I cling to the window frame, shoving with my hip so as not to lose my place at the front. The queue for the iccy van is not so much a queue as a scrum. But within the chaos, a pecking order. Kids like Maz Gutenberg, mouthy and popular, can shout from the back and still get served first.
‘50p screw wi’ nuts, Dec!’
The screwball crowdsurfs back to her.
‘Oy Declan, you fat cunt! 80 dog wi’ all the shit.’
A year 11 lad. The cocky, the arsey, the ones that shout the loudest get served first.
I don’t dare call Declan by name, let alone use the C word. I am quiet, awkward. But I know if I am tenacious, I will get my turn. I have to.
Now. I open my mouth but behind me there’s a punch, a kick. There is swearing and screaming and suddenly chanting: ‘Scrap! Scrap! Scrap!’
Declan’s mouth gapes. I glance back as the usual barging becomes a tsunami of teenage flesh. An ocean of navy-blue elbows and knees squashes me down and yanks me upwards and, suddenly, the van is tilting. Declan is thrown back, sprinkles and sherbet flying. I scream as the tyres leave the ground and I’m borne aloft.
Declan hauls himself out and strides off, spitting and cursing, to get the law.
And there I am, stranded atop this beached whale of a vehicle.
‘Lob us a frozen Spira!’
‘Chuck us a Raspberry Mr Freeze!’
For five glorious minutes, I‘m the world’s most popular kid, firing out confectionery with lethal accuracy. I know they will come for me. But before they do, I pocket my prize: my frozen crème egg, that bullet of pure sugar that kills the boredom and anxiety of school.
And this one is free.
Jo Howard is a poet, singer, storyteller, scriptwriter and host of Manchester spoken word night, Verbose, along with Zena Barrie. She is a producer at video company Viva la Zoom, which she runs with her husband. Her work is inspired by experiences growing up in Lancashire and living in Manchester. Twitter: @joannuski & @VerboseMCR