It sounded like a canny deal. The guy was wearing trousers that looked like they’d been picked up at a clown’s going out of business sale. He was necking a bottle of beer with his pinkie out like his hand didn’t know he wasn’t at a tea party. I couldn’t lose.
â€˜I bet I can make the sun disappear,’ he said. If he couldn’t, he’d buy me a pint.
I thought about the lass who lived in the flat next to mine, sitting on her dinky balcony in a bikini with Big Balls. Big Balls was her bloke. She was always faffing over him, tucking his manky hair behind his ears, stroking his stubble like someone picking fleas off a rabid monkey. I’d never seen Big Balls wear owt but baggy shorts. He sat with his legs spread outside the entrance to the flats like a horrible minotaur. You had to brave the sight of his bollocks to pass. I caught a real eye full of them once, the balls, they looked like two tanned men with their heads together.
â€˜Hey Sonny, do you wanna buy a â€¦’ That was his thing. He waited to catch who was garn in and collar them to buy a new fridge, a dodgy car or a pair of trainers he’d only worn once and was selling â€˜at a loss.’ I never bought nothing from him because he called me â€˜Sonny’. Maybe, he was actually calling us â€˜Sunny’ because I look like a miserable twat. But probablies, I thought it was Sonny. That’s what I was to him, because I wasn’t the kind of guy who could sell anything by setting up a display of my balls.
I said OK to the bet with the guy in the clown trousers. He had a look about him like he was easily sunburnt. His hands looked soft, like they couldn’t change a light bulb.
He tilted his head and I followed him to the smoking terrace. He tipped the ash from the ashtray onto a picnic table and drew a circle in the ash with his finger. Then he said something, lit a cigarette, inhaled once, stubbed it out and rubbed out the circle.
â€˜Close your eyes,’ he said. I wouldn’t normally be caught dead closing my eyes for even a second in front of a stranger, but the old guy looked useless. I didn’t see how he could trick me. He wasn’t exactly gonna get on some ladders and paint out the sun. So I closed my eyes, then, opened them.
There was a pile of ash on the table. I could see it under the glare of the patio heaters. It was cold and it was dark and the guy was no where around. I looked across to the river and it didn’t remind me of brown ale. It was just black, the odd ripple of white caught in it from lights inside the buildings. The streetlights weren’t on. He’d done it, you had to give the hippy cunt credit, but he didn’t hang around to take it.
I looked at my watch. It was two in the afternoon. I went back into the bar. Nobody had noticed the sun had turned off. People were still playing the quiz machine, and drinking and paying no attention to the TV. I looked for the guy with the trousers briefly. Then I left the bar and went onto the street.
â€˜What happened? You’d think they’d turn the streetlights on, like.’ People stood outside the bright foyers of office blocks, yapping and looking around. Somebody said something about all the streetlights being on timers to save wasting electric. They wouldn’t be on for hours. Girls in strappy summer dresses rubbed their arms and jiggled up and down to keep warm. Nipples everywhere, switches turned on. Nobody seemed to know where they were going or what to do. I suppose the sun going down changed plans.
I felt calm, walking along the street, better than I had in ages. All these big guys with their girlfriends looked lost. Their lasses stood shivering and asked them what was going on. They were clean shaven, trendy, gym member looking fuckers. They looked at their phones, but not one of them could make the sun come back. There were loads of people stood at bus stops, texting. I didn’t join them. I watched their eyes cling to stringy streaks of light as full buses flew past.
I decided to walk the long way home. I walked past the shops and saw shop girls bolting out of exits, cheering, making their way up to the Big Market. A fair few of the shops were closing early. They had plastic picnic ware and cropped tops in the window. No one was thinking about them. Everyone was looking at the hole where there used to be a sun.
I kept walking. A few gadgies were getting organised, blokes who normally sold umbrellas in the rain. The day England lost they customised their stock. They ironed â€˜Wankers’ onto every football shirt and sold them the next day; the letters peeled off in the wash. If the sky cracked and spilled its yoke these are the sort of blokes who’d scrape it up and make omelette. Now, they were selling flashlights and high vis jackets from dark little stalls. People were queuing, buying. The whole city looked like council workers, bin-men and guys what grit the road, yellow jackets over their smarmy suits and designer clothes. I kept walking, smiling. There were lasses released from offices, glow-sticks in their hands and plastic tubes full of neon liquid round their heads like haloes. To some, the day the sun went was like the end of the world. To others, it was a Friday night come early, at last.
â€˜How do ya reckon it happened?’ Outside the tower block I saw my neighbours, old blokes and biddies, kids with Halloween torches flitting about. Big Balls wasn’t on his deckchair, for the first time since I’d lived here. He finally had nothing to sell. The balcony of the lass who lived next door to me was empty. I looked up and saw her lights on and the curtains open. She was standing in a dressing gown by the window, looking out, next to big balls in his stupid Bermuda shorts. For him to be in trousers now would have just been too good. I imagined he’d just keep wearing them, till one day his girlfriend saw in dark and asked â€˜why you never wear trousers anyway? You look like a cock.’
The tenants of the other flats kept gabbing like they’d been waiting for years for something to allow them to open their doors, something to happen that invited them out, â€˜Maybes it’ll just come up again tomorrow?’
â€˜Nah, it’s summat to do with the government.’
Climate change, war, gypsies, they all had theories. I wondered where the man with the baggy bright trousers went with the sun in his pocket. But I didn’t go looking. I stood amongst my neighbours outside the building, just listening to them wonder, looking up.