Friday, January 22, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 330 - James McGowan


I killed my stepfather when I was fourteen. Nobody saw it coming especially him. He was a retarded fucker especially by the time I finished with him.

His name was Greg and I called him egg ’cause I hated them and him. Eggs come out of arseholes and Greg was Mister Arsehole. Eggs are great environments for culturing viral throwbacks. Greg was a fucking throwback. To the sixties, to mantras, to tofu sandwiches, to yoga, to TM, to pillow talk, to angst cubed, to fucked up hair, to unkemptness if that’s even a fucking word which I doubt but I couldn’t be fucking arsed to look it up MAN! Greg would be proud of that Man man. If his thick head wasn’t at 180 degrees to where it should be. But let me backtrack.

I just did it. Ten minutes ago. So the energy is still flowing through me - quantum energies of destruction careering through my bloodstream. Looking for a way out. Remembering the Greg rout. The shout. The clout.

Greg was into Ki energy and bullshit. My mother fell for it. I couldn’t stand for it. The first time I met him my mother invited him around for tea. Myself and my brother stood inside the hallway door as my mother introduced him. I just kept looking at him. With high beam cold eyes that my father had given me. Trying to break him down before he even started.

Be nice boys, my mother said.

We were - we didn’t stab him in the groin, for instance.

My brother Sid just turned around and walked into the dining room. He had a searing intelligence that had begun to burn some of the neural links so he didn’t waste time on pleasantries or shit shat as he called it. He was a laugh a minute. He studied books on mnemonics, UFOs, levitation, psychic surgery, and forensic pathology.

Greg watched Sid’s retreating figure and started to sweat a little. His sangfroid was out the fucking fenestre, baby! I was learning French in school so I could join the Foreign Legion and come back to impress les filles.

My mother shoved past me. Pliant as always, I just went with the flow. And followed them into the dining room.

I knew by the way they talked it was serious. I have a sixth sense for potential disasters. If they had me when the Hindenburg was landing I could have saved lives. Or at least not cried on the live broadcast from New Jersey. I thought they were supposed to be tough over there.

Tea was a fraught affair old chap. I said nothing to him but just looked at him. Occasionally and discreetly I stuck my tongue out when I had a full mouth of masticated Brennan’s Bread. My brother just read An Encyclopedia of Executions.

Greg was one of those new age liberal types that I instinctively want to hatchet. I must admit he did not seem to be phased by the partially dissolved rice and beans but I knew he had to be sweating. He tried to engage me in conversation but I ignored him. He talked about auras, etc., till I was hoping that fire from heaven would envelope him. Spontaneous combustion is rare but maybe he was dry enough to affect it.

Halfway through lunch Sid got up and left the table and said nothing. Greg looked up, disconcerted, and tried to keep talking, eating and not bursting into flames. My mother told me I could leave the table but I just sat there absorbing as much bullshit and Ki energy as possible. They eventually finished and went into the TV room. Greg looked at me and said toodle pip.

Toodle pip - what a prick, I thought. A real English greeting for ponces. His self importance and feigned patience over-floweth, I suppose. Unlike his medulla. After a few minutes I joined them. I rarely watched TV except for the World at War and other documentaries on blitzkrieg, for example, or, for light entertainment, F Troop, Get Smart and Green Acres.

Those programs were distilled genius. A bit like myself I suppose. Agent 99 proved to me that women were smarter and nothing has changed my mind since. She was a good role model for the women’s movement especially since she was very smart (unlike Smart) and could use a gun. She would be perfect in a Chandler book or one of mine! If I ever write one.

I loved Corporal Agarn in F Troop and the shortsighted corporal who fell into the well at the beginning and the inept lieutenant and his girlfriend with the tassels. I could not figure out how she was attracted to him when I was available. My age, eleven years, and the cathode ray tube barrier curbed my longing however. Even Corporal Agarn was a better option for her. And he
was worse than Greg.

Tarantino made Arnold the pig famous but I recognized him as one of the better actors on TV. His owner Mr. Haney was a match for Ava Gabor. I loved how she threw the dishes out the window when they were finished breakfast. I tried it myself and it is a good feeling. I stole the dishes from the local hardware store for a few months. Nobody ever expected crockery to be stolen so security was minimal and I had the field to myself for a while. Eventually they redeployed their forces - I got that from the World at War - but by then I had moved on myself.

Anyway, my mother and Greg were whispering when I came in and sitting close together but they moved apart. Carry on I said and picked up the Victor. They had some good reconstruction of Banzai charges on Iwo Jima even though I knew it backwards. At irregular intervals I would lower the Victor and look over the top of the comic at the courting couple. They pretended to be watching TV but I knew their gonads were aflame like the tip of the cigarettes they were smoking. Continuing my campaign of psychological warfare, I winked when I was sure Greg made eye contact. That’s ophthalmic-wise not higher self-wise.

When the Fugitive started, I was interested and threw the Victor across the room. My mother shouted, Viktor, pick up that Victor.

I think it’s fair that everyone should have a comic named after them.

It wasn’t me, I said.

Of course, it was you.

It wasn’t me.

It was you - there is no one else here.

What about Greg?

What about Greg?


How could Greg do it - he is sitting here beside me?

What about all that Ki energy and stuff?

Greg looked pale and was getting paler and sweating. Spontaneous combustion was now impossible.

Greg, don’t mind him, my mother said patting his hand.

No problemo.

Holy Godo, I thought - as in Beckett not the Testament.


Yes, kiddo? I had to admire his tenacity.

He looked at me with such sincerity and openness I thought I would laugh. My mother seemed to relax as well.

Greg, how does the one armed man clean his arse?

My mother stood up and pulled me up from the floor.

Get out of here, you crazy bastard - a tad harsh I thought.

I picked up the Victor. At the door, I turned.

Toodle pip, I said but didn’t wait for an answer.

When I got upstairs to our bedroom, Sid lay on the covers reading. I told him what happened. He laughed. I laughed as well and I ran towards the bed whooping, jumped and landed on top of him. He tickled me and wrestled me and when I fell asleep I dreamt of the one armed man strangling Greg.

Greg came back at the weekend for another tea time get together. While he was having tea I went outside. I was interested in low intensity warfare – cf again World at War. When I noticed the petrol cap was loose I decided to piss into the petrol tank. It was difficult to piss up and produce an arc that would go into the opening. But males have an innate ability at this from centuries of practicing, I suspect. They have a dominant gene for piss-arcing and flourishes. My mother called me in for tea.

Urine, Madam? I asked from the rear of the car.

She didn’t notice that I was just finishing. She didn’t wear glasses on her dates. When they came into the TV room after their tea, I went out and ran through the autumnal evening – full of half light and shadows.

When I got back, Greg was standing beside his car while the AA man hooked it up to tow it away. My mother looked dismayed and I could see Greg was annoyed. Bad etheric neighborhood I said as I walked past them into the house. I ran upstairs to tell Sid. He loved it, especially the urine part even though he did talk to me at length then about the qualities of
urine and its purity unless you have a kidney infection or syphilis.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Seriously, though.

I know, Sid, piss off.


Greg didn’t come back again until they were married. Greg was a street angel and a house devil. The mantra intoning new age façade was just that. All for show. And the façade faded fast. That’s alliteration for you. He started small.

Listen to me, bucko - those whatever – Sunday roasts, baked beans, jumpers, shoes, socks, Jack’s paper etc don’t grow on trees, you know.

Yeah, I know. He hated that.

Starving Black babies in Africa would love that whatever – Sunday roasts, baked beans, jelly and ice cream, salmonella.

It’s semolina actually.

They have salmonella already. He really hated that.

Eventually Greg started to hit me when my mother wasn’t there. I didn’t respond. I took the blows and got up from the floor and faced him again. I looked into his eyes urging him to hit me. And he would. Sometimes I would sidestep his blows so gracefully I impressed myself. I showed him I could avoid them any time I wanted but usually I just let them land. I wanted to incubate that pain. Just like cultures humming and billowing into monsters inside nutrient rich albumin.

Greg’s reaction to me was fuelled by my ability to ignore him even when he was admonishing or hitting me. I learned not to respond to any blows. I just smiled back at him or just stared into those grey Greg eyes of his.

His glancing blows to my head and ears left little evidence but were fiercely painful. His full contact punches to my back and stomach left bruises but these were faint. When my mother commented on this, he attacked her.

Large fists swinging through the air, hitting her on the side of the head. Clatters they are called in Ireland. Portent and intent enfolded into the aural effect of the word. Loud grunts from him and muted grunts from her when the blows landed and she was knocked against the door or into the TV or onto the floor. I would attack with my fists, milk bottles, the poker, tins of beans. I stuck the kitchen knife in his shoulder blade once. I had to jump up to reach it. The pain was enormous if his bellowing was any indication. Sid was away in med school cutting up dead bodies but Greg was one live body I wanted to cut up. I felt my time would come. And it came the eve of my fifteenth birthday.

I was leaving my bedroom when I saw him coming out of theirs. He was stretching his arms and yawning and heading towards the bathroom. I could have done this on other occasions but my intellect always overruled me. But not today. I was going to be fifteen.

As he passed the top of the stairs, I ran the length of the landing and, with a perfect two footed flying kick, caught him in his lower back and he tumbled down the stairs without even trying to fly.

Greg realized the danger just at the last minute when his peripheral vision caught a movement that was high and fast, too late. I landed perfectly on the balls of my feet at the top of the stairs- a ten - perfect score if flying kick assassination was an Olympic event. Ease of difficulty – high and I watched him tumble down the stairs breaking the upright struts of the banister as well as his neck. It sounded like the ultimate chiropractic adjustment. He shouted in alarm as he fell but there was no one at home to hear him except me.

If he knew the least thing about aerodynamics, he might have made some minor adjustments to his flight path to save himself. However he didn’t at all.

I walked down the stairs and leant down close so he could hear what I said.

Listen here to me, fucko – do you think those banisters grow on trees?

But of course he didn’t listen to me at all. He just stared up at me and blinked once or twice. Blood ran from his ear across the polished hardwood floor. The light reflected off the shiny surface of the blood as it rolled across the floor and pooled near the doorway.

Greg’s big dead head.

Then I fled.

Greg bled.

The blood is on the mat.

Or at least soaking into it.

That is that.

Happy birthday Victor.

I kicked his head and it flopped over like it belonged to a broken necked chicken, which he nearly was. Eggs to eggs, arse holes to arse holes.

I shouted out, Toodle Pip. Then I closed the door behind me and Greg. And went out into the cold dark evening heavy with black rain clouds hugging the houses of the grey town.

BIO: James McGowan is a noir fiend out of and has been published in Plots with Guns, Thuglit, Demolition, Hard Luck Stories and Powder Burn Flash.