Sunday, 19 June 2011

My entry in the Watery Grave Invitational

So I placed fourth in the WGI.  So chuffed with that, I can't tell you.  And here, for your Monday morning slice of sweary stuff, is my entry . . .

Hope you enjoy it.


HARD TIMES – A CHARLIE SPLINTERS STORY
Fuckin recession's hittin us all. The gaffs up the High Street, they can't get no punters through the doors, and down here in the backstreets it ain't much fuckin better. Times like this, you just gotta take what you can get. Whatever comes your way, you know. That's the first rule in this game, that is. Never turn away a punter. No matter fuckin what.

Had a call from a geezer earlier wantin to talk a bit of business. So here I am, headin for The Three Rabbits in the pissin rain. Sounded like an old geezer on the phone, but you never can tell. Some of these youngsters nowadays, the shit they suck down em, makes em sound hundred and fuckin two sometimes.

The Three Rabbits is where me office is. Don't fuckin laugh. It's me place of business and it does me fuckin proud. The Rabbits is such a shitty old man's pub, see, so the Old Bill don't pay it no fuckin notice. They're more interested in all them fuckin wine bar places and them new pubs with tellys in full of kids and drugs and music so fuckin loud you can't hardly hear yourself think.

I walk in. Shake the rain off me head.

Pete the barman's wipin up. He gives me a nod to where this old geezer's sittin in the snug where I do me business. Gotta be in his late sixties at least, this geezer. Not old old, but fuckin old enough, you know. Don't get many punters that age. Usually it's thirties, forties, simplifyin marital problems, or what you might call, 'work related issues' – puttin the frighteners on the governor, that sort of thing. But this one, I got a feelin this one's gonna be a bit different.

I go and sit down.

'Charlie Splinters,' I say.

He looks up from his half of mild like I've just caught him cuttin up a corpse. Guilt like you wouldn't fuckin believe.

He puts his hand out. Small. Bony. Them liver spot things all over the top and his fingers brown at the ends. He tells me his name's Arthur Rampton. Stutterin like a bastard, he is. Scared. He's got this voice on him like in the old black and white films, like sort of posh. And he is a bit. Not loads, but enough to be uncomfortable in a place like this sharin a table with the likes of me.

He takes another sip of his drink like he dunno what to say.

I see I'm gonna have to take the lead on this one. I'm assumin he wants me services, cos he wouldn't fuckin be here otherwise. So I get me brochure out. It used to be more of a price-list with somewhere to sign at the bottom. A contract, you know. But Dave the Crayon done me some drawings and me mate Phil who works at the stationers, he nicked me a shiny folder, some posh paper, and some stick on letters. 

He don't work at the stationers no more, Phil. Got caught stuffin a load of marker pens down his trousers, panicked and threw himself through the front window. Got banged up as a mental case. Poor bastard. Like I was sayin, me price list and me contract, it's all in this sort of brochure now. A group effort, you might say.

I push me brochure across the table towards him. As he's lookin at me drawings and workin his way down the prices, I can see by the way he's lookin there ain't nothing on there he's interested in. He's just bidin his time, that's all. Workin out how he's gonna ask me what he wants doin.

He shuts the brochure and pushes it back across the table to me and takes another sip of mild, holdin the glass to his mouth like he's tryin to stop himself sayin too much.

'So what do you want, Mr Rampton?' I says. Helps keep it on a professional footin, callin em by their second name. Keeps a certain distance, you know.

But this geezer, it's like he's too scared to fuckin ask.

He leans forward and looks me straight in the eyes as he can.

'Do you do special requests, Mr Splinters?' he says.

'Special requests?' I says.

'Yes,' he says. 'Special requests.'

'I ain't a fuckin DJ, Mr Rampton,' I tells him.

There's always a time to light up the mood in negotiations like this. Mind you, turns out this ain't the time, and he don't crack a fuckin smile.

'Mr Splinters,' he says, starin at me harder now, 'it's my wife.'

I nod me head, and push the brochure back towards him.

He pushes it back.

'No, Mr Splinters. You don't understand.'

He tells me his wife's ill. Says the doctors have give her three months to live.

'We've been married nearly fifty years, Mr Splinters,' he says.

He says she don't even know who he is any more and the doctors can't do nothing.

I'm thinkin I'm knowin where this is goin, and I don't like it one bit. That's why I got me price-list. Keeps things in order, see. Within the bounds of decency, you might say.

He finishes his half of mild to the bottom, and a flush comes in his face. He sits back.

'Mr Splinters,' he says, 'here's what I need you to do.'

And he tells me.

There's a right and a wrong in this world and sometimes it ain't easy to see what side of the line you're on. But this, this what he's askin me to do, this is gonna take some fuckin thinkin about.

'So what do you think, Mr Splinters,' he says, 'can we do business?'

Whatever I'm thinkin, whatever me personal feelings is on the matter, I got a livin to earn, food what needs puttin on me table. And what with state of the economy, a self-employed entrepreneur such as meself ain't really got a fuckin choice, has he.

'I'll do it for a pony,' I says.

He looks at me like I'm speakin another fuckin language.

'A pony,' I says. 'You know, two hundred quid.'

He smiles, sort of relieved. And I'm thinkin, fuck. I reckon I coulda pushed him up to a monkey, and he'd have coughed up.

Still. Win some lose some, eh.

'Thank you, Mr Splinters,' he says, grabbin hold of me hand and shakin it hard, tears fillin up his eyes. 'Thank you so very much.'

He tells me where he lives and we settle it for tomorrow night.

I got me misgivins. Fuck me, I have. But this ain't the time for none of those. He's out the door before I even fuckin notice. I whistle to Pete for a pint, and he lands one in front of me.

'Things all right, Charlie?' he says.

I take a sip of me beer and put it down on the table slow.

'Yeah, Pete,' I says. 'Just business, you know.'

He knows to leave me alone, and heads back to the bar.

Me nan. She got like that in the end. Like what this geezer says about his missus. I remember the last time I see her. She was layin in her bed in the front room cos she couldn't get up the stairs no more. And she was holdin me hand, and I was squeezin it, squeezin it so tight like I never wanted to let it go. But by that time, she never knew me no more anyway, me name and that, but the way she looked at me that last time, it was like she was lookin straight past me name and right into me soul.

She passed a couple of days later. Suffered so much, she did. And it broke me bloody heart seein it.

So what I'm sayin, is I know where this geezer's comin from. But fuck me, it don't make it no fuckin easier. And who's to say, if I ever, you know, if I ever got to love anyone like he does his missus, and I was with em all that time, who's to say I wouldn't slide into some shithouse of a pub like this and seek out some cunt of a geezer like me to do what he's askin me to do.

Something he just can't do himself.

#

Forty-six Albert Street. Mr Rampton's sittin across the table from me. The gun in me pocket's feelin cold and heavy and it's pressin against the top of me leg, and hurts like fuck.

'Would you like a cup of tea, Mr Splinters?' he says, like it's some normal fuckin day or something.

I hear a coughin from upstairs, and think of me nan.

'No thank you, Mr Rampton,' I says.

She's bangin on the ceilin from upstairs, probably with her walkin stick or something. He gets up and fetches two envelopes from a drawer, slides one behind the kettle, and gives me the other one. I open it. Two hundred quid. A pony fair and square.

The bangin gets louder.

He looks at me hard, his eyebrows tight together, sort of squintin.

'Is it time, Mr Splinters?' he says.

Time? Fuckin, time?

But it's me what's hesitatin. Like I says, I don't like this one fuckin bit.

She's shoutin now, his old girl. Something. Dunno what. And she's swearin like a bastard.

He's lookin at me now, tears runnin down his face.

'Please, Mr Splinters,' he says. 'Please'.

Time it fuckin is then. I nod me head.

He leans forward, opens his mouth, and I put the gun inside and blow the back of his head off.

I wipe the shooter on me trousers, and put it in his hand.

The old girl starts screamin. What with the note by the kettle and the gun in his hand, I'm safe as fuckin houses.

I get out there sharpish, mind, just in case. And I'm away on me toes walkin fast down the street in the dark, tears comin down me face.

And all for a fuckin pony.


8 comments:

  1. It is hard to do what Ian does, use a narrative voice that is so personal it's like sitting in a pub with someone. Great story.

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  2. Thank you, my friend, for the kind words. Talking of sitting in a pub . . . :)

    Speak to you soon, Richard.

    Ian.

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  3. Lovely stuff, mate. Powerful. Nice job.

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  4. Absolutely brilliant!Perfect pitch!

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  5. Cheers, Jools. Cheers, Paul. That pitch thing, Paul. Hard on this one. He's not an easy one to write, Charlie. All broken up inside, he is. Makes me hurt, you know.

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  6. Hot damn I loved that. GREAT voice and a nice little twist at the end. Did NOT see that coming but didn't feel tricked, y'know? This one is just great.

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  7. Dave the Crayon? Fantastic.
    It's perfectly told, no doubt. Eric's right about that twist, too - surprising yet honest (almost a relief, too). It's a very creative use of the 'horse' theme, too, a pony (made me think of Fools and Horses and now I'll have that tune in my head till morning). In all seriousness, 4th's a great result and on another day this could have placed higher (like Blackpool FC or North End). Worth noting that it's top of the Britpack in the comp, too. Hats off, Mr Ayris, another great appetiser for 'Abide With Me'.

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  8. One thing that shines (not the only one)about this is the same thing that shines in all your work, mate. The events may be shocking or squalid but in all your works the emotions are so blindingly honest and real, it makes the last lines of your stuff tough to read because of all those bleedin' tears blurring my vision.

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