This is a Sunday Photo Fiction (http://new.inlinkz.com/luwpview.php?id=427560) submission.  Thanks to Al for the photograph. After a lot of frivolous stories, it was fun to do something a bit more heartfelt but this is atypical of my oevre.  For anyone interested, copies of my flop novel can be found here (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dont-Marley-Tiffin-Etienne-Hanratty-ebook/dp/B00LNEOJ8Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1405973191&sr=1-1&keywords=don%27t+carp)


There’s dirt under his nails and the tip of his finger is yellow, like ET.


He’s looking fed up, now, like he’s wishing he was somewhere else. He licks his thumb, moves the sticker to the back of the pack. I hate it when he does that. Even if I needed that one, I’d probably keep quiet.

The nqext sticker is a picture of Garth Crooks. Crooks looks sad about something, like he wishes he’d stayed at Tottenham Hotspur.


“Need?” He says. He’s about to shuffle the sticker to the back of the pack.

“Need.” I say. If I get Garth Crooks, I’ll only need Brian Talbot to complete the West Bromich Albion Page.

Tom tries to whistle but he ends up spitting on my glasses. “What’ll you give me?” He asks.

“Got a Bryan Robson,” I say, “You can have that.”

“Nah,” says Tom, “Crooks is rare.”


“So, I’ll want more than that.”

I think about it. It’s nearly the end of playtime. If Tom doesn’t let me have Garth Crooks, Rob Neill will probably get it. He doesn’t even like football, but gets so much pocket money that he can buy as many packs of stickers as he wants. He’s already filled the Newcastle United and Liverpool pages, even if he’s put a sticker of Peter Beardsley over where Paul Gascoine should be.

“Give you Bryan Robson and my Sheffield Wednesday shiny.” I say. I don’t like the shinies this year. Last time, they were great. If you shone a torch on them, the light would shine out in all directions. This time, they’re just a bit of foil with the team’s badge on it. My dad says they’re cutting costs.

“Sheffield Wednesday?” says Tom. He doesn’t sound very pleased.

“Best team in Yorkshire,” I say. It’s true. It’s why I support Liverpool and Tom supports Aston Villa.

“They’re rubbish,”

“If they was rubbish, Ruud Gullit wouldn’t be signing for them, would he?”

“Ruud Gullit? Bollocks.” He knows bollocks is a rude word and he looks around to see if anyone’s heard. He looks a bit disappointed when he sees no one has.

“It’s not,” I say.

“How’d you know?”

“My brother’s Howard Wilkinson’s window cleaner,” I say. This is actually true. One time, he drove me past his house. I could tell it belong to Howard Wilkinson because there was an expensive looking Jaguar XJS in the driveway.

“So?” says Tom. He believes me but he doesn’t want to.

“Howard always tells him what his plans are.”

“Don’t lie, Dave.”

“I’m not,” I say, even though I am. “You going to let me have Crooks, or what?”

He thinks about it. After a long pause, he says, “Fifty pee?”

“Fifty pee? I could get five packets of stickers for that.”

“No guarantee you’ll get a Crooks sticker, though.” He’s right. One time, in maths, I tried to work out how many packets of football stickers you’d have to buy to be guaranteed you’d fill the album. In the end I gave up.

“Okay,” I say. I hand over the fifty pee.

He shakes my hand and gives me the sticker, “Done.”

I put the sticker in my pencil case. “So,” I say, “You up for a kickabout after school?” I’ve got a new leather football in my bag. My brother got it me as a late birthday present.

He shakes his head. “Nah.”


“Got a date with Annette Foster, haven’t I?” He says. He looks a bit shy, like he’s worried I’ll take the mick.

“Annette Foster?”


“But we always have a kickabout on Wednesdays.”

He smiles. “I’m getting a bit old for that mate.” He’s only thirteen. It was only last year we were building dens at the big park.

“But Tom…,”

He pockets the fifty pee. “We’ll see at the weekend.”

The school bell rings. Tom gets up and runs into the building. I hang back, take a look in my rucksack. The football my brother got me is almost flat already.






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4 responses to “Swaps

  1. Lyn

    I really enjoyed that. For some reason when I first started to read I thought it was a crime scene. Don’t ask why, I have no idea — probably the dirt under the fingernails — then I realised what was happening. I used to collect cricket cards when I was a kid. They used to give them out with Whitmont business shirts. My mum worked at the factory in the 50’s (yes, I’m that old) and the workers were allowed to take a couple of packets each week. Wish I still had them, they’d be worth a fortune now 🙂

  2. Al

    My nephew is an avid card collector.; I can see him doing this, and having the football in his bag.

    As it happens, my nephew won a prize at school for the best All Rounder Sports Kid. 11 years old this year and he gets picked for football, rugby, cricket, cross-country and he is more of a brain box than anyone I could ever hope to meet. He can tell you who plays for what club in all of the four major English leagues, he can tell what flags belong to what country and what capital city is in each one. At ten years old, I have never met anyone like him. I just worry that his brain will burn out too soon as he is using too much of it. After all, he is going to Grammar with being one of the top scorers in the County and Town tests. The prize he won, was a football signed by World Cup referee Howard Webb MBE.

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