The Nonce | Alison Rumfitt | Granta

The Nonce

Alison Rumfitt

This type of guy always gets on his knees for us. He’ll start pleading, saying Oh I aint a nonce, I aint a fuckin nonce. Feels good to see them like that laid bare. Feels so good I watch the livestream back again later. The video’s so pixelated you can’t really see his tears. We left him crumpled on his doorstep shaking like a dog taking a shit. He’ll be a goner soon; the cops will find him hanging in his loo.

I aint a fuckin nonce.

Yeah right. Pull the other one.


Suzie the pub landlady has started serving chips in a metal basket sprinkled with herbs. Gaz hates it, says it’s woke. We laugh at him. Kev and I lock eyes for a moment then I punch Gaz lightly on the shoulder. He scowls at me, says we just treat him like a joke. Nah, come off it. Later when he goes to piss, Kev dares me to spit in his beer.

Nah, come off it. Don’t say shit like that. I dare you, he says again, serious now. I think about it for a minute. Maybe he’s not gone for a piss, maybe he’s having a shit. But even then I can’t dawdle. So, I spit in his Foster’s and swirl it around with my finger to mix it in.

Gaz comes back red-faced, stumbling a little bit. An Irish guy sat at another table stops him. Hey, he says, softly. Your mate there’s just spat in your beer. Gaz glowers at us. Did you? He’s having you on, says Kev. Just winding you up, making you paranoid. You’re not gonna believe the word of a paddy over your mate, are you?

Kev sits down. He stares at his pint. It’s hard not to laugh. Eventually he gives in. Doesn’t want to shell out for a fresh pint so he drinks it all up. The paddy watches him.


From my balcony I can see across the whole courtyard. In the evenings I sit on the deckchair and smoke weed even on nights when it’s as cold as this.

Down below, kiddies play duck duck goose in the park. The one who’s up really milks it. She goes around and around the circle, duck, duck, duck, duck, duck duck duck duck, for so long that the tension must be unbearable, they’re probably begging her to just say goose. And then, finally. Goose. Up the other kid gets and runs as fast as they can, but they trip and fall almost immediately on the muddy grass. Everyone laughs. I smile, too.

I re-watch the video of the nonce from earlier.

He was all crumpled up, see. Shaking. I didn’t feel sorry for him, but I felt something. He looked like a chick down there, something about the way he curled up was girly. I don’t know if Gaz thinks about this stuff after. I don’t know if Kev thinks about any of it either. Mum called today, said she’s proud of me but wants to make sure I’m safe. You never call us any more, she said. We have to call you all the time. How come you never call, love?


I don’t know what that is im only 12. You don’t even need to try that hard, they’ll believe any shit like this.

Really? he says youre very grown up for 12.


Down the pub a guy comes up to our table. Lads, he says. I’m such a big fan. What? Gaz looks confused bless him. I’m such a big fan, says the guy. Of what you do. The nonce hunting. Ah, thanks mate. Can you sign this? He hands out a magazine article about the Channel Five show we were on. It was only a one-off, they said we wasn’t charismatic enough. Sure, says Kev. You got a pen?


You think I look grown up? He’s eating up my innocent act.

Yeah. And you act mature for ur age too.

Thank you 😊 hehe

Anyone ever told you that before

No mum acts like im still a baby

Well I think youre a big girl

A big brave strong girl


Kev tells us about the news – the guy from the other day, the one who curled up like a girl, got arrested. We express our surprise. He really did seem like a goner, that one. He was exactly the type to do himself in.

Another successful hunt, boys, says Kev. Next round is on me. He saunters over to Suzie at the bar. The table’s sticky today, she forgot to wipe it last night I suppose.

I watch him walk.

He’s so at ease. When I walk, I’m tense. Mum always says that about me, that I walk like I’m constantly holding in a shit. But Kev is relaxed and loose.

Gaz and I have nothing to talk about, we sit in silence when we’re alone like this. I’m not even sure there’s anything going on in his head. His face is vacant.


When Kev gets back he hands us each our drink. I tell him about the guy I’ve been chatting to, the one who lives in Andover who keeps telling me what a brave girl I am. I’m not there yet, but I’m close to snaring him.

Gaz nods. Not that far a drive, Andover. They got a good ice cream place there.

We ignore him.

Kev tells me I’m the best jailbait we’ve got. I use pictures of his daughter; she’s eighteen now but in the photos she’s around eleven. I don’t know many kids. It’s gotta be believable.


I wish I had someone like you to talk to irl. Mum doesn’t understand

Yeah mine doesn’t either. Im sorry. I bet she doesn’t, mate.

Ur very good at listening

Thank you. I try my best. Youre very brave.

You already said that

Its true tho its true im just sorry she doesn’t understand

She doesn’t get it you do tho

I do. I get it. I do 🙂


Kev’s flat doesn’t have furniture. He split up with Carol three years ago now but it’s like he only just moved out. All his shit is still in boxes, apart from the fridge and the TV and the Xbox One. Bare beige walls. I don’t think his daughter ever visits.

He gets me a beer from the fridge. We sit on his mattress to play FIFA. He doesn’t let us play any of the big clubs, so I’m Coventry and he’s Brighton. I call him gay when he picks it, he tells me to shut it, but I beat him anyway.

We pause it, smoke a bit of hash, then play some more. Drink a bit.

The window’s open and I can hear some teenagers down on the street level, a young couple breaking up.

Hey can you keep it down out there? yells Kev, leaning out the window. They don’t keep it down. She’s begging the guy to come home with her but he’s walking off now, she’s sobbing and swearing. Poor girl. Kev sits back down next to me.

I’ve got something, he says. Something big. A fucking pedo ring. Been talking to this girl, seventeen, says she was getting passed around by these guys.

We don’t do stuff like that, I tell him. We just film the loners, all legal like. And we don’t break up groups.

But what if we did? I mean come on. Cops don’t fuckin care cos they’re . . . you know. Cops don’t care cause diversity quotas and shit.

Why don’t you ask Gaz too?

Kev laughs. Leans his head on my shoulder. Just talk to the girl, ok? Come on. This isn’t just one guy. This is a whole fuckin horde of ‘em. This is a fuckin . . . crowd.


I don’t think I should talk to you any more..


Youre only 12

Yeah I am

Im not 17 im 27

That’s ok

It isn’t its not right you shouldn’t let guys talk to you like this. Its not right. Youre letting yourself get used

Its ok I promise its ok

Im sorry im gonna block you ok. i have to go. I have to go


The girl, Claire, won’t look at either of us. I was fifteen, she said. Guy from school invited me over. His older brother was there. Their living room smelled like a curry house. There was so many of them. I can’t remember how many. At a certain point it might as well have been the same guy, right? And they kept drugging me up like.

There’s a bruise on her lip.

She goes on, about how she got hooked and kept coming back for more. Until her skin cratered. Her lips thinned. She keeps getting choked up, stumbling on her words. This girl’s fucked, poor thing. Fucked up.

The cops won’t listen. She speaks in hushed voice even though there’s no one else in Costa apart from the girls at the counter. The cops won’t listen, cos, y’know. Fuckin woke, says Kev. Fuckin woke bullshit. She grips his hand tightly. You gotta get them. You gotta make them pay for what they did.


Lying down on Kev’s bed. He’s sitting up next to me. I know you don’t want to do it, he says. But something about the way she asked us. It was so . . . pathetic. It broke my heart, you know? She looked like my little girl.

There’s a picture of his daughter in a frame on top of some of boxes. It wasn’t there the last time I came over. She looks nothing like the girl. Her hair is the wrong colour. Her nose is different.

He’s serious. Says if I don’t go with him, he’ll do it alone. Tells me to just focus on the Andover guy, but I can’t now he’s blocked me. I think he probably killed himself.

We’re not fucking Batman, Kev. And what about Gaz? He’s not like us.

No. Kev reaches out and strokes my hair.


I get so fuckin lonely sometimes. Sometimes it’s just good to have him close.

He lies down beside me. Faces me. Our fingers interlaced. With his other hand he touches my leg.

I guess I’ll do it, I say.


He’s got us fuckin katanas. Said he had them packed in one of the boxes. We know their address from the girl, she says they still stay there. We roll up in my car, balaclavas on. Got our swords wrapped in towels. I step out one side, Kev the other. Hey, said Gaz the other night, when we got our next hit? We both shrugged, he was none the wiser. It’s a quiet neighbourhood here. Bit nicer than I’m used to. Streetlights mostly seem to work. Kev goes ahead. Keeps his towel-wrapped sword close to his chest. There’s a gate, but Kev doesn’t want to alert them early by opening it. Could make a noise, see. Could creak. So we both jump over the fence and skulk up the front garden like foxes.

When we get to the front door he knocks. Guess the plan to sneak was over. It opens. Little boy opens it. Is your brother in? The boy nods. Go get him for us, will you. He shuts the door and disappears. It opens again and an older boy is there. This must be the older brother. Or maybe it’s the other one from the story, the one the girl knew from school. He must be about this age now, right? I don’t like this. Hey, says Kev. You know Claire? The boy nods. Girl from school? You know what happened to her? Boy shrugs. What’s your fuckin problem mate? She says your lot raped her. The boy shakes his head. What are you on about? That girl’s got a fuckin problem mate. He goes to shut the door but Kev’s foot blocks it. You don’t know shit, huh? She’s obsessed with me man, ask anyone around here and they’ll tell you she’s fuckin crazy. Oh yeah?

Kev shoulders the door open and steps into the house. He drops the towel and the sword flashes. I follow. The boy is stepping back down the hallway. Dad! Dad there’s some nutcases here they’ve got swords. The boy’s dad – maybe his dad? – appears at the top of the stairs. What is this? We know what you’ve been doing. We know what you did to that Claire girl. The dad walks down a couple steps. Get out of my property, he says. He’s got a cricket bat. Kev goes for the boy. Sword goes across his chest. I try to go up the stairs to the left, holding out my sword, but the dad waves his cricket bat at me and knocks it right out of my hand. Fuckin useless. Fuck. He swings it at my head and I go back down the stairs. I can see fuckin colours and it hurts. I can feel something hot on my head. Kev’s running back now, trying to push me out of the house. Fuck, he says. I think I fuckin killed him.

We stumble out into the front garden. I can see the street. I can see my car. Behind me I hear something. I turn. The dad’s followed us, he hits Kev square on the skull with the bat. He goes down. I start running. Left down the street, then right, then left and then right. The night is young, there’s still people about. I go down an alleyway and collapse onto the ground, panting. Jesus fuckin Christ.

Group of kids are playing in the park at one end of the alleyway. They can’t see me staring at them, holding my head. Panting through my mouth like a dog.

They’re out late, they shouldn’t be out this late. There are strangers about.

I crawl towards them. The floor of the alley is filthy, broken glass and dog shit. Blood drips down onto the ground in front of me. The kids are on the swings, pushing each other higher and higher. Eventually, someone might fall and break an arm or a leg or a rib. They know the risks.

Hey, I call out when I’m at the end of the alleyway. Sputtering. An old car struggling to start. Hey kids. They stop. The ones on the swings turn but they’re still swinging, just slower now no-one’s pushing. Hey kids, I say. Can you help me out?


Image © zaphad1

Alison Rumfitt

Alison Rumfitt’s first novel, Tell Me I’m Worthless, became a word-of-mouth cult hit when it was published in 2021. Her second, Brainwyrms, will be released in October 2023. As well as writing visceral extremes, she is a journalist, film reviewer and cultural critic.

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