“We don’t have pickled onion sir. Will cider vinegar and sea salt be okay for you?”
“Aye, no worries,” I said, projecting my voice so as to be heard from the little stockroom behind the bar.
The short, rotund barman reappeared and placed the crisps on the bar. He waddled like an old man, legs buckled and hips knackered from years of carrying around his big sack of lard. He even looked like an old man with his hip-dad-caught-in-the-nineties centre parting, plastered down to his sweaty forehead, and his wanky little round Victorian glasses which did nothing for the shape of his big, fat, bulbous head. It was his skin that gave it away though; he had lovely, smooth, peachy skin. I reckoned this lad to be no more than twenty-five years old, evolved into someone with an older man’s clothing and mannerisms due to years spent behind a quiet bar, in a quiet village where nothing ever happened, surrounded by old cunts with old sheepdogs and old floppy wives.
The old young man topped up my lager and placed it next to my posh crisps. “That’ll be three pounds seventy please sir. Will you be dining with us this evening?”
“Not tonight my good man, jus’ passin’ through,” I said, counting out the change from my pocket.
“Heading to Scarborough? It’s lovely at this time of year, but can still get a bit nippy in the evenings. British weather for you though eh?” He took the change and opened the till.
“Aye.” I took a good, hearty slug of my beer, leaving a thick wall of cold foam hanging from my moustache, and picked up a menu.
The Ganton Greyhound welcomes you
Our relaxed, warm and inviting restaurant is the perfect dining setting for any occasion. We have a large bar area for relaxing before or after your meal and a large beer garden too for those glorious days when the British summer allows us the luxury of dining al fresco
“Seared duck breast served on braised red cabbage with a fondant potato and red wine sauce, seventeen quid” I read aloud, putting on my best public-school-headmaster voice. “Bit fuckin’ posh in ‘ere in’t it?”
“Excuse me sir?” young-old looked up from his little notepad, where he was scribbling away, probably doing a stock-take, or writing his memoirs.
My life as a sexy youngster trapped in a fat old cunt’s body.
“Just sayin’ it’s a bit upmarket in ‘ere. Out o’ the way too, I bet you get a lot o’ businessmen ‘ere, meetin’ up wi’ their secretaries an’ that. It’s an ‘otel too in’t it? Perfect for a bit o’ naughty ram-raidin’ whilst t’wife’s at ‘ome lookin’ after t’bairns.” I laughed and aimed a clicky-wink at old-young, shooting him a pointy finger.
Reign it in Gav. You’re not the fucking Fonze. The last thing you want is to be remembered here, identifiable.
There was no reply from the barman, he just smiled politely and went back to his scribbling. It’s a response I recognise well, ‘smile politely, don’t engage in conversation, don’t make eye contact, and he’ll go away,’ probably not dissimilar to the advice given to those venturing into the Himalayas, where there’s a very real chance of an encounter with a violent bear, hell-bent on shredding and eating a tasty warm explorer.
As I stood at the bar in the empty pub, drinking my drink, and eating my eat, I further mentally explored the similarities between me – the new me I mean – and an Asian black bear. We’re both dangerous when provoked, you only have to look at poor Alison Walker and her Volvo for proof of that, although ‘provocation’ may be a bit of a strong word in that example. Did Alison purposefully provoke me? No she didn’t. She did, however, bring provocation through sheer negligence. She neglected to indicate that she was leaving the roundabout at that exit, leaving me sat there at the very next exit, kindly allowing the safe passage of a Volvo that never arrived. This made her a waster of my time, which is fine, I can deal with that. My time is wasted every day by dithering checkout assistants, or TV adverts that I don’t care about. But this also makes Alison Walker a bad driver, and it’s that that sticks in my gut like a ball of rust.
Did Alison Walker learn her lesson that night on the A643? I don’t know, but hopefully the twat will never drive again anyway.
BEAR – 1
HIMALAYAN EXPLORER – 0
Maybe I should’ve worn a bear costume that night? Maybe I should still get one?
I gave the idea serious consideration for all of twenty seconds. In theory it sounded great, I mean just imagine the police reports…
‘Officer thank God you’re here!’
‘How can I be of assistance m’am?’
‘I was so afraid officer. I was being chased by a big horrible bear in a Ford Fiesta’
‘I see. What colour was the car?’
‘It was red officer, with white bits. Oh officer I’m so glad you’re here now’
‘You’re safe now m’am. Here, take my jacket… and my shirt’
‘Why thank you officer, I best slip out of this dress first’
‘Did you get a look at the car registration m’am?’
‘Why yes officer – it was B-E-A-R-1. I was so afraid officer, I was so intimidated by the size of it’
‘No need to be afraid m’am, I’ll protect you with my truncheon’
‘Oh officer I’m so glad you’re here with your truncheon. Can I hold it?’
‘All part of the service m’am, and then I’m gunna need you to step out of the car and spread-’em on the bonnet’
But the bear costume idea was just impractical really, I mean, those costumes are probably quite bulky, especially the head, and I imagined the eye-holes would restrict my vision somewhat whilst I was driving. Plus, PC Grogan and PC Gaye might not have come across as the most visionary or pioneering of police men, but even I would have some pretty good ideas of where to start my investigations if I was a copper looking for a Fiesta driver in a bear suit. I’d probably start by investigating all businesses, local and online, that sold bear costumes. I’d ask for recent customer lists, bank details, CCTV footage, delivery addresses, and then I’d follow each lead one by one until I’d located the buyer and got them in a room. I’d find out what they were doing on the night of each attack, and I’d look into what cars they had access to. I’d also investigate companies that produced car number plates.
‘Have you recently completed an order for the registration B-E-A-R-1?’
‘Yes, it was for a Gavin Fury. Here’s his address officer…’
Yeah, the bear costume idea was fucking stupid. I placed my empty pint glass on the bar on top of my empty crisp packet, and leaned over the bar looking for signs of life.
“Thanks then!” I shouted to no-one. “See ya!”
A middle-aged couple in matching pink and blue kagools entered the bar, followed by a stunningly handsome dog, a German shepherd carrying an orange rubber bone in his mouth. The only other customers I’d seen since arriving. I looked at the clock behind the bar, partly obscured by the bottles of Scottish whisky lined up on the shelf below it.
Four-fifty. Rush hour will be starting soon.
“Fuckin’ lovely dog!” I said to the matching couple, kneeling down to give him a rub behind the ears. “What’s his name?”
“Boner,” replied the matching couple, in unison, with matching straight-faces to match their matching kagools.
“Nice to meet you, Boner,” I said. I stood up and studied the pair for a second, looking for an inkling of a practical joke, or maybe a shared mental disability. They were definitely not laughing, but the coats did hint at the latter. I nodded my goodbyes, and headed for the car park.
Outside the sky was overcast, and the daylight was beginning to fade. I set to work quickly unscrewing my car’s number plates, and replacing them with those of another red Ford Fiesta, one which lives somewhere in Glasgow and is currently advertised for sale in Auto Trader along with some nice clear photographs showing the reg number – exposed to the world and ripe for abuse, like a large pair of hairy balls on a playground flasher.
As the rain began to fall I jumped in the car and sat at the wheel, engine running, headlights on, and for the first time today I was worried. I pulled a half bottle of vodka from the glove box and took a long, long swig, then rested my head back, mouth wide open to provide a vent for the alcohol fumes, creating a stream of cool air to sooth the burn. My mind started racing. I closed my eyes and brought my fists down hard onto the steering wheel, exhaling through clenched teeth, and spraying my dash with vodka and spittle.
Don’t pussy out now you fucking shitbox. You’ve got this Gav. Did you bring everything?
I reached under my seat and pulled out a plastic bag. One hammer, one bright pink balaclava. I placed them on the passenger seat next to the vodka, then reached down into the foot well behind the driver’s seat and felt around for my jacket.
I loved that jacket, it was the classic biker style with scuffed black leather and an offset zip, and the way it hung off my skinny frame meant that I looked fucking cool in it. I’d picked it up a couple of years ago at a car boot sale in Dewsbury for about a tenner, and the seller – a wild-haired old man who mostly stocked second-hand army gear – was keen for me to know the history of the jacket. He’d claimed that the previous owner was a member of a biker gang who had been wearing it on the day he was killed by a rival faction. The biker’s fiancé had given up the jacket due to the painful memories it held, and had told the story as she handed it over to the old man, along with a box of his other clothes and boots.
‘They’d been looking for him for weeks’, she’d explained, rolling her shirt sleeve up to expose a small, neat series of scars on top of her forearm, just above her left wrist. Each scar was perfectly straight, no longer than an inch-and-a-half long, and spaced about two millimeters from the next one, giving the effect of a neat little barcode made from raised flesh.
‘Seven times they asked me where he was,’ she’d said, ‘And seven times I refused to answer. One cut for each. They told me next time it would be my face, but the next time they came to my house he was there with me…’
She’d gone on to explain how her fiancé had been pinned down on the kitchen floor in front of her, kicked and beaten to death before her eyes, the gang keen to send a clear message.
‘What had he done?’ I’d asked the old man at the market, pulling two crumpled fivers from my pocket.
‘He’d been accused of fucking one of the gang’s daughters. Lass was about fifteen, still at school. Denied it right up until his last breath’.
I pulled the jacket on and zipped it right to the top, then squeezed the pink balaclava over my head and yanked it down so that it hung around my neck, ready to be pulled up into place as soon as I needed it.
Did I believe the story about the jacket? Probably not, but it was worth the money just to hear a good story. That old guy should write movies for Scorsese with ideas like that.
The gravel beneath my tyres popped and crunched as I slowly crept out of the Ganton Greyhound car park and up onto the grass verge. I wound my window down and used my sleeve to wipe the rain away from the wing mirror, then repositioned it to give me a clear view of the traffic streaming past me.
This is it you fucker.
I took another long slug of vodka, then returned it to the glove box.