THE BALLAD OF JOHNNY TEARDROP - TOM LEINS
The dull sound of a fist pounding on the cheap plywood door sounds like dirt being shovelled onto a coffin. My coffin.
I’m staying in a stomped-out motel room on the outskirts of town. The window is nailed shut, but there’s no real view to speak of – just the crumpled, worn-out Paignton skyline. A seething mass of shabby concrete and violent contradictions that I call home. I was stirring my second rum and coke of the day with a screwdriver. The same screwdriver that I keep beneath my pillow in preparation for moments like this. Johnny Teardrop is lying on my bed, smoking a cigar. I glance across at him and he shrugs. I place my glass on top of the TV and trudge across the threadbare carpet. When I peer through the peephole a fat bloodshot eyeball squints back at me. It belongs to an obese degenerate known as the Fat Controller. He’s a big, fat somebody in a town full of nobodies. I’ve ruffled his feathers once or twice, and lived to tell the tale. I nod mournfully at Johnny and a look of panic flickers across his big, lopsided face.
I open the motel door and the Fat Controller’s vicious teenage entourage pours into room like human effluence. Sometimes Paignton makes hell feel positively lukewarm in comparison. He prods me in the chest and sniffs, as if smelling gone-off meat.
“Where’s Johnny Teardrop?”
I flash him a sly grin and shrug. “Beats me.”
“This ain’t your beef, son. Give it up before you get hurt.”
“Who’s gonna hurt me, fat man? You?”
I turn my back on him and walk back into the crowded motel room, leaving the door gaping open like an ugly, toothless smile.
As his hood-rat friends tear the room apart, I settle back into my ratty armchair and sip my drink casually. He waddles over and stands over me, his obscene bulk undulating beneath his shiny leisurewear.
“How would you like to wake up in a nice, tight body-bag tomorrow morning?”
“At least I’d fit in a body-bag. Not like you, you fat fuck!”
He gurgles back a threat, and glowers at me, trembling. I laugh in his face.
The glum hoodlums finally notice the bathroom door, and it caves in with a skeletal crack. Johnny bursts out of the ragged opening clutching a beer bottle. The damp cigar still dangles from his lips. A posse forms around him the way a clot forms around a knife-wound. Young thugs in cheap office suits trying to look like gangsters. Another youngster wheels in a decrepit, flaxen-haired old man and steers him into the corner. Bent Eddie flashes me a wheelchair smile. People say that I put him in that chair, but I would beg to differ. He should have cooperated when I gave him the chance.
Johnny takes out one of the young men with a sickening bottle-crack across the forehead. The boy’s limp body is dragged out of the skirmish, and his friends wade in with stomps and kicks. Within seconds, Johnny groans and crumples. I close my eyes and sip my rum as they trample gutter poetry into Johnny’s ugly face. Behind the melee, the Fat Controller chews his cigarette with a sour, distasteful expression. Paignton can have my bones, but it can’t have Johnny Teardrop’s. Not yet. I finger the screwdriver in my jeans pocket and stare at the Fat Controller. Tomorrow, I’ll be scraping his blood off the walls with a razor blade.
BIO: Tom Leins is from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published online at 3am Magazine, Dogmatika, A Twist Of Noir, Beat The Dust, Straight From The Fridge, Savage Manners and Muzzle Flash Fiction. He is currently hard at work on his first novel, Thirsty & Miserable. Get your pound of flesh at www.myspace.com/tomleins.
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