Camel

Most people in here call me Camel ‘cos they say I smell like one, right. That’s ‘cos when I was in the Young Offenders’ Institution they beat me up every time I tried to get a shower, so I stopped botherin’. That don’t happen no more because the screws say no one will go near me after what I done. They say that they’ve never had a grave robber on remand before, even though I tell ‘em I never done no grave robbin’. I’m only in here ‘cos I tried to do Carly a favour.

Carly never called me Camel; said it was beneath her dignity, whatever that means. She always used my proper name, Shane. It’s funny, innit. I only get called Shane by people when I’m in trouble: me Mam when she was alive, the cops, lawyers, social workers. I’m Shane when I’m in the shit. I didn’t think Carly was trouble, not even when I got caught in the graveyard, but after seein’ her today I’ve changed my mind.

I met Carly just after I got out of the Institution, sort of bumped into her at the Job Centre. I’d gone to sign on and she was there trying to look for jobs on the computer. Carly must have sussed I was good with computers ‘cos she called me over and asked me to help. I showed her how to use the touch screen, not that I use ‘em myself much: all the jobs are shit, just cleaners, and part-time stuff and that. There weren’t no good jobs for her neither, but Carly asked me if I wanted to go to the pub. No funny stuff, she said. She just wanted to say thanks for helpin’ her out.

So I took her to The Jubilee ‘cos the beer’s cheap and they have a Wii an’ a big screen you can go on. Carly got me a pint of extra strength and she had a fizzy water. She didn’t want to play on the Wii, but said she’s watch me have a go. Afterwards she said she was impressed and then we just sat down and I took a good look at her. I could tell she didn’t come from the Kingsmoor Estate. She dressed smart, like she used to work in an office or somethin’ and talked like them women who read the news on the telly. She wouldn’t say much about herself, but she asked me loads of questions and it must’ve been somethin about the way she asked them ‘cos I told her lots of stuff about me Mam and me bastard Dad and me goin’ to prison and that.

Carly drank her water, then said she had to go, but maybe she’d see me again at the Job Centre. She bought me another pint, though, so I stayed and had a go on the Wii. After she’d gone I was thinkin’: Carly asking me questions reminded me of somethin’, but I didn’t know what. Not ‘til this afternoon.

I didn’t see Carly the next time I signed on, but she was there the time after. She sort of seemed to be hangin’ around the door, waitin’. When she saw me she gave a little smile. She had this big bag an’ she shoved it in my hands.

‘I’ve got something for you’, she said. ‘If you want it of course.’

Course I wanted it. It was an X-Box with a pile of games. It’d have taken me months to steal enough stuff to get the money for it, and here she was, just givin’ it to me. Carly told me it was her little brother’s and he’d got bored with it. She’d remembered me an’ the Wii from before and thought I’d like it.

I wasn’t havin’ none of that. It was brand new, the cables weren’t even out of their plastic bags. So I had to ask

‘It’s not robbed is it?’

When Carly stopped laughin’ she promised it had been her brother’s but I could have it now. I said I didn’t have no money to pay for it and she said that was all right.

‘If you want to pay me though,’ she said, ‘there’s one little favour you can do for me.’

I should have known. Mam used to say that you don’t get nothing for nothing, and women like Carly don’t go giving away X-Box’s without wanting something back. My probation officer would’ve told me to fuck off and leave her alone, but he wasn’t there so I followed her to the Jubilee. What could I do? The X-Box’d got Grand Theft Auto with it.

Turns out she’d been seein’ this dude who’d started bein’ a bastard with her, followin’ her everywhere and being dead jealous an’ that. So she’d dumped him. But he didn’t see things her way and kept followin’ her around bein’ a pain. Problem was he’d still got the key to her flat and she was worried that he’d come lookin’ for her. Carly wanted me to get the key back from his place then she’d feel safe.

I told Carly I don’t do burglaries no more ‘cos of what they’d done to me in the Institution. Then she started cryin’ and I can’t stand cryin’. It was a mint lookin’ X-Box too, so I gave in and said I’d get her key back. Carly wrote down this dude’s address on a beer mat and told me where he hid the key and said she’d meet me that Friday in the Jubilee. As she left she gave me a little kiss on the cheek, but I didn’t feel no tears on her face.

This dude lived in one of them big houses up at the north end of town. The North End isn’t my kinda place because it’s smart,  and I sort of stand out. So I went there at night – Carly said he’d be out – and pulled my hoodie up over my head so’s nobody could see me. I hung around in the street for a bit and I walked past his place a few times to make sure it was empty. It was too busy at the front so I looked round the back and that was all right. He’d a nice high gate and wall, so once I’d climbed over nobody could see me. Some people are dead stupid, and I reckon Carly’s ex was a right thick bastard, ‘cos it was easy breakin’ into his place. He had these windows, which slid open all the way and he only had these crappy window locks you can open dead easy. So I broke one of them little panes of glass in the window, stuck my hand in and undid the window lock. I was in there in seconds: most of the houses on the Kingsmoor are harder to get into, people didn’t trust no one there.  This was going to be easy, right?

I’d not heard of silent alarms until Daz told me about them when I shared a cell with him. They don’t ring out or nothin’, just go right to the police station. This dude must have had one because just about the time when I’d finished breaking into his desk for the key, the cops turned up. There was three of them and I had to run like a bastard. I lost ‘em in the end, that was easy. The hard part was on the Friday, telling Carly where I’d thrown the key while I was escapin’.

She weren’t happy. She weren’t the nice friendly Carly who given me the X-Box. She weren’t even the cryin’ one from the pub. All her face was red and that and she looked as though she wanted to give me a slap. She kept shoutin’ at me.

‘You threw it in there? You threw it in there?’

We were standin’ in front of this grave, right and I tried to explain that I’d not thrown the key away: I’d hidden it so’s the cops wouldn’t find it on me if I got caught. Then she asked me in that news woman sort of voice:

‘What the bloody hell were you doing here anyway?’

So I tried to tell her it weren’t my fault. The cops was chasing me and I jumped over the railings ‘cos I didn’t think they’d follow me in. They were all fat bastards, right, and I didn’t think they’d get over the fence. But I heard some dogs and I thought they’d sent them in. I weren’t hangin’ about to get bit by no dogs so I hid the key in this big hole and covered it with a bit of dirt.

Carly got even madder when I told her this.

‘Let me get this right.’ She was proper shoutin’ now. ‘You hid one small safe deposit key under a coffin and half a ton of soil.’

I tried telling her that the coffin wasn’t there when I hid the key. How did I know they were going to fill it in?

 What the bloody hell did you expect? Carly was nearly spittin’ when she spoke. ‘The council don’t just dig random holes in cemeteries and leave them open for weeks. They fill them in again.’

Just when I was tryin’ to explain again, this old woman turned up at the next grave. She was wearin’ this thick coat and trousers like me grandma used to wear in winter and she had this big fuck off bunch of flowers with her. She started tidyin’ up the grave next to the one we was standin’ at and she could hear every word we were sayin’.

I didn’t want us to look funny standin’ at the grave, so I put my arms round Carly’s shoulders.

‘Quit shoutin’, right, and pretend you’re upset or somethin’. I whispered.

‘I am fucking upset.’ She whispered back. I’m upset because I picked you to help me. You were supposed to be experienced; you were supposed to be good!’

I was a bit shocked with her swearin’ and that, but I tried to tell her I was experienced. I’d robbed houses before. Well, twice anyway.

‘Oh, yeah.’ She said in a shitty sort of way. ‘And what did you get away with?’

So I told her. The first time I was dead lucky an’ I got away with a hundred hours community service and probation. The second time I got ten months in a Young Offenders’ Institute. I could tell she wasn’t impressed. She pulled me arm off her shoulders, got on her knees and tried to dig up the soil with her fingers.

‘Oh no. For Christ’s sake no. Why did this happen to me?’ She said.

Just then the old woman from the grave next door come over to us. She was smilin’ in a sad sort of way.

‘I’m so sorry love,’ she said to Carly.  ‘I know it hurts now but you’ll get over it.’

Carly asked her what she meant.

‘You and your young man,’ the old woman looked at me so I pulled my hood up so she couldn’t get a good look.  ‘You’ll get over it. My Harry’s been dead for years and the first two were miserable.’

Carly was dead polite and just smiled at the old woman. Then she got up and grabbed my arm and started to pull me away from the grave.

‘Come on gangsta,’ she said. ‘You’ve got some work to do.’

I don’t know why I went back that night. My lawyer says it’s because I’m gullible, but he knows shit: it’s ‘cos I’m a soft bastard. Anyway, Carly give me money to go and buy a spade and that to dig the grave up with. I told her I know of loads of sheds where I could get spades for nothin’, but she wouldn’t let me. She said I had to go home and keep out of trouble until it got dark and then go back to the graveyard. I tried to get out of it by sayin’ that I wasn’t no good at diggin’ and it’d do my back in, but Carly wouldn’t have none of it. She said I’d put that key in the hole and I had to get it out.

It’s really hard fuckin’ work diggin’ up graves. I was bent up for hours just shovelin’ soil and stones. I had to be careful to make sure nobody seen me so I had to keep stoppin’ to look round. There was somethin’ I couldn’t work out either and it bothered me. When Carly asked me to get the key in the first place she told me it was her door key, didn’t she. But in the graveyard, she’d called it a safe deposit key. I seen them on the telly: they open them special boxes in banks that people keep cash and other shit in. So I started thinkin’ that maybe Carly was lyin’ and decided that she weren’t goin’ to get the key back ‘til I knew what sort it was.

I never did no good at thinkin’ and if I’d not been too busy tryin’ to think in the graveyard I might have noticed the cops. As it was they’d got right close to me before I seen them an’ it was too late to run away. It was the old woman in the big coat that turned me in. She walks past the graveyard every night to say good night to Harry and she’d noticed me diggin’ at the grave and called the cops.

As usual no fucker believed me when I told them about the key. They just thought I was some sick bastard who wanted to rob a grave. I told ’em about Carly and they couldn’t find her neither. The dude who’s house I’d robbed said he didn’t know a Carly and nobody at the Job Centre knew anythin’ about her neither. Even the old woman in the graveyard couldn’t help: it turns out she’s mad and thinks she’d been talkin’ to her sister.

Funny then that it’s me who found Carly this afternoon: she was in court.  Remember what I said about Carly and her questions in the Jubilee? I know what she sounded like now. She sounded like a lawyer, and that’s what she is. As soon as I heard her voice I looked up from the dock and there she was. She had one of them wigs on and a gown and that, but she looked and sounded like Carly. She didn’t let on to me though. She looked right through me and spoke to me like I was dog crap on her shoes. I went a bit mad then and hit one of the screws while I was tryin’ to get to her.

When they’d got me back in the cells and calmed me down a bit, my lawyer told me who she was. Turns out she’s not a Carly after all: she’s Carmen Archibald QC and she’s prosecutin’ me. My lawyer says that it couldn’t be her who got me to steal the key: he says she’s ‘far too respectable’, but he knows shit.

I wonder if they’ll let me have my X-Box while I’m on remand?

Just in case you’re going offline, follow this link to a PDF: camel

9 Replies to “Camel”

  1. Got me bucked from the start. Intriguing, cleverly written and we need more. Is Carly the bitch you made here out to be or is there a story behind her actions to also intrigue. What is in the box. Get writing please as I need to know.

  2. Good subject matter but you need to expand on it. I’m a “don’t leave me with too many unanswered questions” kind of reader. Write the next bit and answer some of the questions please. It doesn’t feel like g Glossop to me, rather that strange new world you drop into when you first move away from home where you can get the overview from an outside perspective.

    1. Thanks Jan, I’ll definitely write the next bit. The problem is that at the moment I don’t know any more than Camel! I’m sure it will dawn on me eventually.

      The interesting thing about location is that it could be anywhere. In my mind it’s definitely somewhere north of Birmingham, but the great thing is that you can imagine it to be anywhere.

  3. Good tale… I had Glossop in my head. But. What’s in the safe deposit box? Why is it so important? Questions that need a chapter 2 rather than a sequel. This has ‘novel’ potential.

    1. I’ve got a few ideas in my head about what next for Camel. A novel might work. I think Glossop’s spot on for location.

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