Blue’s rubbish. Red’s the colour,” snapped Joe.
His brother, Arthur was quick to retort. “Liar. You’re younger than me. Blue’s best.”
It was a regular argument between the twins which Arthur, who was born a few seconds earlier, usually won, claiming superiority in view of his age.
In Liverpool it is an argument repeated in a few homes as members of the family veer from one part of the city to the other in their support for the two main teams, Liverpool and Everton.
And, like many youngsters, where they were born, or their father’s affiliation did not always carry through.
Joe enjoyed travelling with his father on their Saturday excursions whereas Arthur would invariably go with a friend from school whose grandfather had always been a ‘True Blue.’
It was a never ending battle and one which their mother, who was not a supporter of either team, wished would end.
“Why can’t you two grow up,” she shouted at the 12- year-olds. “Learn to live together in peace. It’s just a game – it doesn’t matter who wins.”
Joe and Arthur looked at each other, or rather glared. They were silent, but their anger simmered.
Both, in fact, retired to their respective bedrooms – each adorned with soccer bedspreads in the appropriate colour and with the walls plastered with photographs of their respective favourite players. The determination to support their clubs whatever the results or positions in the league had started when they were about six, Both had been content to be taken in tow by Dad to Anfield, where Liverpool had their base.
But within a year, for some reason, Arthur had rebelled and decided that his preferred team would be Everton. For a year he hardly saw a football match until he made friends with Ollie, and,
subsequently, Ollie’s grandfather.
Ironically, neither their father nor Ollie’s grandad, was obsessed with their chosen sides. They merely enjoyed the occasions and, while they preferred their teams to win, viewed the results as
incidental to having an enjoyable afternoon out.
Their mother straightened the blue and then the red duvets, and picked dirty clothing from both floors.
Later in the day she wished the animosity would end. The boys always seemed to be arguing and when it came to birthday and Christmas presents, while they were never demanding like some of their friends, wanting highpriced iPads or the latest video games, they were insistent in adding to their colour schemes.
Fortunately, despite their ages, she had managed to reason with them about the latest high-priced shirts which seemed to change each season at enormous expense. Both wore the colours of two years previous without a murmur.
She sighed, closed the last bedroom door and made her way to the kitchen and began to prepare the evening meal. The boys had gone outside and would not be back for a couple of hours. Peace
Peace reigned, in fact, for an hour. Then she made her way through the hall to answer the knock on the front door. It was a policeman.
She sensed something was wrong, but it was not until he was in the kitchen that the reason for his visit became apparent. The boys had been playing football with others in a side street when a car had driven at speed round a corner, hit the kerb, and knocked down four boys before stopping.
Two were her sons.
A quick phone call meant that her husband would soon be at the hospital and she slipped off her apron, put on a coat and followed the officer into the police car.
At the hospital she was ushered into a small ward where the two boys lay, one on each side of the room. Arthur sat up as she entered, crying and putting his arms out. Joe lay without moving. She
cuddled Arthur for a few seconds before turning her attention to Joe, holding his hand.
“He’ll be all right, Mum, won’t he?” sobbed Arthur.
The nurse intervened. “We will know more when the results of the X-ray come through. Don’t you worry young man. I am sure everything will be OK.”
Twenty minutes later when Dad appeared, perspiration on his forehead from the hurried drive from work, his wife gave him the news she had been given by the doctor.
“Arthur is just bruised and will be home tomorrow, but Joe got a bang on the head and is in a coma. No-one is sure yet how bad it is.”
The couple held each other’s hands while Dad comforted a sobbing Arthur and both stared blankly at the body in the other bed, the rising chest showing he was breathing.
After an uncomfortable night on hospital chairs the pair prepared Arthur for leaving. Joe still lay unconscious, despite the regular ministrations of doctors and nurses throughout the night.
When they reached home, Arthur made straight for Joe’s room, pulling off the duvet and his brothers red pyjamas from under the pillow. “He’ll need these,” he told his mother. “He must have them. They’ll make him better. I want him home, better.”
Mother took the duvet and pyjamas to the hospital and was allowed to put the pyjamas on to her silent, unconscious son, and the duvet over the bed. Then she was allowed to spend the night in a chair alongside the bed.
The next day Dad and Arthur returned. Arthur had more red items and was wearing one of his brother’s red shirts.
He sat, tearfully, alongside the bed, muttering at Joe. “I’ll never shout at you again, Joe. We’ll be good friends. I don’t really care about football. I just want you better.”
Tears began to surge past his eyelids and he gripped his brother’s hand as he began to sing in a wavering voice. “Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart, and you’ll never walk alone… you won’t be alone Joe. I’ll always be your friend. Please, please, come back.”
There was a sudden twitch from the inert body, Joe’s face turned. He looked at Arthur and smiled. “It’s only a game,” he murmured. “It’s only a game. I’ll always love you too.”
The doctor arrived quickly after Dad’s urgent call.
“I think we are on the mend,” he said after a quick examination. “The X-ray showed no signs of damage but we can never be too sure. It was best to leave him to come round on his own. I think you may be able to relax.”
A week later, with Joe safely home with the all-clear, and, after a few days of observation, he set off with his father wearing his red shirt.
Arthur caught him as he was leaving. “Don’t forget your badge, Joe,” he said putting a Liverpool badge he had bought with his pocket money into his brother’s hand. “I hope you win.”
Joe looked back and waved. “Thanks Arthur. And I hope Everton do well today. You deserve it. You sing You’ll Never Walk Alone really well, you know.”
Mum watched from the kitchen window, tears misting her eyes. She hoped the week of peace would never end. It might have taken an accident, and a nasty shock, to change the boys but if it continued it would have been worth it.
She had a deep, peaceful feeling inside: They would never walk alone. They were twins, after all.