Pigeon English
Stephen Kelman


You could see the blood. It was darker than you thought.
It was all on the ground outside Chicken Joe’s. It just felt
 Jordan: ‘I’ll give you a million quid if you touch it.’
 Me: ‘You don’t have a million.’
 Jordan: ‘One quid then.’
 You wanted to touch it but you couldn’t get close
enough. There was a line in the way:


 If you cross the line you’ll turn to dust.
 We weren’t allowed to talk to the policeman, he had
to concentrate for if the killer came back. I could see
the chains hanging from his belt but I couldn’t see the
 The dead boy’s mamma was guarding the blood. She
wanted it to stay, you could tell. The rain wanted to come
and wash the blood away but she wouldn’t let it. She
wasn’t even crying, she was just stiff and fierce like it was
her job to scare the rain back up into the sky. A pigeon was
looking for his chop. He walked right in the blood. He was
even sad as well, you could tell where his eyes were all pink
and dead.
* * *

The flowers were already bent. There were pictures of the
dead boy wearing his school uniform. His jumper was
 My jumper’s blue. My uniform’s better. The only bad
thing about it is the tie, it’s too scratchy. I hate it when
they’re scratchy like that.
 There were bottles of beer instead of candles and the
dead boy’s friends wrote messages to him. They all said he
was a great friend. Some of the spelling was wrong but I
didn’t mind. His football boots were on the railings tied up
by their laces. They were nearly new Nikes, the studs were
proper metal and everything.
 Jordan: ‘Shall I t’ief them? He don’t need ’em no more.’
 I just pretended I didn’t hear him. Jordan would never
really steal them, they were a million times too big. They
looked too empty just hanging there. I wanted to wear
them but they’d never fit.

Me and the dead boy were only half friends, I didn’t see
him very much because he was older and he didn’t go
to my school. He could ride his bike with no hands and
you never even wanted him to fall off. I said a prayer
for him inside my head. It just said sorry. That’s all I
could remember. I pretended like if I kept looking hard
enough I could make the blood move and go back in the
shape of a boy. I could bring him back alive that way. It
happened before, where I used to live there was a chief
who brought his son back like that. It was a long time
ago, before I was born. Asweh, it was a miracle. It didn’t
work this time.
 I gave him my bouncy ball. I don’t need it anymore, I’ve
got M ve more under my bed. Jordan only gave him a pebble
he found on the floor.
 Me: ‘That doesn’t count. It has to be something that
belonged to you.’
 Jordan: ‘I ain’t got nothing. I didn’t know we had to
bring a present.’
 I gave Jordan a strawberry Chewit to give to the dead
boy, then I showed him how to make a cross. Both the two
of us made a cross. We were very quiet. It even felt important.
We ran all the way home. I beat Jordan easily. I can
beat everybody, I’m the fastest in Year 7. I just wanted to
get away before the dying caught us.

The buildings are all mighty around here. My tower is
as high as the lighthouse at Jamestown. There are three
towers all in a row: Luxembourg House, Stockholm House
and Copenhagen House. I live in Copenhagen House. My
flat is on floor 9 out of 14. It’s not even hutious, I can look
from the window now and my belly doesn’t even turn over.
I love going in the lift, it’s brutal, especially when you’re
the only one in there. Then you could be a spirit or a spy.
You even forget the pissy smell because you’re going so
 It’s proper windy at the bottom like a whirlpool. If you
stand at the bottom where the tower meets the ground and
put your arms out, you can pretend like you’re a bird. You
can feel the wind try to pick you up, it’s nearly like flying.
 Me: ‘Hold your arms out wider!’
 Jordan: ‘They’re as wide as I can get ’em! This is so gay,
I’m not doing it no more!’
 Me: ‘It’s not gay, it’s brilliant!’
 Asweh, it’s the best way to feel alive. You only don’t
want the wind to pick you up, because you don’t know
where it will drop you. It might drop you in the bushes or
the sea.

In England there’s a hell of different words for everything.
It’s for if you forget one, there’s always another one left
over. It’s very helpful. Gay and dumb and lame mean all
the same. Piss and slash and tinkle mean all the same (the
same as greet the chief). There’s a million words for a bulla.
When I came to my new school, do you know what’s the
first thing Connor Green said to me?
 Connor Green: ‘Have you got happiness?’
 Me: ‘Yes.’
 Connor Green: ‘Are you sure you’ve got happiness?’
 Me: ‘Yes.’
 Connor Green: ‘But are you really sure?’
 Me: ‘I think so.’
 He kept asking me if I had happiness. He wouldn’t stop.
In the end it just vexed me. Then I wasn’t sure. Connor
Green was laughing, I didn’t even know why. Then Manik
told me it was a trick.
 Manik: ‘He’s not asking if you’ve got happiness, he’s
asking if you’ve got a penis. He says it to everyone. It’s just
a trick.’
 It only sounds like happiness but really it means a penis.
 Connor Green: ‘Got ya! Hook, line and sinker!’
 Connor Green is always making tricks. He’s just a confusionist.
That’s the first thing you learn about him. At least
I didn’t lose. I do have a penis. The trick doesn’t work if
it’s true.

Some people use their balconies for hanging washing
or growing plants. I only use mine for watching the
helicopters. It’s a bit dizzy. You can’t stay out there for
more than one minute or you’ll turn into an icicle. I
saw X-Fire painting his name on the wall of Stockholm
House. He didn’t know I could see him. He was proper
quick and the words still came out dope-fine. I want to
write my own name that big but the paint in a can is too
dangerous, if you get it on yourself it never washes off,
even forever.
 The baby trees are in a cage. They put a cage around the
tree to stop you stealing it. Asweh, it’s very crazy. Who’d
steal a tree anyway? Who’d chook a boy just to get his
Chicken Joe’s?