Down by the greasy waters of Scotland’s industrial east coast, in the shadows of a rotting shipyard, two small boys were throwing rocks at the remains of a dead cat. They were an awkward pair; one short, skinny and dark, the other tall, fat and as pale as the skin on a glass of curdled milk. The boys shivered as the wind whipped across the water, but were too wrapped up in their new hobby to notice.
“Hey Raj, you know that lassie from along the street, Cathy,” said the bigger lad, before sneering as one of his rocks barely missed what was left of the cat’s head. “Almost skelped it, then.”
“Aye, Georgie, everyone around town knows Cathy,” the smaller boy replied. “My brother told me she does…”
“Ken like you seen the way she look at me, eh.”
“I’ve seen the way she looks at everyone, Georgie. With one eye aimed at the ground and the other pointed toward tomorrow.”
“Shut up. She’s got barry paps and I reckon it’s only a matter of time before I give her one. She’s gaggin’ fer it.”
“She’d have to know who you are first, and as much as I enjoy coming down here and throwing shite at dead animals, it’s not exactly the best place to meet women. Besides, if she takes after her ma, her paps’ll look like a couple of deflated footballs before long.”
“I said shut the fuck up.”
The sun was doing its best to climb out of the heavy clouds and bathe Fife’s rugged coastline in gold, but it was a battle it would never win. The afternoon became darker and moister and sadder. The cat remained just as dead as it had always been.
“My granda or his granda or whatever, used to be the king of this whole fuckin’ place,” Georgie proclaimed, thrusting his chubby arm around regally. “Were a kingdom once, with castles and knights and all that.”
“Well how come your family’s so skint now?” asked Raj, picking at a scab on his knee. “Last I heard yer ma was giving…”
“Stop talkin’ keech. One day I’ll rule this whole place, you’ll see. I’ll have enough money to buy the football team and the best house in town. I’ll be the king and I’ll make everyone pay. I’ll behead anyone who did me wrong, every last one of them.”
“I guess I’d like to make them pay, too. Can I be a king as well?”
“Nae, Raj. You have to become king of Pakistan or wherever it is you come from. But I’ll spare a beheading you if you geez a wee winch.”
“A winch? Are you a buftie?”
“Ah’n no a fuckin’ buftie!” With that, the bigger boy pushed the smaller boy over and spat on him.
Long after the sun had given up its fight with the clouds and slipped out of sight ro lick its wounds, the boys were still by the edge of the water. By this point they’d found some beer bottles to smash, and were redecorating the place with jagged shards of glass.
“Does your pa ever touch you, eh?” Georgie asked nonchalantly, before smashing a bottle of Tennent’s against a rusting chair frame.
“You mean hit me when I do something wrong?” Raj answered, looking down at the fading purple patches on his left arm. “Of course. Just the other night he caught me chugging…”
“No, eh. Ken like he… It don’t matter what I mean.”
“You mean touch you on the knob? Buftie like?”
“I told you I’m nae a fuckin’ buftie, I’m a king.”
“I’m a fuckin’ king, you piece of shit.”
With that, the descendent of a long line of welfare cheats picked up a stone and slammed it into the cheek of his only friend, sending the boy crashing down to onto the rocks. The self-proclaimed King of Fide watched the smaller boy try to pick himself up, and wondered whether he should kick him in the teeth. Instead, he snatched another handful of stones and rained them down upon the child, the rivulets of blood lost in the night.
The cat, its remaining eye wide open and unblinking, seemed to watch the spectacle. It appeared bored of seeing kings squabble over the same things for centuries. But it was just a dead cat.