The Cup Bearer
Saturday 14th September 1995
A loud cheer greeted the two boys as they climbed aboard the coach. In the front half, the few parents on board regarded Gypsy with polite curiosity, their eyes going straight to his scars. He ignored them and made his way to the rear of the coach where he literally disappeared from view among the giggling females. As they manhandled him onto the rear seat, Sandy spotted Trish sitting two seats up from the rear. She smiled happily as he slid into the seat beside her and kissed her lightly on the cheek. He'd missed her while he had been on holiday. She had gone to Scotland with her parents while he went to Spain with his; and he was determined that next year the two of them would spend the summer holiday together. Behind them, sporadic peals of laughter accompanied the one and a half hour journey, the teasing being directed towards Gypsy, looking gorgeous in black chinos and black leather bomber jacket.
Apart from his face, and his hair which was still a bit spiky on top with only a hint of its original length at the back, Gypsy Diaz was almost back to his confident self. All the females on the back seat were hoping to catch him, scars or no scars, but Sandy knew there was only one hook his mate wanted to get caught by, and she wasn't on the coach. Once or twice, Sandy turned round to watch the antics and saw his mate enjoying himself, baiting the girls, and letting them entertain him instead of him entertaining them. As long as he was happy, that was all Sandy cared about. He relaxed. Slipping his arm round Trish's shoulders, he drew her closer; today was going to be fun. Something red caught his eye, and he realised he was looking at red hair. He wondered if Gypsy had spotted her yet. He turned to look at his mate and found him staring at the seat four rows in front. This was going to be a very interesting trip indeed.
When they reached Blackpool, Sandy and Trish found that they had acquired a following of several girls and guys who stuck to Gypsy like glue. They rode up to the North Pier on one of the brilliantly decorated trams, where they turned round and walked back down the prom looking for something to eat. Knowing Sandy was short of cash, as he hadn't been paid as promised for a kid's party he'd filmed during the week. Gypsy slipped him fifty pounds and told him to enjoy himself; refusing to listen to Sandy's protests. Sandy was really grateful for the financial boost, not that Trish had expensive tastes. She was really nice and he wanted to spoil her. Everywhere they went, her hand stayed in his and he felt like a king.
Gypsy was enjoying himself too with four pretty girls vying for the honour of linking arms with him while the guys trailed behind. Dressed in tight jeans and short jackets they were showing off in front of him; a situation which turned into a game of dare. Almost everyone became a victim, including Sandy who was forced into a music shop and dared to give a brief recital. When approached by the pimple faced young salesman Sandy guessed was the suspicious under manager, Sandy had to think of something fast or the lot of them would be thrown out. "My daddy wanths to buy me a new piano," he lisped shyly, "may I try one?" Without waiting for the man to reply he sat down at the nearest one, a beautiful white baby grand; flexed his fingers and touched the keys. The man almost closed the lid on him when Sandy began to play something he had been practicing that week, the allegro from Mozart's Sonata in C major. He played the first few bars like a beginner, just to put the man off, and then he let his fingers fly. Beside him, his mates listened in amazement and nudge each other; all except Gypsy who knew what to expect. When the last notes died away, his mates, and the few customers that were in the shop erupted in noisy applause, and Sandy rose to his feet, bowed dramatically and made for the door. Someone had other ideas.
Like the fawning lackey he was, Pimples, fearing the loss of a possible sale, hurried after him. "About your father purchasing a piano from us, perhaps you'd like to ask him to come in for a chat. We're open till 6 o'clock tonight."
Oh, how to get out of this one! Sandy looked at the piano, gave a great sigh, then pulled a face and said in a deep voice, "I don't think so, mate; top A's a bit flat."
Out on the pavement, he stood red faced and grinning as his mates pounded him on the back, and Gypsy shook his hand before saying, "Take a look at Pimples."
Everyone turned to see Pimples bending over the keys of the white piano, listening studiously as he tapped the offending note. The elderly manager appeared in the doorway of his office, looked from Pimples to Sandy, and smiled as he realised what had gone on. As the group started to laugh, the manager shook his head and disappeared from view. Now it was Sandy's turn to choose the next victim, and he prodded Gypsy in the chest, although he couldn't think of anything for him to do.
One of the girls spotted a large card in a jeweler's window. "There you are, have your ears pierced, then you'll really look like a gypsy!"
"Don't be daft, girl, "Sandy snorted, "that's for women!"
Gypsy eyed the advert thoughtfully and Sandy saw a wicked gleam appear in his eyes. Oh no! Anne, the girl who had spotted the card, said quickly, "I only meant it as a joke," but the damage had been done. Before Sandy could stop him, Gypsy had marched into the shop.
"See what you've done now," Sandy followed Gypsy into the shop with the others trailing behind.
Gypsy was already talking to the tall white haired jeweler behind a carefully laid glass counter. The man's eyes swept the group with a glare of suspicion then bent his head to examine the contents of a small red leather box Gypsy had placed on the counter top. He lifted two heavy gold earrings into view and turned them over in his white-gloved hands. "I haven't seen earrings like these for many years; solid gold! Might I ask how you came by them?"
"My father gave them to me, he's a Gitano."
The man blinked at him, asked him to wait a moment, and disappeared behind a beaded curtain that separated the shop from the rear of the building. "I'll bet anything he's checking the stolen property list." Peter muttered. He picked up a blue glass ornament and a polite cough made them look towards the far end of the counter and they saw an elderly lady sitting on a stool, almost hidden by the shadows. Pete grinned sheepishly. "Very nice Miss; my parents collect blue glass. Their wedding anniversary is next month. If the price is right I'd like to buy this one for them." He replaced the ornament with utmost care. Pleased she wasn't dealing with a thief the old lady approached the counter to show Pete a few more she had below the counter. The man reappeared through the curtain weighing the earrings in his hand.
"I'm sorry, young man, I'm afraid I can't put these in for you."
"That's what the other two places said." Gypsy reached for the earrings.
The jeweler held them just out of reach. "Did they bother to tell you why they refused?"
"No." Gypsy kept his hand out.
"Then they should have done, as I will now. These are so heavy; they would tear your ear lobes open. You'll need to wear silver sleepers for about six weeks while the wounds heal. Then there will have to be a period of eight months while you increase the weight in small degrees before you attempt to wear rings as heavy as these."
"Eight months!" someone behind Gypsy whispered, but Gypsy said nothing as he held the jeweller's eyes for a few seconds. Then he nodded. "You know your business, and I accept what you say. Thank you."
Sandy herded everyone outside, including Pete carrying his boxed gift. Gypsy put the earrings back in their box and put them away safely in his chinos pocket. Sandy was still dubious about the whole idea as they walked towards the Pleasure Beach with the girls talking busily a few yards behind. "Just as well you didn't 'ave them put in, you'd get a right rocket off the Beak."
Gypsy shrugged his shoulders, "I've been carrying them around with me ever since my Dad gave them to me, trying to make my mind up whether to have them put in or not, but don't worry about MacCaffrey. I'll be seeing him in the morning."
"Goin' back to school then?"
"I might as well."
"Well, don't be disappointed if he gives you the thumbs down," Pete said. "He boiled over when Sy had just one sleeper in." Abruptly Gypsy turned and went back in to the shop and came out ten minutes later with thick sleepers in his earlobes.
Gypsy just smiled at his little audience. "I can handle the Beak; right now we've got something else to worry about, see what I see?"
House music sounded from somewhere ahead of them and the pedestrians were giving a group of youths a wide birth. "Uhoh!" Pete breathed as three white youths were jostled off the pavement and sent off with loud jeers in their ears. Two of the gang were street dancing; doing some neat footwork and slick head and shoulder spins while their friends made sure they had plenty of room.
Gypsy grabbed the baseball cap Sy was wearing. "Leave this to me. You guys watch the girls don't get pestered,"
"What are you gonna do?" Pete hissed,
"Just watch me." Gypsy moved ahead of his friends.
He put the cap on back to front, and sauntered towards the gang with the rest of his friends behind him. The gang immediately thought they had an easy target and stopped what they were doing to form a line across the pavement, making other pedestrians move round them. Gypsy led his friends directly towards them. Bringing them to a halt a few feet away from their adversaries, he moved the last few feet on his own till he was toe to toe with the leader, a coloured boy. They were about the same height and they stared their challenge at each other. Gypsy looked his potential opponent up and down a couple of times. "Are you going to let me and my buddies pass or do I have to cramp your style and show you some real street dancing?"
After the initial flash of surprise had died, the gang leader sneered at him. "Why don't I make your scars into tramlines; you has to pay to get past us, spick boy. You takes me on or we have some fun wid your skirts, get me spick boy?"
"Okay, bully boy," Gypsy shot back, and in his best 'Stateside' accent, he said, "pump it up, stand back, and watch the King of the Streets from the good old US of A show you just how it's done." With a cold smile, the leader signalled to one of his mates to turn up the music. Sandy stood rooted to the ground with astonishment as Gypsy backed up a little and went into the slickest break dance he'd ever seen. He'd seen some good ones in Manchester and Altrincham but Gypsy's performance, complete with back flips, head spins, body rolls, and a few splits that made Sandy's eyes water just watching them. His earlobes never touched ground once.
Pete stood by him with his mouth hanging open. Even the gang were giving each other looks of surprise, and their leader's sneering expression slowly faded to one of guarded respect. Gypsy finally bounced upright from his last shoulder spin and his impromptu audience of passers-by and friends clapped and cheered. But Gypsy wasn't finished as he confronted his opponent. "Right, sucker, let's do some serious business," He suddenly went into a display of Karate kicks and hand strikes that had his opponent backing away in alarm, each kick or strike landing dangerously close to its target. At last Gypsy decided he had done enough to impress his opponent. "Now what was that you said about tramlines?"
His opponent shook his head in wonder and said, "Who taught you so good, man?"
"The best in the West, my friend, and by the way, you should watch who you call a spick. Where're you from?"
"Urmston, what of it?"
Gypsy nodded and dug a thumb in his own chest. "Right next door, Davyhulme; I live in Trentham now. The name's Diaz but folks call me Gypsy." Their hands came together, street gang style, and suddenly the coloured boy was sticking something high up on the left sleeve of Gypsy's jacket. "Keep that on and you're untouchable, get me?"
"My friends too?" Gypsy asked as he examined the small blue square of plastic with a red flame in the centre. His opponent snapped his fingers and his buddies moved forward to plant blue squares on everyone.
The coloured boy grinned as they shook hands. "I'm Marty Diego; look us up sometime."
"In Urmston? In your dreams!"
Marty tapped the badge. "You're covered, man. No sweat. We hang out on the corner of Newton Rd and Flixton Rd, know it?"
"I'll find it."
"Great! See you around."
A few yards on, Sandy and Pete grabbed Gypsy by the shoulders and jerked him to a halt. Making sure they were hidden from Marty and his friends by plenty of pedestrians, they and the girls piled into him, praising the way he'd got them all out of a nasty situation, and wanting to know where he'd learnt to street dance so well.
"I didn't do anything special. Guys like them are the same everywhere." Gypsy extricated himself from the crush of adoring females hanging onto him. "Hey, watch the ears!"
"Didn't do anything?" one of the girls protested. "I dread to think what they'd have done to us if you hadn't stopped them."
"Come off it, Ann, they were trying it on. They were out to show how big they are; they just didn't expect to be called out, that's all. Come on, let's go have some fun."
"Not so fast, young man," a commanding voice spoke behind them. They turned and found two police officers pushing their way through the crowd.
"Oh, no, this is all I need."
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