Seven Days, Seven Blogs, Seven Chapters – Day Six, Chapter Six
The Distant Sound of Violence by Jason Greensides Relaunch Blog Tour
To celebrate the relaunch and Kindle $0.99 / £0.99 promotion of Jason Greensides’s acclaimed literary coming-of-age debut, The Distant Sound of Violence, you can read the first seven chapters on seven different blogs over seven days. I’m proud to host Jason for day six of the tour, featuring chapter six.
Author: Jason Greensides
Title: The Distant Sound of Violence
Book Content Rating: Adult, based on language, violence, and sexual content
Synopsis: Do we ever escape the decisions we make when we’re fifteen?
Nathan Dawes, the loser from school, an outsider, street philosopher and member of The Grove Runners gang, needs Ryan’s help to get Stephanie to fall for him. When Ryan’s lawnmower is stolen, Nathan sees this as his chance to enlist Ryan in his plan.
Although Ryan knows becoming friends with Nathan could lead to trouble, he reluctantly agrees to help.
Stephanie wants nothing to do with either of them. Besides, she’s more interested in the one guy in the world she really shouldn’t be.
As Nathan continues his pursuit of Stephanie, and Ryan gets mixed up with The Grove Runners, soon events overtake them all, haunting their lives for years to come.
This intelligent and compelling debut is a heart-breaking tale of bad decisions and love gone wrong. It’s about choices that lead to violence, loss and tragedy.
On the evening of 31 October 1991, as I sat watching the fuzzy satellite images of ‘The Halloween Storm’ tearing into the Eastern Atlantic Seaboard, my mouth full of runner beans, unable to decide whether to swallow or spit them into the napkin, the buzzer to the flat went off. Aunt Esther shouted from the kitchen to see who it was. I spat out the beans, put the plate down, plodded to the front door and pushed the button.
A crackly, distant-sounding voice came over the tinny microphone. ‘It’s Nathan. Let me in.’
Was it a good idea to let him meet Esther? I was also still angry with him for going off to meet Victor.
Taking my finger off the intercom, I called to Esther, ‘It’s this guy from school.’
‘Well, don’t just keep him waiting, let him in.’
The buzzer went again.
‘He’s in my maths class,’ I said, stalling for time.
‘Well, that’s nice. I’d love to meet him. Let him come up.’
I pushed the button for the door downstairs, snapped the lock on the front door and went back to the horror of my tea.
A minute later Nathan appeared in the living room doorway. He was wearing jeans, T-shirt and a leather jacket, a plastic shopping bag in his right hand, a breathing mask in the other. My aunt followed him into the room.
‘This is Nathan, Nathan this is my aunt,’ I said.
Nathan gave her a broad grin as Esther wiped her hands on her apron then shook hands with him. ‘Lovely to meet you, dear,’ she said. ‘You go to the same school as Ryan? He never mentioned you, but then that boy don’t tell me nothing.’
I rolled my eyes and picked up my knife and fork.
‘Well, he tells me you’re a great cook,’ Nathan replied, sitting down next to me.
‘Aw, that’s nice.’ Her gaze then shifted over to me. ‘Eat your veg, boy.’
Before I had time to negotiate the next piece of green slime into my mouth, Nathan butted in saying, ‘Do you want that? I’m starving.’
I gave my aunt a guilty look.
‘Eh-eh, the boy wants to eat. Go on, do my nephew a favour.’ She kissed her teeth and sat in the armchair by the TV. ‘Oh, Lord,’ she groaned, kicking off her slippers.
Nathan sat, placed the bag between his feet, took the plate from my lap and began to eat.
‘What’s in the bag?’ My aunt enquired, raising her voice over of the blasting hurricane and stunned meteorologists’ voices on the TV.
‘Costumes,’ Nathan replied, his mouth half-full of food.
‘Ooh la-la. You boys going trick or treatin’?’
‘Yeah,’ Nathan replied, swallowing a whole hunk of beans, ‘trick or treating, that’s exactly it.’
I glanced at Nathan, trying to work out what he meant, but he avoided my gaze and kept eating.
‘I’m not going, I’ve got homework,’ I lied, not warming to the idea of having to dress up.
‘Come on,’ Nathan said, putting his fork down and picking up a half-eaten chicken wing, ‘even Dwain’s getting dressed up.’
I laughed. Dwain would hate the idea of putting on some dumb costume.
But why he would even agree to it in the first place?
Esther interrupted my thoughts, saying, ‘Do you read your bible, Nathan?’ She turned the volume down on the TV.
‘A bit,’ Nathan said. ‘Prefer the first half, though – you know, the violent half.’
‘Do you go to church?’ she went on, ignoring his flippancy. ‘Ryan refuses to come now, leaving his poor aunt to go on her own.’
‘I don’t go. Mum stopped going soon after she had me.’
‘Uh-huh. You know you should pray every day, let Jesus into your life. You’d be surprised what praying can get you.’
‘I prayed for a Millennium Falcon when I was five,’ I said, ‘and I still haven’t got it.’ I was hoping my joke would make Nathan laugh.
It didn’t. Instead he took the last bite of the chicken wing. As he chewed it, he said, ‘It doesn’t work like that, it’s the act of prayer that’s important.’
My aunt sat forward in her seat to hear more; I sank farther into mine.
‘It’s not that I believe in God as such,’ Nathan continued, placing the bone down, smacking his lips, ‘I just think his existence is necessary, because without it the universe would be absurd.’
‘But you think God is dead,’ I said.
‘No I don’t! When did I ever say that? You’re talking about what Nietzsche said!’ He was riled at my accusation, which pleased me. ‘OK,’ he conceded, ‘Darwin and Nietzsche might have killed God, but now he’s back and he’s far from chuffed.’
I pressed on with: ‘But if God has to exist for anything to exist, then how do you explain God’s existence in the first place?’ I really couldn’t have cared less; I just wanted to beat him at his own game in front Esther.
‘I don’t want to hear your foolishness,’ my aunt said, annoyed that I was taking over their little philosophical debate.
‘The thing is,’ Nathan said, putting the plate back down, ‘Ryan’s kind of right. It’s a paradox. Existence can never be explained – not by science, not by religion, not even by philosophy – but the idea of God helps fill the void.’
‘Like God is what we use to name anything we can’t explain,’ my aunt said. ‘But listen, it worries me you think there is a void to begin with. Accept Jesus into your life, ask him for forgiveness, and you’ll stop talking about “voids”.’
Nathan considered this as he used his tongue to dislodge some chicken stuck between his teeth. ‘I know what you mean, and maybe we could go to church one Sunday to talk more about this stuff.’
I groaned at the thought of Nathan and Esther walking arm-in-arm one Sunday to St John’s church. In order to steer the conversation away from such an event, I said to Nathan, ‘My aunt thinks Halloween is satanic; we shouldn’t go.’
‘No, no, no,’ my aunt shrilled, now willing to grant Nathan any request, ‘you two boys go out and have some fun, just don’t come home too late. School tomorrow.’
‘Wicked,’ Nathan said, jumping up, opening the plastic bag and spilling the contents onto the floor.
Oh, now it made sense: regardless of whether Nathan believed everything he’d just said, he’d only eaten the food from my plate and engaged my aunt in the philosophical conversation to get her to agree to let me out for the night.
Sorting through the items, he picked out a pair of scissors, a toy gun and some red lipstick, placed the breathing mask next to these things and announced that he would be going as Frank Booth, the demented killer from Blue Velvet. ‘Sorry, Ryan,’ he said, pulling out some plastic horns and a black cape, still trying to keep his excitement about being Dennis Hopper for the night under control, ‘but it’s all I could throw together at the last minute. You’re going as the Devil.’
My aunt kissed her teeth.
Out in the blustery, drizzly Aston House car park, Nathan explained we were going to deliver Victor’s warning to Zoe Braithwaite. I reluctantly agreed to go because I wanted to make sure nothing bad happened to Nathan, especially as he hadn’t even come up with a plan. I also had nowhere else to go dressed in those ridiculous clothes.
‘How are we getting there?’ I said, readjusting the plastic horns on my head.
‘The arteries of London,’ Nathan replied.
We met the others outside the gym in Paddington, where Victor had said Zoe would be that evening.
‘This is just stupid,’ Dwain complained, lifting up his Michael Myers mask, squinting his eyes at the red-bricked building Zoe was expected to emerge from any minute.
Nathan, his voice muffled by the breathing mask, said, ‘Put your mask back on, she’ll recognise you.’
‘Fuck you, batty man. We look like bumboclarts.’
Nathan studied each of us in turn: Dwain in his boiler suit; Courtney, with his plastic elongated incisors, black knee-length coat and wooden crucifix strapped to his belt; Fahad in his ripped jeans and Ketchup-stained shirt; and me in my Devil’s get-up. ‘We look cool,’ Nathan affirmed. ‘But if she sees you, Dwain, you know she’ll just run.’
I peered back towards the entrance of the gym and wondered how long Dwain could resist banging Nathan out, because such an event seemed inevitable.
Instead, Dwain put on his mask and nodded over at the entrance.
The five of us watched as a black woman with dreads, wearing a tracksuit and white trainers, carrying a holdall in one hand, a bottle of water in the other, marched through the entrance and straight towards us.
As a business-like silence fell, my heart drummed against my chest. This was a serious situation and we could get into a lot of trouble. I tried to catch Nathan’s eye in the hope that he would understand it was best to just walk away, but he was too concerned with Zoe’s approach to notice.
As soon as Zoe spotted us she sped up, lifted her head, refusing to be intimidated.
‘All right, darling?’ Fahad leered, forgetting himself, probably thinking he was taking the initiative in scaring her.
‘You what?’ Zoe said, unfazed. There was irritation in her voice, but something else too. Amusement perhaps.
Fahad dipped his gaze when he noticed the evil looks he was getting from Dwain and Nathan.
Zoe then did something none of us had expected. She stopped.
‘Nice costumes,’ she remarked, taking in each of us in turn. She was attractive, with unusually light brown, almost yellow eyes, which contrasted with her teak-coloured skin. Her pencil-thin jaw-length dreadlocks framed a slender face, giving her an air of youth, but this was belied by the small lines at her mouth and eyes, which I guessed put her in the mid-to-late twenties range. She seemed particularly drawn to Courtney’s costume. ‘This is great,’ she said, giving his crucifix a playful tug. ‘I love it.’
Dwain moved to the back of the group in an attempt to avoid detection.
‘You guys going trick or treating?’ she said, a West Indian twang to her words.
‘Yeah,’ we all mumbled, as if she were the kid at school we didn’t want to speak to for fear of not looking cool. I could see it in Nathan’s eyes that he was willing her to keep walking so we could follow her home and deliver the message from Victor.
‘What are you supposed to be?’ she continued, addressing Fahad.
‘A zombie,’ he replied sheepishly.
Her curiosity now satisfied about the nature of our costumes, she stepped back and said, ‘Well?’ She folded her arms and gazed at each of us in turn – those button-like eyes luminous in the bleak London twilight. It was as if she were waiting to be asked out on a date and we were missing our cue.
We all looked at each other, confused, knowing that someone was supposed to say something, but no one knew who or what. It felt like we were in trouble with a teacher from school and no one wanted to admit who’d fucked up.
‘Well, what?’ Nathan said, finally breaking our silence.
‘Well,’ she said, reappraising him, perhaps to see whether he was up to whatever task she had in mind, ‘it is Halloween.’
Nathan thought for a moment, while Dwain lurked in the background, waiting for him to mess it up. He finally croaked, ‘Trick or treat?’
Zoe, barely able to contain herself, grinning like a little kid, said, ‘Trick.’
Evidently unable to take any more of Zoe’s stupid flirting, Dwain stepped forward and shouted, ‘Listen, you crazy bitch, just go fuck off somewhere.’
I had never seen this side of Dwain before – calm one minute, completely losing it the next – but the threat of violence was so apparent that Zoe was forced to take a step back, her skin now almost translucent.
Just as quickly, however, she composed herself, gave Dwain a look of disgust and walked away without another word.
We waited in silence as she moved farther down Pread Street, until she finally disappeared around a corner.
‘What a psycho,’ Courtney said, voicing what we were all thinking. ‘Who the hell does that?’
‘She’s gone, man,’ Fahad said, turning to Nathan. ‘What now?’
Nathan took off his mask and tapped it against his thigh to generate thought. He then turned from the direction in which Zoe had gone, jammed his forefinger and thumb into his mouth, and whistled, a sharp shrill, cutting through the roar of traffic.
A second or two later, Aidy emerged from between two shops, and I don’t think even Nathan had known he was there until the thought had just occurred to him. Aidy took a few hesitant steps in our direction, figuring Dwain would be angry with him for following us. But as Nathan continued to wave him over, he sprinted at top speed to reach us.
Avoiding eye contact with Dwain, who was now snorting in contempt, Nathan said to Aidy, ‘The woman we were talking to, did you see her?’
‘The one who came out of the gym?’ Aidy said, panting.
‘Go run after her, see where she goes, and wait for us nearby.’
Without a word of reply, Aidy ran after Zoe.
‘She went into the bottom flat,’ Aidy said twenty minutes later, pointing to a brown-bricked, four-story town house.
‘Nice one, mate,’ Nathan said.
‘I want you to knock on the door if I’m not out in ten minutes,’ Nathan said.
‘Sure,’ Aidy replied.
Dwain took off his mask and put the bulk of his frame between Nathan and the house. ‘What you gonna say to her?’
‘Don’t worry,’ Nathan said, ‘I’m just gonna have a quick word. She’ll be no trouble for Victor after that.’
‘You know he’ll cut you if you raas it up.’
‘I know.’ He moved past him, towards the house.
I didn’t even try and stop him.
Nathan traipsed up to the door, slipping on a broken plant pot in the twilit gloom. A tiny porch light flickered and buzzed on and off, as if the bulb were about to blow. Using his hands to cup his face, he peered into the living room window, but because the lights were off, he was unable to see anything. He moved over to the door and knocked on it. As he waited for someone to answer, he removed the breathing mask from his face and shoved it into the pocket of his leather jacket.
It was only then that Nathan considered the possible consequences of his plan, for he had decided not to scare her, but to reason with her about going to the police. To tell her whatever it was she had on Victor was not worth her life. He knew Dwain would go mental if it didn’t work, but Victor would be happy if it did. He didn’t see why these sorts of issues couldn’t be solved with reason instead of menace and threats.
And who was to say that such a plan couldn’t work? I’d just seen him work wonders with my aunt. My only concern was that he was completely crap with good-looking women.
Nathan stepped back when he heard a series of locks being sprung. The door then opened, revealing Zoe, wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and a vest top.
Nathan’s immediate reaction was to look away and stammer out an apology. ‘I’m sorry to disturb you,’ he said, shifting the weight of his body onto the other foot.
‘Oh?’ She took a closer look at his face, squinting in the low light. She seemed to recognise him as one of the boys from outside the gym.
‘I just wanted to apologise for my friend’s behaviour,’ Nathan said. ‘He shouldn’t have spoken to you like that.’ Nathan avoided eye contact, instead, settled his gaze on her slender brown shoulder. Her skin glistened in the porch light.
‘That boy’s got serious issues,’ Zoe said.
Nathan shifted his gaze from her shoulder and into the living room. He could make out records, videos, dirty clothes, plates and cups strewn across the floor, as well as several cardboard boxes stationed haphazardly in various places. ‘Yeah, he could be more polite.’
Zoe studied Nathan’s face for a few drawn out seconds. ‘What are you doing here?’ she said, checking the top of the stairs behind him, Nathan presumed, to make sure boiler suit, vampire or zombie weren’t lurking up there.
‘Trick or treat?’ he said to get her to look at him again.
Her nervous eyes peered at him in the gloom. She laughed. ‘Did you follow me home?’
‘Kind of,’ she mimicked. ‘Well, if you want to come in, ask me again.’
‘Ask you what again?’
‘You know what.’
He paused, sensing something had changed in her. She took her hand away from the door, ran her fingers through her dreads, and scrunched her toes into the carpet. It was then Nathan realised he was out his depth with this woman. ‘Trick or treat,’ he repeated, the enthusiasm now gone from his voice.
‘Treat,’ she said, opening the door, stepping aside to let him enter.
Watching Zoe’s lithe body move around the room as she switched on the lamp and began to tidy up, Nathan thought he might throw up. Averting his eyes, he took in the room again. Was she in the process of moving in or out, or just dumped her stuff here as a temporary measure? He looked at her again, his stomach twitching at the sight of her nipples jutting against her vest.
‘Come into the kitchen with me. The chocolate’s in the fridge,’ she said.
Nathan drew himself up from the couch, the leather jacket creaking with the movement, and followed her into the cramped kitchen.
She opened the fridge, moving over to allow Nathan a look inside.
He expected to see a severed head or hand, but found nothing more terrifying than a Marathon bar, a Topic and some lettuce. He reached for the Topic. ‘You live alone?’ he said, standing up and allowing her to close the fridge again.
‘How can you tell? Actually it’s my friend’s flat, but she’s away.’
Topic in hand, he ambled back into the living room, the soft patter of Zoe’s bare feet on the kitchen tiles behind him. He allowed her to overtake him, the scent of her deodorant wafting past. She sat on the couch, swung her feet up onto it and shook her dreadlocks out of her eyes.
Nathan stood in the middle of the room, crumpling at the awkwardness of the situation, considering how it would be best to broach the subject of why he was really there. It was also beginning to set in how weird it was for her to let a random teenage boy into the flat and then act as if he were just some neighbour who’d popped round to borrow some matches. He moved towards the front door; it might be best to let Dwain deal with it.
‘You’re going, are you?’ she said, reaching for the remote control.
How was it that he’d come in here with something as serious as a death threat but was leaving with nothing more important than a Topic? He could shrug off Dwain’s criticisms – but leaving like this? Because he was scared of her when it should have been the other way around?
There had to be another way.
‘Can I use your toilet?’ he said, refusing to turn round and face her again.
‘Yeah, down the hall on your right.’
Nathan stalked down the hall, stumbling on another box, entered the bathroom and locked the door.
He peered into the small mirror thrust outwards on an extendable arm and grimaced at the sight of his hair plastered onto his forehead with sweat, even though he had no recollection of feeling hot. He wiped his hair away and bent down to drink from the tap in an attempt to moisten his throat, which had turned to chalk as soon as he’d stepped into the flat. Turning off the tap, he looked down at his midriff and flushed when he saw the crotch of his trousers sticking out. How long had that been there?
Unconsciously, he patted down his jacket. His right hand then disappeared into the coat and pulled out the red lipstick. He unscrewed the cap, stepped over to the bath, flung the shower curtain aside, leaned over and, in his customary capital letters, wrote on the white tiles: ZOE, YOU’RE IN REAL DANGER. ENGLISH VICTOR SENT ME TO WARN YOU NOT TO TALK.
Nathan stopped, appalled and disgusted, but most of all, disappointed he hadn’t had the courage to talk to her face-to-face, simply because she was attractive and scantily dressed.
Whispering, ‘Sorry,’ over and over again, he continued with: JUST GET AWAY. GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. GET OUT OF LONDON. RUN.
He took a step back and balked at the way the message looked like something from a horror film. Something written in blood. He re-screwed the lid, shoved the lipstick back in his coat pocket, drew the shower curtain, flushed the toilet and left the room.
‘I should get going,’ he said, seeing Zoe in the same position as before, the TV now on.
She patted the space beside her. ‘Come and join me.’
‘I…’ Nathan tried to think of an excuse to leave. Where the hell was Aidy, anyway?
‘Listen,’ she said, sensing his unease, ‘I don’t normally invite guys into my flat like this, but you look nice and…’ Her voice trailed off. Then: ‘God, I don’t even know what I’m doing.’ She placed her feet back on the floor, sat forward and, burying her head in her hands, broke down in tears.
Nathan felt his groin stir – not at her distress, but at the way her beautiful shoulders shook like autumnal leaves in a breeze. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said, almost in a whisper. He realised the way she’d been flirting with him previously had just been a front, that Victor’s fears about her going to the police were unfounded. She was already scared.
He trudged over and sat beside her. She seemed to calm a little at his closeness, her shoulders falling still.
‘God, you must think I’m such a freak,’ she said.
‘No, I don’t.’ Nathan stared at her shoulder blade and again his cock reacted. ‘Not now,’ he pleaded, under his breath.
‘Nothing. Is it OK to use the bathroom again?’
She didn’t reply, just edged her face closer to his and used her forefinger, still wet from tears, to pull him towards her. Her cheek brushed against his, her arms fumbling for a hug.
He gently pushed her away, perhaps a couple of seconds later than he should have, and jumped up, making towards the front door, almost tripping over one of the boxes.
‘I have to go,’ he said, pulling the handle.
The door was locked.
‘Where’s the key for this thing?’
‘It’s in the lock.’
Nathan saw the key dangling from the lock and quickly turned it.
‘Don’t go,’ she said, ‘I think they’re gonna kill me.’
‘They won’t,’ Nathan said, no longer caring if she knew he knew what she was talking about. He opened the door and inhaled the crisp dusk air. He hadn’t realised how much he’d needed to breathe in the whole of the last ten minutes. Relief swept over him at the sight of Aidy stood at the door, his fist raised as if about to knock.
He turned to meet Zoe’s look of terror. ‘They won’t kill you, I promise.’ His reassurance sounded hollow.
The last thing Nathan heard was Zoe’s gasp of shock as the squall-like winds – an offshoot of those hitting northeast America – snatched the door from his hand and slammed it shut.
Amazon Book link: mybook.to/TDSOV
Jason Greensides Biography
Jason Greensides has a degree in Video Production and Film Studies and has made several short films, two of which have been broadcast on television – but writing fiction is his real passion.
He’s interested in ‘outsider’ types, people operating on the edge of society. This inspired him to write his first novel, The Distant Sound of Violence. It’s about a group of kids, one in particular, Nathan Dawes, whose philosophical obsessions and criminal connections have made him an outcast at school.
Jason is now working on his second novel, another coming-of-age mystery, but on coffee breaks he blogs and tweets about writing, and throws in the occasional book review.
Jason Greensides website: jasongreensides.com
Google Plus: plus.google.com/+JasonGreensides
Amazon page: amazon.co.uk/Jason-Greensides