Dead Good (as D A Cooper)

Dead Good

by D A Cooper

This sucks.
            Not only does it suck, it stinks. And I mean that literally too. This sucks and stinks so much I couldn’t even begin to tell you. And not only this place – this literal stinky, shitty, sucky place that I’m standing in right now – but this whole situation stinks. And sucks.
            Did I mention it sucks?
            Okay, so I shouldn’t blame it all on my mum and dad – that wouldn’t be fair. It’s not their fault we’re here – in this stinking, sucking shit-hole. Well, not really their fault. At least not mum’s fault anyway. It’s dad’s fault for losing his stupid sucky (but incredibly well-paid) job at the bank – that’s who’s bloody fault it is.
            Although it might be more Gordon’s Brown’s fault than anyone else’s.  Him and his stupid, crappy Credit Crunch.  I mean that was his idea, right?

            I’ve only got as far as the stupid second-hand hallway and I’m sighing just like my mum sighs. |And I’m not even sixteen yet.  Mum keeps telling me to calm down. Relax. It’s not as bad as I’m making out. She’s even had the nerve to tell me that I’m making situations worse than they already are. Worse. Worse? I’m telling you, I couldn’t make this situation worse if I emptied five bags of horse crap right here in the hallway and rubbed it into the walls with my bare hands.   I just wish that all I had to do right now was screw up my eyes and concentrate really hard and we’d all be back at Juniper Gardens and dad would have his job back and I had my old phone contract with unlimited texts.

            Usually I’m all for having a day off school – even if it means I’ve got a stinking, snotty cold, but a day for moving house?  Hmm, I can think of better ways to spend a skive. And this one hasn’t even included a curl up next to Mum with a blanket wrapped round me and a silly girly DVD or even an old Disney movie to watch.  Although this day has been painful like I’ve been sick.  It’s proper hurt – no, seriously it has. 

            Davey doesn’t care. He’s my kid brother.  He’s only three, what does he know anyway? To him everything’s a freaking playground. He’d help me rub horse crap into the walls and love every minute of it. Oh and - and he wouldn’t get told off for doing it either because he’d be… what is it mum calls it when he does something completely gross? Oh yeah – he’d be “expressing his personality” or “his individuality” or something else philosophical. God I wish I was his age again - I’d do a hell of a lot worse than I’m sure I did back then. I was an angel compared with Davey.

            ‘All set then?’ My dad pushes past me with a sagging box, smiling as if I’m not actually standing here. And what’s with the face? Why does he have to pretend he’s happy when I know perfectly well that he’s not? He spent most of last night stroking my mum’s hair back off her face and telling her everything was going to be alright and then after she’d gone to bed I heard him having a sneaky smoke out the laundry room window and he looked proper sad and a bit teary. I’d hate it if I saw him cry, though, it’d make everything a trillion times worse to the power of a gazillion.  He’s My Dad – he’s got to hold it together – that’s what a Dad does, isn’t it?
            So if it’s not him, it’s gotta be me.  I’m second in line with the reality glue.  Mum’s too soft at times.
            ‘Maddie? Madeline? Can you give us a hand here a minute, lovey?’ Her  voice snakes down the hallway from the kitchen past all the metaphorical shit I’ve just been rubbing into the walls. Davey has no idea. He’s perfectly content pulling off the paint that’s already peeling off the skirting boards and doorframes.
            ‘I thought this place was “recently redecorated”?’ I growl sarcastically as I reach the kitchen and take the groceries mum is pulling out of the store boxes, placing them on the work top. My mum’s eyes roll slightly as she watches me. ‘What?’ I frown at her.
            ‘Can’t you just open a cupboard and put some stuff away for me, Maddie?’ my mum says, ignoring my barbed comment brilliantly, as she sometimes does.  ‘I mean is it too much to ask that you use your brain for something other than just finding more things to moan about?’
            ‘Sorr-ree,’ I snip back, opening the closest eye-level cupboard.  Suddenly I leap back in horror.  ‘Eeeww! What the freakin’ hell is that?’ I watch as two huge brown bugs dive through the air from the open door then land and lurch about wildly on their backs from the safety of the sink. I peer cautiously at them as they continue to flail and wonder why the hell stainless steel is called “stainless” when clearly it’s a mess. I bite back the urge to ask mum this question, though. Now is not the best time and she’d probably only start getting all weird on me about not paying enough attention to lessons on metals and their properties. I’ll Google it later. Less hassle.  I watch as mum simply scoops up the flailing creatures, opens the nearest window and calmly places them outside.
            ‘There,’ she says, slapping her empty hands, ‘they’ll live to see another cupboard, I’m sure.’
            Ee-ew, gross.  How do adults manage to do such grossed-out things without throwing up?
            ‘What the hell were they?’ I wince.
            ‘Oh, beetles of some description,’ she says smiling, ‘cockroaches probably, I’m not sure. Pass me those cornflakes will you?’
            On a scale of one to ten, a gazillion trillion would only go halfway there and there’d still be more room for grossness. This place not only sucks, it has things that suck in it. Living inside it. For all I know those two whatever-the-freak-they-were’s, - have parents somewhere in this shit-hole of a house and now they’ll be looking for their kids – they’ll be looking for the last place they saw them – in that cupboard up there – and they won’t find them. Then they’ll seek revenge. They’ll call an extra-ordinary meeting of all their friends and family and after they’ve split up and hidden in every cupboard in every room of this dump; we’ll all be eaten alive in our beds tonight. Shit. I wish I hadn’t just thought all that. I can see them now, lining up in rows like the Nazi’s did – cockroaches with swastikas on their shells – planning their attack on the Preston family in their new home. Brilliant. Why wasn’t I given a thought-eraser when imaginations were handed out?
            ‘Finding your feet, family?’ Dad plonks another saggy box down in front of us.  He kisses mum briefly on the cheek and doesn’t wait for a response before he’s off again, back to the car to get another box. Mum doesn’t even look up.
            ‘This one says bathroom,’ I read the label on the side. ‘Is that upstairs, downstairs or….’ I stare past her shoulder through the kitchen window, ‘at the bottom of the garden?’ I know I’m pushing my luck.
            ‘There’s no need to be like that, Maddie,’ she thrusts a multi-bag of crisps at me, ‘Here, put these in a cupboard your brother can’t reach, will you?’
            ‘Shouldn’t they really go in a cupboard the cockroaches can’t reach?’ I push a bit more.
            Mum doesn’t reply, which sometimes feels worse than when she does, to be honest. I know I’m testing her patience – she tells me I am, often enough. I should be taking a GCSE in it. She’s told me that more than once too. But we shouldn’t have to be here. We shouldn’t have to be living like this – in this place – this shitty, stinking sucky hole of a house. This is not how it is supposed to happen.  I’m allowed to be obnoxious today, surely?
            After all, these years are the most important years of my life – they’re my formative years – the ones which are going to help shape my future no matter which way they go – and usually they’re supposed to go well. Not crappily. You know what? I could quite easily end up really damaged by these few days alone. I might already have deep psychological problems that will take years of therapy to get to the bottom of and I’ll need tablets and counselling until I’m probably way into my twenties at this rate.
            And it’s all because of Gordon effing Brown. At least I think it is. He’s the one who’s made all the banks go bust, right? So he’s the one who’s made my dad lose his job and consequently he’s the one who’s dragged us out of our lovely four bedroom detached house with double garage and two point five bathrooms and forced us to squash inside this poky three bedroom semi on Ferndale Way.  My heart tugs painfully again as I stare bleakly at my surroundings.
            It’s disgusting. It looks like the place was bombed during the First World War and just someone’s gone round with a sponge – not even a proper paintbrush – and a tin of cheap Magnolia – and not even bothered if they’ve covered all the brown and black crap up.  I bet Gordon Brown doesn’t live in a place like this. I bet he doesn’t even know places like this exist. I bet he wouldn’t want to know places like this exist even if someone told him – or drew him a picture.
            My mind is buzzing and I have a deep desire to Google.  Immediately. I have to find out Gordon Brown’s e-mail address and tell him exactly what a mess he’s made of my life. And my family’s of course – when he realises what he’s done and what he’s made us have to move from – and to, and the fact that there’re children involved – hell, Davey’s only just out of Pampers he shouldn’t be in this shit-hole of a danger zone with all kinds of poisonous creepy-crawlies hiding in every cupboard.     No, Gordon has to do something. He’ll have to get us moved somewhere else. Otherwise he’ll have the Preston family’s misery – perhaps even slow, painful death-by-cockroach on his conscience for the rest of his life, at least the rest of his term in office – and that would be a very bad thing to have to live with.
            Just as I hear mum mutter something under her breath about ‘fat lot of help’ and ‘me, me, me’, I round the corner to the stairs and as I carefully approach the bottom step I’m suddenly halted by a dense, tall  mist moving across the landing like it’s got legs and is walking.  It seems to stall briefly at the top like it’s watching me down here. I freeze. All the hairs on my head and my arms stand to attention. My eyes won’t blink as I stand unable to move and then it disappears.
            ‘Switch the hot water heater on while you’re up there, Maddie.’ Mum calls through, and it feels like the channel has been changed on the telly. I’ve gone from watching ‘Most Haunted’ to being in the middle of a scene from ‘Eastenders’ and I’m still standing at the bottom of the stairs when she reaches me.  She’s wiping her hands on a tea towel. ‘Did you hear me?’ she follows my gaze to the top of the landing. ‘What’s up?’ she says.
            ‘Nothing.’ I say hopefully.

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