Saturday, 28 February 2009


Here's the latest offering from Col...just be careful what you accept...

The Handshake

Derek Oddman didn’t realise about his ‘strange gift’ - if you could call it that - until the day he shook hands with his old snooker buddy, Jack Rickman.
He’d not seen Jack and the snooker lot since moving in with his girlfriend, Jenny, two years ago. Why-O-why had he dedicated so much of his bloody time and energy on her? When she’d just kicked him in the teeth (or should that be bollocks?) that fateful day last Tuesday when Derek had finished work early.
He thought he’d surprise Jenny on her birthday, twelve roses behind his back, only for him to hear the ominous moaning coming from the bedroom followed by him finding Jenny in their fuckin bed with that bastard, Gerry McEwan!
Any man in his right mind would’ve given it to McEwan good-style, but no, not Derek. Such was the shock, his legs became blancmange and he tossed the roses downstairs at the fleeing and half-naked McEwan. That’ll teach him: yeah, right.
His hopes and dreams of having kids with the girl he loved and living happily ever after had been annihilated as sure as a size ten boot on an ant. Derek didn’t do disloyalty – end of. So there was no going back, no forgiveness and no interest in any explanation.
The same old repetitive mistake of becoming obsessed with a woman and neglecting all your friends when it’s those very same friends who are there for you in the end to help you pick up the pieces of a shattered life. So with the proverbial tail between his legs he’d returned to his old haunt, cue in hand.
The most awkward thing about seeing his mates again wasn’t so much the guilt at having completely ditched them for a woman, no. After entering the spacious snooker hall, with the clink of balls being potted echoing around the place, Derek instantly knew that they already knew that one of their own was responsible for breaking his heart.
Though, fortunately, McEwan wasn’t there tonight.
A few of the lads came over and passed pleasantries, telling him to get his name up on the chalk-board for a game and that he was welcome to rejoin the team, Derek clocking their lack of eye contact.
It was then that snooker veteran, Jack Rickman, came over.
‘I heard what happened, mate, and I’m so sorry. McEwan’s an arsehole,’ he said, proffering a hand.
Derek didn’t even have time to answer before he instinctively reached out his own hand. At least old Jack had the balls to speak his mind.
Their hands clasped in a friendly, but firm, handshake. Jack even leaned in and gave a partial hug, saying, ‘It’s good to see you back, Dek.’
As their palms met, Derek felt a surge shoot up his right arm into the base of his stomach. Nausea engulfed him. Derek felt completely drained of energy; although he did manage to don a forced smile and quickly release his grip, saying, ‘Cheers, Jack…I’m just gonna…nip to the loo.’
A few violent heaves later and the toilet was full of puke: a bog full of badness. And Derek stared at his reflection in the mirror wondering, what the fuck was all that about? Nonetheless, he persevered with the evening and after a few beers began to feel a little more at home, managing to have a laugh while temporarily suppressing his troubles and even arranging to meet them all for the next match.
The next morning he was awoken by his mobile ringing, his head feeling like he received a couple of whacks off Mike Tyson.
‘Yeah…hello,’ he said, half asleep.
‘Derek, it’s Tim, from the club. Bad news, mate. Jack had a heart attack last night.’
Derek’s senses suddenly kicked in. ‘What? How is he?’
‘He’s dead, mate.’
Derek couldn’t deny he’d thought about the handshake, but soon dismissed it as him feeling sick, a reaction to his current circumstances. The lads had all agreed to play the next match – ‘Because it’s what Jack would’ve wanted’ – and the score was 2-2 with Derek on the decider.
He thought of Jack throughout, summoning all his reserves of concentration and experience to win the match on the black and got a good old buzz from his team-mates’ cheers. He strode proudly over to shake his opponent’s hand and…
…ZAP! This was like an electrical surge throughout his body. Yet the other lad didn’t seem to feel it one iota. Derek quickly released his grip and avoided the handshakes from his friends, settling for pats on the back and clinks of pints glasses.
Later, in the back box-room at his parent’s house, he began to dwell on this handshake business. He recalled a time as a kid when he also had a shocking handshake experience; although this was somewhat different.
Bobby Maguire. One of the most evil kids in the school, Maguire, had tagged along with a gang of them as they headed, out of sheer morbidity and laddishness, up to Asker Hill, or ‘Death Rock,’ as it was commonly known: the local suicide spot. Five lost souls had already jumped back then, and to this day the death toll was well into double figures.
Maguire, in his wisdom - and bang in character for the school bully that he was - had thought it funny to pretend to push Derek over the edge. Derek recalled shitting himself and quickly shuffling aside only for Maguire to slip over. Derek had frantically grabbed his hand and managed to clasp it while the others were screaming hysterically clutching onto Derek’s legs. Derek could see the utter terror on Maguire’s face as he pivoted to look down and then silently pleaded with desperate eyes.
However, Derek couldn’t hold on and he watched Maguire disappear into the distance, his shrieks diminishing with him, a sickening splat and crimson spray as his body buckled on the rocks below.
Over the years Derek had slowly forced this into the gloomy recesses of his mind, but this handshake business had somehow brought it all back.
It was standing room only at Jack’s funeral. His favourite song, ‘My Way,’ intensified the emotions as the burgundy curtains closed on Jack’s coffin; a plethora of forlorn faces, the sniffles of his family on the front row.
Derek, however, felt emotionless. Of course he was sorry to see Jack go as he was one of life’s true characters, but Derek had been doing a lot of soul-searching, a lot of deliberating. Especially since he’d heard about the lad he’d played in the deciding snooker game last week. Only twenty-five and, while out jogging, he’d dropped dead from a mystery illness even second and third opinions couldn’t diagnose.
As the congregation edged out of the crematorium the vicar was shaking the hand of each passing person. Derek avoided the cleric, just giving him a polite nod. Instead he headed for the group of snooker friends and saw McEwan amongst them. The lads looked up at Derek, their faces tense, one even placing a cautionary arm across him.
‘It’s okay, lads,’ said Derek smirking.
McEwan moved towards him. ‘Look, Dek, I’m really sorry. Can you forgive me?’
All stared agog at Derek.
‘Sure, man,’ he said coolly, ‘Let’s shake on it…’


  1. This is BILL. (!)
    Nice one, Col. Original idea.
    You have a talent for writing about ordinary people in their natural habitat. Dialogue was great. Natural and believable.

    I might whisper to you about this on your TB thread.


  2. Cheers for that, Bill.
    I'll look forward to having a chit-chat.

  3. Great visual, credible build-up to the inevitable - glad I'm not a hand-shaker!

  4. Cheers, Clare.
    Sorry if it was inevitable. Others have read it (and not commented), but none guessed the ending. So they're either too polite or you're too sharp!

  5. Good story Col, nice build up and kept me hooked.

  6. Cheers, Chris - that's good to know.

  7. This story has been re-vamped and entered into Shots Magazine's 'Murder' short story comp. Comments generated from this site prompted me to revise it somewhat to form a more polished and structured story - many thanks to all who offered feedback.
    (I've done a more detailed piece about this over on my blog).

  8. Correction for the record: Words Magazine, not Shots.

  9. Really enjoyed that, gave me a proper grin at the end.

  10. Cheers, Lee.
    Based on feedback, I've re-jigged this and entered it into a comp. Fingers crossed.

  11. It didn't win, but I believe there were hundreds of entries so....
    Re-posting the edited version on here in June.