GROTTO JOE - RICHARD GODWIN
The witchdoctor came down the stairs coughing blood.
Beneath the saturated wall of graffiti, the shards of broken glass winked with menace in the lurid glow cast by the flickering strip light that hissed and fizzed overhead.
I’d never seen his scar look like that before. The jagged white grin in his flesh had turned golden and issued a strange surreal glow.
‘I hears yo can helps me’, he said.
‘This man he’s been doing some tings.’
‘And what things might they be?’
‘Rape, murder, bloodshed, mayhem, he don’t like me, and he’s in disguise.’
‘Well, it’s an honour that you come to me.’
‘You’s the deal on this business. It’s Grotto Joe.’
‘A job’s a job. I’ll visit him.’
Down on second avenue where the winos spat at you as you passed, the line of kids to the grotto was like a trail of litter on the puke strewn pavement I waited and watched as the shoppers bought their ton of crap and headed home.
And there he was, Grotto Joe.
Fat and rotund and obscene as a dirty joke in church, clutching the kids and giving them a box of tat while he whistled.
I could smell him. He stank of piss and corruption.
It had been a while since that incident when he cut the lady in the shop, sliced her from ear to ear for short-changing him and he was doing what he always did this time of year, dress up and hand out gifts. Beneath the beard lay a world of lies.
People wonder what Father Christmas does the rest of the year, well, this one burgles shops and specialises in aggravated sexual assault on the side.
He ho-hoed and acted out the part of the dear old guy with the gifts and maybe had them all fooled but not anyone who knew what lay beneath the mask.
I waited until the throng had thinned and the last few stragglers were wending their way home and I went in.
He had his back turned and was removing the beard when he heard me and turned.
He was about to open his mouth and say something smart when I pulled my baby from my pocket. She’s as sharp as they come and I hit him right in the neck, a shower of blood opening up and spraying the grotto in some grim ejaculation that left him reeling. His reindeer were dripping by the time I’d finished. Beneath the boxes of gifts lay his rusting machete. Ho fucking ho.
So I scalped him while a slow drizzle pattered the canvas sheeting that hemmed us in and I took it home to the witchdoctor who looked down at it and said:
‘Dat father Christmas, he sure was into some bad shit.’
‘It’s a pleasure doing business.’
The drizzle had turned to snow. The streets were hushed beneath the polluted blanket it cast over the town’s corpse.
BIO: Richard Godwin lives and writes in London, where his dark satire ‘The Cure-All’, about a group of confidence tricksters, has been produced on the stage. He has just finished writing a crime novel.
ON THE FRINGES OF THE FRINGE
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