• Colin Burnett


They cheesy Disney films set at high school alweys make it oot tae be some glorious passage ae life. Where aw yur dreams and hopes are made possible. At least, that’s the propaganda they fill yur heid wae. Ken, tae gee some much needed hope tae aw the loners and Harry Potter wannabees. But ah’m here tae tell yae the truth. It’s a fish tank full ae sharks and Orcas and ma only problem wis ah wis nuttin maire than a loast and frightened goldfish. It’s been a long time since ah gave much thoat aboot ma time at Leith Academy. Or, at Leith penitentiary, as it wis kent amongst the locals. That wis until ah came acroass this auld photo ae me and Craigy. A snap taken before we embarked oan oor first day there. We looked like a pair ae scared fuckin rabbits. Ah came acroass the hing while ah wis helpin the missus tae clear oot the attic. A borin bastard ae a chore until ah foond this beauty hidden awey in some dusty lookin tennants boax. And ever since then ah’ve been flooded wae memories ae that day. Which ah hud furgoat aw aboot. But ah’m gittin aheid ae masel, likes. It’s far better that ah explain how the day panned oot. Mibbie then you’ll understand what ah mean.

Ah goat up oot ma kip that mornin sleep deprived. The night before ah’d spent tossin and turnin in ma bed. Crippled by a maze ae thoats rushin aboot inside ma heid. Will ah git ma heid kicked in? Are the teachers gonnae be horrible bastards? What if naecunt likes me? And the list ae self doubts went oan and oan. First hing ah did wis throw oan ma school claithes before ah went through tae the kitchen tae see ma parents. Straight awey ma mum cloacked the fear drippin fae ma brow and lovingly she reassured me that everything wid be awright. And fur a brief moment there her words helped tae soothe ma alarmin levels ae anxiety. That wis until ma faither decided tae inject himself intae the conversation.

‘’Son’’ he said, while lowering his newspaper. ‘’Jist remember, eh? snitches git stiches’’

Ma hert felt like it hud skipped a beat wae this piece ae info as ah wis stood in the kitchen numb wae fear.

‘’Joe!’’ ma mum snapped. ‘’Leave the laddie alain’’

‘’Ah’m jist saying’’ he tells her ‘’Naeboady likes a grass’’

‘’Well’’ ma mum quips. ‘’That school is different fae when you wur there’’

Ma faither stared at ma mum ‘’ It’s goat maire vicious if anyhing’’ and he then pointed straight in ma direction ‘’Ah wid rather he choked tae death oan his ain blood than brek the playgroond code’’

If ma erse wisnae flappin before he opened his mooth. Then it certainly wis now. And as ah wis still digesting his warnin they baith began arguing amongst themselves. Then a welcomed distraction appeared ootae naewhere. In the form ae a knock at the front door. It wis ma saviour, Craigy.

Even still, his presence done nuttin tae lighten the tense mood in the air. He hud the same unmistakable shattered appearance as me. Ah didnae even need tae ask him tae ken he wis riddled wae the same self doots that wur circlin aboot inside ma heid. He wis smartly dressed in an identical school uniform. Which consisted ae a plain black toap wae the school emblem oan it. A pair ae freshly polished shoes. Black troosers and a white shirt and rid tie. This wis the first year that Leith Academy hud introduced such a uniform. Apparently in the hope that it wid stoap the hate crimes against the poor cunts who kept gittin bashed cos their parents wur too piss poor tae afford the latest big name brands. As we wur aboot tae head oot the door tae make the shoart trip fae ma hoose oan great junction street. Ma mum jumped in front ae us wae her cheap throw awey camera in hand and insisted oan takin a picture ae the pair ae us. Reluctantly, of course, we obliged her. And we posed through gritted teeth as she snapped awey wae excitement.

‘’Oh, they look so adorable, Joe?’’ she cried.

This wis met wae a half herted grunt fae ma faither who wis too busy being engrossed reading aboot the exploits ae Hibs tae pey the commotion much attention. Wae oor dead pan expressions it seemed maire like a mugshot than a hert warmin photo. But nonetheless, ma mum seemed obliviously delighted. Then we soon set oaff and made oor wey through the quiet morning streets barely exchanging a single word wae each other. Until, that is, we reached the school gates.

This wis indeed the infamous Leith Academy. A proper school ae hard knocks. The building auld and run doon. A neglected concrete Victorian memory. Which pulsated wae an inhumane aura, exclusive tae a state education. We took a cautious stroll inside the main entrance and greeted by other students. Who wur busy huggin and embracing yin another. An image that didnae make us feel any less awkward than we awready did. We baith went oor serperate weys as we wurnae in any clesses taegether and before ah kent it ah wis standin oan ma lonesome. Navigatin ma wey past aw the pupils and teachers who wur buzzin through the corridors. Ah couldnae help but feel a bit overwhelmed by ma new surroundings. But even wae ma bag weighing me doon ah somehow made ma wey up the windy stairs. Eventually reachin ma destination. Which wis B12, oan the second flair. By the time ah arrived in the room the place wis utterly rammed. Ma new classmates busy laughing and exchanging stories aboot what they hud been up tae during the summer holidays. Some ae thum ah kent fae primary. Others ah hud only glanced at during our induction day. Ah wis left wae a dilemma though, eh? Sit oan ma ain? or park ma erse nixt tae Jordan Smith who ah’d kent since we wur baith wee. Considering this wis an overweight thirteen year auld who still believed in Santa Claus. Ah soon decided that sittin oan ma ain wis the wise choice. So, ah planted massel doon oan the first vacant desk ah could find. Ah then proceeded tae take ma pencil case oot ma bag. Along wae a jotter that ah quickly scribbled ma name oan. The noise fae aw the excited voices amongst the other first-year students hit haime jist how alone ah actually wis there. And then, ootae naewhere, Miss Robertson wandered in. And she wis accompanied by a young skinny Asian boay who looked shy and extremely timid.

Ah couldnae quite place his puss, likes. He wis werain a school blazer and hud some soartae briefcase grasped in his hand. Naeboady else seemed tae cloack his, or the teachers presence in the room. Probably cos they wur too distracted by their ain chatter. The boay stood cowerin behind the teacher who wis a young and energetic lassie. Accordin tae ma aulder cousin John she wis yin ae the few popular teachers amongst the other bairns. She quickly quieted doon the cless in anticipation ae her pendin announcement.

‘’Settle down’’ she proclaimed, in her warm and friendly voice. She then gestured tae the mysterious Asian boay

‘’I have someone I would like you all to meet. This is Aldo and his family recently moved to the area. He’ll be joining the class today and I expect that you will all make him feel welcome.’’

He stepped forward and turned and bowed gracefully tae Miss Robertson. Before he too began tae address the cless. And tae ma surprise he seemed far maire confident wae his words than ah coulda possibly huv imagined.

‘’ Thank you to the lovely Miss Robertson fur such a wonderful introduction’’ he said. A comment that drawed the teacher tae blush.

Before he went oan tae continue ‘’Ah would like tae say ah can’t wait tae git tae ken yae all. Oh, and go Leith Star’’ he added wae a beamin smile and a wee fist pump in the air.

Leith Star wis the local fitbaw team, in case yur wondering. Apart fae me ah doubt very much anycunt in that room kent that club even existsed. The teacher soon excused herself tae go and dae some photocopying. And that boay Aldo’s eyes dinnae flinch fae her as she departed the room. A suffocating awkwardness then promptly developed. And naeboady seemed willing tae engage the new face in conversation. Until, ae aw people, Jordan piped up

‘’You can sit next to me, Aldo’’ he telt him. As he patted doon oan the seat nixt tae him.

Aldo quickly turned tae face his direction ‘’Quiet pork chop’’ he hissed.

‘’Excuse me?’’ asked Jordan.

By this time the conversation hud caught the focus ae everyone in the room. And jist like masel, everyboady wis speechless wae the words spillin oot ae the geeky lookin boays mooth.

‘’Jesus fuckin Christ’’ he said. ‘’When ah’m lookin fur the quickest wey tae a hert attack then we kin talk’’

Ah took a quick look aroond the room jist tae see ah didnae imagine that and wae the state ae shock acroass everyboady’s puss it wis clear ah wisnae. Ah felt bad fur Jordan but no bad enough that ah felt the need tae jump tae his defence.

‘’My mum sais I’m big boned’’ Jordan said ‘’Not fat’’

Aldo scoffed ‘’ Ah bet yae she tells yae it’s the lassies, and no you. That’s why yae canne pull a bird?’’

‘’Yeah’’ Jordan replied, teary eyed.

‘’A damn fine actress’’ Aldo said.

Then Jordan ripped opened and turned tae his closest and dearest pal. A family sized bag ae Dorritos.

You could feel the tension rising. As this Aldo gazed acroass the faces ae his stunned audience. Ah wis jist sittin there praying he didnae zone in oan me.

‘’Listen up’’ he announced. ‘’Every Friday ah want a quid fae every yin yae. And dinnae go running tae yur mummy and daddys and start tellin tales. Or tae that bitch in heat who jist left the room. Cos ah will find yaise. And believe me. It willnae be poetic’’.

Everyone wis consumed wae astonishment fae his words. Ah could hear a loatae whispering echoing aroond me. When a voice could be heard saying ‘’I’m not paying you anything’’

‘’Who said?’’ enquired Aldo

Some brave soul raised their hand. Aldo smiled as he picked up a large brush this wis leant against the teachers big widen desk before he swaggered taewards the boay ‘’Looks like we’ve goat a free thinker oan our hands’’ and readied himself tae take a swing.

And as he went tae dae it the boays puss intantly turned chalk white while the hale room gasped.

But before he could hit him Aldo started sweepin the flair. Jist as the teacher returned wae a bunch ae papers in hand.

‘’Ah thoat the flair looked a tad dirty. So ah took the liberty tae give it a quick clean. Ah hope you don’t mind Miss Robertson?’’

‘’That is so sweet of you Aldo’’ she gushed. ‘’Take a seat next to Douglas’’ words that sent ma hert tae sink and ma baws tae droap at the same time.

He plunged doon oan the seat nixt tae me withoot a hint ae an acknowledgement. And at that very moment ma mind wis still being pulled fae yin direction tae another. Ma first instinct wis tae brek the ice by formally introducing masel tae him. But wae his apparent shoart fuse ah thoat it might be wiser tae avoid any soartae communication. Cautious, ah wis, that he mighta misunderstood ma gid manners as a declaration ae war. Fae the corner ae ma eye ah tried tae slyly glimpse what he hud inside his briefcase. Ah watched him shrewdly as he meticulously opened it up. Tae ma relief, aw he pulled oot wis a pen and a piece ae paper. Which he carefully laid doon oan the desk. Before too long the teacher finished rhyming oaff a list ae names tae see who wis present and who wis AWOL. She followed this up wae a wee welcome introduction before she began her English cless by introducing us tae some writer cawed J.D Salinger. And she spoke wae enthusiasm aboot his book Cathcher in the Rye. Sounds quite an interesting character that Holden Caulfield, ah remember hinkin tae massel at the time. Then ma train ae thoat wis interrupted by a whisperin voice

‘’Practically wankin me oaff she wis at reception. Engaged n aw, ah cloacked the ring’’ it says.

As ah looked up ah wis shocked tae find that it wis indeed Aldo who wis trying his best tae mimic a skilled Ventriloquist

‘’Eh, you talkin tae me?’’ ah asked.

‘’Aye’’ he said, impatiently.

‘’Who yae talkin aboot, likes?’’

‘’The fuckin teacher, dafty’’ he said ‘’Cunts no fit tae look efter bairns. Hinkin aboot reportin her tae the education board’’

‘’That’s a serious accusation’’ ah telt him. ‘’Did she touch yae or summit?’’

‘’It’s no what she did. It wis maire aboot what she wanted tae dae. Pure lust. Undressin me wae her eyes, n that’’

‘’O…k’’ ah telt him. Then ah returned tae focus oan ma work.

‘’Listen, Dougie’’ he continued oan ‘’At break, eh? be a pal and gees a full SP oan who runs this mickey moose operation?’’

‘’Sure’’ ah said. Even though ah didnae huv a clue what he wis talikn aboot. But, tae ma ain surprise. Ah decided tae take the opportunity tae question him further

‘’Listen, since we’re pals noo. Ah take it ah dinnae need tae pey yae that quid oan Friday?’’

Aldo banged his fist hard oan the desk ‘’Naw, naw’’ he says ‘’You pey double. Ah need tae show these cunts ah mean buisness’’

At that point the teacher hud her back tae the cless. As she wis still focused oan her task at the blackboard. His comment though hud her quickly spinnin aroond

‘’Who used that foul language in my classroom?’’ she asked forcefully.

Naeboady spoke up, likes. Probably ootae fear ae the repercussions fae Aldo. But as ah turned tae ma side ah spoatted that he wis pointing straight at me. Ah hud tae take a double take cos a couldnae believe the nerve ae the prick.

‘’Douglas’’ Miss Robertson snapped. ‘’Consider yourself this your one and final warning. Another outburst like that you’ll be put straight on report’’

Ah nodded, sincerely. Then tae rub salt intae ma wounds Aldo decided tae take the moral high ground ‘’Douglas’’ he said apologetically. ‘’Please dinnae yaise that vulgur language in the presence ae a lady’’ while motioning tae the teacher.

‘’You’re a gentleman, Aldo’’ she said, grinning fae ear tae ear.

In ma heid ah’m screaming that it’s that nutter who did it, no me. Insteed, though. Of course, ah kept ma mooth shut and took ma punishment like a man. Ma silence bein ah consequence ae ma faither’s warning fae earlier still fresh in ma memory.

Eventually the bell rang loud and clear tae signal the start ae break time. Everyboady hurried ootae the room and ah could hear some ae thum whispering aboot the events fae earlier. So, ah took a dubious wander wae Aldo tae meet up wae Craigy at the first year playgroond. The corridors wur rammed wae fresh faced acne. But as we weaved past thum aw ah could hink wis ah’m dreadin tae see what this cunt is like wae nae adults aboot. Finally, we wur there, and that large open concrete space hud a starklin resemblence tae a prison yaird. It didnae take long tae spoat Craig, likes. He wis standin in the corner oan his ain. As we walked taewards him ah could see his mind workin in overdrive as he contemplated who ah hud broat along wae me.

‘’Dougie!’’ he shouted ‘’How wis yur first cless?’’

‘’Eh, aye’’ ah said ‘’It wis defo interesting’’ ah telt him ‘’Listen, mate. This is Aldo. He’s jist moved tae Leith’’

Craig reached his hand oot tae Aldo ‘’Nice tae meet yae, mate’’ he said. But Aldo jist brushed past him and ignored the gesture. Leavin Craigy and masel lookin a tad worried.

‘’Listen, ladies’’ Aldo said. ‘’Who runs the protection rackets in this shitehole, eh? the drugs, n that, ah mean?’’

Me and Craigy looked perplexed at each other ‘’ You do ken this is first year? And that it’s oor first day here?’’

‘’Aye’’ he says, defiantly ‘’But somecunt at this school must be runnin hings?’’

And wae that Craig chips in ‘’ The hardest boay at the school. Far as ah ken, mate. Is a laddie called Mark Thompson. Him and his mates deal green, n aw. But he’s a right horrible bastard’’

‘’Sounds like a kindred spirit. Ah’ll need tae meet him tae set up some new hoose rules’’

And that’ when Craig appeared tae huv somewhat ae a eureka moment ‘’Ah do ken you’’ he sais. Starin right at Aldo. ‘’Your family own that new restaurant, eh? A little taste ae India?’’

‘’That’s right’’ Aldo tells him. ‘’Ah remember you now. Chicken Korma wis too hoat the other night, correct?’’

‘’Aye, that’s right’’ Craig replied. Gawpin doon at the concrete at his feet.

But thankfully, the bell rang again. And at an instant everyboady dispersed back inside the building.

The rest ae that day wis spent involuntarily listenin tae Aldo plottin his hostile takeover ae the school. A few teachers wur sound but maist ae thum seemed tae be auld dismissive bastards. Who hud clearly loast their passion fur teachin a long time ago. This didnae stoap Aldo suckin up their erses though. And anytime he wis aroond a thum it wis like some well rehearsed theatre performance. Ah’m tellin yae, likes. He gave performance worthy ae Broadway. As soon as they wur ootae ear shot though he wid willingly gee each person in the room a character assassination.

Ah mind him nudging me in history cless ‘’See her?’’ he said, pointing tae a wee darling cawed Megan.

‘’Aye, what aboot her?’’ ah asked.

‘’Fuckin tellin yae, mate’’ he says ‘’By the end ae the year she wid huv hud maire cocks than ma faither hus cooked curries’’

Then he turned his attention back tae Jordan fae earlier ‘’Remember pork chop fae reggie?’’

‘’Aye, man. You mean Jordan?’’

‘’Aye, whatever. Mark ma words. He’s yin fat joke awey fae re-enactin the Columbine massacre’’

It then suddenly dawned oan me the only cunt that spoke tae me that day wis Aldo. When ah wid go tae the cless ah goat the odd smile fae some ae thum but that wis it. And who could blame thum, eh? Especially considering the company ah wis keepin. Still though, by the time ma first day finished ah wis baith physically and mentally exhausted. Tae the point when ah goat haime ah headed straight tae ma room fur a lie doon. Jist in the hope ah might huv made some sense ae what hud unfolded at school. Aboot twinty minutes later ma mum cawed me doon stairs fur ma tea and she then began questioning me aboot the events ae the day. Ah never telt her or ma dad aboot Aldo. As ah doubted neither yin ae thum wid even believe that he existed. Insteed, ah jist played dumb and made oot it hud been a great day. Which seemed tae pit a smile oan ma mums face. Efter ah hud ma apple pie and custard ah dashed tae change ootae ma school claithes. Then, ootae naewhere, ah heard a chap at ma front door. And when ah swung the hing open ah couldnae belive ma eyes, it wis Aldo.

‘’Dougie, son’’ he said. ‘’C’moan oot, mate. There’s money tae be made’’

‘’Aldo’’ ah said quietly. ‘’How did yae git ma address? Ah ken fur a fact ah never telt yae it’’

‘’School records never lie, mate’’ he said, wae a grin.

Ah wis speechless and before ah could respond. Ma mum came tae the door ‘’Who’s this, son?’’, she inquired. Starin Aldo up n doon.

‘’He’s ma new mate fae school, mum’’ ah telt her ‘’His name’s, Aldo’’

She waved him inside ‘’Come in, come in’’

She wis walkin oan water wae his compliments. He hit aw the markers, likes. Everything fae her hair style. Tae how she could pass as ma sister. He even hud ma dad eating ootae the palm ae his hand. Laughing at ma faither’s terrible patter and he even insisted oan dain the dishes. Jist his wey ae shamin me in front ae ma folks. And the nixt words oot ae ma dads mooth left me paralysed

‘’Ah wish ah hud son, like you, Aldo’’ he said

‘’Aye, but ah pit the bin oot last night dad’’ ah uttered.

‘’Aye, the wrong fuckin bin, though. It wis the black yin no the fuckin green yin’’ then ma dad returned tae hingng oan Aldo’s every word.

Hinkin quick oan ma feet ah suggested we go and chap Craig. In an attempt tae defuse the situation and hopefully stoap ma parents fae wantin tae adopt him. So, that’s what we did and then the three ae us headed tae the local park. But before we made it there Aldo decided tae stoap oaff at the wee paper shoap nearby.

As me and Craig stood ootside twiddling oor thums. We cloacked Mark Thompson walkin along wae his entourage ae goons in tow. Craigy gave me a nervous look which ah reciprocated. We baith knew this wis gonnae spell trouble. Mark, efteraw, wis the local bully. And the sortae cunt who preyed oan boays like us.

The stench ae Lynx Africa comin fae him as he drew nearer tae us almost gave me the dry boke ‘’You’s two headin tae the park?’’ he asked.

‘’Aye’’ ah responded, cautiously.

‘’Tell yae what’’ he says ‘’Gees a fiver and ah’ll lit yaise in fur free’’

‘’It’s a public park, though’’ ah whimpered.

Then, as he went tae crush ma Adam’s apple intae a fine powder. Aldo surfaced fae the shoap. And as soon as he does he’s met wae the sight ae Marks hand clutched acroass ma neck.

‘’What’s goin oan here?’’ Aldo says, energetically.

‘’Take a walk, pal’’ snapped Mark ‘’This doesnae concern you’’

Aldo smiled tae himself. Before sayin his peace oan the matter. ‘’Well, these two belong tae me. And naeboady touches ma pals withoot peying fur the privilege’’

Mark, who wis a few years aulder than us, and maire importantly, a loat bigger than us. Jist chuckled and telt Aldo tae piss oaff before he too goat hurt.

But his warnin fell oan deef ears. Cos, withoot warnin, Aldo produced what looked like a taser fae his jaicket poacket ‘’We kin dae this the easy wey’’ he says ‘’Or the fuckin fun wey’’

Me and Craigy wur brickin it big time at this point. Ah cannae lie. And it didnae help that Mark wis being egged oan by his mates tae knock Aldo oot. But before he could dae anyhing Aldo presented him wae yin final warning ‘’Listen, dafty’’ He says ‘’There’s enough electricity in this hing tae power the national grid. Jist gee me a reason, please?’’

‘’He’s bluffin, Mark’’ yin ae his mates squealed. ‘’Knoack him spark oot’’

And that’s when the maist amazing hing happened. Aldo zaps Mark wae the taser which dually sent him fittin uncontrollably tae the groond. And aw ah could hink while his mates ran awey in a panic wis how ah wis gonnae be an accessory tae murder.

Aldo stood oor Marks fittin boady and smirked. ‘’Is this that boay yae wur tellin me aboot earlier, lads?’’ Craig acknowledged wae he his heid, timidly.

Aldo then rested his fit oan Marks chest ‘’Dinnae you go swallowing yur tongue, Markie. Ah’ve been meaning tae huv a catch up wae yae. Listen, eh? you work fur me now. A fag gits selt fur fifty pence in the playgroond? ah want ma cut. Ah’m a reasonable man. Caw it a hunner per cent. Your reign ae terror ends theday. And mines hus jist begun. Spread the fuckin word’’

Ah wis in a state ae shock, likes. As wis Craig. Neither ae us could string a sentence taegether. It’s no everyday someboady is tasered in front ae yur very eyes. But Aldo didnae even flinch. No yince. And as we goat our ability tae speak returned. Ah realised that naeboady at the school wid even dare try and mess wae us ever again. It wis the first day ae a friendship that wid stand the test ae time. And that day wis truly yin tae remember.

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