Carl leaned back against the couch, palms pressed against his eyes. He couldn’t believe the pure bull he was hearing.
“Nah man, I swear down I’m not fucking with you.” Joseph leaned across the coffee table, rolling his sleeve up to show his new tattoo. “It’s ever since I did this one.”
“Look, mate, I know I’ve had a couple,” Carl laughed, “but you’re saying that since you did that shitty stick and poke of a snowflake, you’ve been able to freeze whatever you want?”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, lad.” Joseph stroked the still-scabby picture on his forearm. “Fucking mental, innit?”
Carl shook his head and sighed. He’d heard enough of the Pikey’s bullshit over the years to know when he was making stuff up. This was one of the shittier lies. At least he wasn’t saying he could bang any girl he wanted this time.
“Go on then,” Carl said, clicking his tongue, “let’s see.”
Joseph smiled before grabbing Carl’s pint.
“If you spill it, you’re getting me another,” Carl muttered. “Stupid wanker.”
“Just watch this, man.” Joseph closed his eyes and gripped the pint glass until his knuckles began turning white. He breathed in and out slowly, frowning as best he could.
The scarring on Joseph’s face sometimes caught Carl off-guard. Mostly he didn’t notice it, but sometimes when he really looked at him, he was reminded of how much of a twat he’d been to Joseph. Not just Carl, all the lads – Cheggy, Ross, Dav – they’d all beat up Joseph at some point or other. It wasn’t anything personal, but the Gyppos settled near where they lived, and they had to send a message.
Joseph grunted loudly.
“Mate, you look like you’re gonna shit your pants!” Carl sniggered.
Then he saw it. The frost around Joseph’s hand. How it was spreading up the glass. The lager inside was changing colour. He was actually fucking doing it. He was freezing the fucking drink. The jammy bastard wasn’t lying for once.
“What. The. Fuck.”
Joseph looked at Carl and smirked.
“It’s the ink, man,” he explained, “I got it out of my grandad’s vardo. He said it’s got the vaida baxt.”
Carl was sat on the edge of his seat, looking at the frozen glass. His mouth hung open. Joseph was smiling like he’d just won the lottery.
“Vaida baxt?” Carl echoed.
“Means ‘luck from the Gypsy chief’ or summat. Romany magic.”
“And you can do this,” Carl gestured towards the frozen drink, “to anything you want?”
Carl sat back on the sofa, nodding to himself. He stroked his chin and thought for a minute.
“Have you tried inking anything else?” He asked.
“Yeah I gave Cheggy a picture of a dumbbell last week and he’s got mad gains since then. Looks like Dwayne Johnson’s fucktard brother. But that was before I knew for sure it worked. And I wanted to do one for you as soon as I knew it did.” Joseph rubbed his forearm, smiling to himself, “maybe you could have a fire and see if you can burn shit with it. Been a while since you set something or someone on fire.”
“Yeah, I’ve missed it.” Carl laughed. The jokes never really made him feel bad; he figured Joseph needed to stop being a pussy about the burns. It’d been years since it happened and he must be used to being stared at by now. Joking about things was a good way to cope, and anyway, it wasn’t like he died.
“Yeah, alright mate,” Carl nodded, “but you can ink me somewhere nobody’ll see it.”
“On your arse then?” Joseph laughed, running up the stairs, taking two steps at a time.
Carl stared at the glass of lager which had started to defrost again. He touched the side and felt the cold wetness on his fingers. This was fucking mental.
Joseph came back with a tattooing needle, plastic gloves, some anti-bacterial wipes and vial of black liquid. Carl didn’t think it looked any different to normal tattoo ink.
“Where’s it going then, and what do you want?” Joseph asked as he put on the gloves.
“Here.” Carl lifted the leg of his trousers to show the calf muscle. “I think if I was gonna have a magic power I’d want to be able to fly. So do that.”
“Say no more.” Joseph wiped Carl’s leg with the anti-bac wipe and got to work. He worked quickly, stabbing the ink into Carl’s skin. Carl winced with every poke, sucking in through his teeth and biting his top lip.
“You’re a fucking pussy, you,” Joseph taunted, watching as Carl tightly shut his jaw, pushing his back teeth together as hard as he could. “This’ll be sick if it works, lad. Well worth it.”
Carl made fists and took deep breaths as Joseph poked and prodded, wiped and cleaned the blood and excess ink.
“Done.” Joseph leaned back to admire his work. “A fly.”
“What?” Carl looked at his leg and saw a crudely drawn bluebottle on his calf.
“You said you wanted to fly, so I did you a fly.”
“You fucking bell-end, I thought you’d have done like Superman or summat. Not a bastard fly. What the actual fuck.” Carl clenched his jaw. “Are you fucking numb or what?”
“Aren’t you going to see if it’s worked?” Joseph asked, with a half-smirk.
Carl tutted. He stood up, careful not to put too much weight on his leg. It was throbbing enough already without making it worse. He closed his eyes and thought hard about what he wanted to do.
He felt it in his fingers first. They started feeling fuzzy. Then it moved up his arms. His shoulders, then face, then neck all started to tingle.
His torso, his back, his arse.
His thighs, his shins, his feet.
Carl opened his eyes. He couldn’t focus at first; the room looked different somehow. Then he realised – he wasn’t on the ground. He was higher up than he had been.
Carl looked down. The floor was miles below him. He tried to shout but no sound came out. His legs weren’t there. He held his arms out in front of him. They were thin, black and fuzzy. He started to panic, his head filling with a constant buzzing.
“Mate,” Joseph’s voice boomed, “you’re a fucking fly.”
Carl could see Joseph, and he moved towards him, knowing Joseph would keep him safe.
Joseph snarled and swatted at Carl, instantly freezing the tiny fly with his magic ice palm. Carl’s frozen body dropped to the ground. It was in that frozen state he spotted the dumbbell under the coffee table. He swore he could feel it looking at him.
“I’m sorry,” Joseph picked up the iced fly, “but you racist cunts deserved it.”