,’ said Harry and wandered back behind the bar, chuckling as he went.
‘What are you going to do for a job Ed?’ said Pete, changing the subject.

Ed studied the beer froth that ran down the inside of the glass tankard from which he had just taken a long draught.
‘Probably carry on bullying everyone, heading for a life like Chrissie’s family. Crime seems to pay for them,’ said Keith.
Ed ignored Keith’s assessment of his future plans. ‘I’m going to be a doctor,’ he said. He looked up as a couple of snorts broke the surprised response. He looked at each one of them in turn, challenging them, his conversion to medicine not yet having curbed his innate anger at the world.
‘Doctor?’ said Pete.

The other three looked at each other then at Ed. The smirks that they had all prepared to greet Ed’s comment died on their faces. There was no belligerence in his tone, his shoulders sagged; he looked serious.
‘Mr Straight A’s going to finally make something of himself?’ said Keith.
‘Something like that,’ said Ed.
‘So your parents finally got through,’ said Howie.
‘It wasn’t my parents…’
‘It must have been. Come on Ed they’re both doctors. You were bound to conform at some point. You could hardly carry on being a prat all your life’ said Keith, pretty sure that he knew Ed well enough to say that and not get thumped.
‘I want to help people,’ said Ed. He reached forward and grabbed his glass. Keith tensed, ready to run. Perhaps he’d misread the signs. Ed tipped his head back and emptied the remaining half pint in one go.
‘Chrissie frightened you off,’ said Howie, misinterpreting Ed’s mood.
‘Don’t be a cunt Howie, I can still flatten you, would be doctor or not.’

Glasses were concentrated on, nobody being willing to defend Howie.

The outside door to the bar crashed back against the floor mounted wooden doorstop, the glass vibrated in the frame, seemingly undecided whether to shatter or not.
‘Oi, mind that door,’ shouted Harry he stopped polishing glasses and stacking them behind the bar to concentrate on the new arrivals.

The girls giggled as they walked towards the brass topped wooden bar, teetering on high-heeled black patent leather shoes.
‘She got a bit porky?’ said Ed, looking at Pete.
‘Don’t look at me,’ said Pete. ‘I hardly see her now.’

The girls were dressed in tight white blouses, thin enough to reveal their bras, and tight black skirts. The others could see what Ed meant, Chrissie looked as though she had put on weight. They watched as Chrissie took a long drag on her cigarette and blew the smoke at the yellowed ceiling.
‘I heard that Ed Cartwright,’ said Chrissie. ‘You watch your mouth; it’s my time of the month. Arsenal’ll soon be playing at home.’ She studied them, waiting for their reaction. She didn’t get one.

Monica Sydney, giggling uncontrollably, let Chrissie take her arm and drag her over to where the four men sat. Monica squinted at them. She had left her glasses at home. She hated wearing glasses when she went out with Chrissie.
‘The Three Musketeers,’ said Chrissie.
‘Even I can see there’s four of them,’ said Monica and squealed with delight. She reached down working her feet back into her shoes.
‘And D’Artagnion,’ said Chrissie. ‘Surprised at what I know boys? Well read, me. And what are you gathered together for? Since when have any of you been friends?’
‘We can drink with whom we like,’ said Keith.
‘Oh, la di bloody da. Sorry for breathing Mr Absolum,’ said Chrissie.
‘I think you’d better leave,’ said Harry coming round from behind the bar. ‘Maybe you’ve had a few too many already.’ He debated whether to bring the old wooden truncheon he kept under the bar for sorting out late night drunken disputes but settled for rolling the sleeves of his striped shirt further up his arms, pushing the metal bracelets up onto his muscular upper arms almost cutting off the blood flow.
‘You could try it Harry,’ said Chrissie, stone cold sober now. She stood her ground, legs apart, challenging him.
Harry stopped mid-stride, his wrinkled face showing signs of internal debate. ‘Just make sure you don’t cause trouble,’ he said, backtracking to the bar. He wasn’t paid enough to take on the Kennedy’s.
‘Out dancing?’ said Pete.
‘What’s it to you?’ said Chrissie. Pete looked away, defeated.

Keith looked at Ed. They both looked at Howie. This didn’t make sense. Chrissie and Pete were for life. Since when did Chrissie Kennedy listen to anyone, especially her father?
‘Can’t stand around talking to you losers,’ said Chrissie, turning, stumbling. ‘Come on Monica, a couple of rum and coke’s and we’ll be just fine.’

They staggered off to the bar where Harry served them hoping that the police wouldn’t decide to make one of their many unofficial visits to check the age of his clientele. He was sure Chrissie was only eighteen.
‘Blanked you out big time, Pete,’ said Ed.
‘She just suddenly didn’t want to know,’ said Pete.
‘Not giving her enough,’ said Keith.
‘She was rampant,’ said Pete without thinking. Laughter erupted. Chrissie looked over, her anger directed at Pete as if she knew the derision was at her expense.
‘Come on,’ said Pete turning away from her. ‘Have we got anything else to discuss? I’ve need to catch the next train to Victoria. I’ve got to get back to Hendon tonight.’
‘There’s nothing much else is there?’ said Keith.
‘I think we all know what we’ve got to say,’ said Ed. ‘Howie can keep us posted, he’s closest to the situation.’
‘Yeah,’ said Keith. ‘Give my love to Marie, Howie.’
‘Shut it Keith,’ said Ed.
‘Sorry,’ said Keith. ‘Uncalled for.’
‘It doesn’t matter,’ said Howie.
‘That’s it then?’ said Pete, looking at his watch.
‘You go and catch your train Pete,’ said Ed.
‘I’ll see you around,’ said Pete.
‘Maybe,’ was the general response to his friendly goodbye.

Pete got up and walked towards the door, ignoring Chrissie.
‘Bye. Bye. Petey,’ she shouted to his back. ‘Have a good time playing cops and robbers.’
Monica giggled.

Pete half turned, almost said something then moved quickly to the door. He pulled it open, slamming it against the stop. It reverberated in his hand. Harry winced.
‘I’ve got to go as well,’ said Howie.
‘See you,’ said Keith.
‘Good luck at the interview,’ said Ed.
‘Interview?’ said Howie.
‘Smartest I’ve ever seen you look Howie. New suit, very dapper. Thought you antiques boys wore trousers and a blazer.’
‘I’ve got to attend a Council meeting about the stalls. I’ve got to look the part of the young businessman,’ said Howie lifting his black overcoat from the back of his chair and sliding his arms into it. He left the coat unbuttoned.

Howie turned right when he came out of the front door of the pub into the grey evening. It had started to rain. A fine misty drizzle that drifted in the light breeze wetting his face as he walked along the dampened pavement. He walked to the corner of the building and turned right again down a steep set of concrete steps. At the bottom he walked past the entrance to the public bar. The door was set back beneath the ground floor that was cantilevered out over a paved area forming a man made cave. He became aware of voices within the cave, deep in the dark shadows cast by the light streaming through the glazed panel of the door to the public bar. In the corner he could see a couple giving each other an intimate body search. At the edge of the shadow, his back turned away from the couple, stood Pete. Waiting.
‘I thought you were supposed to be catching a train,’ said Howie.
‘Leave it Howie.’
‘Hey, you want to play with fire it’s your affair. Just remember those brothers of hers are complete psychos.’
‘I’ll cope,’ said Pete. ‘I can’t help it. I have to see her.’
‘Good luck,’ said Howie. As he walked away he heard girlish laughter coming down the steps heralding Chrissie and Monica’s arrival. Howie hurried away. He didn’t want Chrissie to know that he was aware she and Pete were still an item. Howie hoped Pete knew what he was up too.

Howie walked along Ellen Street, lined one side with two storey-terraced houses and the other by the blank brick wall of the bus station. The air smelt of diesel. The big Leyland engines running in the maintenance sheds spewing out thick clouds of exhaust. There was an overlay of damp coal fumes from huge piles of coal and coke in the marshalling yards above him as he headed for the tunnel under the railway, a short cut saving him having to walk out to the main road.

When he got to the Estate he didn’t pass that many people. The few out in the rain said hello. The Estate was like that. People didn’t live in each other’s pocket but everyone knew everybody else. There were always adults out on the street, chatting, catching up on the gossip. Not so many these days he’d noticed. More and more family’s had televisions and that seemed to keep people indoors. Cars as well, he’d noticed more cars on the roads. When he was a child playing football on the patches of grass left as recreation areas around the Estate you used to be able to chase an errant football onto the road without looking and rarely ended up under the wheels of a car or worse, a Corporation bus. It wasn’t so easy these days.

Things were changing. There was something in the air but he had no idea what it might be. If he could bottle it and sell it he knew he would make the kind of money he dreamed of having one day. His mum and dad did their best but there was never very much money for luxuries, like at Keith’s place. Fitted carpets on the floor, central heating, comfy sofa’s, a washing machine. His mum made do with a gas boiler and a mangle temporarily fixed to the edge of the Belfast sink, the rollers squeezing the hand rinsed clothes before they were walked to the washing line that was held up with a wooden prop so that the sheets wouldn’t drag in the dirt. Howie knew he didn’t want to live like that. So he grafted. One day he would have it all and when that day came he had decided that he wanted Marie by his side. Nobody but nobody would take what he would create away from them, ever. Jeanne? He hoped not.

Howie walked up the path to Marie’s Aunt Pauline’s house. It was the same as all the other paths except the garden through which it ran was immaculate, filled with rows of multi coloured flowers, the lawn recently trimmed. He went to the front door. He only knew Pauline and her family by sight. They owned a car. Howie was impressed. It made him even more nervous as he waited for the door to be answered. He was nervous enough about how he looked. He hadn’t lied in the pub, this was an interview in a way. He was here to meet Marie’s mum, Francine, for the first time.

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Comments by other Members

chris2 at 19:41 on 10 September 2005  Report this post
Andrew - I'm enjoying the way this story is developing.

However, I am sometimes having a bit of trouble knowing which character I should currently be following or identifying with. I think the problem is arising particularly during the long stretches early in the chapter where there is almost nothing except dialogue. In these pages, which are more like a script, the author's voice is getting lost, whereas in the last part of the chapter (with very little dialogue) you are creating much more atmosphere, identification with a character and involvement by the reader. Maybe dialogue and text could be more interwoven?

Or maybe it's just because I haven't been in on it since the beginning!

Ignore this if it's nonsense.


'You called it Howie' -> 'You called it, Howie' and there are other places in the dialogue where names would benefit from a comma beforehand, e.g. 'awful Harry'.



Zigeroon at 21:36 on 11 September 2005  Report this post


Thanks for your continued interest. Your comments are much appreciated and I'll review, especially with regard to identifying the speakers. The edits are useful too!

Should get easier from now on (hopefully), the characters thin out, with longer passages for each one, confirming POV.


optimist at 11:34 on 13 September 2005  Report this post
Hi Andrew,

I'm enjoying reading this too!

Being picky now - It's not easy to manage a four way conversation - there are one or two places where i wasn't sure who was talking in the early dialogue.

I think Chris has raised a valid point re POV - maybe you need to tie us into the thoughts of one of the characters (Howie?)throughout the discussion?

I noticed that Ed at least "knows" the barman, Harry - I liked the way you introduced the scene through Harry's eyes - but at that point you don't get the sense Harry knows any of them. maybe if Harry "recognises" Ed and identifies him for us then you could go in more immediately rather than "4 young men" which distances us especially as we know these characters.

The section where we follow Howie out of the pub is very strong - look forward to the next instalment!

Hope this is useful!


Zigeroon at 16:51 on 13 September 2005  Report this post


Thanks for your comments. I think using Howie as the POV is a good idea, especially as the reader stays with him as the Chapter runs to a conclusion.

Am reworking with an ear on all advice. Thanks for your interest and time.


Jumbo at 19:16 on 25 September 2005  Report this post

As with all your writing, this has so much potential - and leaves the reader wondering how the various strands are going to resolve themselves.

I found the discussion on PoV interesting, but can I take it one step further? We're now into chapter four and I'm wondering if there is a particular character that you want us to ride this story with? I always find it's easier to follow a story if I can immerse myself more deeply in one character's involvement - even if there are other people into whose head the author puts us at different times.

I also picked up on a significant change in Ed's character. He seemed to be more placid and level-headed throughout this chapter. Perhaps if his revelations about career choices came earlier that would explain it, but as it is this switch in behaviour seemed for me, well, out-of-character!

A picky point. Somewhere Keith tells us that it's been two months since the party. But you have already told us these. Perhaps one of those could be deleted.

I liked the descriptive detail you gave of us of the pub and its surrounding area. Very atmospheric.

Hope this makes sense!



Zigeroon at 09:36 on 27 September 2005  Report this post


Thanks for your comments. I'm sorry I have not replied before, must have got lost in upload of short story.

Your observation of POV and the one character to follow are interesting. With this tale I am trying to squeeze the introduction of the various characters into a short time/word count scale as there is a time leap coming and they all change in varying degrees. We then follow them in a less hurried fashion. Obviously need to work on clarification of author's intent!

The point about Ed is well founded. He has been changed by the 'act', hence the conforming to his parents wishes for him to 'make something' of himself. As you say, a previous signpost would be preferable to hint, or flag up, his altered state.

Thanks for your comments as always.


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