Saturday, November 11, 2006

Requiem For A Dangling Man

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Heaven kicked him out. He wouldn’t wear a necktie. In the boarding-house, he was high and dry. Well-supplied with books and dirty looks: he’ll die or get rich tryin’…

…and the song-and-dance-man with the tattooed hands keeps dedicating records to the dangling man…

Here, beauty is a stale concept. As stale as the secondhand air we’re all breathing in. As stale as the stench in the toilets. The stink of the landlord’s hand after he’s removed the lid of the cistern, wrapped an old Somerfield carrier bag around his fist and pumped away the fucking shit himself. I order us two more pints and another pack of pork scratchings for Carl. It’s all I can do to not be sick. Five pounds ten. My loss. The scuffed urn stands proud amongst the spilt beer and soggy beer-mats on a nearby table. It’s already half full of cigarette butts. It’s glinting cheekily under the faulty disco lights. I feel sick again. What exactly am I doing here? These are the sort of people who prefer Carling to Stella. The sort of people who offer to buy single cigarettes off strangers. The sort of people who would happily drink a can of lager that they found on a train. I picture my revolutionary sweetheart in her back-garden- cross-legged in her bikini – smoking cigars – and grin. A man with disturbing facial hair scowls at me. I pass Carl the drinks and head towards the toilets. Jesus.

…and the song-and-dance-man with the tattooed hands keeps dedicating records to the dangling man…


They say small towns burn a little slower. I wish they fucking would. Starting with this one. There’s a cowpunk with a conscience standing stockstill in the toilets and he can’t stop talking nonsense ‘cause he thinks I’m gonna spoil it… He’s shuddering with vigour and bile, dissing the soul-children, murmuring conspiracy theories under his breath. I’ve heard it all before though. Pretty much every time I’ve ever been in this pub. Did I know he’d been in prison? Mmm, yeah, I’d had an inkling. Later on they’ll all be swinging from the rafters with skinny tattooed arms, drowning out the laughter … The India Arms, yeah, that’s the one. Do you know it? Have you been there? More-than-likely I’ll be deservedly burnt along with my books. That’s southern hospitality for you…

…and the song-and-dance-man with the tattooed hands keeps dedicating records to the dangling man…

I walk out and nod to Jase the Ace who’s holding court in the corner. King of Somerfield, legend in his own lunch hour. He grins back at me with yellowed teeth as one of his teenaged admirers proffers him another Marlboro Light. Another girl tries to brush the dandruff off the shoulders of his bodywarmer without him noticing. Nearby, Carl growls and glares at me, all-the-while fingering the cut-up credit card in his pocket. 8 cans for a fiver. The straw that broke the camel’s back. Cunt. I rejoin Carl at the bar. He’s started eyeing up the local talent. Nice. Cigarettes tucked behind their ears, blackened teeth, flakes of cheese and onion crisp stuck to their thick, smudged lipstick. It’s enough to bring a tear to your eye. Shame most of the blokes in here have already got small black teardrops tattooed under their eyes. One girl gazes at me through two black eyes. I stare back at her pathetic, pretty rhinestone soul uncomprehendingly. She blows me a kiss through the smoke and dust. I shudder. Yeah – I think - I’d fuck her. If I was dead.

…and the song-and-dance-man with the tattooed hands keeps dedicating records to the dangling man…

The room throbs and pulses like the stinking underbelly of disco. He prowls the stage like an electric soul bandit; a cut-price Elvis fuelled by less burgers and more speed. I know for a fact that the boot of his Ford Cortina is full of firearms and dodgy video recorders. He takes a slug from his bottle of Pils and glances around the room at his adoring public. “This one’s for a dear friend of mine. A lot of you knew him. His name was Tommy. He was a fucking diamond.” He places his beer bottle back on the windowsill. The psychopath as saint, or something like that. “This one’s for you, Tom. I hope they’ve got good tunes wherever you are now, you old cunt.” He takes one more look at the roomful of burning souls before sinking to his knees and bellowing the opening lines to another rockabilly favourite. “Join in if you know this one…” I look at Carl. Carl shrugs. All the colored girls go: do de do, do do de do… Carl looks at me. I shrug. His gaunt disciples shuffle around the ‘dancefloor’, cigarettes drooping from their mouths, empty pint glasses in hand, murmuring to themselves. I order two more pints and two double whiskies.

…and the song-and-dance-man with the tattooed hands keeps dedicating records to the dangling man…


Her obese Bacardi bruiser of a friend grabs my arse and tells me that Stacey’s wetter than Rod Hull’s roof. I pretend not to hear her and nod in time to the music. Some guy spills my pint and laughs in my face. Borstal tattoos, cheap training shoes, supermarket booze. I don’t push the issue. The woman next to me starts to complain to the barman: “Barman! Barman, there’s a string in my Bloody Mary…” I push through the crowd, not too steady on my feet. “Nathan, where the fuck are you going? Nathan?”

…and the song-and-dance-man with the tattooed hands keeps dedicating records to the dangling man…

I drag her outside for some fresh air. I’m fucked. Some of the old-timers are leaning up against the back-wall, drinking bleach, like faded angels. They don’t even look up at us. Thank fuck. Just for once I don’t want to have to look into their eyes and see the charred autumnal grace of their souls. It’s cold out tonight. I left my jacket inside. I feel sick still. She pushes me up against the greasy brick wall and gropes for my cock. Another victory for my dead heart. Over her shoulder I can see the karaoke shaman relaxing in his car: more than likely getting high on his own supply. Next to him in the front-seat sits an unconvincing transvestite. I can see that from here. Big hair and small clothes. Big hands. Big dick probably. Sex ‘n’ drugs ‘n’ HIV… I don’t know whether he knows or cares. I certainly don’t. Right now I don’t care about anything. Right now we don’t care about anything. Right now I live in the flicker. We live in the flicker. All of us.

…and the song-and-dance-man with the tattooed hands keeps dedicating records to the dangling man…




Tom Leins

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