Chris sat with his back against the wall of the supermarket. His lurcher Rusty lay on a dirty folded car blanket. Last night with his mates was a time which would be hard to erase from his mind, confused as it was. He reached back in thoughts, going over what had happened the previous night.
The weather had been atrocious. The lads were in the pub a little way up the hill from the sea. Chris noticed a message from his mum on his phone with another one below it from his mate, Darrell. He clicked on Darrell; a picture of him grinning drunkenly at him leered out.
‘You’ve been NEK NOMINATED, mate!’ read the text.
Chris showed Shane, who was sitting next to him. Shane’s eyes lit up.
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ Chris asked.
‘Darrell has named you as the next person who has to drink whatever his mates give him, in one glass.’ said Shane. ‘Are you up for it?’
‘I dunno, I suppose so,’ said Chris, a sinking feeling building in his middle. All his friends’ eyes were on him. He did not feel like he had much choice. They were willing him to agree. Anything for a laugh…and would it prove that he was more of a man than them??
‘Well, we’ll have to see what you can do then!’ All the lads cheered.
Chris nodded; a rope seemed to tighten around his stomach.
The lads ambled over to the bar discussing what cruel mixture they could get Chris to drink, to down all in one go. That was the challenge. Chris heard one shout ‘ barley wine’ and another ‘Jack Daniels’, then ‘gin and pickled egg vinegar’. More shouts followed. Dejectedly he flicked back to the text message from his mother.
‘Come and get Rusty. The house is flooding. We are going to Grandmas right now. Love you, xx’
The rope tightened around Chris again. This time it’s squeezed his chest.
He saw the pint glass coming towards him on a tray, proudly carried by Shane. This was just not the right time to be getting smashed – if ever there was a right time – which he doubted.
His friends would never believe him if he cried off, if he told them about the flood, even though they could hear the sea crashing away just down the road. They were past the point of discrimination of fact from fiction, of truth from reality.
Chris thought he would just swallow the mix and go for the sake of a quiet life. They cheered as he swallowed. He stood up ‘Right, I’m off!’
Disappointed, they watched him go out into the wind and rain.
‘Gotta be quick!’ he said out loud, loping across the street and down the road towards the sound of the sea, down the alley round to the back of his house. The garden was terraced. Rusty was straining at his chain beside the kennel, which was floating in a foot of water. The dog was perched on the rockery barking and shivering. The kitchen would have been two feet deep in water and the lounge deeper. Chris couldn’t enter the house, he just had to take the dog and go.
He was beginning to get confused ‘Get Rusty,’ he said to himself. He unhooked the dog from the kennel and picked up Rusty’s blanket. All Chris could think about was to get away from the water. His thoughts were becoming more and more confused as the alcohol began to take effect. His legs would not do what he wanted them to and the road no longer seemed to be flat. It was undulating and coming up to meet his head in an alarming way. A car horn blasted out loudly. Someone shouted at him ‘Hell ain’t half full yet!’
Chris found some railings and use them to pull himself up the hill towards the town centre. Rusty stayed close by his side, the chain dragging on the ground behind the two of them. The lights became a much brighter. Chris just needed to rest. He found a corner between plate-glass windows that he could sink down into. He managed to get Rusty’s blanket onto the ground and collapsed onto it. He felt Rusty’s warm body and then nothing.
The next thing he was aware of was a group of lads shouting and laughing. He opened his eyes. One of them was approaching him, his arms outstretched, offering him a sandwich and a can of Coke.
‘Here, mate,’ he said, ‘you look as if you could use something to eat. I’ve just been ‘Nek Nominated’ but I’m not going to waste my time being sick all over the place. I bought this instead to give to someone else. Seems like a better idea. Here, you have this. I’m staying sober!’
Chris realised he had not eaten for hours and neither had Rusty. ‘Yeah cool. Thanks.’ As he shared the sandwich with his dog. Chris thought about the damage he might have caused to his body by drinking all that alcohol and the hurt that it would have caused his parents if he had been run over.
‘Nek Nomination. It’s only for idiots,’ he decided.
Questions: (Some ideas to think about)
Where were the boys at the start of the story?
What happened that made Chris feel worried ?
What did Chris think he should prove to his friends?
What does ‘his friends were past the point of discriminating fact from fiction’ mean in the story?
How did Chris feel when he read the text from his mum?
Why were his friends disappointed when he left the pub?
What did the man mean when he shouted ‘Hell ain’t half full yet?’
What did the boy with the sandwich do? Why?
What did Chris think about Nek Nomination when it was all over?
What would you do if someone challenged you to do something very dangerous or damaging to your body?
If people harm themselves or even die doing things like this, how will they be remembered – as brave or as a fool?