Little Jim pulled open his packet of ?SpiceMan? crisps and stuffed a few
into his mouth, it was a hot day and the crisps were very salty. Jim
neatly folded over the top of the half eaten crisps and slid them into
the outside pocket of his rucksack. He was aware that he really should
be at school in ?Liverpool Boys?, doing a mathematics exam; every time
he saw someone slightly official looking he walked the other way. He
had packed his new ?Bod? radio to show off to his friends, it nestled
next to his lunch box. It was too late for Jim to change his mind about
skipping school, he would already have been missed. Jim was regretting
his decision to bunk off, he was feeling rather alone. He had just
enough money left for a cold drink so he made his way to Forton's, they
had a fridge full of cold drinks. The other shops sold drinks but only
Forton's kept them cold! The only trouble with Forton's was that they
didn't sell his favourite crisps, ?SpiceMan?. Jim made his way to the
big red sign at the end of the shopping precinct, he passed a few old
ladies who gave a look that said ?shouldn't you be in school young
man.? Looking up Jim could see some dark clouds approaching the sun,
maybe thunder later he thought. A beeper sounded as Jim opened the
door, this brought out a tall young man from whatever he was doing in
the back in the back of the store. He looked a little annoyed and kept
his eye closely on Jim. Jim stared through the glass of the
refrigerator door, wondering which cold bottle or can would most
satisfy his thirst. He could see some orange drinks on the lower shelf,
maybe they had some ?Smooth Orange,? as he bent down his rucksack
knocked over a display stand. Sweets and chocolates cascaded to the
floor, some of them actually hitting him. Jim immediately righted the
stand and began putting the sweets and chocolates back into their
places, all the sections were labelled.
?Oi!? Shouted the shop assistant, ?look what you've done!? The tall man
started to make his way around the counter, towards Jim.
?Sorry, I just wanted to buy a drink, it was an accident.? Jim saw that
his crisps had somehow come out of his rucksack pocket and he reached
out for them. The tall man's hand got there first. Jim didn't want to
lose his crisps so he spoke up.
?They're mine, I bought them!? Little Jim squared up to the tall man. ?I
think that you were thinking of stealing them, in fact?, the tall man
looked closer at the crisps ?you have already eaten some!? He opened up
the packet, looked inside and then placed the packet on a high shelf.
?That's not fair! You don't even sell them here! How am I supposed to
steal something from you that you don't sell!?? Jim was annoyed and
scared at the same time. An older man came from the back of the shop,
his voice was calm, unlike the tall man.
?What is the problem? You speak first boy.? He looked straight at Jim,
he looked neither angry or happy.
?This man says that I stole those crisps up on the shelf, but you don't
sell 'SpiceMan' crisps in here! I knocked over the stand by accident, I
was putting the stuff back on it. All I wanted to do was buy a drink.
I'm sorry I knocked the stand over.? Jim looked to the older man for a
response. The older man looked at the tall man and spoke slowly.
?The boy is right, we do not sell those crisps in here Barry, give him
them back.? Barry complied, rather slowly. The old man was clearly in
?The lad came to buy a drink Barry. It's a hot day.? He looked at Jim
?what would you like lad?? Jim thought quickly.
?A 'Smooth Orange' please.? Said Jim.
?That will be one pound, do you have the money?? The old man looked at
?Oh yes, that's what I came for!? Barry took a 'Smooth Orange' from the
refrigerator and accepted Jim's pound with a nasty smile.
?Here is your receipt? said the nasty smiling Barry.
Jim put the drink and his receipt into the rucksack and looked back at
the two men. The older man was headed towards the back room store,
Barry was still hanging around in the shop looking at something in his
hand, he was smiling; when he saw Jim looking back the smile went
?Off you go! And keep your receipt safe!? Said Barry as he stared at the
thing in his hand. Jim left the shop and noticed that the sky had grown
much darker now, even though it was probably not even lunch time it
looked like the street lights should be coming on. He was glad to get
out of that shop, Jim headed towards home, towards a telling off that
would come probably after an email or a letter from school. He looked
through shop windows at things he could only dream of buying. He
thought of the reason why he bunked off school, a mathematics test that
he had not studied for. It was probably multiple choice, he could have
passed with common sense alone perhaps?
?Oi!? It was that Barry guy again. ?I have called the police! You stole
ten pounds from the shop. Nobody steals from Barry Thompson!?
?Rubbish! I haven't stolen anything.? Jim turned and faced the smiling
?Look at your receipt!? Barry commanded. Jim rooted around his rucksack
pocket and found the receipt, wrapped inside was was a ten pound note.
He was astonished.
?I didn't take this, you must have given it to me by mistake, you can
have it back right now.? Jim went to offer the money back.
?Too late boy, the police have been called and they are just behind me.
They will probably be interested in why a schoolboy is not in school,
and why he has the dye from a marked ten pound note on his fingers.?
Barry's smile was even more horrible now. The sound of sirens became
louder, blue flashing lights shone through the thundery gloom. Jim
decided to run. He ran and ran. His pursuers seemed to be just behind
him, no matter how fast he ran. Jim could hear the sirens getting
closer, everyone he passed by was looking at him oddly. Jim felt that
he would rather be at school doing the mathematics test that he hadn't
prepared for. He was perspiring heavily, the air was so hot, even the
wind passing his face was warm. Jim did some quick turns down some
narrow streets: left, right, right, left and into a blind alley! Spots
of rain began to fall, the air smelled sharp like steel, fresh as cut
grass. Jim ran towards a tall brick built tower. He had no idea of the
original purpose of the tower (it was originally one end of a bridge,
there was a larger bridge down stream that took all the traffic now).
There was a fluorescent warning tape barrier across the steps leading
upwards, Jim ducked under the tape and rushed up the steps. Half way up
he saw an opening, a square hole about shoulder height. Jim pulled
himself up and peered inside the opening. The drop to the smooth
concrete bottom was daunting but possible. Jim lowered his rucksack as
far down inside the drop as he could and then let it fall. As his
belongings hit the floor they made a dull crunching sound. He hoped
that his Bod radio had survived the fall. Jim crawled through the hole
and lowered himself down until he was hanging by his fingertips. His
feet stung as he hit the bottom, dust was disturbed, it smelled of wet
cement. The only light came from the hole that he had entered by and
from a few higher holes way above him. The rain outside became very
heavy, there was distant thunder. Jim was glad to be out of the rain,
he felt very safe in here, who would look in this place? He took the
bottle of orange drink from the side pocket of his rucksack and drank
half of it all at once. There was a bright flash of light from the
windows above, followed by the ripping sound of thunder. The rain,
already heavy, increased in volume. Jim was safe and dry. He searched
through his bag and found his packed lunch that he should have eaten at
school. The wind became stronger, it managed to stir up some litter in
the corner of Jim's bare concrete room, Jim's attention was distracted
away from the lunch box towards a swirling crisp packet. A flash from
the storm briefly lit the far corner, there were a couple of beer cans
that rolled together with a feeble thunk, the crisp packet was caught
in a little vortex and danced over to the beer cans. Jim remembered his
favourite ?SpiceMan? crisps and found them in the side pocket, he
thought of Barry holding them and that association put him off eating
them. He took out his packed lunch instead, he thought of his mother
who had prepared it for him, who had expected him to be eating it at
school! Another flash followed by a huge splitting sound of thunder, it
must be overhead by now as there was no delay between the flash and the
bang. Jim ate the cheese and pickle sandwiches from his lunch box very
slowly, thinking deeply about the consequences of his actions. The rain
splashed and hissed outside. When the sandwiches were all gone Jim
groped around in the bottom of his rucksack, he was looking for his Bod
radio. After feeling through lots of accumulated junk Jim felt the
shape of his radio. He pulled it out carefully and pushed the earphones
into his ears. Jim noticed that every time the lightening flashed there
was was a crackle from the radio. He tuned around and found a radio
drama, it was almost over, the murderer was about to be exposed. Jim
listened to the summing up of ?Hercule Poirot? as the lightening
flashed, and crackled in his earphones.
?Now we go over to the news studio for local news and weather updates?
Said a BBC voice. Jim scrabbled around for the tuning buttons, he found
the news boring. His finger paused over the channel search button,
maybe it would be good to know when this storm would finish, he
listened to the news. The news was about things that didn't affect him;
war thousands of miles away, price of petrol and other stuff that
mostly affected grown ups. Surely the weather forecast would come soon?
?Barry Thompson from Liverpool is claiming the 'SpiceMan' £10,000 prize,
the problem is that he doesn't have the packet that the prize came
from. Barry says that he bought his packet of 'SpiceMan' crisps in a
shop down the road from where he works. He says he jumped for joy when
he saw the golden token inside, he 'phoned the 'SpiceMan' prize line
straight away. The trouble is that he will have to wait three months as
he doesn't have the serial number from the packet, apparently the
number on the gold token has to match the serial number on the packet.
The company has to make sure that there are no other claims.? Jim
remembered the words ?Nobody steals from Barry Thompson.? Jim looked in
the outside pocket of his rucksack, he found the crisps with their
receipt(not Fortons!) and a way to ease his situation! The storm
continued outside, Jim was no longer interested in the weather, for the
first time that day a smile shone on his face.
The wind rattled empty cans and blew crisp packets, the storm flashed
and crashed, Jim was so happy he shouted out "YES, YES, YES!"
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