"Five Hundred Pound" by Tony Williams
My growing up began in a pedalo at Carsington Water, when Granddad said to me, ‘I’ve left you some money in me will. Just so you know. I won’t be going for a long time yet, but when I do, there’s something for you. Five hundred pound.’
We churned round among the swans without speaking. Drifting in near the bank we went under an overhanging tree, and I felt tiny insects or flecks of sap fall on my head and shoulders. I couldn’t speak; my head was full of five hundred pound.
Granddad was sitting there, his leg warm next to mine, the smell of his hair and coat. But I was thinking: Playstation. Mountain bike. Year’s supply of Haribo.
All through dinner all these ideas were tumbling through my mind. ‘You’re quiet,’ said Granny. It was sort of exciting but sort of painful too – how would I know what to buy? What if I chose the wrong thing?
He hadn’t known he was about to die. It was just chance that on the Monday I got back from school, mucky and cross after Games, and Dad was there, home early, in charge, and Mum was crying and hugging me. They sat me down and told me, and the first thing that came into my head was, ‘Digital camera. Playstation. Portable DVD.’ The second thing was, ‘Granddad’s dead,’ but the damage was done.
On the day I was wearing this dark suit. The collar chafed my neck, and I was glad. I wanted to cry. I looked out of the window of the black car at the rain. My fingers were drumming in my pocket, though. It felt like I had a secret.
At the crematorium I sang along although I didn’t know half the words. I tried to listen to what everyone said about Granddad, but all the time I was thinking how sad I had to be, and not thinking about the other thing. Then I found out I was crying, and it was OK.
Everyone went outside and stood about. Boring. Some of the men were smiling, and then some of the women too. They were talking about drinking. I knew there were tables of sandwiches and sausage rolls waiting at Granny and Grandad’s, and I really wanted to eat a plateful, but I didn’t think it was right. But Dad started rounding everybody up, and I went anyway, sitting in the car next to Mum, her cuddling me too tight.
It was the summer before the money came through. I’d twigged that Mum would make me save it, but she said we could go into Nottingham and spend some of it on something I wanted. We went and stood under the stone lions, and then to Dixons. I got an mp3 player. Then we had burgers at this posh ‘joint’, as Mum called it. They were massive, these burgers. I didn’t like the gherkins. When we were waiting for pudding I got the mp3 player out and had a go on the buttons, tried it out, looked at the instructions. It was OK, but I knew I’d failed.