by James

Elbow room, too much to ask? Or what about a telly schedule not driven by promise of the naked breast? What we needed was Lenny to claim ownership of the remote. There’d be mutterings, but none to his face, the guy with fingers wide as the remote. But all Lenny wanted was to plug into his headphones, spend his nights in the common room with this soppy smile on his face.

Nine of us in that halfway home. Nine of us guys, and one television set.

The best argument two nights ago, Ricky and a filched copy of the Radio Times and a film that “Contains Nudity”. We sat through sixty minutes of Ken Russell’s seminal work, Women in Love, and then I remember chaos, and almost blood. Ricky sitting there oblivious, eyes only for the telly with Oliver Reed and Alan Bates wrestling nude in front of a roaring fire.

It was Dunc with a plan for tonight. Dunc was going to bring peace to the centre, an evening of harmony that didn’t end with a misplaced fist sending some poor so back to prison. It was a stupid plan, course it was, Dunc back from the charity shop with a board game. Only child, was it, Dunc?

But hey, worth a shot, right? This is why I spent my last three quid on a tray of cupcakes, the kind that are all lurid icing and soft teeth rot. It was the cakes brought them to the table, four guys with hard faces and scarred knuckles munching on E numbers as Dunc set out the board.

Benny said he was the car, he was always the car. Luigi said he was always the car too, same with Kenny. Six of us sitting down to play, and five of us always the car.

Dunc said, ‘There is no car. There’s no little dog, no top hat. This isn’t Monopoly. You collect these little plastic counters, see, with the parts of the ant on them? The winner’s the one who gets enough pieces to make the queen.’

It was Benny with the snigger, and jerk of his head at Ricky in front of the telly.

‘We need another?’

I’m glad Ricky’s not playing the game. Guy has balls, have to give him that, sat there with lips faintly purple, mascara faintly green.

Six of us playing in almost harmony, rolling dice, stacking up counters. It’s only a matter of time, an errant roll, a misplaced elbow, and then I’m hitting the floor and staying there. I hope Dunc does the same, leave the rest fight it out.

And then, oh man, the bliss of it. We lose at least two, right? I figure ramming a dice in a guy’s eye puts him in hospital and the rammer in violation of parole. But think about it, four of them go and that remote control is mine.

If my luck holds I’ll find a re-run of Women in Love.