The Marshall Chronicles

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If you visitin’ this I guess you lookin’ forward to findin’ out all about the terrors facin’ us antisociables the council been housin’ in The Finger. The Finger ain’t too nasty a place to live, if you don’t mind rats or bugs. If you do… well, we all lookin’ out for each other: me – Marshall O’Connor The First, my lil bro Connor (that’s Connor O’Connor – believe), my Mum and my dog Sabretooth. Plus we got Big Auntie lookin’ out for us, and Sis too. Big Auntie ain’t my auntie and Sis ain’t my real sis, that jus’ what they called on account of them bein’ like family, close and all.
Anyway, after the frictions we had with the Bedbug Turf War, I got to tellin’ Sis about some of the wisdoms and rhymes I been comin’ up with, and she advise me to start sharin’ with the world, so I set up this blog page. If you want to read all about the troubles in The Finger, this be a good place to start, about what life handin’ out for me and lil bro Connor, and a bit more about our battlin’ with them blood-suckin’ creeps…

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So, first up, this is about home, right here in The Finger:

Given The Finger

We been given The Finger, cos we’re antisociable.
Problem family, housing non-negotiable.
20 floors of rankness, broken glass and itchy bugs,
only look like luxury to mugs on dodgy drugs.
Three infants to a bed, ain’t stressin’ bedroom tax,
They’re cuttin’ back on welfare, we’re fallin’ through the cracks.
The youth club shut down, the playground be rubble.
How we expected to keep free of trouble?
Youths with spray paint decorate the habitat –
what so antisociable about that?

Me and my crew keep an eye out for each other,
don’t have to be related to be somebody’s brother.
We racecourse the stairwell, the lift be a starship,
clamberin’ lampposts ain’t hardly no hardship.
Youths throwing sticks for their Staffies to chase,
love a little belly rub and lick you in the face.
Friday night DVDs, twelve pirates round a wide-screen,
bucketfuls of popcorn, maxi tubs of ice cream.
All of us so chill you better max the thermostat –
what so antisociable about that?

Learn the lesson of the street ‘cos school expelled us:
if you be a younger be respectin’ of your elders,
if you be an elder be protective of your youngers,
no need for greediness, jus’ satisfy your hungers.
Peoples feed their neediness but nobody lef’ starvin’,
it a truly Big Society this community be carvin’.
Battlin’ crews keep their beefs away from little infants,
any youth playin’ rough, mums mash ‘em in an instant.
Our shooters jus’ be make-believe, our chat be ratta-tat –
what so antisociable about that?

Neighbours from another place, asylum-seekin’.
That’s a shared language all of us are speakin’.
Together we be Asian, Afro, Eastern European,
old school Cockney, Welsh and Caribbean.
In skinny jeans and burkas, bling and Rasta hats,
peoples on the corner share a smoke and a chat,
shakin’ hands with The Finger, here’s where it’s at –
what so antisociable about that?
In these times of austeria here be urban bliss –
what so antisociable about this?

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‘Cept for my dog, Sabretooth, I got two best friends – Mustaph (who totally crazy) and Sis. At school we had a lesson about heroes, and someone said there weren’t too many women heroes through history, so we made a list. Then it got me a thinkin’ about Sis, and how she is probably the only real hero I know. So it got me to writin’ this:

Sis

World full of heroes, great names to discover –
Mandela or Beckham or another such brother.
Famous women ought to be no mystery.
So take a look at Sis, through sisterly history:

You really ought to see her, she beats Boadicea,
with a lot more stature than Cleopatra,
and the same sort of spark as Rosa Parks.
You better believe her, she’s the soul of Aretha.

She’s twice as fly as Lady Di.
She’s comin’ atcha like Lady Thatcher.
She’s as fine a sight as Ms Dynamite.
She ain’t no nice girl, she’s the last Spice Girl.

She’s Jessie J, J-Lo, wears no halo,
is more explosive than a live volcano.
With more athletic menace than Jessica Ennis,
she don’t break no sweat, she’s a real suffragette.

She’s Michelle Obama, Angelina, Rihanna
(but she don’t stay dumb when the boys try to ban her.
There’s no bruises on her – she kicks like Madonna.
You go down once, you know you’re a goner.)

Though she raises Hell like Mary Shelley,
if you please her, she’s Mother Teresa.
She’s pure diamante, she shines like a Bronte,
with more wannabe fiancés than Britney or Beyonce.

She ain’t no Barbie, she practises karate.
She’s the radical heart of Shami Chakrabarti.
She’s the spiritual daughter of Alice Walker
and she will handle you like Maya Angelou.

But if you mess with Sis, you’ll never recover.
On a road this rough, we must watch one another.
She might be sweet, but she’s one mean mother.
I tell you this, I don’t need no brother –
just Sis.

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Let us chat about buglies, yeah? It zackly what I used to be too shamed with, to share back in the day. But, sure it’s clear as day in Blood Donors, so it ain’t no secret no more. And, as I found, pretty much all the mens I know had dealin’s with these pests one time or ‘nother. Course, the bug problem in our block got waaay outta control, but even before then I heard people had menacin’s from cockroaches and fleas and worse. Most of my acquaintances had a bit of an infestation at one point or ‘nother (the O’Connor household never had more than a couple of ‘em, and my dog never had no fleas (Sabretooth is a clean dog, you get me? Spotless.) It’s a checklist, I guess, how many these ailments we sharin….tick ‘em off, don’ be shamin’ – and don’t let ‘em get under your skin!

Return Of The Verminator

What gets under our skin, close to the bone?
The miniature squatters invadin’ our home.
Why does my dog keep scratchin’ his side?
A thousand fleas have bunked a ride.
What drives my family off our heads?
The bedbugs nestin’ in our beds.
What can’t we get out of our hair?
The crew of head lice ravin’ there.
What has got us properly bitchin’?
Cockroaches chillin’ in the kitchen.
Creepy-crawlies by the score
over-runnin’ every floor.
We can’t conceal ’em that’s for certain –
moths have eaten up the curtain.
They make their mark, leave their stink,
then hide beneath the kitchen sink.
They drive us slowly up the wall,
and bug and bug and bug us all.
They suck and slurp, shank and bite,
these six-legged, bug-eyed parasites.
Fumigate ’em – now not later.
Here I come – The Verminator!
I’m back, I’m bad, watch me slay ‘em –
my pesticide is gonna spray ‘em.
This hissin’ spittin’ noise annoys ’em,
Cos deadly poison’s what destroys ‘em.
Now they’re wiggling round in pain,
and home is Home Sweet Home again.
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They say I got Anger Management Issues. Problem is, there be a whole heap of things goin’ round, make me mad as Hell. Make any reasonable person mad as Hell. Solution: break someone’s face. Or think things through a bit first? See-sawin’ from one to the other. This be the debate I’m havin’ with myself:

Marshall Law

I’ve lost my cool. Some fool’s hidden it,
rattled my cage – I can’t keep a lid on it.
I lost my rag, I’m randomly ragin’.
I declare it’s war I’m wilfully wagin’.
I count to ten, but your days are numbered –
you’ll wish I counted to a hundred.
You got some neck? I’m gonna throttle it.
My head’s gonna pop, I can’t bottle it.
I battle my temper but I’m always losin’ –
the other boy end up with a bruisin’.
I fight my mates – be my own worst enemy.
I guess that’s why nobody befriendin’ me.
If I’d just see through the blood-red mist a bit,
you’d trust me to make a decent fist of it.
But you’ll be seein’ stars, you’ll be stitchin’ scars
while all I see ahead is me behind bars.
My future’s history, cos my past is patchy.
My present is tense cos my record is scratchy.
A knuckle-dustin’s no idea of fun.
I’m the baddest son born under the sun.
I don’t shine, I’m shadow boxin’.
I’d fight myself if nobody’s watching.
Mum’s gonna diss me, no longer kiss me,
she’ll dismiss me as the Feds all frisk me.
Shame on me, shame on my name –
We only live one life, it’s no Xbox game.
Why punish myself with a punch and a poke,
lash out at the mirror till my image is broke,
injure myself, do myself an injustice?
Breakin’ teeth ain’t no way to discuss this.
Keep a safe distance, it’s best to resist
my artistic temper and articulate fists.
I’m shouty, mouthy, but too dumb to reply
to the word from the wise – one question: Why?
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Seems to me the only animal life we got round these parts with any sense of cleanliness or goodliness be my dog, Sabretooth. My social worker say he a calmin’ influence. Even so, he hates them bedbugs with a bitterness, and he always helpin’ Mum with her cleanin’, with a enthusiasm that ain’t always to be recommended. Read this, you see what I’m gettin’ at, yeah?

Hoover Dog

My Mum’s obsessed with cleanliness, exterminating dirt.
If you eatin’ bread or biscuits, she’s always on alert.
But if crumbs fall on the carpet, without a millisecond’s pause,
my dog’s there to assist her, with his litter-pickin’ jaws.
If you eatin’ crisps and drop one, he’s on it with one bound –
my dog Sabretooth – what a Hoover of a hound.

He’s like a street cleaner, collectin’ litter with a stick,
but instead of spikin’ chicken wrap, he slurp it with one lick.
He’ll nibble every napkin, stick his snout in every tin.
My dog so conscientious, he’ll even clean the bin.
He smashed the competition for The Cleanest Dog in Town –
my dog Sabretooth – what a Hoover of a hound.

Obsessively, compulsively, he’ll suck up every crumb.
I seen him snaffle birdseed, I seen him chewin’ gum.
I seen him eat up cat sick, the hottest vindaloo.
Once he wolfed a bar of soap and did not even chew.
He love to keep his belly full with his sniffer to the ground –
my dog Sabretooth – what a Hoover of a hound.

But such a neat and tidy dog’s less hygienic than you’d think,
cos when grub’s too tough to stomach, it make an evil stink.
It deadly to get wind of it, it better left unshared,
cos when Sabretooth’s got flatulence, not one of us is spared.
It’s not for what he Hoovers up that Sabretooth’s renowned,
but what he blows out of his bottom – what a tooter of a hound.

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True, I got me some Anger Management Issues, but it always injustices get me seein’ red. I was mad enough at my lil bro Connor the other day – turned out he been stealin’ some poor boy’s Trump Cards, which is bad business. He brung shame on me and our Mum. So I scribbled this down, help teach him about Right and Wrong. I guess teacher at school would call it a Parable or somethin’…

Trainers

Lil Bro cravin’ new Air Max
at a hundred pounds a pair,
four times the cost of the plastic lot
my Bro presently wear.
It ain’t just, bein’ broke and bust –
aint’ he deservin’ ease?
He pesterin’ Mum to buy some
like new trainers grow on trees,
rent ain’t hangin’ right over our heads,
bills buildin’ beneath our feet,
cooker in need of replacin’,
heater ain’t givin’ no heat.
Bro sit in a sulk an’ he stomp in a strop,
cursin’ an’ shootin’ her glares,
cos lil Bro desperate for Air Max
at a hundred notes a pair.

Tell me how’s he think he’ll get them
if Mum ain’t dishin’ out notes?
Convinced he look like a street tramp
cos he got scuffs on his coat.
He needin’ refinin’, slick redesignin’
ain’t gonna be no scruff.
But bills come first, our family cursed
with a lot less coins than luck.
His threads be lame, his looks be tame
his crew all label him style-less.
Ain’t in the game, no dice, no chance,
his pants are Poundland’s finest.
Yo, shrug enough, cos life be tough,
nuff of us share these cares.
But lil Bro must have his Air Max
at a hundred notes a pair.

Clock that younger? Unwise, foolish,
transgressin’ our estate?
He got Air Max, ain’t they Bro’s size?
Tax him for that mistake.
Our Mum taught us: do not steal.
Ain’t lessons hard to learn?
Lil Bro threaten to smash that kid
unless he pay his turn.
Tax: one Air Max, call that two.
Kid passes through bare-toed.
Lil Bro got bounce, he strollin’ smooth,
now due respect is owed.
His crew ain’t cussin’ Bro no more
but give approvin’ stares,
now Lil Bro sportin’ Air Max
at zero cost a pair.

Marchin’ home, puffed with pride,
dancin’ to our door.
Bro’s footprints jus’ like fingerprints –
he broke our family law,
brung home shame, like somethin’ nasty
trodden on that stinks,
a trainer trail for all to follow,
find us in a blink.
Bro think we welcome him back home
and share his crooked grin?
He passes on his special gifts –
two basic, tragic things:
he bring disgrace, he bring despair
for the rest of us to wear.
If the shoes fit we must wear ‘em
But tell: what cost a pair?

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Giant killer bugs come invade our block, jus’ when you think life can’t be gettin’ more stressed. ‘Propriate response – ‘part from smashin’ those suckers – is spit some rhymes, let the world know what these monsters truly be. Here it is:

Driller Killers

Killer Bugs are comin’ from the cracks within your crib,
itchin’ to diminish you by shankin’ to the ribs.
Bug eyes look like bubble-wrap, blisters gonna pop.
Antennas sniff your body heat like a top forensic cop.
Killer Bugs be sickenin’, these creepy bugs be shifty,
snap, crackle and a-poppin’ like colossal rice crispies.
Growin’ half a metre long, grippin’ like a pit bull,
mandibles attachin’ so the schnozzle get a lickful,
parachutin’ from the ceilin’, stab you straight between the eyes,
or injec’ you in the ankle so your leg be paralysed.
Wait until you fall asleep. That is easy and neat.
Then they suckin’ at your dreams like a lamb suck on a teat.
Their venomous antennas lick and tickle at your chin.
The Killer Bug dilemma: dinin’ out or dinin’ in?
Slurpin’ up your juicy stuff, gulpin’ more than plenty.
Body sacks fillin’ up while you are drainin’ empty,
Expandin’ like hot water bottles stretchin’ fit to burst,
full to overflowin’ like a wealthy lady’s purse.
They quench their thirst, drain your veins, make you mummify,
guzzle till you shrivel up, then suck your eyeballs dry.
The sunny picture of your future is a blurrier view
as them Mega Bugs make a McFlurry of you.
Better keep your peepers open, they’re lurkin’ in our cots
A million Driller Killer Bugs, swellin’ up like clots.
They’ll dessicate the whole estate, then move to other turf,
these parasites’ll swagger as they massacre the earth.
Better get your own stabber, plunge it to the hilt.
Battle lines are drawn. Juice will be spilt.

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Giant killer bugs ain’t the first time we people been threatened by deadly pests in The Finger. This level of deprivation, we bound to see a nasty vermin or two. Sometimes seem the only defence we have is dozyhead Mustapha and a psycho-cat called His Majesty. Here be about the time the block got invaded by a low-down dirty rat, and how we each had our own ways of respondin’…

Rat Rap

You burglars, bailiffs, benefits inspectors,
conmen, crackheads, debt collectors –
watch out! Our block’s got top Security:
a 2-ton cat with total authority.
Name: His Majesty; hates uniformity –
flash an id you get a deformity.
A nasty slash off this scratchy cat
has you flat on your back on the welcome mat.
He’s a fiery furball, a furry fireball,
give the stink eye, hairy eyeball.
This hissin’, spittin’ feline fury
got more bite than a hot tandoori.
King of the Jungle in a High Rise flat.
Who gonna pat that cat?

Down the stairwell among the squalor,
bad-assed feral don’t wear no collar.
No man or animal dare be fightin’ him –
mice drop dead at the very sight of him.
Lickin’ his paws in superiority,
dodgin’ His Majesty’s top priority.
But on my honour, my bro Connor
fussed that puss, was not a goner.
Stroked his fur, throat started purrin’ –
that mad moggie was not stirrin’.
Top Cat’s got an Achilles weakness,
mollycoddled by Connor in total uniqueness,
ticklin’ his belly with a scrit and a scrat –
only Connor can pat that cat.

Besides that cat that we be swervin’,
there’s another beast we find unnervin’.
Wjat always sets the youngers shriekin’,
freakin’ out, is an evil squeakin’.
Eek, a rat! Scrat scrat scratchin’ –
infectious terror that actually catchin’.
We learnin’ fearin’ from a determined
baby-plaguein’ rabid vermin.
The Finger is not worth infestin’,
but still this dirty rat is nestin’,
tail a twistin’, whiskers twitchin’,
in the bin within the kitchen,
by the sofa where you’re sat?
Who gonna bash that rat?

Though citizens hollered when the rat came scurryin’,
His Maj ain’t bothered, that cat ain’t hurryin’.
See His Majesty, he’s on holiday,
in Cat Nap City with no apology.
Though Big Auntie, Unofficial Warden,
set traps for the rodent he ignored ‘em,
and the local cop we call fat Compo
can’t catch the rat cos the rat’s so pronto.
Sis is equipped to evict this squatter,
she’s a dirty rotten vermin spotter;
clocks his peephole, blocks his exit,
locks him in a box – but he just wrecks it.
He won’t split – who’ll make him splat?
Who gonna bash that rat?

Who’ll blow his cover, get him cornered?
Not that cat – won’t do as he’s ordered.
I grab a hammer but it make Mum mad –
she say I’m a nutjob, same as Dad.
Rat make Sabretooth whimper and wail,
sinkin’ his fangs in the end of his tail.
He’s territorial, tough and tribal.
He chewed through Mr Bush’s Bible.
No respect for his betters and olders,
utter your prayers if he’s on your shoulders.
He loves takeaway, adores leftovers,
KFC’s his favourite odours,
chicken nuggets, fried in fat.
Who gonna bash that rat?

Not His Majesty, he too lazy,
don’t give a damn that it drive us crazy.
Mad Gaz dead drunk, slumped in his doorway,
won’t even wake for a road drill, no way.
Come the morn he’s a digit missin’ –
toe nibbled off by the rat we’re dissin’.
My mate Mustapha busily feedin’ him
fresh from the litterbin when he should be bleedin’ him.
Rentokill bait kills a kitten and a budgie.
(Sad Soft Stuart, try-anything junkie,
does not take to the crap he ate –
can’t get high on a plate of rat bait.)
Who got the swing, who got the bat?
Who gonna bash that rat?

Who’ll block his gnawin, blunt his clawin’?
Not that cat, he busy snorin’.
Don’t ever see no men from the council,
pencil-nibblin’, astoundin’ scoundrels.
Rat kill rate of the Pest Controllers:
zero percentage. Can’t console us,
can’t lift a finger, lift is broken,
fist is clenchin’, grief is spoken,
all the while that snout is pokin’,
no one sends the council bloke in.
Rat too speedy, who can stop him?
Read the message in his droppin’s:
schedule this, cutback that.
Who gonna bash that rat?

At last that rat make a terrible error,
cornerin’ Connor, bringin’ him terror,
snappin’ at his fingertips, nippin’ his bottom.
But Bro got protection, ain’t you forgotten?
Con-Con yellin’, “Call Security!
Rid The Finger of this impurity.
Defend the block with utmost severity.
Yo, Your Majesty, mark your territory.”
After all our hammerin’, all our poisonin’,
His Majesty finally sharpens his claws on him.
With no curiosity but feline ferocity,
His Majesty, moving with deadly velocity,
mashed that monstrosity. Squashed it flat.
His Majesty smashed that rat!
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Comments
  1. Eeuwghh! The picture alone makes me itch – although actually that bug looks kind of sad too (is this a clue to the tone of the book? or is that just me?). When do we get to read Marshall’s voice? Very cool.

  2. Jo McFarlane says:

    Marshall is a very gifted poet! An original voice – full of verve and humanity. can’t wait to read more!

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