BENNY AND BIRD

Benny and Bird, two ordinary lads growing up in Moss Side, Manchester, had made plans to meet up at around one o’clock to go to  the city centre. Bird was eating breakfast, his mum prepared eggs and bacon and fried dumplings, every Saturday. Just turned fifteen Bird was already taller than his mum, 5’9″, and still growing. Today she had to find money to buy football boots for Bird, she was glad he made the school football team, the expense she could do without. “You be careful in town, Miki, just get the boots and no loitering” she scolded. “Mum, who says loitering, I will not get into any trouble, please chill out mum, I am fifteen now, i’ll be fine” Bird finished the food on his plate. “Yeah, well, you could be fifty and i’d still worry, wait till you ever have kids, you’ll see”  Bird laughed putting his plate in the sink he skipped upstairs to finish getting dressed.

Benny lived two blocks away and was already making his way to meet Bird. Glad to be finally free to escape his home, his job every Saturday was to buy the morning paper before eight o’clock, then make his little brother breakfast and put him in front of the telly to watch cartoons. When his mum and step dad woke he then had to clean his bedroom thoroughly and until it passed inspection he could not leave home. Bounding along the sun shone bright and it made his mood pick up, somewhat. He looked down at his feet when he walked, admiring the new sneakers he was wearing. Satisfied he had the swag he carried on walking to meet Bird.   He looked up to see a blue door with the number 34 in white and knocked three times. The door opened immediately,  he put his head inside to see Bird bounding up the stairs, “seen you walking up innit” Bird shouted down. Benny closed the front door and followed upstairs to sit at the corner of the bed. “New crepes man, looking fresh.” Bird admired the sneakers Benny was rocking. “Still going town to get the boots though” Benny had narrow eyes and he looked directly at Bird. “Raa, why you deekin me out like that man” Bird laughed at Benny. “Ca, I know what you’re like that’s why, still going or what,  anyway whatever man, I am still going trust” Benny folded his arms indignant but Bird knew he was playing. They had been best of friends since secondary school although they both grew up in the same area of Whalley Range before both families moved to Moss Side so had known each other most of their young lives. Benny lived with his mum stepfather and younger brother in a maisonette on the third floor. His father was Jamaican and split with his mum a few years previous, his step dad had moved in to his home the following year and Benny was finding it hard to cope, vowing to leave home when he reached sixteen. The split of his parents had hit him hard, he knew they both were a lot happier now but he was miserable. On top of every thing his mums husband was trying to show who is boss by asking Benny to do chore after chore.

By contrast Bird could not imagine leaving home in the near future, he loved his creature comforts and his mum’s cooking would not be beat, he was going nowhere. “leave right after football focus yeah” Bird was checking his profile in the full length mirror. “Guess who’s meeting us at two o’clock in town today” Benny had the widest grin and his teeth were so naturally white. Bird stopped in his tracks, “You haven’t, ” he did not finish the sentence. “What,” Benny looked sheepish, “you said you and her was done, innit” Benny asked, knowing the answer anyway. “Yo, I am all about Predator you do you blood” Bird seemed disappointed but it was hard to tell. Miki had a thing when it came to showing his emotions, something happened when he was younger. “Come on, FF is on” They thumped down stairs into the living room, “Hey, Mrs Dalrymple”  Benny  smiled and sat in the chair by the telly, “Hello Benny, are you well, how is your mum, where are you lads   off to then”                                                                                                            “Flippin’ eck mum give us a break, can we turn over for FF, please” Bird appealed to his mum. “Of course you can boys, just having fun” she finished a cup of tea and left the room. Outside the weather had changed and it was now raining hard, Mancunians were used to the rain but it did not stop them complaining, “I was going to put my washing out today” Bird heard his mum talking out loud in the kitchen. “Goal!” the shout from Benny was very loud. He stared at the telly and Bird stopped talking and stretched out on the sofa and watched too. He was five foot six and he loved football, playing and watching, his team was United and when he was lucky he managed to go to Old Trafford to watch them play. Today he was looking for Adidas Predator football boots, after four years he had finally been picked to play for the school team and he was buzzing. His mum and dad came over together from Jamaica and settled in Manchester where they had been since. Bird had a strong Manchester accent but could also speak patois. When he was angry or joking he would chat patois with his friends, most of whom hailed from the West Indies and understood his Manc patois. “Raa, that was a goal star” Bird enthused, Benny did not reply, he was listening to the program and focused in on it. “You listening or what man” Bird tried to get through, “Chill out man, I am trying to listen, I think he said United are after buying Andy Cole”                                                                                         “Doubt it, they are trying to get Collymore, supposed to be paying about seven mill, serious man” Bird still listened to the program where it turned out United were going for Andy Cole after Collymore deal did not go through. “Rather have Cole than Collymore anyway so that is wicked” Bird sat up. “Do you boys want a drink?” Shirley Dalrymple shouted through from the kitchen. “You want a drink” Bird asked Benny, “No thanks” Benny shouted his reply toward the kitchen, “No thanks mum” Bird turned to Benny, “Should we make a move or what man” They stood and straightened adjusting clothing until each was happy to step out. “Mum, going, see you later on,”   Bird opened the front door hearing his mother’s voice as he stepped out, “Bye boys”.    Little knowing what the day had in store.  Bird and Benny jumped on the bus to town sitting upstairs and enjoying the sun and the ride. They were excited about upcoming events, Bird focused on his new boots and Benny was meeting some girls in the Arndale shopping mall. They were joking with each other as the bus journeyed to the city centre. Just before town the bus stopped and four teenage boys got on and went upstairs, as they noticed Benny and Bird there were lots of shouts, they were friends. They were also heading for the Arndale so as the bus pulled up in Picadilly the group of six all walked together to the Arndale.

They walked to the end of Market Street and turned left onto Cross Street. Then they entered the mall by the escalator and on reaching the top they were in and as they bunched up at the top of the escalator deciding who was going where they were approached by a female police officer. She walked right up to Bird and pointed a finger towards him, “I have told you once already to leave if you don’t I am going to arrest you” she was not joking. All at once six voices began shouting at her mostly saying the same thing, “you are wrong”,  one voice, “we just got in here”, words were not going to help this situation. This officer was adamant she had spoken to Bird and was not prepared to listen. Bird started feeling angry at this officer who would not listen to a word he was saying, she reached out and took a hold of his wrist, without thinking he reacted instantly and took her arm and threw her over his back. Benny could not believe what he had just seen. As The police landed she turned on her front and still had hold of Bird’s wrist. “Get off me, man, I haven’t done anything” Benny shouted and that was when two of the other boys tried to loosen Bird from the grip of the officer. A shopkeeper came to her aid and grabbed Bird by the waist and two lads came over and tried to free Bird. The melee at the top of the escalator seemed to get bigger as more and more people joined in, Benny joined in feeling as if he should and tried to drag the officer away and also landed a couple of thumps to the  back of the head of the shopkeeper. The situation saw one group trying to free Bird on one escalator while the other group were pulling him toward them on the adjoining escalator. Chaos ensued till they were all at the bottom of the escalator leading to Cross Street, then a very loud shout went up, “POLICE”

There were people running in all directions as the shout went up, Benny could see Bird still tightly gripped by the police so he ran out of the doors onto Cross Street and ran across the road through the arcade into St Annes Square, looking back he saw a chubby looking copper chasing him, deciding to get to Deansgate  he pushed on to the top of the square only to be gripped by a bear hug from a security guard. He immediately went limp and allowed the fat copper to catch up. Not expecting what happened next he was slammed to the floor and felt a knee crushing his arms to his side. “What were you running for” he was asked, quick thinking Benny  replied, “I was fighting a white boy outside Boots when I saw a load of police and ran” Finishing his sentence a van came swerving round the corner meaning he would not have escaped in all probability. This was the first time he had any dealings with the police and he was scared. He had heard the stories of how the police like to beat people up in the cells, more so if you were not white. He was handcuffed and loaded into the van where the door was slammed shut. “Fuck, fuck fuck” he murmured thinking hard. The van was moving and he guessed as they were in town he would get taken to Bootle Street nick.  The van stopped and the doors opened, the daylight brightened the inside until a shadow blocked the light, and Bird  was thrown in the van. “Do you know him” one copper asked Bird,  he did not even look when he said, “No”.  Benny  felt so grateful that they asked Bird and not him, but then they asked him if he knew Bird to which he denied knowing him. At Bootle Street the van doors opened and they were dragged out, one copper held each teen and as they reached the entrance to the station a bedraggled looking woman officer was asked if she recognised Benny as one of them, she looked at Benny and replied that he was not one of them. Benny had never ben so relieved in all his young life. Inside the station they were booked in and put in separate cells.

Both boys  being under sixteen their parents had to come and get them from the police station. Benny wondered how his mum would deal with his arrest and he wondered what was going to happen to Bird. He assaulted the police which surely gets jail and if they connect him to Bird they could both end up in jail, this was bad, how had a good day turned bad so fast. An hour had passed when the big iron door could be heard clanking against the bolts now being opened, Benny stood up and prepared to defend himself fists tightly clenched, two very big officers entered the cell. The shorter of the two police spoke, “your parents have been informed and you can come to the desk now where you will be charged with breach of the peace” Benny stood facing them without speaking until both police  started grinning. Bird could hear all the movement and voices outside his cell and his nerves  were jangling when the key went into the lock he stood up and stepped onto the bench behind him, in a flash the kicks, punches and elbows rained down, Benny in the cell two doors up heard the footsteps on the cold floor and then heard his friend scream out, it was chilling.

The cell door opened up and the officer that came to collect Benny was friendly and jovial and Benny was surprised how his first taste of police had gone. The officer then explained  to Benny’s mum that Benny had done nothing serious  and told her his behaviour was good. They left with a charge of breach of the peace into the early night air. On turning onto the street Benny asked his mum about Bird but she had no knowledge. “Mum, I swear we dun nowt wrong, on my life, we didn’t. This copper got us mixed up with some other people, you know what they say, white people think all blacks look the same innit” Benny joked with his mum. “I don’t know what to think love, you had only been gone an hour two tops”

“No time to do anything wrong and anyway we had things to do mum, it all went pete tong, what about Bird, he is in serious trouble mum”

“I know love, poor Miki, what will happen to him do you think” she was glad Benny was with her at that moment. “Not sure you know mum, should I go and tell his mum” Benny and his mum arrived home and went to the living room. “Just phone them Benny and then get a bath while I make some food.” Benny picked up the phone and made the call. “How is he” Shirley asked Benny. “They’re not letting him out mum, I cant believe it” Benny felt miserable and an anger at the injustice lit a fire deep in his soul that he would never let go out. “Listen to me Benny, what happened is not right, we know this, but you have to make sure you understand everything that has happened today, if you need to talk I am here and if you need to you can phone your dad, ok” Benny smiled at his mum, “love you mum” his mum responded instantly, “love you more” She left him in his room and went down to the kitchen where she sat down and gently sobbed.

Bird woke up after his beating and immediately put his hand to his lip to feel his lips swollen and split. The police said they were keeping him till Monday where he would go to court and according to them he would be remanded to jail. “You don’t get off with hitting a police officer” he remembered hearing. All of a sudden his world had turned upside down for no reason. If I tell what happened it will not even matter, once I threw her that was it, why did she come over to me the fucking bitch he thought to himself. He drew his knees to his chest and went back to sleep. It was three years before he tasted freedom again. Three long years where his reputation as a cop beater made it really difficult. When he came out of jail he was a changed man, his personality changed and he stayed away from any people he knew before. Benny often wondered about Bird and Manchester not being the biggest place Benny heard the odd mention of Bird and what he heard he knew the experience had changed Bird forever. In court Benny had his case thrown out and the police involved were called liars by the judge. One officer came into court and swore he came round the corner in his van to see Benny kicking a lad in the head, he stopped and shouted only for Benny to look up throw the middle finger and start running away. The prosecutor shouted at Benny suggesting he did this and that trying to get a rise but Benny being the kind of person he is did not get agitated, instead he remained calm in the dock. While his brief pointed out the folly of the case, his client was a mild mannered individual that saw lots of police and knowing how blacks are treated generally got scared and ran. The judge agreed and threw out the case no records to be kept. Benny never saw Bird again after that fateful day.

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