Lionel Asbo: State of England

Free Lionel Asbo: State of England by Martin Amis

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Authors: Martin Amis
sitting by the window in her usual chair. But no music played, no folded Telegraph rested on her lap, no teacup steamed on the little round table, no Silk Cut twined its spirals in the saucer ashtray.
    ‘Look at me, Des.’
    He looked. The fluffy pink slippers huddled together, the arms leanly and stiffly folded, the notched mouth, the sepia ringlets, the weak grey stare. And he imagined the blank grid of a crossword, with no answers and no clues.
    ‘Oh, it’s all up with me now, love,’ she said, and hugged herself tighter. ‘I can’t close my eyes. The boy. I can’t close my eyes for fear of what I’ll see.’

 
    11
    LIONEL WAS ON the balcony with Joe and Jeff. With Joe, Jeff, the break stick, the lunge pole, the plastic bucket, the twelve-pack of Special Brew, the sagging cardboard box. Beyond him, the usual London sky. The white-van sky of London.
    Des dropped his satchel and went on out.
    ‘Seize. And hold,’ said Lionel. ‘Seize. And hold.’
    ‘… You giving them a drink tonight?’
    ‘Yeah. I’m doing a deep-eye in the morning. For Marlon. There’s a nasty nip in the air over in Rotherhithe. And I’m going to go and sort him out. See the new doll?’
    Lionel’s sagging cardboard box contained half a dozen joke-shop rubber effigies, a black, a brown, a tan, a pale. The new doll was Fu Manchu-ish, with tendril moustache.
    ‘Why?’ said Des, with an edge in his voice. ‘What for?’
    ‘ I don’t know. I didn’t ask.’ He shrugged. ‘We cousins. We help each other out. You don’t ask what for .’
    Des went back inside and sat down hard on a kitchen chair. He had just seen Joy Nightingale on Creakle Street – Mrs Nightingale, alone. With his heart thudding in his ears he watched her plod by, eerily and wrongly alone; no Ernest matched her step, no Ernest held her hand … Clutch. And clench , said Lionel, wielding the lunge pole, with the drool-soaked Chinaman speared on its pointed end … Now Des closed his eyes – and what did he see? Rory. But Rory wasn’t dead; he was deathless; the immortal boy kept disappearing and reappearing – kept being plucked apart, and put together again, and plucked apart again … Straddle, grab, sunder , said Lionel, wielding the break stick. The break stick was a kind of hardwood chisel. In it went between the dog’s back teeth. Then came the vicious twist.
    One by one the twelve tall cans of Special Brew were primed like grenades and upended over the plastic bucket.
    ‘Here. Ringo won the Lottery again. Guess how much.’
    ‘… How much?’
    ‘A tenner. The Lottery’s a mug’s game if you ask me.’ Lionel was leafing with quiet satisfaction through the Diston Gazette (the Diston Gazette had had time to fill up again, like a sump). Behind him, their tails high, Joe and Jeff licked and lapped with clopping sounds. ‘It’s funny. A missing girl – that’ll hold they attention for a bit. But a missing boy? It’s as if he’s never been … See this, Des? Jesus. That’s senseless , that is. That’s senseless .’
    Des now had before him the front page and a headline saying THE LOOK OF GUILT and the dismally mesmerised faces of six young men, all of them black.
    ‘Six of them. Gangers,’ Lionel went on. ‘So six London Fields Boys come down here. They come down here to put theyselves about. And they go and top this fifteen-year-old. All six of them! That’s senseless , that is. And he wasn’t even white!’
    On page four there was a photograph of the mother, Venus, and a photograph of the boy, Dashiel. A parent never expects their child to die before them , said Venus in her statement at the Old Bailey, especially when they are taken away so suddenly, the victim of the violent brutality of others . The mother, in the photograph, still young, elegantly earringed, lawyerly in a woollen coat with what looked like a thick velvet ruff. And the boy, Dashiel, his skin the colour of rosewood …
    ‘Now they going down for fifteen years. Six of

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