'Ace of Spades' by Jenny Woodhouse
It shows best in black and white, like the card itself, like the films of those days. Shadowy blacks and greys, boys in their leather jackets crouching over bulbous petrol tanks, chrome glistening, engines thrumming as they rev hard. Gingham girls, Bardot-blonde, perch behind them. The thrill of arms around waist, breath on neck, hearts beating in unison.
The Ace of Spades – was it on the North or the South Circular? No matter. Now it’s only an idea, outside space and time. Indoors, the café is brightly lit, the espresso machine hisses its steam, Johnnie Ray croons on the juke box. Shafts of light from the windows widen and fade into the murk. Tyres skitter on the cinder surface of the car park. Every now and then a stray bike takes off into the suburban night, under the glow of the sodium lights which cannot cut through the fog.
The Ace of Spades is the card of adventure, of defiance. It promises adventure, excitement, a rich full life. But there’s also the card nobody wants to pick. She’s the Queen of Spades, the only black-haired girl in the pack. She appeared one foggy November night out of nowhere. The boys’ eyes followed her but they kept their distance. She’s exciting, not safe.
She is their fate. One night or another she will be with one of them when it happens. He will become their James Dean, who disappears with his dark lady into the fog to become a memory. The lad who never grows old.
She stands among the blonde girls by the café door, flicking her hair back with her black-painted finger nails, assessing. They pass her one by one, Keith from the ’thirties semis on the Station Road, Vince from the new estate, Kevin from the prefabs where he lives with his mum. They watch, attracted, repulsed. Each wants her to choose him, afraid that she will.
It’s Sid she chooses, of course, Sid with his dark looks and his massive Harley. It’s Sid she is riding with, Sid the King of Spades, the leader of the pack. She is with him when he runs out of road.
The film runs through the sprockets, five, four, three, two, one and then a burst of light as the last frame turns to white light, the celluloid spins free and flicks against the reel.