Around that time, there was this weird trend where lads around The Feln started getting birds of prey as pets. It used to be people getting Rottweilers to be harder and cooler. But then kids decided they wanted to be different, and keep fucking eagles and shit instead.
The first one was a lad at school called Stevie Mann. He got this massive hawk that sat on a perch at the bottom of his garden. He lived on a corner and the garden on the back was huge, and shaped like a wedge of pie. All of a sudden there was this intense-as-fuck hawk with big yellow eyes staring at anyone that went past. As soon as that happened, all these pure beast-birds started popping up all over The Feln. And there’d always be arguments about who had the hardest bird.
‘Nah Stevie’s hawk is miles harder than Monnaz’ Eagle.’
‘It’s fuckin’ not like.’
‘Here man, you not seen its fucking claws? It eats two rabbits alive a day, man.’
‘Shut up man ya daftie. Monnaz has to get live foxes and badgers in to feed his.’
Everyone would just make shit up about what their mate’s bird ate. Or how dangerous it was. Cos if you were too skint to keep your own bird, you had a duty to build the rep of your mates instead. So in The Feln back then, you had all these birds in gardens that were meant to be absolute weapons. That would steal babies out of prams if they got free from their perch, and could crush a cow’s skull in their beak.
One day though, Stevie Mann’s hawk got shot by some lads. When it happened he wasn’t in school, or at The Shanty – for weeks. Then when he did eventually come back, his own eyes looked like they’d gone to a hawk colour. And the skin from his lids to his cheeks looked like it had been clawed at by a hawk as well.
I remember he was telling people in the yard how it happened. That a lad who lived round the corner from his, saw a silver Cosworth stop on the road near the bottom of the garden where the perch was. It was in broad daylight and he reckoned he saw the Cosworth lettering on the back when the car did off.
Ellie Malcolm stopped Stevie bang in the middle of him telling us how his hawk got whacked. She asked him if he was in the house – and if he heard the engine rip off when they’d killed it. Stevie said he was home, but hadn’t heard a thing of the car. Just heard the gun go off. Ellie straight away said it wasn’t a Cosworth. Her dad worked in a garage and she knew cars like me Granda knew garlic. She telt him that you’d know it’s a Cosworth cos you hear them like a plane taking off if someone pulls away rapid. So from that day, Stevie carried a cosh around when we were out, and was always on the peep for a car like that. I remember one night we spent hours cutting about the streets looking for a silver Escort with blacked out windows, that had Cosworth lettering on the back. It never turned up though.
The same way that all these perches started going up once Stevie Mann got his hawk, they all started coming down once it got duffed. The whole craze lasted about a year, and then all of a sudden no one was getting hawks and eagles or talking about them. No one except Dopey Pete Boyle, whose house we were always crashing in.
The first time I met Dopey Pete, we were getting into a lasses car to go through a drive-thru. Instead of doing it the normal way, I watched him fasten the seatbelt, then take ages wriggling his lanky body inside the belt and into the seat. I didn’t know him so just assumed he was being daft. But then I clocked that he wasn’t even trying to be funny. That he was just going about his business getting into a car. He just did life fucking backwards. He was proper slow as owt, and always got ripped for it. He’d just make these random mistakes like he was empty all of a sudden. He once picked a house for us to egg, and it turned out it was someone that was mates with his mam and dad. They just blatantly spotted him doing it and he got absolutely knacked for it. He got grounded for a few weeks and when we saw him again, he said he hadn’t picked by mistake. He’d chose it on purpose knowing it was them. It was like he had never managed to understand how consequences worked, ever. He threw the first and last egg at that house brazen as owt. I still remember the bloke who owned it came out on a walking stick, with a tin in his soare mit. Shouting to Dopey Pete – that he’d be ringing his dad before we even got out out the cul-de-sac.
His family had a caravan somewhere and he’d always have a free house. People would act proper shan cos he was easy, and trash it or nick stuff. But the daftie would just join in smashing up lamp stand, or laugh watching someone walk out with one of his mam’s random ornaments. Like he’d forgotten it was his house and not someone else’s fucking house. So anyway it was nee shock to anyone, when Dopey Pete Boyle let it known that he’d got an owl around the time when everyone else had lost interest in them.
I think his dad new that people ripped it out of him a bit, and must have cottoned on that big birds were all the rage – but got there late. Anyway one day Dopey Pete’s dad came home with this owl that he’d bought off some random, down the club. Thinking it might help his boy get a little less picked on. His dad wasn’t the brightest either. They didn’t have a garden, or shed or nowt. You know where Dopey Pete got it all from. This owl was canny young. His dad handed over cash thinking it wouldn’t get any bigger. That it would just live till its dying-day in the carry-cage that the fella brought it round the club in.
But obviously it got bigger with every rodent ate, and it ended up living in Dopey Pete’s actual fucking bedroom.
It had a perch made from four cans of lager on the floor, and it would fly from there to sit up on top of the little telly he had in a bracket in the corner of his room. It was a fucking massive fucking owl as well. One of them that looks evil as hell, with pointy ears that spike straight up. That kind that always seems to be looking like it’s going to tear ya fucking eyes out.
The thing about birds of prey as well is, they only ever get attached to one person to trust. The hand that feeds them. So whenever Dopey Pete had a house party people wanted to go up and see his owl, and he was the only one who could get near it. If you tried stroking it or owt like that when it wasn’t sitting on Dopey Pete’s arm, it would have a go at you.
The pure maddest thing that ever gone on between humans and owls – happened at one of the parties when I wasn’t there. It was near Christmas, and his house was all done up. His was the kind of family where the tree us up before most people even clock that it’s November, and every inch of the place gets Christmas puked all over it.
His mam had this weird half-leprechaun, half-snowman ornament that Pete said was older than him. It had a little top hat that was made of felt, and a chin strap so you could take it off when you put the thing away in its box at the end of Christmas. That night everyone was getting wrecked, and they managed to convince Dopey Pete to put this fucking daft little top hat on his owl. And he fucking did it. Then it went absolutely berserk, and he couldn’t get hold of it to get the fucking top hat off. Every time he tried to get hold of his owl it was attacking him and then flying up onto its high perch on the box telly.
From that night on, the owl wouldn’t let anyone or Dopey Pete get anywhere near it. I swear down, he had to move out of his bedroom and sleep in the spare box-room instead. The owl just took over his whole fucking room. All he could do was just quickly open the door and drop some mice or whatever in there. Then slam the door shut. It just full-on went for him the second it saw the door move.
The more kids heard about it, the more everyone wanted to see this mad owl in the little top hat. So loads of random gangs would just randomly knock on Dopey Pete at night, and ask to see his owl. Even when he wasn’t in the house or they barely knew him. His mam used to go off it at the door.
It went on like this for a few months, until one night he had a load of us round.
Everyone was smoking dope. Cos the thing now was to get high as fuck and then see this big psycho owl that’s wearing a tiny little top hat with a buckle. Well what happened was, a few kids got stoned and went up. Before you went in, you were meant to switch the passage light off so that you were standing in the dark. Then stick an arm in the door and switch the bedroom light on. But these dafties were already in fits laughing and wrecked. Before they even got to the top of the stairs they were crying on the floor. So when they did eventually get to the owl’s room, they just opened the door with the passage light still blazing away.
The owl was sitting in the dark.
As soon as it saw the light, it fucking went straight for it. And at them. They all scattered and hit the floor, then scrambled into Dopey Pete’s bathroom. Now because everyone was baking fucking loads of weed, Dopey Pete had all the windows in the house open.
Out the fucking mad owl went, didn’t it?
Everyone was stoned to fuck, in tears around the house. Crying laughing at the idea of this mad owl in a top hat now being on the loose in The Feln.
Eventually, Dopey Pete gets a search party together to see if he can find it outside. So we ended up with forty stoned kids laughing and rolling down the streets, asking anyone that went past if they’d seen a mad owl in a top hat. Every time someone said them words to a person that happened to be walking by, the roaring and crying started up again.
We must have been out there about two hours, and me and three others were just about to go into the big park. Cos we’d heard rumours that it had been spotted there by a bloke walking his dog. I felt ill and tired like I’d been on a fucking marathon with being buckled for so long. All of us had laughed to the point that the drink and weed had worn off. So we were all sobered up and a bit on edge. Thinking any minute the owl was going to swoop down out the dark and take a chunk out of us. That’s when I got a call of me dad to say my mam had been taken in, and I had to get to the hospital.
I threw up when I put the phone down, and everyone thought I was just on a whitey and were laughing. I just said I had to go. None of them knew about me mam’s drinking. Most of them didn’t even know where I lived or nowt.
It’s weird. I think now that I must have known it would happen. That she’d take proper ill. She’d been leaving the house less and less. Just sinking more and more. She had wine in her hand in the morning and everything. Ever since my Richie went, I think I just was trying to live like nothing was happening. I was always trying to stay out the house and crash at other people’s places. It used to be Dopey Pete’s box room a lot, until the mad owl started taking over the fucking house.
I remember going in, and seeing her laid out in the first of a few beds that were on the intensive ward. She looked massive. Her body filled the entire space between the metal hand rails on either side of the bed frame. Like she’d been poured into it out of a can. Next to her, was the machines that was keeping every organ going. They were busy as bandit machines. Flashing and clicking away next to her.
All I can remember was a nurse asking me who I was, and if I had any questions. I had nowt to say back to her. And I just remember staring at her and smiling like we were just two people waiting in a queue or something. Like we weren’t in this situation at all. While my mam swelled and beeped in the background.