They spelled trouble.
She could see the writing on the wall, long before anyone else noticed. It was plain as day. Three foot tall and bold as you like.
T R O U B L
That was as far as they’d got when the police car pulled up.
She wondered what they had been trying to say these feral teens on their mopeds. It’s a hard look to pull off, gangsta on a 50cc, helmets pushed back on their heads and cigarettes hanging from pink lips. She gave them credit for the effort—products of the local estate and the failing school.
She wondered if the word was somehow a cry for help, but then why not just spray HELP in large blue letters? Fewer letters. Perhaps that required a degree of self-awareness which had escaped them. Maybe these kids who’d grown up tough were just weaned on a world of trouble. Perhaps it was a nickname? A gang name? Their tag? Their way to mark their manor, to state their existence, to mark their time.
The policeman was pointing at the viaduct wall, he wasn’t happy. She could see them, standing in a row behind the police car, all studying the floor, eyes downcast, shuffling their feet, in the dust. The policeman reading them the riot act. Perhaps he hoped a short sharp shock would turn them around. Deflect them from a career in crime. Save wasted lives before it was too late.
The policeman watched them go, shaking his head, the youth of today, nothing but TROUBL.
As the police car turned in the road, she could just make out the sloppy ‘E’ sprayed on its offside.
Looking back, she wondered if this was the moment they first got into distributing E’s ...and other substances.