Originally appeared in Six Sentences last year in another form
When I think about it, my most vivid and powerful memories of childhood are in black and white. The monochrome of the Saturday morning Odeon’s Kidz-Klub, and the Hollywood films on afternoon television, seemed so much more vibrant than anything that real life could come up with.
And, as you would expect of someone who grew up living more fully in his imagination than in the day-to-day, adulthood proved to be a series of disappointments and non-events.
Nightclubs, for example, were, in my mind, bustling with tough guys in pinstriped suits, wise-cracking cigarettes girls and sultry Femme Fatales belting out torch songs on a Chiaroscuro-lit stage. So, when I eventually stumbled into the grim reality - sticky carpets, overflowing toilets and beer bellied men with no necks and faces like black current crumbles staggering around a smokey, pokey dance floor with leathery, bottle blondes - my heart sank like the Titanic.
And now, every weekend, with Sisyphean resignation, I drag myself to sit at the bar in Astros Nite-Spot where only the splashes of blood that the regulars spill as casually as their watery lager brighten up an otherwise dreary and uniform night. And, no, the irony of this situation has not escaped me.
It was my birthday and I was nestled on my usual bar stool, calmly contemplating the evening’s third double whisky, the ice cubes shimmering, glimmering and glowing in the wan light, when I briefly turned my gaze outside to where the rain poured down in sheets and the wet pavement reflected Astros flickering neon sign. Walking towards the bar was Melissa.
Melissa and I had been joined at the waist for just over a year before the cracks started appearing in what I had, until then, considered to be, at least for me, a fairly solid relationship, despite its sporadically psychotic episodes - which were invariable acerbated by copious amounts of alcohol. It was as winter melted into spring that the foundations of the house of love started to shake, a time that coincided with the reappearance of a blast from Melissa’s past in the corpulent shape of her erstwhile fiance, Billy Rogan.
As the months wore on, however, my temper was becoming increasingly inflamed by Billy and Melissa’s shameless flirting. So, that wet and windy night in May, after a particularly prolific drinking session, I challenged Billy to what, once upon a time, would have been referred to as a duel.
In a dark and dingy alley outside the Methodist church, stripped to the waist in the pouring rain, illuminated only by the light from a stained glass window, Billy bopped around like Muhammad Ali, albeit a fat white and wheezy Ali. I took off my horn-rimmed glasses and carefully placed them on a wheelie bin for safekeeping and, as I turned, I was sucker-punched by a big pink blancmange and sent hurtling into a pile of black binbags that spilled their rancid contents across the alley.
‘And let that be a lesson to you,’ I said to Billy, who was towering over me like a gloating Godzilla over a demolished Tokyo.
‘Wanker,’ replied puffing Billy before triumphantly waddling off, hand in glove with Melissa, leaving me alone to light a cigarette, lay back, close my eyes and inhale deeply in a manner that I hoped was reminiscent of Jean-Paul Belmondo at the close of Jean-Luc Godard’s À Bout de Souffle.
BIO: Paul Brazill was born in Hartlepool, England - a town famous for hanging a monkey - and is now on the lam in Bydgoszcz, Poland (South of Hel). He has had stories in (or coming up in) A Twist Of Noir, Beat To A Pulp, Flashshots, Powder Burn Flash, Six Sentences and, the book 6S2V. He can be found stalking ‘You would say that, wouldn’t you?’