Saturday 11 June 2022

Socrates’ Wink by Gill James, black coffee

 Peter watched Gavin polishing his boots. At least the boy was taking pride in something. He was a mess otherwise. He certainly needed a shave. He probably hadn’t bothered with a shower. Why was he wearing those scruffy jeans with holes in them? Surely he could afford a decent pair? And what was that T-shirt he was wearing? "Have a nice day. Fuck someone." Ye gods. Thank goodness his grandmother wouldn't be visiting today.

"So, what's the occasion?"

Gavin stopped polishing and looked up at Peter. "I'm going to look at that motor-bike I told you about.”

Ah yes. That. "Why do you need shiny boots in order to buy a motor-bike?"

"Well, you've got to look the part, haven't you?"

"What is the part?"

"You've got to look like a serious biker. Look as if you know what you're talking about. Or they might rip you off."

"Why would they want to rip you of?"

"Well, people do, don't they?"

"Why do they do that?"

"Because they want to make money quick."

"What do they need money for and why so quickly?"

"Everybody needs money and the quicker you make it the sooner you can get to relax."

"Why do we need to relax?"

"It's healthy, isn't it?"

"What do you mean by healthy?"

"You feel good. You don't hurt anywhere. You feel happy."

"What does happy feel like?"

"You're not worried. You've got something to look forward to. You feel good about yourself." Gavin looked down at his boots again. He must have decided they were clean enough because he started pulling them on. But he was making no effort to put the cleaning materials away.

Well, what did Peter expect? "So, those boots make you feel good about yourself, do they?"

"Yeah.  They're smart. Don't you think so?"

They did look good. But as for the rest of his outfit.... "Why do you want a motorbike?" Peter couldn't shake off the dread of opening the door one day to find a police officer standing there, ready to tell him that there'd been a terrible accident.

"To be free. To be able to come and go as I please."

"Why not a car?"

Gavin rolled his eyes. "A motorbike's cheaper. You can ride it before you've passed your test. And there's the other thing."

"What's that?"

"It's more of a thrill. It always feels faster than a car. And..."

He was blushing. Gavin was blushing?

"And what?"

"It's good for pulling the girls."

"How does that work?"

"We look sexy in our leathers and they like holding on, I guess." Gavin took his leather jacket off the peg by the back door. "I'm off now then, Dad."

"You don't want me to come with you?"

Gavin laughed. "You're joking, right?" And then with a slam of the kitchen door he was gone.

Peter looked up at his picture of Socrates. "Sorry old chap. That didn't go so well."


It was almost dinner-time when Gavin got back. There was no sign of a motor-bike. He was still wearing his leather boots and jacket but the T-shirt and ripped jeans had been replaced with a smart open-neck shirt and neat dark grey trousers.

"No luck with the motorbike?"

"No. Changed my mind."


"Well, the girls who like blokes on motorbikes are tarts and you were right, Dad, a car would be more useful."

He was right? Had he actually said anything about a car being more useful? Sure, he'd thought it would be safer but he hadn't dared say that.

"So, what's with the new clothes?"

"I decided I needed to look smarter if I was to get the job at Arnie's. So I spent my deposit money on this lot."  He grinned.  "And guess what; I got it. Weekend shifts mainly so it won't interfere with college."

"That sounds like a plan."

"Yeah. Only there is one thing."

"Go on."

"Can you lend me some money to buy a new jacket? I'll pay you back as soon as I can. I'm going to put my leathers on E-bay."

"Go on then."

"Thanks, Dad. Right, I'll go and get a shave and a shower."

Peter looked up again at the portrait of the ancient philosopher. He could have sworn he saw the old chap wink. They'd almost got it right between them, then.      

About the author

Gill James is published by The Red Telephone, Butterfly and Chapeltown.  

She edits CafeLit.

She writes for the online community news magazine: Talking About My Generation

She is a Lecturer in Creative Writing and has an MA in Writing for Children and PhD in Creative and Critical Writing





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