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My big brother Joey

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I tried to run away once. I got to the door at the end of our row, and I didn't wanna go no further, cause the-man-who-drinks-a-lot lives in that one. I don't like him. He's always mean to me. But then I was six, and now I'm nine. I can go on me own all the way to school, further if my big brother Joey's with me. As long as I can see our apartment block. I sticks up out of the ground like one of my big brother Joey's spots. The bottom's covered in graffiti. My big brother Joey does awesome graffiti, he can even do an s like a triangle. I can't do it, graffiti. I tired once, but I just writ my name real small in black marker on the wall. I didn't wanna get dragged home by the Coppies like my big brother Joey. Or like Dad when he has loads of beer like the-man-who-drinks-a-lot. Sometimes he gets in fights, and then they bring him home the next morning and he's all beat up and mad at us. He gets really angry with my big brother Joey. They fight all the time. Usually Dad wins. Joey doesn't let me watch when Dad fights him. But I peaked once, watched through the door, I did. Joey wasn't fighting back much. Dad's strong, stronger than me and Joey combined, and Joey's twelve, and he's bigger than anyone in my class, or in the class above me. I think he must be the biggest in his class too, but I don't know. He goes to the big school down the road, and I go to the baby school the other way. Joey calls it the baby school, but I ain't a baby! I can walk all on my own now, and Joey don't come with me anymore. He said he got in trouble with his teacher, and his teacher called Dad, and then he got in trouble with Dad too. He had a massive purple bruise on his eye, it was so cool. I told everyone in my class my big brother Joey got in a fight, and he was real brave and strong. They was proper impressed. No one messes with me no more, cause Joey can come hurt 'em. Sometimes Dad gets mad at me, when Joey's not home. Sometimes he drinks lots and lots, til his eyes are red and his face is red and he gets real sad, then real angry. I wish I was allowed to go out after it gets dark. Dad won't let me out after the street lamps come on, but Joey's allowed out til nine in winter and eleven in summer. Sometimes he don't listen though, and he comes back real late. Sometimes he even drinks like Dad does. He's got friends who're lots bigger than me and him combined, some of them even bigger than Dad. They get him whatever he wants from the off-licence if he nicks stuff for them. Once he and Dad both had lots to drink, and they got to fighting, but Joey kept laughing lots, and he couldn't stand up properly. Dad hit him real hard, and kicked him out. Joey fell down the stairs where the boy next door pisses against the wall, and he didn't come back until the next morning to get his school bag. That was one of the times Dad got angry with me instead. We both got to show off our bruises in school next day. Billy who sits next to me said they were awesome and he wished his dad fought with him instead of mucking with his sister. I don't know what he meant. He said he didn't know either. I'm glad I got Joey and not some smelly sister. I'm glad Dad fights with us, even though it hurts loads, cause some kids in my class don't even have Dads. Shahid don't have a Dad, he just has a foster Mum. And she don't even let him out til the street lamps go on. He has to be in for dinner and he has to do his homework. He's the only kid in my class who does it. I never done my homework. I got a bet with Billy to see how long we can go without doing any writing in school too. I'm winning. I not done any for 26 days. Teacher got mad at me, but I don't care much. Joey says teacher's are always getting mad at him. He says it's just cause we white, and no one else in my class is, but I think it's cause Joey's always talking to teacher's like he talks to Dad, all cocky. I think it's cool, but teachers don't. Dad don't either. Teachers don't hit kids though. Except Mr Bailey last year hit Jamir. But they both gone now. I decided when I'm sixteen and I can leave school that I'll go far, far away with Joey. Maybe I'll go before that, when Joey turns sixteen so we can go together. I don't want him to leave before me. I wanna stay with my big brother Joey. But yeah, we'll leave, and we'll go a long way away, and maybe I'll see a cow. Joey said he saw one on a school trip in year seven. I'm in year five, so I might go soon. I'd like to see a cow. Apparently milk comes from cow poo. Our milk's always got bits in and smells gross, and tastes real manky, but we has to drink it cause it goes on our cereals. Sometimes though we don't bother with cereals, and Joey just pops into the shop on our way to school, before we split up, and nicks some chocolate. I likes those days, when Joey gets me chocolate. Those days, he walks to school all the way with me, and I get to show him to my friends. Teacher gives him weird looks though, and tell him to get out. I don't think that's nice, making my big brother Joey get off our playground. He used to go to my school. Teachers didn't like him then either, Joey says. I had to write a story bout my favourite person and I chose Joey cause he's nice to me, not like Dad or the boys at school. Some of them laugh at me cause my clothes don't fit and smell a bit. I don't smell that bad. I have a wash every week, when the water's on. My clothes are Joey's old ones, and he got them from Aunty Kay's boys. Sometimes I stay in at break and talk to teacher instead of playing. He don't ask me to stay, I just does. When I do that, he likes it. He listens to me talk, and he tells me new things. I learned all bout space like that. He told me all bout stars, and how they're miles and miles away and made of gas like when you fart. He says if I try real hard, I can change my stars. He says he means I can change what happens in my life. He wants me to work hard, and then I can do well at school and stuff. Then I can be not like Dad, and I can be like the posh people we sees on the tube. I can wear a suit and go to work every day. I only know teacher who goes to work every day. Dad gets free money from the prime minister cause he doesn't want a job. I think that sounds easier. But teacher wants me to try, so that I can do better. He says I can get out of the tower block if I work hard. He says I can be smart if I want. He says I's good at maths. I can do the sheets easy. They don't count as writing, so I'm still winning my bet with Billy. I reckon at the end of the year I'll win, and he'll have to eat a worm and give me his allowance. He only gets a quid a month. I get £1.10 and anything Joey nicks for me from Dad's wallet. Joey gets two quid, just cause he's older. I want to be like Joey. Joey doesn't want to change the stars. He don't want to go to work every day like teacher. Me neither.


I managed to do what my teacher said. I changed my stars. I go to work every day. At the start, it was boring, just building stuff, but now I get to design buildings. I wear a suit, and travel on the tube. I visit the tower block I grew up in sometimes. I visit Dad, who never moved anywhere else and sits, lifeless, in his chair. I visit Joey in the prison, and I tell him all about Shahid, who did well, and Billy who didn't. I walk around the streets we used to play on, I see the school I used to go to, and occasionally I send presents to the teacher who told me I could change the future, the teacher who told me I could be someone. Because he was right.



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