Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 618 - Nigel Bird


Tommy Atkins was made of bad things. Frogs and snails and puppy dog tails.

His parents knew it soon as he came out of the womb.

Bruce Robertson knew it more than most. He’d been Tommy’s muscle for a good while, twisting an arm here and there. Breaking or chopping them off if things got out of hand.

But Bruce didn’t mind. He was made of bad things, too.

People said he was rotten to the core.

Might have been better for him if he was. Wouldn’t have got himself into the mess he was in if they’d been right.

Somewhere in Bruce’s soul was sugar and spice and only Tommy knew it.

Most of the time Bruce’s nice side was about as easy to spot as a zebra on a crossing.

The night they went after Barnsey it was like an enormous zit on the end of a tiny nose.

Putting a bullet through a man’s head meant nothing to either of them.

Tommy took Barnesy out with a shot to the temple, no sweat.

It was the same with Barnesy’s wife. Bruce gave it to her while she slept. Let the pillow soak up blood and brains.

When it came to the kid, Bruce didn’t have it in him.

Hiding under the bed the child was a loose end that needed tying. But Bruce couldn’t tie it.

Sure, he squeezed the trigger, just not as hard as it required.

Instead of taking her out, Bruce walked away.

How was he to know she’d made them both? Was able to describe them to the police down to the finest detail as if it had been tattooed onto her eyeballs.

And now Tommy was coming for Bruce with everything he had.

They’d cornered him in the industrial estate on the outside of town.

Bruce laid-up. Hid in the attic of Cheeky Charlie’s. Only went down to buy food from the machines or when he needed the lavvy.

Three days and three nights he’d been there.

The diet of sweets and fizzy drinks had taken its toll and he was experiencing cramps from lying still for hours on end.

On the fourth day, he decided to give up. Lay and closed his eyes and willed himself to death. Only problem was his lungs wouldn’t stop and his pulse went on no matter how hard he tried.

And that’s when he saw it.

A spider wove its silken strands, threading and circling until a web was made.

Bruce felt a tear in his eye as the spider stood at the edge of its home waiting for unsuspecting visitors to call for dinner.

Patient it was, like a fisherman on the banks of the Tyne.

That night a storm pounded Charlie’s place. Made it rattle and shake as if it were about to cave in, but the metal sheets remained in place, not a bolt removed or out of sorts.

Only casualty was the spider’s web, ripped apart by a gust that whistled through the gaps.

The spider didn’t sit and mope, oh no. Just waited for the wind to end and started over, spinning and weaving like nothing had happened.

And Bruce was inspired.

Decided the only way to make a life was to get up off his arse and run for it. Start over in another town.

Besides, Tommy and his gang would have given up the ghost way before.

Took the spider in his palm and squeezed the life from it, then jumped to the floor, opened the door and ignored the alarm that sang out loud.

The first pop halted him where he stood. The second dropped him to his knees. The third, he knew nothing about.

BIO: Nigel Bird is a Support For Learning teacher in a primary school near Edinburgh. Co-Producer of the Rue Bella magazine between 1998 and 2003, he has recently had work published by ‘The Reader’ and ‘Crimespree’ and was interviewed by Spinetingler for their ‘Conversations With The Bookless’ series earlier this year. He recently won the ‘Watery Grave Invitational’ contest over at ‘The Drowning Machine’ and will have work published in Needle and in Dark Valentine Magazine this summer. He hopes to complete a draft of his first novel by the end of 2010.


Matthew McBride said...

Great story Nigel. I really liked it a lot.

Paul D Brazill said...

I imagine Frank singing 'That's Life' at the end of that story. Some smashing lines in there.Top work.

pattinase (abbott) said...

So stylishly told, Nigel. I do think the Brits have the upperhand on the US. in terms of colorful slang. This is proof.

Nigel Bird said...

it's great to have the three of you as readers - what an audience!
thanks for taking the time.

jrlindermuth said...

Well told.

AJ Hayes said...

Damn it Nigel. You get me liking a guy,warts and all. Then you show me a soft spot in his hard heart for kids. Then you tell me why he's like he is. And then, POP POP POP, you snatch him away. You're a sneaky, sneaky man Mr. Bird. And you tell a great story too. I'm waiting for the anthology to come out, buddy.

Joyce said...

Wow, Nigel. Love when I read a story and the writer takes me inside like an unseen observer. That's what you've done with this. Perfect ending too--don't believe it could have ended any other way. Terrific!

Chris Rhatigan said...

Nicely done, Nigel. Every word fits perfectly. Gotta agree with Patti--Brit slang has the edge.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Great story. Felt like I was holed up with him as I read it. The last 3 sentences were awesome. I'm with Pattinase on her observation re: the slang and I'll also add style to that.

Alan Griffiths said...

Great story, Nigel. Full of great language and Noir all the way through; even the poor spider got it!

Top stuff.

Nigel Bird said...

more thanks - spirits are always raised when something written is enjoyed.
the spider was the biggest decision i had to make - live or die? i wanted it to live - Robert the Bruce let his be, but it just had to be that way (not that it was like ending the life of my favourite character or anything.

Al Tucher said...

I love comic noir. Great title, great job overall.

Rob Kitchin said...

Excellent stuff. Not a wasted word and a great single scene.

CrayolaQuran said...

Are we jacking an Irvine Welsh character's name, Nigel?

CrayolaQuran said...

Are we jacking an Irvine Welsh protagonist's name, Nigel?

David Barber said...

Nigel, that was a cracker. There's more than one spider, eh? Loved the last sentence when they took him out.

Nigel Bird said...

i wasn't consciously taking names from anywhere or anyone, but who knows?
the idea came from the old try, try and try again tale of Robert the Bruce, so that's where he came from.
thanks for the comments. it's appreciated.