Stone Roses turned the stereo up a few notches, saying to to her sister, ‘That’ll teach you.’
Smiths turned from the window to reply. ‘Teach what? That White Riot by The Clash is a good song? I already know that. It’s my album, remember? I taught you everything you know. And now Stone Roses, I’m teaching you to turn that bloody music down. Things are kicking off down below on the streets, Man.’
Stone Roses upped it one more notch, before swiftly switching the music right off and into a nothingness where the sounds of a real riot took over the small airspace of their seventh floor apartment on Church Street in Manchester. Plonking herself down on the sofa, she rummaged for the TV remote.
From the window, where she stared manically down on all below, Smiths said, ‘Is that Captain Sensible turning on the TV? We already know what they’re going to say’ll just rile us up. It’ll make us angry, Stone Roses. Do you really want all that in your eyes now? Venting fears? Doubts? Hatred? Do you?’ Stone Roses sat back deep into the comfort of the sofa, and folded her arms after she’d switched on the television.
‘Yes, I do!’
For a second or two, Smiths stared at her sister’s nose and then said, ‘Oh, I don’t know. Suit yourself.’
‘I always do.’
Gazing downwards, Smiths got lost in the streets below, where men, women and children were milling about the place, in an excited state of consciousness. Rising up, it seemed from the shackles of capitalism. At long last! But damn them, she thought. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. To take this form. Unable to grasp at anything solid or primary, her mind swam in strong currents of emotion. It was spinning.
What they were after was goods, from the shops, she surmised. The meretricious glitter of a consumer society. So they wouldn’t storm an apartment complex, where there was no shop. The Arndale was up the road, and they’d go for that, she was sure. Spinning. It was then that she was awoken from what felt like a reverie by her sister’s sobs.
Turning, she saw her there, still on the sofa, but now silent. Like transparent worms, the tears streamed down her face, while trying to hold it in, she sniffled. Smiths closed the window and sat down beside her. A strong arm went around Stone Roses, to transfer some warmth. ‘What’s wrong? It’ll be alright you know. They won’t get in to us. They don’t want people. They want shiny things. Status symbols.’
Tears still pumping out of her eyes, Stone Roses stood up to take three soft steps towards the television screen and kneel before it, pointing. ‘Look at the people being interviewed. The shop owners. Hear those accents? Recognise their aggression? All the tell-tale signs?’ Smiths now stood, suspecting what would come hurtling at her, hot and heavy. Knowing her sister only too well, she braced herself.
Stone Roses said,‘Their accents! Their manner! Superciliousness directed at a certain section of society! At us! These shop owners castigate rioters as just plain dumb scumbags. They called us that when we were growing up as well, Smiths.’ Smiths tried to wrap another arm around her in vain. ‘Stone Roses, come on. Sit down. We’ll put on a DVD. Take our minds off the whole thing, you know? Like old times.’
Animated by her own words now with every passing sentence, Stone Roses even appeared to become physically bigger in the fading light. ‘All those times I felt small in their presence. Really only in their presence. Granted, I never spent too long in there, but..but.. I wouldn’t have been able to withstand it anyway. Brought up under the yoke of their putative superiority. ‘I know it’s wrong. Oh so very wrong, to feel like this, Smiths. But how can something so wrong, feel so Captain Sensible? When I see those infuriated middle-class faces so upset on the telly, it makes me feel glad. And I’m not ashamed of these feelings any more. I see their anger and I want to laugh. I want my fist in the air, in triumph. In revenge for my youth. Our youth, Smiths. Everybody’s youth!’ At this, Smiths stood back watching her sister’s subsequent tears collect on her chin.
Then she said, ‘It’s alright. I know what you mean. But it’s not good for the soul to ponder such things. Those thoughts will kill you. Because you can’t win. Enjoy yourself. It’s later than you think. Get out of this moment. Sprint! Put on that Damien Dempsey album. Take your French pencil out and draw to his lyrics and chord progressions like you usually do. Don’t dwell on this, Stone Roses, please! Float, with Damo, instead?’
Stone Roses’ tears were arrested by a sudden spark in her eyes. Adulterated thoughts coursed through her veins, and spread so quickly, she knew exactly what came next. What had to be done. Hands thrust into her pockets, she frog-marched over to Smiths. ‘Come on! We’re going downstairs. We’re joining up. Let’s steal back a little dignity. To make the heart strings go zing! Like that old song. The Clash song. You already know all the words backwards at this stage. The lyric made real flesh and blood, come to life.’
She nearly walked through Smiths, as if she were a ghost. ‘Are you coming?’
‘No. Sit down. Calm yourself.’
‘I’m afraid I can’t do that, Smiths. Tweak your own nose, not mine. Blame it on the posh doctors of our youth who played Rugby for Ireland. The ones who called us lazy scumbags, and thus, wouldn’t treat us properly. The ones who’d no respect for patients carrying a medical card, yet on all their earnings had never paid any tax, themselves. Ah, good old Dublin. The good old days.’
‘But we’re in Manchester, England now. Across the Irish sea!’
‘It’s the same here. Look down at the street, yourself. The people feel the same pain. Maybe they don’t know it consciously, but they do. Come on. Feel the noise! Can you? Or don’t you dare?’
Yes, Smiths knew Stone Roses only too well. So she walked to the door of the living room, as if going to the toilet. Upon opening it, she stood in the hallway, where she locked it firmly behind her. Realising what had just happened, Stone Roses rushed up to the locked door and banged her arms against it, while Smiths shouted through the keyhole. ‘Direct, non-violent peaceful protest. That’s how we’ll do it, Stone Roses. Not rioting in the streets. You know that. Relax there now, Child. Write some poetry and a literary, yet bitter, autobiography, it’s the only way.’
In a torrent, Stone Roses drummed her hands against the door. She shouldered it. Elbowed it. Bummed it. And in lashing out at every splinter within its essence, released herself. Next up she whacked her head against it until blood oozed.
Now back at the window, she looked down on the riot. Inhaling all its unbridled and cacophonous fumes, she smiled before running again headlong at the door and whacking herself once more. And again. Enjoying herself. And again. Rejoicing.
‘Now is the time Smiths. Can’t you see? Now is the time to get our own back. It’ll feel good and silky. Open the door!’
‘That’s not revenge. It’s just lashing out.’
Stone Roses wiped the blood from her face with water from the kitchen tap, until the bleeding had just about stopped. She then lashed herself against the door once again, laughing inside and out. Rapping on the door three times, she asked ‘Remember Robin Hood? Well, that’s what we’re doing.’
‘You’re not doing anything. It’s them, Stone Roses.’
‘And Jesse James. Riding Black Bess. Like Dick Turpin Highwayman. That’s us. Stand and deliver! Us. Robbing the rich, to give to the poor. And oh look at the multitudes of the poor, stretched out on that rack, down below.’
It was this comment that stabbed Smiths. So easily unsheathed, because Stone Roses knew it for the weapon it was. Right there and then, on the spot, Smiths restrained herself from unlocking the door, to go in, and ram her point home with her fist.
Her turn now, Smiths kicked the door and head-butted it too when she said, ‘Robin Hood and Jesses James are stories, Stone Roses. They’re just stories. Outside the legends, these people were murderous thieves. Scumbags in real life. They took from the rich alright. But giving it back to its rightful owners, the poor? They forgot all about that, while they drank, raped and stabbed themselves into folklore.’
Stone Roses knew she had her. Dabbing the blood on her face with a disintegrating hankie, she stood back from the wall and spoke calmly,‘That’s where you haven’t really understood the situation, Sis. Make no bones, you’re the person in this equation with the brain. You should be getting this. Even I know those Robin Hood stories are there, not because they’re true, but because they’re what people want to believe.
‘People believe in the romance of robbing the rich to give to the poor because that’s what they dream of, and by believing, they give their consent to a notion that it’s right and proper order to rob the rich and give to the poor. It’s allowed. Everyone has already cheered this past the finishing line a long, long time ago. That’s one hundred per cent. No one can argue. It’s justified and ancient. Rob the rich, and give their money to the poor. The real facts don’t matter. Only the goal and dream of ultimate justice. I think another chap with a beard said similar things in Galilee a long time ago too, Stone Roses. Do you not remember all those sermons on Sunday, when they weren‘t molesting us?’
Everything went quiet in the hall. Ten seconds passed, before the door unlocked, and in walked an exasperated Smiths who, when she reached Stone Roses, whipped out her hands with the intention and enough sheer brute force to strangle her.
‘Wrong. Wrong. Wrong! You’re staying put, right here in this apartment, even if I have to strangle you to sleep, myself. The peaceful way is always the best! The peaceful way…’
And with that, they rolled about on the floor for a while.
‘Jimmy would say you know. Didn’t realize you and Big Brother were such bosom buddies these days. He’d love you saying that, right about now. Probably salute your common sense.’
Yes, Big Brother would crack up watching it all live on the T.V. back home in Dublin. And he’d spontaneously combust into a million rags like confetti as he shouted, ‘Shoot the scumbags! Shoot the scumbags! Shoot them! Why aren’t they shooting them? Why?’ he’d be screaming.
He’d always wanted to get out. Be like the posh ones. Never did though. Uncle Tom. To ground control. But ground control wasn’t listening to him.’
Smiths said, ‘You’re right. Come on, let’s go out and do a bit of rioting with the best of ‘em. Revenge eh? You can’t beat the feeling. Big Brother will be watching alright. He’ll see us,’ said Smiths. ‘Yes, he will,’ answered Stone Roses. ‘Big Brother will see us. We’ll wave to him from the heart of the riot. Flick the Vs. Hey! Ho! Let’s go!’