This was the first of my semi-autobiographical Liverpool stories to be published. It benefited from the generous feedback of Kathy Fish and the Fast Flash group.
Joe finishes chalking a pastoral scene on soot-blackened bricks, while his neighbour Maureen stands in a semicircle of excited kids, on their marks with new brushes and donated paintpots.
When Joe moves back from the wall, they crowd in eagerly with not a fuck or a cunt to be heard for once, two girls working together on a jewelled butterfly, smaller ones slapping on puke-green paint for the grass, others painting tree trunks or purple flowers or electric blue sky. A team of dexterous ten-year-olds adds all seven colours to the arch of a rainbow. One boy hangs back; he’s famed as the recipient of Liverpool’s first ever Anti Social Behaviour Order, and it’s not clear if he’s shy, or planning to daub penises on the puke-green meadow.
A reporter from the Liverpool Echo turns up and asks about the mural. Maureen talks of hope and community and keeping the kids out of mischief, while a photographer captures the brush-toting army, Joe up a ladder giving the final touches to a pink-edged cloud, Mrs Joe coming out with a tray full of orange squash and chocolate biscuits, and the ASBO kid down on his knees, painting gold doubloons that spill from a randomly added treasure-chest. A sour-faced woman standing on her doorstep with folded arms says, “Waste of time, you can’t sort out kids like these with a few pots of paint and a biscuit, and who gave them permission to paint that wall anyway?” Maureen tells her loudly to fuck off, and the man from the Echo, stifling laughter, writes at the top of his notepad, RAINBOW OF HOPE FOR LOCAL CHILDREN — COMMUNITY SPIRIT SHINES THROUGH.