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[End Page 168]
You’re not watching that all afternoon,” says his mum, standing in the doorway with her hands on her hips. “Go outside and get some fresh air.”
David blows a wad of Hubba Bubba and lets it pop back in his face. That’s what he thinks of her idea. He’s sitting on the orange beanbag with Themba at his feet, watching Midge Ure play a solo on electric guitar. He’d like a long gray raincoat, he thinks. And a pair of blue shades.
“Are you listening to me?” says his mum.
Dancing! With tears in my eyes . . .
His mum’s nylon skirt swishes over the TV. Her pale hand reaches for the knob and Midge shrinks to a little white dot. Then he’s gone. [End Page 169]
“I’m talking to you, mister,” she says.
“It’s for Africa,” says David, as if by watching TV he is helping (and he feels, somehow, that he is). “People are dying, Mum!”
His mum folds her arms across her chest. “I don’t need you to lecture me about suffering, David,” she snaps. “Now, go and get some fresh air. I need to work. That’s what I do for Africa. Seeing as I don’t have a guitar.”
The cottage shudders as David slams the front door.
He pulls Themba down the narrow lane, skirting potholes in the gravel, kicking stones in his path. It’s not fair. He’s waited weeks for this day. He’s slogged his guts out in exams and run himself ragged on the track and batted like a demon and bowled himself into the record books and all he wants, all he asks, is this one day. It will never happen again. Live Aid—he’s told her hundreds of times—is a one-off. The greatest bands in the world all gathered in one place—two, if you count Philadelphia—playing their hearts out for Africa. Africa, Mum. For all the victims of that parched and cruel land.
Since he got up this morning all he’s done is chores. He washed up and emptied the bins and dried the cutlery and put it all away. He walked Themba to the end of the road and gave him water and mashed his tablets into his food. He bought the paper at the corner shop and ate the penny sweets he got with the change. He tidied his room and wrote another letter to his dad. He’s done everything that’s asked of him, but he made one stupid mistake. He forgot about his mum.
His mum works part time at the library in town. The rest of the time she works on her PhD, sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by big fat books that never move, not even for meals, so that he’s forced to eat around them without spilling his Pepsi (David is boycotting Coke). She’s been working on this thing—something to do with human rights—ever since they moved. He hardly remembers a time when she wasn’t working on it, her hands scratching over a wad of paper, her blotchy fingers stabbing at the typewriter keys, although lately, when he gets back from school, he finds her staring into space with her books open at the same page. The only thing that’s different is the bottle of wine in the fridge. One day soon, she tells him (though he’s not sure he believes her anymore), he’ll watch her graduate in cap and gown. But not today. Today she needs peace and quiet, and that means she doesn’t need Live Aid or him. [End Page 170]
He trudges down the dusty gravel path, blowing big pink Hubba bubbles like the cheeks of a monkey’s arse. Right on cue, Mrs. Simmons waddles out of her front door and pretends to water the fuchsias in the baskets hanging from her porch. Her stare is a kind of vise that squeezes all the courage out of him, but this time David ignores her. He has bigger things...