From Rotherham to Grassington - The Story of Ding
Chapter 1: The Beginning of the End
Ding meticulously and systematically removed every last morsel of meat from his final chicken wing, as he'd done to every anaemic, battery farmed chicken wing throughout his life. He stripped the bone dry, much like Doncaster had stripped his soul dry these last 16 years.
He thought on that fateful Friday night, as he did every night, that 6 chicken wings was just too many. That's why he liked coming to KenLucky Fried Chicken on the outskirts of town. Because they did a 4 wing meal. Not only did he always finish 4 wings, but it was 47p cheaper than the chicken shop down the road, which only offered a 6 wing bucket.
This pleased him.
But he felt it did not please him as much as it used to only a few years ago. He knew he was deeply troubled right now, and not just because someone had sat in his usual corner seat in the chicken shop. The one he sat in every night, bollocks free commando in his combat trousers, manboobs hidden in under his charity shop bargain Gortex coat and shaggy jumper.
No, it wasn't the seating issue, even though it had nearly caused him to turn straight back round and leave the shop in an autistic shut down. His soul was recently being eaten up by something larger, a vast emptiness during his fifth decade on the earth. As he watched the young things stagger through the streets enjoying their weekends as northerners do, vomiting everywhere and chanting the latest popular songs, he was overcome with a great yearning.
He was too old to fuck any of them, not that he ever had fucked a girl, even in his youth. After all these years of virginity, although fairly certain he was not a homosexual, he'd even have taken home one of the supple 18 year old delinquent lads who also frequented the chicken shop, just to feel another's skin on his.
Who am I kidding, Ding thought. I miss the Corner. I miss the old gang. MikeD, Yariman, Snatch and I. The Four Musketeers as we used to call ourselves. Very droll. He laughed to himself.
But I can't go back, I know I can't. It was all just too crushing. After the days of calm and acceptance following the Cliques ban, he had been the happiest he'd ever been. Then when the days turned into months he'd been ecstatic. A transcendental wave of joy had swept over him, keeping him warm in the bedsit when the meter ran out.
The cliques return had destroyed his soul. Killed his desire to any of the things he'd enjoyed before; the multi-quoting, the catchphrases, the train-spotting. He'd cried and cried, shitting the bed where he lay for days and days, not cleaning it up. His sour faced Bulgarian social worker had been furious after the bank holiday when he returned to the flat, but he had been too broken to even offer an apology.
He tried to cast his mind back to the happier times; that year at Skipton High School when he found a small cupboard he could hide in to escape the merciless bullying. The data entry role in the little office sat on its own outside the Bradford bypass. The brief stint as a window cleaner at the old people's home, where 'Batty' Beatrice would sometimes show him her blurt from her wheelchair whilst he soaped the windows.
More to follow next week.