“That kid just wants to someone to hate. He’s young, his dick’s on fire and he wants to tear the world in two. Show me someone his age any different”
The words of the old lush, ‘Pedro’ were almost lost against the sound of the outside world that seeped in through the gaping hole in the window, providing an unwanted Greek chorus. Dennis, manager of The Rising Sun picked up the larger shards of glass and failed to ignore him.
Everyone else had left.
‘Pedro’ was still nursing his light and mild and wasn’t going anywhere. Dennis had had enough shouting for one evening.
“Shut up, Pedro”
“I’m telling you. I was like it, you was like it. It’s nature”
“Shut up, Pedro. Nature’s hardly gonna buy me a new window, is it?”
“Think of it as a blessing. I’m telling you, that should have been safety glass. My cousin knew a fella down in Bath, tripped over a stool, fell face first through a window and almost cut an artery or summink. No-win-no-fee, pub closed down. Blessing. Telling you”
Dennis hung his head and stared at the shards again. At the floral velvet curtain. At the torn, flapping netting. All pushed through and huge like Hattie Jacques’ arse.
“Shut up, Pedro”
“OI! OI! OI YOU! I HEARD WHAT YOU DONE!”
Al stopped sharp, the rubber of his trainers making a sharp squeak on the concrete. He looked at his shoes, tensed his back, took a moment and turned round. His hands were deep in his pockets.
He knew it was for him. It always was.
“OI! OI YOU!”
Al looked up at the man with the shaved head marching towards him.
“YES YOU! I HEARD WHAT YOU DONE LAST NIGHT YOU LITTLE FUCKING PRICK. THAT’S RIGHT, I HEARD WHAT YOU DONE”
Al didn’t say a word.
“FUCKING THROWING THAT CHAIR THROUGH THE WINDOW. YOU ALMOST HAD SOME GIRLS EYE OUT, FUCKING CUNT. THINK THAT’S ALRIGHT, DO YA?”
Al’s hands went deeper into his pockets, but his mouth stayed closed.
“AY? YOU FUCKING DUMB OR SOMETHING? AINT GOT NOTHING TO SAY FOR YOURSELF?”
Al looked the man dead in the eye. His left hand tensed, but his right remained loose, grasping the handle in his pocket.
“EH? AINT YOU?”
The man with the shaved head poked him in the chest.
Al said nothing, never breaking his gaze. The fingernails in his left hand dug into his palm. The thumb on his right rubbed the stainless steel button over and over.
The man poked him again. Al took a step backwards, but didn’t break the gaze.
“EH?!?! YOU LITTLE SHIT!”
Al didn’t drop gaze.
“AH FOR FUCKS SAKE, I’M DEALING WITH A FUCKING IDIOT, HERE. NO ONE TOLD ME YOU WAS A SCOPEY. GORN, GET OUT OF HERE, BEFORE I CHANGE MY MIND”
Al didn’t move.
The man held his hand out, pointing in the direction of anywhere but right there.
Al didn’t move.
They man waved his hand dismissively before walking away, muttering. Al smiled to himself, put a cigarette in his mouth and shoulder –barged his way through the crowd that had formed.
DAYLIGHT AWOKEN BY SUCH GUTTURAL CACKLING SEEPED FROM BROKEN GAPING MAW LIKE INDECIPHERABLE GURGLING FROM SMASHED PLUMBING OR BISECTED WINDPIPE FILLING LUNGS AND CHOKING ON OWN FLUIDS SEES TO PULL ME FROM SUCH DISTORTED MEMORIES AND HALF CONCOCTED FANTASIES OF BETTER EXISTENCE OR TURN OF FORTUNE FREE FROM RIGOURS AND CONSTRAINTS OF LEGALITY OR MORAL WEIGHT THOUGH FOR MOMENT DISPLEASURE JUST MANIFESTS AS MUTTERING SEEPING INTO THE BABBLE INCONSEQUENTIAL WHITE NOISE OF EVERYBODY PLACED SO HIGHLY OVER EVERYBODY YET I AM SO DAMNED BY MY OWN INACTION EVERY LAUGHTER EVERY THOUGHTLESS HOWL OR LOUDLY PUNCTUATED WORD OR DIRTY SECRET AIRED SPAT WITH NO THOUGHT TEARS THROUGH EVERY MUSCLE EVERY NERVE TOOTH ENAMEL AND PRESSURE AND TOOTH ENAMEL AND FINGERNAILS DEEP IN FLESH DRAGGED WITH A SICKENING SNAG AS SKIN CATCHES
The doors opened and Simon and Al walked on, shoulders first, though the mix of commuters and art school kids. Tuts are easy to ignore when they are from people you have no respect for. Past middle aged black woman. Past the boy with the stupid hair. Past the man in his late 20s.
“Fuckin hell, man, get out my way, innit?”
It would be a stretch to call Simon a friend of Al’s. It would be a stretch to call anyone a friend of Al’s.
“Hey! HEY! What do you think you’re doing?”
Simon look up and over at the commuter. The commuter, straight from an office, was over 6 foot and dressed well enough. High street. No logos. Simon raised his arms out like a bird and kissed his teeth, fixing straight on the man.
“Fuck did you say?”
Al turned around as well, putting his hands in his pockets. He reached for the handle again.
“Oi! Pussiole! What you say?”
The commuter looked straight at Simon.
“I said, what do you think you’re doing? There’s people here trying to get off”
“Think I’m scared of you?”
“You fuckin best be”
Simon kissed his teeth again and stepped up to the commuter. Some people from the carriage had already left, some waited on the platform, saying nothing, waiting to see what would happen. Al thumbed the button in his pocket. He popped the blade slightly and locked it again.
“Yeah? Yeah? What you got?”
The commuter looked over Simon’s head. He looked over at Al. He looked at his hand moving in his pocket. Looked in his eyes. And Al looked back at him.
And started to smile.
“Oh hello there, my name is Anwar, I’m calling from Street Pastors. Am I talking to a Ms. Susan Loughborough? Oh good. We’re a group that walk around various parts of London on Friday and Saturday nights talking to people in trouble. Yes. Yes. Yes, we are a Christian organisation. No, no. I’m sure that... No, no, this is nothing like that Ms. Loughborough, let me assure you. We, uh, we found a Mr. Collins on Friday night. Yes. Ian Collins. That’s right. He was a little, uh, worse for wear let’s say. We stopped and spoke with him for a while and it looked like he might have been assaulted, but he had no recollection, or wouldn’t say. Uh, yes. Drunk, I believe. Yes. Very. Anyway, I’m just phoning to say that we found his wallet, which he had misplaced that evening. We tried to look for some contact information, but the only thing we could find with a phone number on it was your business card. Yes. Ess tee are ee ee tee. Yes. Pastors. Yes. Like a preacher. Yes. No. With a ‘P’ for ‘papa’. Now I’m not asking for his contact information if you have it and of course I wouldn’t expect you to give it to me, but would it be possible for you to contact Mr. Collins and let him know that I have found his wallet? Yes, of course. It’s oh one four four three six seven eight nine oh two. Anwar. Yes that’s right. No,no, thank YOU so much. Oh, and Ms. Loughborough? Just on a personal level... I mean, well, I’m not really supposed to ask this, but, well, should Ian remember anything from that evening, I would encourage him to call to police without hesitation. I don’t know if he is scared or genuinely does not remember, but he could not have sustained such injuries on his own. Yes. No. They were cuts. Superficial, but very straight. I have seen injuries from falling and from broken glass and these were a lot more precise. No, no. The bleeding had more-or-less stopped by the time we arrived. I don’t wish to alarm you and I don’t know your relationship, but someone should talk to Mr. Collins. Yes. Yes. Thank you. And you. Ok. Thank you. You’re welcome. Goodbye”
Al tipped the brimming ashtray into the bin, before resting his burning fag in it. He switched his lamp light on and searched in the draw for the tiny flathead screwdriver he had from the glasses repair kit from the Christmas cracker that he took from somewhere while someone wasn’t looking.
He put the knife down on his desk and looked at it for a second before picking it up and popping the blade. With a dry cloth he first wiped the blood from the blade. Using a slight amount of liquid, he picked at the persistent lumps. Then he sheathed the blade, popped it again, sheathed it and popped it again. First time, it sprung up perfectly. The second, it didn’t lock. He tried it again, but it still did not quite open properly. The button was hard to press down and took far more effort than usual. It left a perfect concave indentation in his thumb.
Al loosened the screws until the knife became useless. He then sprayed it with an aerosol of graphite lubricant. He had been warned off WD40 for any kind of mechanism as it eventually builds up and clogs. Al wiped down the excess and began tightening the screws, first to the point where the knife would not work, then slackening off to the point where it functioned perfectly. Pop. Lock. Pop. Lock.
As the night wore on, Al continued to test the function.
“Hey. Hey. What? What was..? Oi!”
The residential street was silent, save for the confused protesting. No noise from the houses or the estate apart from the slight mumble of television sets or stereos. A dog howling. Foxes fucking. Every other streetlight out.
“What did you? Hey you? What the fuck was that about?”
The air smelled think and new. Heavy rain had been and gone, leaving its mark on the leaves, in the worn dips in pavements and roads.
“Oi! Why did you walk into me, you little prick?”
It was a long way from the financial district. A long way from black cabs and cocktail bars and bouncers. A long way from wherever this guy thought he was going.
“Yeah, I’m talking to you. Who the fuck do you think you are? Do you know who I...”
The first punch to the stomach cut his words short, robbing him of breath and the want of upright standing. He gasped. His expensive raincoat trailed on the ground.
The second blow struck him in the jaw. Again. And again. The strikes came slowly. They didn’t have to be fast. No one would notice. He picked himself up of the ground and started to stand up.
He lunged forward, attempting to strike the attacker. He connected with a shoulder but failed at anything of any worth. Another strike round the jaw.
“What... uhgh... what...”
He attempted to run but felt his left leg go. A pressure behind the knee. A foot? The pavement came up again.
“Ahhh! Don’t. I can...”
The first kick in the ribs. The second. The third. A sharp pain. A break?
“Huh. Huh. Huh”
Tight chest. Stabbing in every breath.
He pushed into the ground, tried to get up again. A sharp blow to the temple. Kicks to the teeth. Gritted, to try and take it. Slight under bite. Front teeth gone. Try not to choke on them. Just let them fall out with the blood. Spit. Spit.
Hand again. Foot. Broken fingers.
With his other hand he tried to take his wallet out. As he began to curl into a ball he held his wallet out without saying anything. 45 degree angle. The light from somewhere blinding his good eye. Expecting to see something from a tabloid nightmare. Instead, nothing but blurred shapes.
“Huh. Huh. Huh”
He barely spat. Blood, thick with saliva dribbled down his chin.
The wallet fell from his hands as he took another blow to the temple.
Spiralling lights. Long exposure. Stars. Slight glint?
The action was good.
On the blade. Al noticed dried blood. In the indentation on the blade.
Dried blood and an anchor.
Which caused a moment’s hesitation.
Just a moment.
The action was good.
And the blade was sharp.
THE CHATTER STOPPED
CAN’T GET UP
IT FEELS LIKE I’M SITTING DOWN
AND I CAN’T GET UP
Dennis pumped Deuchar’s into the pint glass. Stiffer than usual. Should take a look. Halfway though pouring, the liquid gave way to brown froth and hissing.
“I said barrel is out. You want to wait while I change it or want a pint of something else?”
“What was I havin’?”
“Fucksakes Pedro. Deuchar’s”
“Yeah. You said you wanted to try something else. You wanna wait or what?”
“Uh. Nah. Never mind. I’ll just have a pint of light and mild”
“Righto. Light and mild”
Al walked in looking forward. Not fast, not slow. He walked up to the bar and sat down, three stools away from ‘Pedro’.
“Oh no! No, no, no! Not you, get out!”
Dennis stared at Al from behind the bar, cross armed and stunned.
“Fuck do you want?”
Al said nothing.
“What does anyone want in here? He wants a drink, doesn’t he?”
“Shut up, Pedro. He can’t have a drink, can he? He’s barred”
“Ah, What you wanna bar him for?”
“Cos he destroyed half the bloody bar last time he was in here”
“Don’t be such a drama queen. Just put a hole in one window is all. You was talking about double glazing anyway, remember? Probably an accident, anyway”
“It was a fucking chair”
“Probably chucked it at someone deserved it. Anyway, look at him. He’s saying nothing. What good is turning away his money gonna do?”
Dennis sighed again and reached for a pint glass.
“Shut up, Pedro”
Dennis slammed the pint of ale down on the bar. Anyone else would have complained about the head. But anyone else’s would have been poured with much more care.
The froth seeped down the side of the glass, onto the wood. It spread, making the grain darker. Almost black. Al stared at the patterns the liquid made, attempting t leave their mark. Soon they would dry. Soon they would be gone and the bar would return to normal.