Adam Hanley is an artist and musician from Belfast. He studied Sound Technology in Liverpool and is currently working as a trainee computer programmer. His artist style is heavily influenced by comic books and often focuses on the female figure. Some of his newer works are currently on display in Canvas gallery in his hometown of Belfast and his music has featured in several dance productions in both Belfast and Liverpool.

Read This Events

After the excitement of The Read This 1st Birthday Party, we're having a rest - so there are no forthcoming RT events scheduled for December, sadly! However, feel free to get in touch via submissions@
if you want to know what we'll be up to in the new year!

In the print issue...

Read This 13 has hit the shelves - and it's another all-poetry issue! We're featuring work by McGuire, Charlotte Chadwick and web-featurer Aditi Machado. We also have a Read This first... our first long poem -- a four-page, sixteen-part masterpiece by Bottom of the World editor Frank Vorassi. Get your hands on a copy!

Issue 4 - February 2008 - Prose

The Ambush by Paul Gorman

You always hate your friends, don't you? A little. Or if you can't
admit that you hate them, you envy them, which is just a refinement of the same thing. You hate their possession of something you don't have.
But we shared our secret, Danny and me: model aeroplanes. We practiced it with equal passion. His aircraft were tiny masterpieces. They were lessons in patience and obedience. Mine, in contrast, were spontaneous illustrations of moments in battle; extracts from a more dirty reality. That was my excuse: the glue on my planes seemed slapped on with a paintbrush, whereas he used the tip of a cocktail stick to apply it in tiny beads. If you put too much glue on, it hardened in thick, transparent blobs. It was impossible to remove unless - my Dad scoffed - you bought an industrial solution so strong it would deform the aeroplane. "But how would you tell?" he laughed. Funny guy.
Danny cleaned his brushes properly with turps or thinner. Even now, if I see a woman with excessive mascara I think of the coagulated mess of my own paintbrushes. An example: spatters of crimson coated the canopy and fuselage of my Messerschmitt 109, to disguise the fact that again I'd deviated from the instructions. Forgetting to paint the cockpit and pilot in fine detail, I'd blithely affixed the transparent plastic of the windscreen. The stoic, expressionless Luftwaffe pilot was then condemned to partake in a frozen display of his own brief, messy death. The propellers had already broken off and hung from the nose cone by a tendril of adhesive, like some pathetic moustache.
My planes hung in daring positions from the bedroom ceiling. This created the illusion of a dogfight, but was really because I could only reach so high without standing on a chair. Danny's ceiling was bare, but the room had no surface that didn't display one or more of his models. They were perfectly constructed, like I say, but also expertly painted, and the decals were applied with mathematical precision. Each had also been fashioned its own little rostrum from an offcut of timber to better show it off and, I suspect, to lend to the aircraft a suggestion of permanence. These plinths were all painted a uniform gray: airframe gray. He dusted them every day, and let nobody touch them.
Danny was exacting and methodical in most things he did, and possessed an awareness of his own abilities that no normal child possesses. He trained for sports events at school, knowing he wouldn't win or be picked for the team, but he'd be satisfied if he performed as well as he thought the training had prepared him to. I turned up for every race or football trial having made no prior effort. I achieved as little as Danny, but saw myself failing, over and over.
It was only in the models we built - a quantifiable end - that any
difference between us was revealed. Danny used a craft knife and
sandpaper to carefully file down the umbilical stubs of plastic left on each piece of the aircraft, and which were caused when you snapped it free of the frame that packaged it. His models were always perfectly smooth; almost too perfect to be believable, and it was this that got me thinking. We had an agreement - a contingency really, because neither of us had much pocket money - that we wouldn't buy more than one of any make of aeroplane. This led to some hair-splitting: a Harrier was obviously different from a Sea Harrier, but what about Spitfires MkI and Mk VIII? We also agreed that when buying models together, whatever 'side' one of us bought from, the other had to buy that model's corresponding 'enemy'. If he bought a Hurricane, I had to buy a German contemporary.

At the Boys' Brigade, to which we were both conscripted, you had a little book of tasks to complete in order to get a badge. One of the tasks you could do this particular year was to make a model. Aircraft weren't specified; I suppose you could have made a radio-controlled yacht, or a cathedral out of matchsticks if you wanted, but models meant only one thing to us. As the only two modellers in the company, we'd be our own experts. We bought the kits - as usual - on the way home from school one Friday night, and agreed to construct them in secret over the weekend. The next BB meeting was on the Monday evening. I had thought about this for weeks. The last few models we'd bought were - on my choosing - simple to make, nothing that would force us to reach beyond our capabilities.
Danny was growing bored with this, and itched to try something more advanced. So I chose this particular Friday to raise the stakes, by moving from the small 1:72 scale models to a 1:48 Russian MiG-21 from the 1950s. It was nice and sharp, with simple lines. There was nothing fancy or complex about it, just the larger size of the model to contend with. But this limited Danny, as far as I could imagine, to buying either the rocket-shaped coffin that was the Starfighter, or the Phantom, an aircraft whose aerodynamics owed much to the elephant. They were more challenging, but were also planes that nobody, not even Danny, could make look attractive. He had nothing to gain by sticking to our agreement, but my plan rested on the basis that he was always true to his word. I watched him make up his mind. He scratched at his tiny nose, and, standing on tiptoes for a better view of the highest shelves where the larger models were, he reached up. Edging it forward inch by inch with his fingertips, he pulled down an F-14 Tomcat: it had a retractable canopy, working swing-wings and everything. It was an animal; solid, powerful, but sleek and doubtless, once Danny had brought it to realisation, quite beautiful. I gave a nonchalant shrug with my lower lip, as if simply acknowledging his choice, but inside my guts had turned cold and sharp. I'd forgotten about the Tomcat. But it was okay. I knew what to do next.
We resisted the urge to spy on each other over the weekend, and
sensibly busied ourselves with just piecing together the huge models. We walked to the BB hut on Monday evening, our shrouded models nestling in our arms like babies. His was huge and it would be, I already knew, stunning and perfect: Tomcats were the Lamborghinis of Cold War aircraft. We kept them hidden from each other's eyes, and those of everyone else, until after we had fallen-in and done marching drill like all good Protestant armies should. A crowd of boys gathered, curious. Jock, the Company Leader, was a thick set and gruff man fond of barking at his charges, and whose interests went little further than football, at which he was a referee. He had a smoker's cough, which I pictured as a rough grey ball tight in his throat like the pea of a whistle, trapped in too small a space, and which protested every breath.
-Is that Darth Vader's spaceship? someone asked, as Danny unwrapped the F-14.
-Shut up, snapped Danny.
A glower and a throaty hack from Jock stifled further dissent. He
picked up the Tomcat as if he'd just caught it throwing stones, and waved it about with an ignorant eye.
-Did your father build this? he rasped.
Danny, like all of us, was terrified of Jock, but his eyes narrowed
with a hatred the older man must have felt like a heatwave. I bit my tongue, trapping it between sharp incisors to stop it doing something I'd regret.
-Did he? Jock asked again, the gravity of the accusation in no doubt.
He turned instead to me.
-Well, I saw Danny buy it, but... I shrugged, all innocence. Danny's eyes widened; in supplication, shock, bewilderment, I don't know. I then - theatrically, I admit - produced my half-arsed MiG. Again, the cockpit was flecked with mock blood. I knew that any real MiG with a shattered cockpit (and, therefore, an equally shattered pilot) would be in a far worse state than my effort, but Jock didn't. Still, it was so insanely put together that Jock wasn't sure where or how to hold it, as globules of petrified glue bulged from every seam. This was, quite clearly, the work of an eleven-year-old boy. He handed it back to me, and inspected my task-book.
-Well done, he said, gingerly tapping his fingertips together to ensure they wouldn't stick. Congratulations. You'll get your badge tonight.

Danny and me never spoke again.

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