Magnificent Joe
his mouth shut, neither he nor Geoff would want to work alongside Jim now.
    The worst part was that Jim hadn’t planned, or even wanted, to hit Barry. It burst out of nowhere. Everyone had seen him do it, just like the stupid ex-convict he was, and just when he thought things were getting better. Jim put his hands over his face and sighed. ‘Oh God. You fucking idiot.’
    Then the phone rang.
    â€˜Hello?’
    â€˜I’ve just done you a big fucking favour.’ Barry, in a low voice, as if he was worried he might be overheard. ‘Carol wanted to call the fucking police. I told her not to be so daft.’
    â€˜Right. Thanks.’
    â€˜Nothing’s broken, you’ll be pleased to hear.’
    â€˜Oh.’
    â€˜ Oh . Is that all?’
    â€˜Yeah. That’s all.’ There was no point giving him an apology now.
    â€˜You’re a miserable cunt.’
    â€˜Well, that makes two of us, then. Goodbye, Barry.’
    â€˜Hold on, hold on.’
    â€˜What?’
    â€˜I’ve thought about it. Mebbes you’re right. Not about her, like – she’s a fucking slag – but y’know, about rocking the boat and that.’
    â€˜I never said anything about rocking the boat. I just told you not to be a twat.’
    â€˜Well, I’m saying about it now. So listen to me, you bastard. I’m not going to tell him – yet – but I’ve got this one on you, right? So don’t fuck me about anymore.’
    â€˜Fuck you about?’
    â€˜What I mean, Jim, is that you need to remember who the fucking boss is around here, OK?’
    â€˜And that’s you, is it?’
    â€˜Yes, it fucking well is. I’ll see you on Monday.’ Barry hung up.

‌ ‌ 9
May 2001
    Geoff sat in an armchair in his family’s living room and stared into space. The carriage clock on the mantelpiece said it was eight thirty. Geoff was still in his pyjamas, and his tea was going cold.
    Jim was in the kitchen polishing the men’s good shoes. Now and again he looked up through the doorway at Geoff, who hadn’t moved for a while. Jim just concentrated on getting the shoes nice and shiny; right now, it seemed like the best way he could help. Not that any of them would thank him. They almost hadn’t let him in the house, but Geoff insisted.
    Eventually, Geoff’s brother came down and roughly patted Geoff’s shaven scalp. ‘Cheer up, you fat fucker. You’ve done bloody well for yourself.’
    â€˜Yeah,’ Geoff said, and then he didn’t say anything else.
    Jim watched them for a few seconds, blinked, and went back to the polishing. Geoff’s brother walked into the kitchen and rummaged for something in the cupboard under the sink. He ignored Jim. Then he went back upstairs.
    Jim finished the last shoe and called through to Geoff, ‘Come on, mate, let’s get a move on, eh?’
    Geoff nodded slowly and stood up.
    They went upstairs to the room Geoff used to share with his brother. Jim hadn’t been in this room since they were teenagers. It still had the two single beds in it, although Geoff had moved out six months ago and got a place with Laura. Jim pointed with his foot at Geoff’s old bed. ‘Is there still a stash of Razzle under there?’
    â€˜Dunno,’ muttered Geoff.
    Jim decided that there probably wasn’t, and started to pull the plastic off the rented suits.
    Geoff dressed slowly, fumbled with the buttons. Jim finished long before him and sat on one of the beds to wait. Eventually, Geoff turned and said, ‘Look all right?’
    â€˜Aye, like a real groom.’
    â€˜Good.’ Geoff paused. ‘I’m sorry you’re not my best man. It’s just…’
    â€˜They wouldn’t like it. I know. I’m an ex-con.’
    Geoff shook his head. ‘Don’t say that. It’s in the past.’ He paused. ‘You’re doing well.’
    â€˜There’s a

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