Below is an excerpt from the novel I’m working on. It is very much work in progress and I imagine this will be trimmed considerably before it makes it into the finished thing. Never the less I will be very interested to hear peoples comments on this especially the most important “Would you want to read on?” Cheers.
Monkey Gone to Heaven
It’d been a tough week. Ralph had terrified a middle aged man onto the Barrack Road where upon the man had been winged by a speeding cyclist. Both men had ended up as an organic sculpture entwined around each other and the distorted frame of the bike. Passers by had looked on in horror as spokes pierced skin and bone splintered out from flesh, there were cries for an ambulance as Ralph seized his opportunity and crouched down to touch their ears. Ralph was arrested for interfering with the scene of an accident and I was brought along for trying to protest his innocence. I spent the rest of the shift in Cambell Square Police Station explaining that Ralph was in fact a loon and not some malicious pervert, something which I felt was patently obvious. The fact that I felt this was blindingly evident and the passion with which I delivered this belief to the arresting officers, or ‘fuckwits’ as I referred to them, lead to me receiving a calming punch to the ribs and the both of us being held far longer than was absolutely necessary. Vince had been particularly foreboding that week, eyeing me suspiciously at every opportunity,
“Yeah?” I’d answered.
“How’s it going?”
He’d paused and stared at me as if by exposing me long enough to his gaze he could determine the honesty of my statement.
“You do know what I’m talking about don’t you?” He’d needlessly clarified.
His hand was a blur, a jet propelled clump of sausages clamped my face tighter than one of Ridley Scott’s Aliens and pushed me back into the relative privacy of the utility room.
“Don’t ever fucking mention that again!” He spat through gritted teeth.
“Well you did bloody well ask!” I tried to say but all that came out was an incoherent wimper.
Vince reminded me of the importance of mapping the tunnels and the consequences should I talk to anyone about this or just look at him funny. I’d told Vince that one of the tunnels ran under Abington Street. This had more than pricked his interest and I knew why, there were a number of banks and building societies down that street I could almost see the pound signs in his eyes but could he see the terror in mine?
It seemed that some of the others had had a similarly draining and humiliating time at work and there was only one thing for it, beer and lots of it. I met Nathan in The Racehorse around seven thirty. It wasn’t too busy yet, most of the Goths were still polishing their coffins, the Punks were stiffening their mohicans in an attempt to look taller than they were before promising their mum’s they wouldn’t be back too late, whilst a handful of Indie kids hid beneath their fringes. The Racehorse had been popular for some time now with the ‘alternative’ tribes of the town. It had a fair selection of beers and lagers and a steady influx of bands willing to play to indifferent crowds in the back room. There was occasional violence but if you avoided the table football you were pretty much safe. I always found it odd that in a pub where no one ever spoke about football there were often explosions of Hollywoodesque violence centred around a game that derived from it. If you were crazy enough to get caught up in the game involving twenty two plastic men and an oversized ball anything could happen, anything bad that is. I once saw a guy called ‘Spaz,’ honestly, he made people call him Spaz, who was well over six foot even without the spikey hair, go flying though the window next to the table. As the glass showered down in a detonation of sound, a small, rotund kid with lank, dyed black hair screamed,
“We said no fucking spinning!”
No, it was best to avoid the table football. I got a couple of beers in and joined Nathan at one of the small round tables on the right of the pub.
“So Miles, what’s going on with you and Sophie then?”
“It’s Sophia.” I corrected him.
“Alright, alright, don’t take the piss. She hates being called Sophie, you know that” I’d said.
“Easy tiger, I just wanted to see if you’d bite.”
“Ok enough with the cod psychology what are you digging around for Nathan?”
“Nothing, just showing a healthy interest man.”
“My fellow workers, that’s all.”
“Since when have you given a shit about your fellow workers? When you found out what happened to me and Ralph you nearly pissed yourself laughing, in fact I thought I was going to have to send out for more buckets and a job-lot of disinfectant.”
“Look Miles, she’s a great looking girl, I just wanted to know if you were going to do anything about it? You know other than drooling over her whenever she walks into the room.”
“I don’t drool.” I protested.
“You might as well. You know Vince has got his eye on her, you’ve got to be careful.”
“That tosser, he doesn’t stand a chance.”
“Not in our world no, but in Vince’s world, who knows what goes on there?”
Nathan took a large gulp of beer and eyed me over the diminishing froth.
“In fact, you two seem to be spending a lot of time with each other recently?”
“Not through choice.” I said.
“What’s going on Miles?”
Now Nathan was a bright lad. Ok he didn’t have any letters after his name but he wasn’t daft. He had a great way with people, could talk to anyone and was nosey as fuck. He was talented too, he could make a guitar sing and his singing could make people cry. I know you’re expecting me to top that off with some snide comment about how awful his singing was, hence the tears but it just wasn’t the case, he had the lungs of a fallen angel and the motivation of a sloth. We were often surprised when he turned up for his shifts, rarely on time and quite often not really there. I knew I had to be careful what I said to Nathan as one slip could see me swallowing teeth and spitting blood courtesy of Vince.
“I can’t tell you.”
“Come on, you know you want to.” Nathan flicked his hair out of his eyes and gave me a toothy grin.
“Forget it Nath. I’d rather be ridiculed by you than be beaten by Vince so go on knock yourself out.”
“Sorry mate. Look if there’s anything I can do, you know.”
“Yeah, cheers. Look I don’t want to talk about that twat, tell me about you. What happened with that blonde I saw you with last Thursday?”
It was quite easy to distract Nathan, all you had to do was talk about was women or music, preferably both. He started to describe to me, in graphic detail, several sexual acts I’d never heard of and one I’m sure is anatomically impossible. I asked him if he was going to see her again and he shrugged.
“Why not? It sounds like you had a great time.”
Nathan mumbled something into his pint and gazed wistfully at the gladiatorial school of table football, warming up in the corner. For a second I thought he might even be considering joining them, I reached out my hand to stop him.
“Easy man. Things aren’t that bad.” I said
“What?” Nathan looked at me as if I’d just said that Captain Sensible was a far superior songwriter than John Lennon.
“Nothing’s that bad that you have to, you know, play table football.”
Nathan burst out laughing, which was a relief, I hadn’t fancied picking bits of glass out of him after he’d gone though the window.
“I don’t know her name. I don’t know her name, her number, her address, anything. I have one of the most incredible nights ever and I haven’t a fucking clue who she is.”
“You need another drink mate.”
We had another in the Racehorse and then headed into town.
The town had a personality crisis of sorts. Parts of it were gorgeous. Old Georgian houses on winding streets, Victorian shop fronts with large open parks, the historical depth of Saint Giles’s Church and the grandeur of All Saints slap bang in the town centre were at odds with the retina burning neon of the new. Developers had moved in and gutted the town en mass, homogenising the high streets into a uniform strip of glass and steel. You could be anywhere in the country, from Middlesborough to Penzance they all looked the bloody same. Worst of all was the great pub cull of 1992. Not content with having profitable pubs, pubs full of character and tradition, the breweries paid millions to update them, to theme them, to destroy them. Pub after pub was gutted. Panelled walls smashed into skips, light fittings shattered, chairs reduced to fire wood, walls knocked through, rooms partitioned off, etched glass, stained glass, mirrored glass smashed into powder, hand pumps hurled into landfill, and for what? So that some ponce, with a BTEC in interior design from Corby Technical College could come in and give it a theme, dress it with character, make it look old! For fucks sake they could’ve saved a fortune if they’d just hired a team of cleaners and bought a job lot of air freshener. With this shock of the new came added dangers. Meatheads and slappers that would normally have strutted past these ‘Character’ pubs were now drawn to them like midges around a scout masters arse, you had to pick and choose where you drank with great care. Even with the occasional football induced violence the Racehorse was a safe place to drink, well,safe for people like us some of the other pubs were unknown territory. Whilst it may have been safe to drink in a place when it was called The Old House at Home it didn’t necessarily ring true for it’s alter ego of The Belvedere. We stuck to what we knew and took a right off of Mercer’s row into the Tudor squeeze of Drum Lane the alleyway between The Shipmans and The Rifle Drum. I’d drunk in the Shipmans for years, well five years legally and I loved it there. Every now and then it’d become popular for a few weeks and the bar would be thick with bodies, arms and heads all jostling, trying to get served, but for the most part it was dead. Most people didn’t know it was there or just assumed it was closed which made it the ideal place to go and drink decent beer whilst talking shite. Nathan wasn’t that keen as there were never any ‘decent birds’ in there but I placated him by informing him that they had London Pride on draught and that we’d be going to Panache latter on.
“I don’t know why you come to this bloody dump.” said Nathan as he pulled up a round stool.
We’d grabbed a table out the back, not that it needed grabbing, as apart from what looked like a man in drag, unconscious at the bar, and the monosyllabic landlord, we were the only people in there.
“Your fucking tradition, not mine. You and your school mates must have been a right sad bunch of wankers if this was the highlight of your weekends.”
“Look it’s historical.” I explained.
“No historical. I had my first drink in here, we all did.”
Nathan’s mouth lifted into a impish smile.
“Isn’t this the place where you all got refused because they only used to sell halves?”
It was true, a load of us from school had shuffled in one Friday night, most of us sixteen or seventeen but still carrying the expressions of terrified twelve year olds. We’d pushed Darren, a pasty faced shell of a boy, our greatest approximation of manhood, to the front, prodding him in the back with our orders.
“Five pints of bitter please.” he’d said, his voice starting off as a bass rumble then cracking into a desperate falsetto as he said the word ‘please.’
“Don’t you mean halves?” the Landlord had corrected him.
“No. Pints, we’re all over eighteen.” now his voice was straining to reach a pitch only dogs could hear.
“Look son, we only serve halves in here, to adults. I’ll grant you one of you looks eighteen…” he glanced at Fat Frank shadowed at the back, “..stone but none of you little fuckers are long off your mamies teats, now it’s Cokes all round or you can fuck off!”
We drank the cokes then fucked off.
“Yes this is the place.” I conceded to Nathan. “But it’s real. Not like those plastic pubs all up Abington Street. Just look at it. There’s history soaked into the very foundations of this place.”
“There’s something soaked into this stool.” said Nathan as he swapped it for another.
“Look it’s traditional, if ever I’m out in town I have to have a drink here.”
“Ok, and it’s traditional of me, when drinking here, to moan about it. Agreed?”
We had a couple and spoke about music. Nathan tried to steer the conversation around to Vince and Sophia but I quickly deflected him by saying how great I thought Suede were. Nathan exploded into a stream of expletives, fuck this, wank that, it was like a tourettes conference on speed. I knew he hated Brett Anderson with a passion, I almost felt guilty for provoking this outburst, almost. He was quite a bit older than me and a huge Bowie fan, Bowie was his idol, he’d even forgiven him his shitty 80’s pop star phase saying that we all make mistakes but he’d never forgive Suede for distilling the essence of 70’s Bowie and mutating it into some camp freak show. His words, not mine.
I liked Nathan, ok he was a bit rigid in his music tastes in that nothing recorded post 1979 was of any value and he tended to dress like a gay builder but deep down we had a lot in common. We could talk about music, films, books, even art sometimes as long as it wasn’t too post modern but deep down, if I’m honest he worried me. Here was a man in his early thirties who’d had a chaotic, vivid, creative life and yet had nothing to show for it. No band, no significant other, no direction, he even still lived at home with his mum. I think deep down I liked hanging out with Nathan because he was my ghost of futures yet to come, a warning of where I could be in ten years time if I didn’t get my act together. Sometimes I felt like the warning had come too late, after all I was still living at home with my parents, I was stuck in a dead end job, single and in love with someone way out of my league, then I would remembered that I did have a plan and that one day soon I’d be out of there.
I queried Nathan about the others we were supposed to be meeting tonight, a few of the volunteers from work, including Sophia. His face sprang open in remembrance, they’d told Nathan that they would meet us in Panache, they were going to fill up on cheep booze from the Offy and see us in there.
“Come on drink up.” I said downing my remaining pint in one.
“Easy tiger, what’s the rush?”
“They open at ten, they could already be there.”
“Well you know, we’re the hosts, we should be showing them around.”
“It’s only fucking Panache not the Elgin Marbles and anyway they’ve been there before, which is why they wanted to fill up on cheap booze first.”
All of which was true, Panache was a dive of the lowest order, in fact it made some of the dives I’d known look positively salubrious in comparison. The décor hadn’t been changed since 1978, a real vintage then by Nathan’s standards and as the Specials so eloquently put it ‘the beer tastes just like piss’ in fact whenever I hear ‘Nightclub’ I am immediately transported back to the beer stained, sticky guts of that darkened hulk, lost upon the seas of over gassed beers and haemorrhage inducing strobes.
“Slow down. We’ll have another one here and then saunter up the road. Stop being such a dick.”
“Ok.” I resigned myself to the fact that it would be at least another half an hour before I could gaze upon my heart’s desire.
“Stand in facking line!” came the primordial growl from the entrance to the club. Me and Nathan looked at each other, there was something hauntingly familiar about that violent bark. We were about ten people from the front of the que, at the front was a group of teenagers fucking about, pouring beer over each other and running in and out of the line. There was no way they were going to get in. The que moved on a couple of paces. The doorway was ahead on our right, the only light in the alleyway came from the entrance, a yellow halo of sodium shot though with random blasts of strobe. Warm sticky gusts of hot hair fell down upon us from a rusted extractor fan above, traces of fat could be seen, a strange geology of lard growing inside the grill. Voices were raised. Not the voice of the malevolent creature guarding the entrance, these were voices struggling to assert themselves, voices cracking under peer pressure, words breaking on inexperienced tongues. A bottle smashed against against the wall opposite the doorway, shards of glass winked in the glare of an epileptic strobe and then were lost in the shadows. An arm thrust out like a battering ram of suited flesh, fat fingers clamped around the nearest teenagers neck and slowly lifted him off of the top step then flung him back against the sodden brickwork.
We shuffled forward, the stabbed command still reverberating through the alleyway. I remember turning slowly towards the steps, the light somehow intensified, arcs of screaming white slicing through the connecting doors beyond and seeing the frame of the doorman, a charcoaled brute, silhouetted against the background. He looked down at us, his head turning slowly, a crag of nose now discernable, a smile cracking across his face.
“Hello Vince.” said Nathan.
They shook hands. Vince and Nathan were around the same age, Nathan looked slightly sheepish in front of Vince, as if he wasn’t quite sure of himself which was odd as they were similar in size if not temperament. Where Vince’s physique looked like it had been twisted and distorted through hours of exercise and vast amounts of steroids Nathan’s looked natural, that was the size he was meant to be, that was the blueprint laid down in his D.N.A.
“You’re a bit old for this shit hole aren’t you Nath?”
“You’re only as old as the woman you feel.” Nathan often liked to quote Marx,”Anyway, the music’s pretty good on a Thursday.”
“You call that music? It’s just fackin’ noise. In you go mate, no charge.”
I went to follow Nathan through but vince blocked my way with his slab of hand.
“Not even a ‘hello’ for your business partner.” he mocked.
“Sorry Vince, I’ve got a lot on my mind what with..”
He’d spotted someone over my shoulder and quickly brushed me aside.
“Sophia. Hello, come on in, come on in.” he bowed low. There were cries of disent from the back of the que but those at the front barely managed a mumble between them, having seen what this thug was capable of.
“Hello Wince. You know Kiko and Ben”
Vince totally ignored her companions and the fact that she’d called him ‘Wince,’ I can’t imagine he’d have let anyone else get away with that, Russian accent or no Russian accent. I was blocked from even seeing the object of my desire by the broad back of Vince, I tried to peer around the side of his considerable bulk only to see Sophia and the others disappearing up the steps beyond the doors. I tried to squeeze around him but Vince slowly turned around and nailed me to the spot with his stare.
“Woah, where do you think you’re going?”
“Look Vince I just wanna get in and meet up with the others, I’ll catch you later.” I tried to walk off again but Vince laid a slab of a hand upon my shoulder and ceased my progress.
“Bloody hell mate you gonna let us in or what!” shouted a bloke behind me.
“One moment.” Vince said to me as he stepped around me leaving his hand firmly upon my shoulder so that I didn’t move off. There was a loud crack like wood splintering exploding simultaneously with a desperate male scream. Vince stepped back in front of me, pulled a white hanky from his top pocket and wiped a small amount of blood from his knuckles.
“Where were we?” An eyebrow raised emptying a pool of shadow under his eye.
“Anywhere you want Vince, anywhere you want.”
he looked at me confused.
“Are you asking me out for a fight?”
“Bloody hell no. I meant I don’t know where we were, you wanted to talk about something?”
He laughed a sick, terrifying laugh. “Your fucking face, priceless. Don’t get too pissed and don’t take any fucking drugs, I need to talk to you later, business, understand?”
“Yeah Vince, sure.”
He released my shoulder and I went to walk away.
“And keep an eye on Sofie.” My heart sank, gasped frantically for air and thundered in my chest.
“What do you want with Sophia?”
“Business, now fuck off, I’ll come and find you later.”
I didn’t know which way Nathan had gone but Sophia had gone up the stairs so I pushed thought the doors and leapt up them two at a time.
From the outside Panache looked like a Tudor architect’s nightmare, all twisted dark wood and white plaster work all leaning into an alleyway that went nowhere but inside it morphed into what can only be described as a gay U-Boat Captain’s lair. It was dark, claustrophobic, random pillars heralded bursts of dry ice whilst glitter balls intensified the temporal shift of the strobe as wary dancers navigated frequent beer slicks across the dance floor. It was split over three floors, the first housed a dance floor and bar as did the third whilst the second floor offered food-like substances and somewhere to sit down and deal with the consequences of eating them. I walked into the salmonella minefield and surveyed the empty seats, it seemed that no one had drunk enough yet to risk eating some of the meat flavoured gunk. I headed on to the third floor, I wanted to see Sophia but I had no idea what I was going to say to her or what the hell Vince meant when he said ‘business.’ Why the hell would Sophia have anything to do with such a violent, genetic mess as Vince? On the third floor there were a few girls dancing slowly, as if they’d been heavily sedated whilst a large crowd had formed at the bar. I scanned the room looking for my Russian vixen, knowing that I was just as scared of finding her as not. I stepped over the legs and arms of entangled couples, the cool and confused splayed equally over the furniture and floors, guys and girls smoking cigs as if their lives depended on it, exhaling expectant glances and sipping at the soap opera of their lives. I couldn’t bloody well see her anywhere. The music throbbed out in time with the anxiety in my temples, shit what if she’s with someone else, what if Vince’s got her?
“Where the fuck have you been? I’ve been looking all over for you.” Said Nathan as he thrust a less than full pint into my hand. “Sorry mate I got fed up of waiting, drink up it’s your round.”
I downed the watered beer in one and looked at the bar.
“It’s fucking rammed up here lets try the bar downstairs.” I said, guessing that’s give me another chance to see Sophia.
Downstairs guitars stabbed out above a throbbing bass line as a collection of white, pasty kids tried to prove that they had rhythm. They failed. We wriggled our way through the dense undergrowth of bodies and claimed a section of bar. It didn’t take too long to be served and we were soon traversing the gyrating human thicket with beers held aloft to avoid spillage. Nathan spotted a gap in the seating and we plunged in to fill it. He shouted something at me.
“I said it’s shit in here!” he replied.
“You were just telling vince how great it was?”
We discussed the merits of small town nightlife, it didn’t take long. There were basically a few large clubs for townies, this place and the gay club and whilst the gay club often played a far superior selection of tracks you were less likely to be propositioned in the bogs here. We both accepted that this was the best we could expect and said that he’d keep his ears open for a cool party we could crash later. I sank back into the old leather upholstery and took a long sip of beer. The club was starting to fill up now, there were a few faces I recognised, kids I’d seen knocking around here and there over the years, some I’d nod to or wave enthusiastically at as they walked past and some I’d pretend I hadn’t seen. Then there were the girls. At the bottom end of the scale you had the gothic blimps, girls who draped themselves in black crushed velvet in an attempt to cover up their voluminous girth, girls who trained their hair to weave around their faces leaving only a small gap for eyes and lips and thus minimising the exposure of their spotted cheeks and puss ridden foreheads. Then you’d get the plain Janes in sweaters and jeans hiding away in the dark, giggling into their jackets, hardly daring eye contact with the bar staff let alone anyone else. There were the ‘wacky,”crazy’ ones who’d wear stripy leggings with huge D.M.s and more make up than Coco the Clown, who would drape themselves around anyone who could tolerate them for more than five seconds and talk at length, and high volume, about themselves. The Angry Young Women who would pounce upon unsuspecting lads and berate them for being male, the Limpet Jo’s (named after an unfortunate incident a friend had with someone called Joanne) who would crawl across the club sniffing out the slightest hint of attraction and pounce upon it with both hands often resulting in a blow-job or at least a hand-job in some darkened recess and whilst many a man had exhaled with joy at this unexpected release they’d found that this brief burst of pleasure was soon all but faded against the glare of constant attention and need. There would also be the sluts, and whilst this tag may seem unfair we were at a loss as to how else to describe the advertising of their sexual adventures and availability whilst never show an ounce of interest in any of us. The Bookworms would try and start a conversation about Kafka or Virginia Woolf and invariably fail, the just too damn cool and sexy would never pay any interest in us, ever. There were never that many girls that fell into this last category but Sophia definitely did, in fact she created her own sub-category of Goddess.
I leaned over to talk to Nathan only to find that whilst I’d been busy mentally cataloging girls he was actually deep in conversation with one. I sat back and took another long gulp of beer. The doors opened on the left and in walked Sophia. She was stunning. The harshness of the strobe made her skin look even lighter and emphasised the darkness of her eyes. She was laughing. Not just pretending to laugh as many of the pretty young things did here but really laughing, laughing with her eyes, her soul in exactly the same way I’d imagined her laughing at some witticism of mine. Only it wasn’t me she was with but some skinny prick in a long black coat. I watched them progress through the spasmodic flailings of the dance floor faithful and sit down almost opposite me across the room. Skinny prick leant over and said something in her ear, she asked him to repeat it and as he did so I watched him place his hand on her knee. She quickly removed it still smiling and said something back to him. I was awash with emotion. I didn’t know how to react, as soon as one feeling welled up from my balls to my gut another would be building behind it ready to crash on through only to be replaced by another and another. She looked so perfect, from the curve of her neck as she strained to hear what was said to the stretch of her calf as she leaned in closer and the blush of her cheeks as she lowered her eyes. But it wasn’t just physical with Sophia, although that did help a great deal, it was something more, she cared about people, took an interest in their shit lives and wanted to make a difference no matter how pointless. She saw beauty in the mundane, the ugly and the hopeless and whenever she spoke about life she made it seem magical. She looked over and I waved. She didn’t see me. My heart sank down to my nuts as a bunch of lads waved back at me making exaggerated ‘cooeee’ noises above the blast of drums.
I finished my drink and cracked the plastic pint glass under my heel, I could sit here feeling sorry for myself or I could go over there, say ‘hi’ and make a prick of myself. Feeling sorry for myself was inevitable, my default setting but the making a prick of myself whilst being highly probable wasn’t a given, I could go over there and dazzle her with me. I stood up and walked across the dance floor trying not to bounce to the rhythm. Sophia spotted me and leapt up to throw her arms around me.
“Miles, I love it here, are you having a fuck crazy time or what?”
“Er, it’s ok. Not sure I’ve ever had a fuck crazy time anywhere to be honest.” I said.
“Really” she smirked,”And you such a crazy guy.”
“No, no, just a little wodka.”
“It’s not even half eleven yet.”
“Is traditional back home. On cold night we drink wodka, gives us fire.”
“And on a warm night?”
“We drink wodka, keeps us cool.”
“I’m beginning to see a pattern here.”
Sophia pulled me down next to her and the skinny prick, I nearly collapsed on top of her. The skinny prick lent over her, cold lechery in his eyes and said something in her ear, she span round and slapped him across the face leaving a burning red hand print upon his alabaster skin. Violence flashed in his eyes, I fixed his stare, he smiled weakly and shouted something about ‘birds.’
“He is not nice man, he is creeping me out, I think I don’t like him anymore.” said Sophia.
I turned to warn him off feeling a rush of adrenalin and fear only to see him slink away into the waves of people breaking around the couches.
“It’s alright I’ve got rid of him. Where are Kiko and Ben?”
“Oh, they’re upstairs listening to dead music.” Which I still feel is an excellent summation of anything by The Sisters of Mercy or their Goth counter parts. Sophia rested her head on my shoulder.
“No joy in it. For them life is all anger, pain and death, where is the poetry?” I guessed she was still talking about the music and tried to make myself more comfortable for her.
“People should love life, they should celebrate it, we are so lucky to be here. These people,” She thrust her arm out at the dancing throng and smashed a pint out of the hands of some terminally shy lad.”what do they have to worry about? What?
“Your arms if they want to enjoy a drink?” I offered. The lad looked down at the large wet patch over his trousers, what had once been a pint of beer was now a very rough approximation of Africa all over his crotch and legs, he looked like his bladder had exploded. Sophia hadn’t even noticed, she looked at me as if I’d said something incredibly profound.
“Thank you.” The lad stammered, his eyes welling up with the effort of talking to people he didn’t know,”For fucking up my evening.” Then he turned and walked away.
“Him!” Sophia screeched, “He is the worst. Mental case with pisses all down his trousers.”
I thought about explaining what had just happened to her but then thought better of it. The Orb’s ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’ faded in on the back of ‘Higher than the Sun’ and the floor erupted. Sophia leapt to her feet screaming something about poetry and then we were lost to the rhythm, held aloft by the throb of the bass, enthralled by the chopped vocal and the haunting harmonica. She was transformed before my eyes, gone was the rambling lush and in her place was a primeval being, a tantalising sylph, a beat pulsing with life, a siren drawing me in.
We danced and danced. When I felt myself start to sag Sophia’s smile would reignite me, I’d beam back at her and let the beat carry me along. Then before I knew it the opening chords stabbed in, drums and bass stomped insistently and I was back in Birmingham, we were Kings in waiting holding court in Moseley and Digbeth, we were electric, untouchable the whole world waiting for us. I hadn’t played this since then, since her, since my life stopped and another one started, a life of final demands, of wiping arses, dodging punches and sleeping alone. I made it till the final chorus before the tears finally broke through, Frank Black sang with such passion and remorse whilst Kim Deal echoed him, a falling Angel, the fact that I had no idea what they were singing about made little difference ‘This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven’ was the most poignent and powerful lyric in the world at that moment and I was snapped like a porch in a hurricane, splintering in front of Sophia. She cupped my face in her hands.
“Are you ok?”
I wiped the tears away and mumbled something ending in ‘sorry.’
“Come.” She grabbed my hand and pulled me through the crowd, out through the double doors and up the stairs to the second floor. We found a spot amongst the foolhardy burger chompers and sat down.
“Miles if I’d have known you didn’t like The Pixies…”
“God no, I love The Pixies, it’s just that song, it brought back a lot of memories.”
“No, some of the best times of my life.”
“Then why so sad?”
“I don’t know. “
But I did know. I knew that I’d never get those times back again, that what I had was gone and all I had left now was a shitty job and an impossible dream.
“Miles you are not like Russian boys. “
“Is that a good thing?”
“Oh yes.” she said and then kissed me. She smelt of vanilla and vodka, I pulled her aroma deep into my lungs our lips holding us together as she ran her fingers through my hair.
“Now.” She said pulling away I will go and get us some more drinks and when I come back you will tell me all about The Pixies.
“Always wodka.” She left me stuck in a feedback loop, reliving that kiss over and over again each re-run getting fainter than the last her scent diluting with every breath. I lent back into the booth my face cracking with an infectious grin.
“She sucked you off yet then?”
I looked up to see the skinny prick leering down at me.
“She sucked you off yet? You know what these Germans are like, fucking gagging for it constantly.”
“She’s Russian you prick.”
“Oooo ark at Phileas Fucking Fogg here.”
I sat up and looked over into the next booth. Skinny prick was surrounded by a gaggle of Goths, he was playing to the crowd.
“She couldn’t keep her hand off of me earlier.” He added.
“That’s not what it looked like to me young Frankenstein.”
“Don’t you mean Dracula?”
I leant close to him, the combination of booze and Sophia’s kiss had given me unnatural courage.
“Ponce of Darkness maybe but let’s face it mate with your looks you’d be better off telling people you were in fact created through an amalgam of dead body parts, it’s more believable.” Then I patted him on the cheek. I watched his eyes flicker and then flash as his brain slowly processed my insult, then he exploded.
“Wanker! She’s a fucking slag, we’ve all had her.” He said gesturing at his anaemic mates. “And you can’t even get a wank from her, tosser.”
As he said tosser he hurled the luke warm contents of his plastic pint glass into my face. Now I’ve never gone in for violence unless absolutely necessary and it’s fair to say that I can never remember deeming it absolutely necessary but something snapped in me that night. I’ve had out of body experiences before whilst on varied combinations of drugs but this was something else, this was almost like a video game, I was watching someone who looked a lot like me act like Steven Segal. In a matter of nano seconds I found myself forcing skinny prick’s head back over the food counter with my hand clamped firmly round his neck, I didn’t even remember covering the fifty or so yards from my booth to the counter. He tried to scream something but it just sounded like he was gargling teeth, I looked down at his desperate eyes and noticed the hot fat bubbling in the back ground. Time clogged in a temporal artery and beat a deep bass in my temples ‘How the fuck am I going to get out of this?’ I thought to myself. I’d often fantasised violent encounters casting myself as the estranged hero fighting off the hordes of evil, winning through with displays of incredible fighting prowess and daring do but when I was there, pasty faced son of the dead clamped in my fist I had no idea how I was going to resolve it. I kept looking at the boiling fat and pushing him ever closer. I was being played out now, I’d lost control, events were steering me.
“Let go of the skinny prick.” A familiar voice boomed in my ear.
I looked over my shoulder to see the voice’s owner, Vince. Skinny prick pulled himself up straight gasping for air. Vince turned on him.
“I don’t know what you said, I don’t care what you did, you’re leaving now.”
Skinny prick had already been broken on the counter but now, with those few words, he was deflated, a sack of a man held up by a crooked frame. Without a word he walked out. Vince grabbed my wrist and forced my arm up my back.
“You’re coming with me.”
He kicked open some access doors and thrust me through them. We were in a dimly lit stairwell that ran down the back of the club.
“I’m fucking working, right?”
“Yeah.” I said.
“I’m fucking working. The last thing I want to be doing is breaking up fights with twats like you.”
“I thought that was your job?”
“Don’t get cocky Miles. I’m working.” he stressed the last word as if by doing so it would make everything clear.
“Oh, right.” I lied.
“Now I’m going to have to hurt you.”
“What? Now wait a minute, we can talk this through surely?”
“But we’re partners, you need me.”
“True, but I also need to keep my cover and my credibility.” As he said this he pointed behind himself without turning around at a camera perched up on the wall.
“People are watching Miles, people will see.”
“You’re a lying bastard, you like this shit, you fucking love it.”
“Hey, I play to my strengths, you should do the same.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well I’d scrap that application to the diplomatic core if I were you.” He laughed to himself a sick guttural crack.
This was turning out to be one of the shittiest nights ever. I finally hit it off with the girl of my dreams only to burst into tears in front of her, start a fight with a trainee vampire and get battered by a psychopathic co-worker. I stared into the face of certain torment and made a decision, I was going down fighting.
“You lay a fucking hand on me and you can forget about the maps.”
“Woooo, right little Ninja tonight aren’t we.”
“I mean it Vince. You can’t map those tunnels without me and I’ve got the maps, you lay one hand on me and I’ll burn the fucking lot.”
“Fair enough.” he said and then kicked me firmly in the balls.