Chapter twenty eight
I could hear wild cheering as the crowds merged
I’m up here on the eleventh floor preparing my talk, for trying to win over the soldiers when they arrive at dawn. I’m all psyched up and shitting myself. The appeal probably won’t work, and then what?.
It’s two thirty in the morning here. I got keys of the manager’s office, in the occupied Customs and Excise building. This floor is in use, but empty now, the rest of the block was all abandoned till today. It isn’t because of the strikes that the Port is stopped. It’s down to economic collapse and impossibly stormy weather.
Maggie will come up with Moonie in a little while. It’s a luxury glass office with Jacuzzi, kitchen, fridges with some beer, and a panoramic view of the resistance down below.
I did have to make my little speech at the Assembly today. They liked it, but too much. The technique is to talk like it’s to your best friend, assuming that he or she really wants to help, but just can’t quite understand how to join in.
Now they want me to talk to the soldiers, me, I’m just a playground worker that got political. How am I supposed to persuade them to desert, and rescue a whole mass movement? Like a twenty ton truck that’s trundling off down a mountain with no brakes!
Down below they’ve built a bonfire near the stage. Yunkers are lining up to leap through the flames, I’m trying to spot Damo and Tessa but no luck yet.
I can’t figure out how to open the windows, and I’m sweating like an ice cube in an oven!
Okay, I do know something about talking to men. How to press those male-bonding buddy buttons. But how come I’m suddenly the one who can make those fellas disobey orders at gunpoint? They’re institutionalized for fuck’s sake!
A bell rings.. Dingledong. Dingledong.. Maggie is here, with our daughter Moonie, asleep in the pushchair. All smiles in her long yellow T shirt, she’s flirting with Clan Sunshine fashion.
Maggie is into women and I’m celibate, we’ve never been lovers.
Pushing the pram she comes, shambling through the office chairs, swirling her red cape and curls, and springing out with throaty laughter.
-’Hi Maggie great to see you.’- says I. giving her a bear hug -‘I’m going totally loco up here.’-
-‘It’s much too hot here. Wow what an amazing view, they should film from up here.. So what happened to my big baby boo boo?’-
-’Congratulations Margaret. You’s done really well to win the vote. It was a historic mobilization. Really impressive.’-
-’Everyone helped. Your little speech was a cracker! But the next step is even more dodgy.. You doing the appeal then?’-
-’At the main gate. Oh shit Maggie maybe I am a good person to do it, but I can see it just not working. And Maxie had a premonition and..’-
-’I know I know sure I was with her. She’s raging with me for not running away… Now just breathe slowly and..’-
While chatting she’s checking my pulse, tut tutting to herself.
-’I can’t get through to Lucia at all, and it’s..ow that hurts!..it’s you who’s in danger Maggie. It’s really you should get out and..’-
-’Stop talking now Barney. You’re all wired up.
She’s lifting my eyelids, peering in my iris.
Relaxing my muscle tension, pulling on my penis!
-‘First drink a lot of water, here.. Off with these strip lights. Look there’s a table lamp. Shirt off, why are you wearing long pants? You’re wet.. Now I need you to lie out flat on this table. Just relax and think of nothing..’-
-’But Maggie I.. ‘-
-’No buts. If you can’t do the appeal there are others will. Just lay back on this cushion, you’re starting to relax already.’-
She’s quite right of course. Getting nervous won’t help if there is no solution. On the contrary. So I’m just trying to let go. But I’m not able to. Then not trying. Then little by little.
-’And now again down to your tummy I feel that knot of anguish shrinking now
Just flowing along with her low familiar voice. Again and again. Breathing through those unknotting muscles. Little by little. Untying the tangle in my head, as her cool hands and arms slide over me.
Waking my skin and making me shiver and pimple.
-‘Come on now, that blood is beginning to flow a little more freely, and..’-
I find myself almost moaning. She does my legs, leaving old Dumbo strictly alone. And I’ve stopped worrying about my problems. Because I’m thinking now this must be how she massaged me that time..
-‘ and breathing down again..’-
..That time she made love to me when I was having my breakdown. When she got herself pregnant with Moonbeam.
-’Slower breathing please.. I’m feeling a sexual tension flowing up through you.’-
Finally I open my eyes. Reflections from the fires are flickering with black shadows.
Music pounding but almost inaudible.
My anguish has vanished. It’s gone, how did she do that?.
.. deeper now, just relax.’-
Maggie’s at the foot of the table, massaging my toes and somehow I feel randy.
Really I’ve gone right off women, except for Lucia but she is not for me.
-’I was thinking of Moonbeam’s conception.’- I whisper.
-’Me too, that’s funny.. ‘-
-’Did you, did you enjoy that or.. ?’- It’s me enjoying her hands and arms, sliding up my calves and thighs..
-’Yes yes never more. Never more with a boring man, I mean!’-
-’We’ve never done it again. We’re Pools-married and live together with our almost three year old daughter and..’-
I can feel the curve of her tummy, rubbing on my toes and the soles of my feet.
-’Two daughters. Breathe deeper now, come on, and relax.’-
-’You can’t count that adoption scam, just to help Maxie.’-
-’Why not? She adores being my daughter. Okay not with you as her dad, of course not.’-
We laugh together. I lift up on my elbows and we gaze into each other. She cradles my foot on her tummy, and I’m attempting to feel her delicately with my awkward toes.
-’But don’t you remember at all? Didn’t Maxie tell all the dirty details?’-
She bites her bottom lip and rolls her eyeballs.
-’And yet we never make love, like, you and me Maggie, I mean, one to one and face to face like now.’-
-’Coz I don’t do men, and I’m in love with Lucia, , but maybe.. ‘- She raises her eyebrows and cocks her head, mischievously.
-’I’m kind of in love with her as well, but why not, um..’-
I slide my feet between her legs and pull her closer with my toes.
She squeezes me hard and laughs and leans to reach me.
Swings one knee up on the table, punky, with a chuckle and a snort.
-’Will you join me then Margaret?’- says I. Holding out my hands for hers.
She likes my efforts at massage with the foot it seems.
-’Well, shall I show you how I made Moonie, then.’- she suggests, and roughly straddles me –’Now that I’m getting in the mood, I mean.’-
She wriggles off her yellow T shirt dress, and explains the details of her new spoon-bra, with the windows that supposedly lift out and liberate her nipples.
-’Maxie thinks we’re gonna die tonight anyway.’-
Now wearing just the red belt, she poses for her own reflection in the glass partition. Hands gyrating her hips. Sticking her tongue out at me, before I make a remark.
-’Hey I know, I got the fireman’s key. Let’s go up on the roof!’- says I.
Maggie grabs me, shaking out her red locks with a throaty chuckle..
Pushing me hard, back down on the table..
Soon a soft beeping noise begins, from the desk computer I’ve been using, beside us.
-’That could be Lucia at last. Yes look I can see her!’- says I.
-’She’s coming through.. Is this the mike?’-
-’Hola mis amores! A hundred kisses I’m sorry I just got the messages, we’re all sleeping here. Hey I can see you. Hello hello.’-
-’Hi, great to see you, lovely Lucia. Can you hear us?’-
She’s in a tiny room, all shelves. Me and Maggie are both swinging over to kiss the camera.
She’s doing the same in Rumania. And we’re all laughing.
-’I was sleeping with my naughty children they are in the bedroom. Hey are you kids getting something together?’-
-’We’re both in love with you Lucy.’- says Maggie
I sit back on the edge of the table, opposite a sleepy looking Lucia on screen. With Maggie standing in my arms, my thumbs in her red belt.
-’It’s incredibly hot here.’- says I, embarrassed to be seen. But Maggie delights in showing me off, posing with just the belt, and teasing me.
-’Hey that’s my belt Maggie , give it back!’-
-’Ha ha! Come and get it. Look I’m thinner. Can you see?’- She swivels sensuously against me.
It’s true, she has lost weight, she’s pretending mad passion, while Lucy, is flashing and posing with her towel.
But then our laughter dies. It’s just a game and we’re suddenly serious.
-’Maxie had a bloody premonition about us.’- says Maggie, unsmiling.
-’And they want me to do an appeal to the cops and military, not to fire, I can’t see them not firing, Maggie relaxed me but I’m still going mad… Lucita help me please!-’
-’Ya lo se, ya lo se, I know, I talked to Maxie and with Sol before. He has a free phone.’-
-’You did? He has? And what do you say?’-
-’Well um, you’re right Mister er, Brown. But you need to listen to Maxie. It’s not your fault they been setting up something much too dangerous. We can get that uh, symbol of victory, without risking a real life massacre. That’s my opinion.’-
-’Super Lucia, that makes sense anyway.’- says Maggie
-’But it’s too late, we can’t.. They’re sure to fire.’- I say.
-’If you’re gonna read the appeal you must be somewhere totally safe.
-’They want a mother’s voice, to order them to not shoot’- said Maggie.
-‘They told me that. Not you Maggie, if there’s anyone else. Maxie would do it well. But she’s got the heeby joobies.’- Lucy explains.
-’The heeby jeebies.’- we say together.
-’If Barney and Maxie will risk it so will I.’-
We’re facing the camera, my chin on her head. She’s rubbing her bum idly against me, while talking seriously with her girlfriend on the screen.
-’No no don’t risk anything. Sol says stay far away and make them build you a concrete box.’-
-’I’d feel bad with everyone else unprotected.’-
-’Sol had an idea for that. It’s crazy to sit in front of the soldiers. They could be all drugged up and forced to fire. Sol has the answer, um, an English word… Hey is Moonie in that pram?’-
-’What? Did you say Sol has the answer? The answer! The answer to what?’-
I’m half shouting. This is too surreal for me.
-’Can you point the camera in the pushchair Maggie.. oh Moonie sleeping, I love you. Pooty poo!’-
-’We’ll get onto Sol, he’s probably still filming with Max and Macker.’- says Maggie. Pulling the pram close and pointing the tiny camera at the sleeping kid inside.
-’Don’t go! I want to kiss Moonbeam, and you both.’-
-’When will you arrive Lucia? We’re missing you a lot.’-
-’The latest will be next month. Bernie and Josie will come first with my kids. Then the refugee children, about six hundred. If we don’t need papers they gonna send even a lot more. We’re having horrible problems. It’s a big bad dream for the legal team..’-
-’Gorgeous Lucy. Love to Bernie and Josie and your kids. We got to go I guess.’- says I.
Maggie wriggles provocatively in my arms. I don’t let go as I’m shy to be seen, like, not dressed.
-’You gotta promise me not to take any risks. If they can’t organize it right it’s not your fault. A concrete box or nothing okay!?’-
-’Okay darling a million kisses.’-
-‘Catch you later Lucy, thanks so much again.’- I’m looking for my tights.
I can see Lucia’s blurry lips, kissing her webcam. Plus the reflection of Maggie grinning.
She slips from my arms and skips aside. Suddenly flashing my body, I half turn, then resist the pathetic urge to cover myself. Maggie just had to beam Dumbo across Europe. I’m waving and blushing, and they’re squealing with laughter.
-’Bye bye Lucía.’-
-’Bye bye Maggie bye bye.’-
-’Bye Pardy.. I love you.’-
It takes us just a moment to dress. Maggie in her long yellow T shirt, with the red belt to go with her hood and cape. We’re putting on our shoes when the office bell rings.. Dingledong. and a knocking begins. It’s Maxie, looking wild and angry.
-’Oh Maxie honey I’m so happy you came up I’m sorry for what I said.’-
Maggie goes to embrace her but she moves smartly aside.
-’Sol asked me to come up as he couldn’t get away. Lucia has been ringing him. He wants me to tell you the answer.’-
-’The answer! Oh my Christ what’s the f****** answer?’- I’m cracking up with this stuff.
-’The request went straight through, there’s an all night Defence Assembly still going on. They’re getting lorryloads right now.’-
-’What? What? What are they getting?.. What is the answer?’-
I gasped and half choked. Blowing any fuses I had left.
-’Bales. Bales of straw. We’re gonna fill the whole square with strawbale barricades. Mass murder, or mass suicide. With a down home farmyard flavour.’-
-’This is Sol’s answer?’- I really expected something a bit more high tech.
-’Yup. Think about it. For the appeal you’ll have a concrete bunker behind the straw, I ordered the blocks, they’re delivered already. No problem at the Assembly. I said you had a tip off that they’re gonna shoot you!’-
-’It’s true. Oh Maxie how great you are, you’ve saved us. We really didn’t know what to do. Listen, can I help with the appeal then if we can’t find a better woman’s voice. I’m sorry I went against you, really I am.’-
-’I need to say sorry as well.’- says I, contritely bobbing my head.
-’Listen I’m not menstrual and I’m not stupid. You think I don’t know you’ve already decided what you’ll do, and to hell with my advice.’-
Maxie is shouting. But now grinning as well. She punches Maggie’s shoulder hard and turns as if to walk away.
-’Ah well, be a bleeding hero then..’-
But this time she lets Maggie embrace her, and the hugging moves on to a kiss, and looks set to become a regular session. So I switch off the main lights again, get my shirt off and go back to my notes. Some Defence Assembly fellas will be here in half an hour, and I’ve got a good idea now.
Lucy and Maggie have inspired me. The army and police are infiltrated and haven’t been paid. Maybe we really can do it!.
Five am. Thursday and the army is on its way here. Three convoys have converged on the motorway south of the city. Thousands of police are securing the route to the docks, skirting the city, passing some formerly middle class suburbs.
Pools TV is showing footage of hundreds of youths, throwing stones and the odd Molotov at the police cordons. Sprinting away from police charges. At a quarter past five, all the boats and ships in the harbour begin blowing their horns. See ref 21 Insurrection
Steven Chester heard the distant horns begin and glimpsed the sporadic rioting on both sides of their route. He was sitting in the back of an army truck. The motor coughed and popped, on hyper expensive adulterated petrol. Grinding along slowly, bumping over failed barricades, swerving round blocks and bricks. He was sitting with seventeen others, and fighting back panic. Plucking up courage for words.
Stevie wasn’t in the Pools or the Free Union, but he’d seen the leaflets, read the Credit Deal. It was the only way forward on offer. How could they expect him to work without being paid? And, on the list passed round the night before, he’d seen half a dozen ‘Chesters’, who had pledged to join the human blockade. He had sacrificed two red T shirts, sitting on the toilet and snipping dozens of strips, for the armbands he now had ready in his pockets.
-’Hey you fellas.’- he shouted at last. -’I hope none of you are opening fire this morning.’-
-’Right Chester.’- said the officer. -’One more word and you’re under arrest.’-
-’Go right ahead sir. But there’s ten of us in this truck. Anyone firing on our families will get shot down from behind!’-
-’That’s it Chester. Court Martial. You’re arrested.’-
There was a rising murmur of mutiny.
-’Arrest him and you can arrest me too.’-
-’You can fuck off Sir if you arrest Stevie.’-
-’Why can’t you leave him alone.’-
The officer was cursing and lurching in the swaying truck. Steven had taken out the armbands and was tying one on.
-’I heard on TV they’re not even doing Military Trials anymore.’- he said loudly -‘A red armband means you will refuse to fire. Not gas not bullets. And that they won’t shoot you.. Anybody want one?’-
-’Really? And they know that..? Okay give us one of them.’-
-’It’s true I heard that too.’-
-’Let’s all wear them. No point getting shot by mistake by our own side!’-
-’Which side are you on?’-
-’I don’t care either way. Half my school friends are Clanners or coppers!’-
Just then the lorry was pulling over. Chugging slowly to a definitive permanent stop.
-’That’s your lot lads.’- shouted the driver. -’This one’s empty as well. It ran on gasoline for Christ’s sake!
I had slept a little bit. But I was awake when all the boats’ hooters and tooters started going off. Still worried about my speech, but now in good spirits. Maggie and Maxie were sleeping together on the pull-out sofa.
Moonie got up in the pram and roared for her Mama.
I lifted her out to show her the view, but dada wouldn’t do. Then Maggie was up and took her, still undressed and groggy. Moonbeam was finally weaned, more or less, and fortunately as it turned out. She was practically three.
I dived into the little kitchen for the snacks.
-’We gotta get some cool air in here.’-
-’Who wants thyme tea with honey..I got the thyme and I got the honey!’- I said cleverly.
-’Me me please, a big mug.’- Maggie chimed
-’Me too… And the muffins?’-
-‘Where’s Macker, I’m worried about him.’- Maxie called
Dawn hadn’t even broken yet. Though the sky was lightening in the east, silhouetting black cranes.
Now the yunkers had a huge scrap wood fire and the dancing orange flames were lighting up the tents and the container wall. The concert was still going on. We could see a lot, breakfast was being served from steaming stalls, queues for the excellent compost toilets.
Groups were emerging from the marquees, linking arms and singing. Lining up to pass inside a container, placed lengthways with the ends opened, to get through to the outside of the container wall.
Whenever the horns abated we could hear singing and shouting from the crowd outside, mixed up with the concert music,
-’Looks like they went mad with the straw bales all right.’- says I, gazing down.
-’Looks brilliant’- said Maxie, embracing me from behind and proffering her muffin. -’We’d better get down there, I promised to be back by half six.’-
-’It’s not even half five, let’s go back to bed.’- says I, mock flirting, and she laughed, now lifting her mug to my lips. Now on tippy toes, she gave me a friendly head butt.
-’Good tea. Sorry I abandoned you for Maggie.’-
-’Lucky-me lucky me..’- Maggie chants.
-’I want up I want up.. look at the fire!’- Moonbeam began galloping about the penthouse office with her mum in pursuit. Attempting to whinny..
-’I was going to ask you to try and give me a premonition.’- said Maxie, seriously. -’But time ran out. Anyway Sol said it wasn’t likely to work.’-
-’Give you a premonition..?’- I didn’t understand her. She seemed to be crying, then I figured it out. -’Anyway I’m only an amateur sports masseur not a magician! I mean.. ‘-
-’An intense stalled climax with sycophantic mantra panting, is what he recommended I think.’-
-’Me me me, put me down for anything like that !’- said Maggie, now whirling Moonie round, in the chair. -’I’ve got your notes here Barney, and mine. Come on Maxie, have you seen my yellow dress? Let’s move let’s run..!’-
Maxie let out her held breath with a long shudder, and laughed, dripping more tears on me.
-’You’d better put Dumbo away properly then.’- She whispered laughing. -’I hear he’s been behaving abdominally..’-
-’Ha ha, very good .. He’s had to change his name.. keeping his head down.. ‘-
-’Oh yeah? Tell me quick and you get a lick.’- she bantered, lecherously.
-’Come on now.. we’re gone gone gone! We gotta get Moonie to the Cresh first.’-
That’s when the bell rang again and Macker, Sol and Jerry finally arrived.
-’My friends my friends.’- Sol rushed in, arms wide. -’Here you are in a hotel office! Perfecto! Can we film from the roof?’-
Maxie ran to Macker and they embraced at the door, like they’d been separated for years..
-’We’re here to c-collect you. Pardy you’re wanted below to do an appeal.’- said Jerry. Giving me a shy squeeze..
-’I’m ready.’- said Maggie -’We just got to drop off Moonie at the Cresh.’-
-’We could take Moonie there.’- said Maxie, still embracing Macker, with tears streaming down her face. -’If you two want to go on ahead.’-
-’Good idea. But why are you crying Maxie?’-
-’I don’t know I…”-
-’Hi super Moonbeam you wanna play with me?’-
Macker had hunkered down and Moonie rushed into his arms and swung around and around.
-’We are filming here just five minutes please please we need these shots from above for editing after.’-
-’Yes Sol here’s the key, you go up the lift shaft.’- says I, fishing in my pockets.
-’They’re going on ahead.’-
-’Don’t forget. No risks. Keep your heads right down.’-
-’I promise. We promise.’-
-’Let’s go then.’-
-’Bye bye Maggie bye bye…’-
Moonie was keen to stay with Macker and Maxie, who were waving, arm in arm.
Waving like crazy till the lift doors cut them off. It ended in a rush.
-’Bye bye Maggie Bellows, bye bye..’-
James Smith was up all night as well. Sitting alone in his little flat. Then pacing up and down. Listening in to police and army channels with a scanner, and checking out the live TV coming from the docks.
Then sliding up his window to greet a dawn-full of wailing sirens. Near and far away.
Shouts and breaking glass, he pulled the curtains and flicked off the light. A dozen masked Clan Warrior were retreating down his street.
Flinging the odd rock at the riot police. who now stopped, half hearted, and began sitting down, and lighting cigarettes.
James pulled his window down, closed the curtain and decided to start work.
The army convoy was passing along the seafront, just a kilometer from where he lived.
We all had to walk through a lorry container that was cut to open at both ends, to get out to the wide intersection. There it was already full of people sitting down, and we headed across towards a green flag as instructed.
The waterside stretch of bare tarmac was transformed.
Spotlights on the barricade wall lit up huge banners, reflecting on circles of friends and families.
All sitting on carpet and tarpaulins, and straw-bale barricades.
And it wasn’t raining!
A Pools radio station was playing in the background, shouts and laughter, and babies bawling.
Maggie took my hand and we picked our way through, nodding, greeting people, past a first-aid station, then a group with buckets of water, for tear gas grenades.
There were dozens of yunkers in red headbands, reception groups for cops or squaddies who might change sides.
-’Some hope.’- says I to Maggie. -‘More likely we’ll all get arrested.’-
Our bunker was just concrete blocks piled in a wall five high, behind bales of straw.
A table with chairs and two mikes, a tiny bubble car parked in the middle.
And young people, tekkies and media types talking to us all at once.
A small boy with his mother was reading a poem about his rabbit.
-’Welcome you’re just in time.’-
-’If they fire gas jump in the car. It’s sealed tight so you can go on talking.’-
-’I hope I’ll fit in.’- I said. Fumbling with my notes. -‘Maggie will share the appeal, we’re doubled up.’-
-’Very cool. They’ve been installing a backup PA, since we heard they want to kill you.’-
-’We’re safe from bullets here anyway I hope.’-
-’They’d need to fire a tank to get you.’- he said. Which didn’t reassure me very much.
-’Can you just try out the mike for you voice levels, you can chat with the people a bit.’-
-’Oh shit. Oh crap. This really might not work.’-
-’Just keep cool, we’re gonna enjoy ourselves if possible.’- said Maggie’-.
-’Five minutes. Five minutes.’- someone shouted.
The boy had finished his poem and a chain of people handed me the microphone. All nodding and smiling comically.
-’Hello hello’.- My voice boomed and shrieked, I held the mike back a bit. -’Hello everybody me and Maggie here are doing the appeal to the cops and soldiers at this gate, in just a few minutes from now. Congrats everyone from all over the country here on this historic morning. Congratulations on your courage and patience.’-
I paused because there was loud clapping and cheering.
Then I realized they were cheering me. This was a very easy crowd to please.
-’They’ve asked me to repeat advice for people still arriving. A lot of the soldiers are wearing red armbands. Which means they won’t fire anything at us. But others could fire gas. We pick up the grenades with gloves or a cloth and put them in the water buckets. Luckily there’s a strong breeze blowing away from us.
If they try their ancient water cannon or plastic bullets, or if some mad soldier shoots real bullets, we shelter behind the bales of straw. The water cannon lasts just two minutes. The baton rounds… If the first salvo doesn’t work we hope they’ll stop. Many of them we know will refuse to fire.’-
-’Now all you groups of reception volunteers need to spread more along the front. Could we just… ‘
I was reading from a shaky piece of paper. My voice echoing down from speakers up on the barricade wall.
Lerriman the Prime Minister was awake, fully dressed and furious, with his private secretary and bodyguard. In the study of his suburban residence.
Now he slammed down the telephone, red faced, eyes bulging, across the room Barrington was tapping helplessly at a second line.
-’Now they’ve cut the sodding phone lines on us!’-
Earlier in the night a crowd of Clanners from Ryefield had penetrated to his back garden, outflanking the demoralized police, charging down back lanes and through gardens.
Lerriman had been shocked, outraged and finally openly terrified.
The Special Police had fired in the air.
Evil smelling gas had seeped under the doors.
Now, like almost everyone else, he tuned in to the syndicated Pools radio, suddenly hearing Barney’s deep cajoling voice.
-’First of all we appeal to them not to fire. They have permission to shoot in the air, but we ignore that. Then we’ll be inviting them to come over. Each reception group will escort some of them through the tunnel.
So they’ll get breakfast inside while we process them okay. We cheer them as they come.
Now we need to hold up the banners and flags of all the Pools and areas represented here. Just ones that have the name on them, all right. If they see the name of where they’re from that’ll help. That’s cool yes, for the TV cameras as well.
What else, can you just take notice now where is your nearest First-Aid station.
In case anyone gets hurt. Um, that’s all the warning I think..
We’re in this together now. We just gotta stand firm no matter what happens.
There’s just no room here for panic or running okay.
We stand together for freedom, we stand for… ‘-
Barney stopped speaking. Immediately everyone heard the sirens, lots of them, and now far away the roar of engines.
An audible sigh, a giant gasp rose up from the crowd, as everyone felt fear. Maggie had taken the microphone.
-’Hullo there this is Maggie Bellows from Ragwort Pool.’- she said. Her voice echoing off the wall of containers, and out by TV and radio round the world.
-’I’d just like to congratulate all the people, especially the women and children here this morning. I’m here to appeal to the soldiers as a mother when they arrive in a few minutes.
I think we have time for one more song, to keep our spirits up.’-
Maggie started off, in a low clear voice, that boomed nevertheless as everyone joined in..
Maxie was on top of the container wall, with a dozen media people, using the second video camera, connected to Sol’s for snap editing. She’d zoomed in on Maggie, leading the singing, and panned slowly across the crowds , while Macker was holding one of the microphones to Brian Harper, a defence speaker.
-’Yes we can see them clearly from here now.’- He was saying. -’Armoured cars coming over the river bridge, um, I can see a water-cannon and what look like a tank. Or very large bulldozer. A lot of troop carriers. It’s an enormous convoy..
The last of the boats is going of sight. Soldiers stuck all over it like dummies. As you say Jimmy that looks like a diversion, er. We still have a couple of those drone planes overhead… Now I’m handing you back to Myra on the quays.’-
Barney was glancing through his notes, some moving words, some fine sounding phrases. He felt Maggie’s hand squeezing his.
One of the young Tekkies tapped him on the arm.
-’We think they’re in range of our directional speakers now.’-
Barney took a deep breath and began.
-‘Cheerful and friendly’ he thought. Like an early morning disc jockey. -’Ha ho ho. Jolly fine show.’-
-’Sing away folks.’- he began. -’If you can hear yourselves above this thing. Hey Howaya doing. I’m told you fellas over in the police and army can maybe hear me now.
Well good morning to you all from the Federation of CoOperative Pools, and I hope you’re not going to shoot me, or anybody else here this fine morning, er. Well I have a list here, greetings. A long list of your families here in the street. And the appeal, like, the Credit Deal we’re offering.
. So this is the Deal. If you come over this morning. First we have a good breakfast ready. Then full rights for yourselves and families, that’s food, housing, health, learning, old age, sport. And yes ladies and gents, on special offer today, a Poolers credit card and whatever else is going.
Some of you are wearing red armbands to show you won’t open fire, Well nor will we, so you can relax okay!…
So that’s the situation folks, there’s about twenty thousand of us sitting here in front of the gates. Like whole families with our kids and grannies and all, really.
We’re not moving and anyway there’s nowhere to run. It’s all sealed up with containers, okay? Just so you know the score, like.
We’re here to defend the dockers’ rights. We want to get the docks moving again. Problem is a few rich and powerful people will lose their little money-spinner, right. As you know they got the government over a barrel because they control their debts.
Now each one of you has an important choice to make this morning, Are you listening now? Will you obey the last wishes of the corrupt and bankrupt government. Or the wishes of the people. Who in fact you were hired to serve and defend?’-
The front of the column was two old tanks and a water cannon, led incongruously by dented and paint splattered police vans. The three tanks clanked slowly to a halt, across the big wide intersection.
While the lorries and Armoured Personnel Carriers began unloading behind them.
The people chanting and waving their flags and banners.
-’Welcome friends.’- Barney persevered. –‘It’s almost time to decide now. If you all refuse to fire they can’t punish you all. Oh yes and don’t believe that bullshit by the way, about double pay and bringing back pensions. If they had money they would’ve paid you for last month.’-
The soldiers and riot police were being led out and lined up in front of the tanks.
-’If you follow their insane orders you’re gonna massacre your own families.
It’s not on lads and you know it. Okay I know it’s a terrible hard thing to do. Now see this passage on your left. You need to make for the red flags, through a tunnel to safety.
I repeat, go with the reception groups with the flags and red hats.
Breakfast is that way okay. Good good I’m told a lot of you have armbands.
Now here’s Maggie Bellows with the requests. ‘-
Barney knew he was doing really well, the sound system was just excellent, the crowd were buzzing support on every word, the police and army seemed unprepared to counter an appeal. But the soldiers were still mechanically following orders.
-’Come on Maggie.’- he whispered as she began. -’See if you can wake them up!’-
Anthony Burns was confused and afraid, trooping out with all the others from behind the water-cannon and tanks [See afterword Revolutionary Fiesta
But more than anything he was extremely irritated. He was afraid his anger would overcome his fear.. Could he just run across? But he had no armband. Some woman had started to read out names, ludicrous! His own brother and sister were probably here.
Anthony moved forward to the megaphone orders from behind, line after line, lining up sheepishly to do their duty.
And now he was shaking with frustration.
It was impossibly wrong, but he couldn’t break ranks.
Then Tony did a simple brilliant thing.
He lifted his arm from his gun, and began to wave.
Immediately his wave was answered, dozens, then hundreds of people were waving, and the soldiers. Yes, they were starting to wave back!
There were shouts, then laughter, and broad city voices, cheering and jeering, then everyone was waving and laughing on both sides.
The tension had snapped, the crowd was edging forwards, clambering over straw bales.
A meter. Five meters.
At the front a big gang of women, pulling off their helmets, darting and lunging forward. The reception groups with red flags, throwing down sticks and shields.
Maxie and Macker were following through the opening gap.
Then they found themselves suddenly flat on the tarmac.
-’Okay fantastic that’s it just come on over!’-
At one moment I heard my own laugh. Echoing above the tumult. In the next loud bangs. Some soldiers or officers fired plastic bullets.
And everyone started diving behind the straw-bales or holding up their shields.
And in the same chaotic moments the Special Commandos by the river took the opportunity to open fire.. a laser guided anti tank grenade.. at what they took to be the command post. The ‘bunker’ where me and Maggie were speaking from.
They had received an order to silence the subversive speakers at all costs.
And of course our defence forces fired back, the State had trumped our pacifistic bluff.
The Specials got a hail of pellets as a dozen shotguns opened up on them from on top of the wall.
I’ve seen film of them writhing and falling and crawling into their boat, abandoning their weapons.
And me? I was just swimming lazily down. No no. Now I was drowning.
I was somehow trapped underwater, no, of course.
I was buried under blocks and bales of straw.
-’Barney. Tell them to stop shooting. Tell them to stop shooting. The Specials opened fire but they’re stopped. Barney tell them to...’-
These messages were repeating in my headphones. Yes.. I was getting a message.
I realized I still had the mike in my fist, I was getting more info…
-‘Okay that’s it you can all stop shooting now.’- I heard myself say.
And it seemed that the microphone worked.
-’Everyone stop shooting immediately that’s it. The shooting is over.’-
I was hearing myself, but with a high nauseous whine.
In reality the plastic bullets had stopped because rebels in red armbands had trained their guns on the perpetrators.
A historic mass mutiny was happening and I was an important part of it.
While in fact I saw nothing at all, I was injured and buried under the straw and blocks!
Just then Brian’s voice came on the backup PA. From up on the containers.
My part was finished. What a relief.
But on cue I felt an unbearable rush of pain surging through me..
-’Excellent stuff that’s great now all you fellas move to your left.’- Brian was saying. -’Where you’ll meet your welcome groups and pass through the tunnels..That’s it quick as you can, all you guys behind the tank can start moving forward.. .Let’s just forget about shooting and murder and go for breakfast instead.. I heard they’re doing eggs on toast for twenty thousand back there..’-
I could hear wild cheering as the crowds merged. I’d managed to get into a semi crouch. But I couldn’t push up. Panicking now, groaning and crying out, as I realized I was terribly hurt.
-’Help me Maggie, Maggie I’m buried.’-
I was bleeding to death. Drifting off, panting and crying..
Just trying to pump blood round and stay alive. I heard Maxie yelling and wailing.
Then I was out. They were pulling me out.
Out to a bright white nightmare.
Hundreds of shocked white faces were staring at me, as the crowds surged out behind a cordon of Clanners.
-’I’m still alive.’- I grunted. I was trying to lift an arm.
I noticed my hand was missing one finger, with a second, hanging horribly by a bit of skin.
And that I had one boot filling up with blood and..
I noticed Maggie lying on her back.
Smiling, eyes glazed. In a big pool of red paint.
And Macker and Maxie kneeling in it. Sobbing and keening.
I saw the paramedics, looking embarrassed..
And I knew that Maggie was dead.
I did manage to hop over and kiss her goodbye, I wasn’t dying after all. Her face was untouched, Maxie was wrong about that, and her smile was almost perfect. But she was missing an arm, and when I got close I saw she’d lost the back of her head as well..
Her brains were spilling out the back like bits of grey and red jelly. I tried to push them back in with my good hand, which was pretty silly..
I was holding onto Maxie and Macker and all of us crying.
Some doctor was covering Maggie with a coat.
-’We’ve won. We’ve won We’ve won We’ve won.’-
-’Welcome fellas, where are you lads from?’-
-’We’re brothers, from Merton Town..’-
-’Okay that’s great your people will be over here with the Selldry Pool. Hey why don’t we take you there and I’ll explain..’-
I don’t remember the next part well, I got a sedative. They took me on a fast trolley, with a gang of yunkers clearing the way, like a football star injured in the final moments of some famous victory.
When our crowds rushed forward they had swallowed up the entire army and police contingent, spilling back to completely fill the only road out. The reception groups suddenly had masses of help, and were welcoming and negotiating the surrender.
They were escorting groups of soldiers in all directions, joining the banners of their home areas.
While a few officers, round their command post, were still trying to arrest people., and even firing in the air, others maybe just ten meters away, were donning red armbands, and supervising the changeover.
I was out of it, like being taken ill at a fantastic party, but I don’t remember much pain. Now Sol was trotting beside us, Maxie holding my good hand, and pushing the trolley through the container tunnel.
-’What about Moonbeam, we have to pick up Moonbeam.’- I was actually lucid.
The top part of the trolley slid off, straight into a new white Red Cross ammonia ambulance, Maxie and Macker jumped in as well and we were off. They were prepared for hundreds of casualties, so I got star treatment.
We just held hands and cried, it came in waves. Every minute I’d think again of Maggie. What she’d said or done, or just her laugh, or how she’d shake back her hair, or her freckles or..
And every memory triggered a wave of pain and grief.
Maxie suffered more than me, biting herself bloody and pounding the ambulance wall till the driver complained.
Macker just stared at the floor and cried.
-’Listen.‘- says he to Maxie. -‘Why don’t I go uh, why don’t I go back for Moonie and take her home, okay? And you look after Barney.’-
Maxie kept grabbing him; we were arriving at the clinic already. She wasn’t able for talking just then and neither was I.
-’Bye bye Maggie bye bye..’