The Rest Just Follows
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First of September 1974. Craig Robinson is starting secondary school. Instinct tells him he needs to keep his head down. The last thing he needs, therefore, is someone carrying the name St John Nimmo to be sent to sit beside him, but that is what he gets. Across town Maxine Neill is starting her own new school, convinced that she shouldn't be there at all. She should be where Craig and St John are. Not that she has met either of them yet. Though meet them she will, and more. Their lives and hers - and the lives of the entire Nimmo family - become entwined as pre-teens turn to teens, turn to twenties and thirties, turn inevitably to the eff decades and they go about the business of filling the spaces vacated by the generations that went before. It's called growing up, never mind that most of the time it feels like making it up as they go along, and sometimes like fucking up completely. Around them meanwhile the world happens: to be specific Belfast happens, for good or occasionally very ill indeed. These are the circumstances life has contrived for them. What are they to do but deal with it?
stylists – they all appeared to be smoking – and who were the strays wandered in off the street to listen to the jukebox, which stood off in one corner and which at the moment she entered was playing a song she had never till that moment heard but would ever afterwards associate with that day, that whole period of her life. ‘That’s incredible.’ ‘“Shot by Both Sides”,’ Max said over the top of it. ‘Magazine. Here, give me your jacket there.’ And only then did she remember that she had on
association. It looked daring, deviant somehow. The girl who had spoken to her earlier took photographs with an instant camera – front, back, left side, right side, three-quarter view, head down, chin raised. The Polaroids were passed from hand to hand as one after the other they bloomed into colour: that one – no, that one – oh, wow, yeah . . . When they had all had their say and she was getting her jacket on, Max asked her if she was in a hurry home. Suddenly she was not. ‘I’ve a bit more
did want to go. Each made a performance of swirling and smelling and finally swallowing the wine. The waiter came and stood by the table. ‘All finished?’ Bea made a gesture of surrender towards her half-eaten starter. ‘Thank you.’ At least it was speech. Craig held his tongue until the waiter had gone. ‘What would you think of it?’ he asked then. Bea did her best I-don’t-follow face, but he could tell she knew fine well what he was talking about. ‘A baby.’ She shook her head, smiling: so
two ways you walked away from an arrest like that without at least going through the courts. One was to refuse to speak no matter what was said or done to you – and no one, least of all Maxine, would have credited Tommy with such fortitude; the other was to give the cops all they asked of you and more. Maxine saw the graffiti on the gable end of a house directly facing her own when she left for school on the morning after his release. ‘Tommy the Tout.’ A couple of mornings later it was joined by
promised her he would kill her brother. The man was with two others in ill-fitting suits whom she recognised from all the to-ing and fro-ing and room-hopping of recent days. He, though, was dressed as Maxine remembered last having seen him at the bus stop in the aftermath of her father’s funeral, like a travel rep, his jumper today knotted loosely about his neck. He smiled. ‘Well, well, well. Maxine, isn’t it?’ He thrust out a hand, which Maxine, caught off guard, was unable to get out of the