A story about graffiti, foxes, and love.
|Foxes - One.
I struggle to see what I’m doing and wish we could use a torch, but a torch could attract attention - attention possibly of the police-variety. That is something I could do without.
‘Could you hurry up, maybe, please?’ Scott asks. ‘I’m shivering so hard I’m scared I’m gonna fall.’ He rubs his triceps, and glances down at the pavement below us.
‘Yeah yeah,’ my voice hisses, and the spray-can in my hand hisses in tandem with it.
‘If I fall and die, tell my parents I love them.’
‘That would be a lie, though. I don’t like to lie. It’s immoral.’
Scott gives a loud bark of a laugh, before catching his voice by clamping a hand over his mouth. After a beat, he peels his fingers away one by one. ‘So lying is immoral, but graffiti is a-okay?’
‘Street art is illegal, not immoral. There is a difference, I feel.’
‘This isn’t art you’re doing, buddy.’
‘Who are you to judge that?’ I say, as I release the ignition on the spray-can and let my hand drop to my side. Nodding, I shimmy back as much as I can to examine my creation. It’s hard to see right now - the streetlamp below is dodgy and bleeds light only in irregular spurts - but come morning all passing pedestrians and drivers will have their eyes accosted by my artwork.
‘It’s a penis,’ Scott say, and shrugs.
‘It’s a penis,’ I agree.
He points to the speech-bubble erupting from its head. ‘I can’t see. What’s it saying?’
‘“Worship me or suffer my wrath.”’
I don’t look away from the talking penis. ‘That’s what I was going for.’
My drawing is on an empty section of light pink wall on the first floor of the building. We’re stood on a slim balcony of sorts - a patch of gravelled roofing that is the result of the garish shop façade jutting out on the ground floor. All is quiet. Nothing is moving except for the erratic flashes of light that flicker in and out of existence around the dying streetlamp. It is a Sunday night - chosen because there will always be less people on the street to see us and call the police on a Sunday night. Despite Scott’s protestations it is a warm night, and I smile a smile that no one can see.
‘Well,’ I say once I’ve finished admiring my own artistic skill, ‘that’s that. Ready to go?’
‘More than ready. I am eager to go.’
I turn from the wall in time to see a flicker of darkness flit across the street. A fox. I point towards where it ran to, and I’m about to ask Scott if he saw it too, when there’s a clicking and then a creak, and another dark shape emerges, this time right below us.
‘What’re you doing up there?’ the shape demands in a strong voice. ‘Fucking kids, get down here now or I’ll call the cops.’
I pause a beat, then call back down, ‘There’s no one up here.’
‘The fuck! Do you think I’m retarded or something? Fucking punk kid.’
I’ve never seen Scott’s eyes so wide before - they’re almost cartoon-like. ‘Oh shit oh shit oh shit,’ he’s saying to himself.
‘I don’t like it when people use “retarded” in that manner,’ I say. ‘I find it offensive.’
‘Are you for real? I don’t give a fuck what you find offensive. Get off my property!’
‘Do you promise not to kill us if we come down?’ I feel as though I should be more scared, and though the muscles in my limbs are tensed, I’m actually enjoying this. I think my face might even be decorated with a smile.
‘I don’t fucking promise anything!’
‘Huh. You know, you might want to consider swearing less; it makes you seem confrontational.’
‘Oh fuck this. I’m calling the cops.’
I look at Scott, who’s been reduced to silently mouthing who-knows-what to himself. ‘Jump and run?’ I ask.
‘Run,’ I finish the sentence for him when he trails off into silence.
‘I don’t want to get arrested,’ he says. ‘Oh shit, I really, really don’t. My parents would never forgive me.’
‘Who cares, you don’t like them anyway. Jump and run?’
The shape below is talking into a phone now. ‘Yeah there’s a couple of kids climbing on my shop’s roof,’ he’s saying, and I resist the urge to point out that this isn’t actually the shop’s roof and that we’re not actually kids.
‘Jump and run!’ Scott says, and drops off the ledge without waiting another moment.
‘Jump and run,’ I say, and grin, and follow him. Air rushes around me, and my gut lurches with gravity, then my feet hit the hard pavement, followed by my hands which go half-numb as they slap the concrete.
The man makes a startled noise and drops his phone. He stares at me for a fraction of a second, then reaches out to grab me with one thick arm. I turn and feel his fingers rub uselessly against my back as I run, following Scott down the road.
‘Oi!’ the man calls behind us, ‘oi!’ I don’t turn to check if he’s giving chase, I just carry on sprinting, gulping in air as I go. I wish I was fitter - my thighs are getting heavy already and my lungs are beginning to burn.
A couple of twists and turns down various roads and alleys, and we stumble to a halt, breathing hard and letting out giggles. ‘That … was amazing,’ Scott says, bent over double. Once he’s regained his breath, he adds, ‘But I still think I hate you. Can we go home now?’
I don’t reply right away, because my attention has been caught by a shadow sulking amongst a pile of bin bags. It’s a fox again - maybe even the same one as before, for all I know. Its eyes burn in the darkness. I turn back to Scott, ‘Yeah,’ I say. ‘Yeah, home.’
I look back to the bin bags, hoping to get one last glimpse of the fox before we leave, but it’s already been absorbed back into the night.