The only paid job writer Tim Horner could get after University was working as Assistant Editor at a porn mag. While we look forward to reading a memoir of these times, we thought we would share this story with you. Sunshine was written exclusively for PHOENIX, and we are proud to release it today as a sneak peek at the wonderful new writing we are publishing in our Sunshine and Showers summer edition of the print magazine, due to hit the newsstands in two weeks time.

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Sunshine by Tim Horner

It’s hot enough on the beach to burn the fat man’s shoulders telephone box red. In the park, a mother applies Factor 15,000 sun cream on to her beloved child’s face before he chases a butterfly into the bushes.

For me things are different. In here, the air is cold and stale with the stench of year-old cigarette ash circulating through the room. The thick shag-pile carpet that reminds me of Christmas at my grandparents’ house sinks beneath my feet as I search for dropped pennies, while outside a shell rips the toes of an excited tourist touching the sea for the first time since childhood.

I walk around the arcade in a daze. The lights from the fruit machines glare into my eyes like the sunshine outside. I put my sunglasses on and then gently bump the tuppenny falls with the small mass of fat that is my twelve-year-old ass. I look over my shoulder to check that there’s nobody watching me. I push again. The sound of the clatter of coins hits my ears and I withhold a smile, as pennies rain down into the winnings drawer. It’s not the pitter-patter on the window you’d expect but a crash of metal on metal. If only I could throw a chair through this glass then all the coins would be mine. I would be rich beyond my wildest dreams. I would run out the exit with kilos of brown images of the queen scattering out of my pocket and on to the street.

No. I’d never do that. I’m a good kid. I’ve never let myself get into trouble. I’ll stay cool in here with the air-con and the sweets that lay in the trap of the tuppenny falls. I don’t want to be out there with the kids on the beach who pick apart crabs for the rush of finding fresh meat. Or the new kid who started at school from Up North, who doesn’t wear the right shoes and hides in a cave and smokes cigarettes because it’s cool.

I don’t smoke. They say it’s not good for you. And it’s addictive. Whatever that means. I’m happy here because I can get some more coins if I try harder and then I can get some football stickers for when I do have to go back to school and the holidays end. And then I’ll have something that the others won’t have.

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Incidentally, Tim started smoking to curb his gambling habit at 16. As he put it: “Growing up by the sea totally fucks you up.”

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