Sunday, 13 December 2009
WHEN THE SNOWMAN BRINGS THE SNOW by Paul D. Brazill
When The Snowman Brings The Snow
‘Ta, Keith,’ I say. I push the card into my jacket pocket, stuff the doner kebab under my arm and leave the sweaty, smelly shop. The high street’s heaving with a load of punters queuing up to get into Keith & Babs Key-Babs but I just push past them, nodding at the odd bird and ignoring the blokes. By tomorrow the pavement will be covered with red cabbage from the kebabs, puke and broken glass.
Now, some people might think it’s a bit weird getting a Xmas card from a high street kebab shop but me, I see it as a sign of respect. A symbol that I’ve made my mark. A bit like that bit in Goodfellas were Ray Liotta gets the best table in the nightclub because of who he is, like.
Not that I’m a gangster, mind you. What I am is what’s known as a factotum. Now, I know what you’re thinking: What’s a friggin’ factotum when it’s at home? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s someone who sorts stuff out. Bit of this. Bit of that. Not much of the other, eh?
Mind you, the bloke I sort stuff out for, now, he is a gangster. And a right head the ball, with it. His name’s Captain Cutlass. Well, that’s not his real name. His real name’s Jordan but no one calls him THAT these days.
Cutlass is a sea coal baron which means he’s got a bunch of lads who drive jeeps down to the beach at low tide and dig up coal. He’s made a packet, he has. Not that he needed it. Before he got into the sea coal game Cutlass made a mint smuggling booze and tabs and that into the docks. He used to stand at the front of one of the boats waving this massive friggin sword about. Hence the nickname although I think the sword was actually a rapier.
Anyroads, as soon as I get out of the kebab shop it starts snowing. Nippy it is, too. Them cold north winds doth arf blow, I can tell you. Jack Frost’s nosing at me nips and it’s only November, although the Xmas lights are already up on the high street.
Well, I spies one of them new yellow cabs that are supposed to be like the ones in New York and try to get in but the driver won’t open up.
‘Ow, ey,’ I say. ‘I’m freezing me nads off out here.’ But the driver just shakes his head and winds down his window.
‘Money first,’ he says.
I can tell he’s a foreigner – we’ve got a lot of them round here now, from Poland, Bosnia, Euthanasia and that – and he doesn’t know who I am.
Bollocks, I think.
Well, pride comes before a fall, they say, although I’m not really sure what that means, like. I dig into my pocket but all I pull out is hand full of shrapnel. The driver shakes his head but I point over to a cash machine near the kebab shop.
‘I. Go. Money. Machine. You. No. Scarper.’ I say.
The thing is, I don’t usually use the hole in the wall. I usually get paid in cash and I’m not partial to technology and that. And this one is one of them fancy ones with the glass screen over the keyboard.
So, I scratch my head for a bit and just put my bank card into the slot and ... open sez me!
But then I pause, like. What the bollocks is my pin number? Now, I’ll admit that I’m half cut but I really can’t remember the last time I used the machine. My kebab’s getting a bit wet so I push it in the corner of the cash machine to keep it dry and try to think.
First up, I type in my date of birth. INVALID PIN it says on the screen.
Then I do that number backward but I get the same answer.
Well, I am flummoxed. And then, I have a moment of inspiration. The number of the beast. Plus one extra. I’m sure of it. I love Maiden, I do.
Six. Six. Six. Six.
First there’s nothing and I get a bit of a sweat on. Then there’s a sound. Like a clanging or whirring. Like in those old science fiction films when the robot comes to life. I know something’s happening. I start to grin but then the screen says: INVALID PIN. CARD RETAINED and that glass screen comes down. Trapping my kebab with it, too.
I turn round and see the taxi driver shake his head before he drives off.
I’m outside the old Odeon, wet, cold,starving, knackered and sobering up when I have to stop for a gypsy’s kiss. I lean against the peeling Cannonball Run Two poster and pull out my old man. I’m letting the piss splash on my hands a bit to warm myself up when, from the corner of my eye, I see a big black car pulling up. Could be a BMW but I’m not sure. I’m crap with cars. After, that I can’t go so I zip up and walk off, looking over my shoulder.
The car starts up again and drives past stopping about fifty years in front of me. I slow down my walk and dig my hand in my pocket for the snowstorm paperweight that I always carry in case of problems. It’s got a picture of Blackpool Tower in it and I like to think it’s my lucky charm.
When I get close to the car I can hear music playing and start to relax a bit.
‘Get in,’ shouts Captain Cutlass and I do. I guessed it was him because no fucker else in this day and age listens to Showaddywaddy. He’s a bit of a relic is the Captain. Big black, spidery quiff. Teddy Boy suits. The full whack.
‘Just the man I’ve been looking for,’ says Cutlass, turning down ‘Under The Moon Of Love.’
‘Aye?’ I say.
‘Oh, aye,’ he says, sniffing a bit and looking me up and down.
‘I’ve got a little job for you, ‘ he says spraying the car with peach deodorant. He’s right poncy twat sometimes. Loves the made to measure suits, he does and the signet rings and that. I’ve heard he inspects the napkins on the table before he’ll eat in a restaurant.
‘Oh, aye,’ I say, playing it cool. I could do with a few readies but I fancied a bit of P&Q over Crimbo. On the lash, and that.
Cutlass turns the car onto Murry Street, past all the boarded up terraced houses. Used to be well posh round here when I was a kid but now it’s like holiday camp for smack heads. Once it gets dark, it’s that Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ video all over again..
‘What does the name The Nuthouse mean to you,’ says Cutlass.
I shrug my shoulders. ‘Dunno, there was that hairdressers on Church Street. Changed it’s name to Curl Up & Dye?’
‘Friggin hell, you’re going back a bit, aren’t you?’ says Cutlass. He shakes his head. ‘You’re living in the past, man.’
I look at Cutlass in his powder blue drapes and decide to say nowt.
‘Well, here in the twenty-first century The Nuthouse is a pub.’ He lights up an Embassy Regal, doesn’t offer me one. ‘ A family pub. Over on the Coast Road.’
‘Never heard of it,’ I say.
‘Aye,’ groans Cutlass. ‘And that’s just the problem.’
‘The towns full of them fun pubs and family pubs anyway. Wack Jackys. Tricky Mickys. Who’d be daft enough to open a ...’
Now, sometimes I think I must be a bit psychic or summit. Cos there and then I get a sense, like, that Captain Cutlass is the owner of The Nuthouse. His face turning as red as a lobster might have helped, mind you.
‘Good location, the, Coast Road. Good location,’ I say, playing my cards right.
Cutlass says nowt and I start getting edgy. I try to hum along to ‘Three Steps To Heaven’ but feel a bit daft so I just shut up.
‘It is,’ says Cutlass slowly, like he’s talking to a dafty ‘a very competitive market. Yes.’
He pulls up outside my flat. Well, outside Toffers Offy, to be precise, like. My flat’s above the offy so he couldn’t really park outside there, could he?
‘Tomorrow at twelve,’ says Captain Cutlass. Then he glares at me. ‘And that’s mid day twelve, daft arse.’
‘Aye,' I say.
The beard’s itching like fuck and the suit stinks of fish. I reckon that Cutlass got it off his Uncle Glenn who used to work on the fish quay and did the kids Xmas parties at the Boilermaker’s Club till he got pissed one year and started telling the kids which of their mam’s he’d shagged.
I could do with a gargle myself. I’m RAF - last nights whisky’s cut right through me and I’ve got an arse like the Japanese flag this morning - but Cutlass won’t let me have a drop until after I give the kids their presents so I soldier on, don’t I?
‘Yo. Ho ho,’ I say. ‘Who has been a good boy or girl? Who wants to see Santa?’ I’ve got to shout because Wombling Merry Christmas is being played at full volume.
A little lass with a snotty nose comes up and jumps on me knee and nearly winds me. She’s only about five but she must weigh about ten stone.
‘And what’s your name?’ I wheeze.
‘Courtney Lee,’ she says, picking her nose.
I’m struggling to hold in the spew that’s creeping up the back of my throat.
‘And what do you want for Christmas,’ I say.
‘A Litre Bottle of Diamond Star. Me mam won’t share her’s with me anymore,’ she says, wiping snot all over my Santa suit.
It’s just after three when all of the kids bugger off to play in the Nutty Nursey leaving the mams and dad to have a good drink. Perfect places, these fun pubs, I suppose, if you’ve got bairns. Didn’t have them in my day, though. Didn’t let kids into pubs then. Didn’t let women in most of the pubs, in my day.
I’m sat at the bar with a pint of wifebeater - and bottle of WKD to help the beer go down - and nibbling on a bit of garlic bread when I see them. Duncan and Dan Donkin. Cutlass’ nephews. Twins, they are, and right dodgy fuckers they are too. Ratboys. Acne scarred smackheads in Batman baseball caps and Burberry. The sort of little twats that give Chavs a bad name.
I turn away and put my head down but one of them must have seen me ‘cos I feel a hand on my shoulder.
‘Just the man we’ve been looking for,’ says Duncan. Or Dan. Whichever of the fuckers it is I know there’s not much chance of me getting peace on earth this Christmas.
‘Aye,’ I say.
Paul D. Brazill was born in Hartlepool, England and lives in Bydgoszcz, Poland. He has had stories in A Twist Of Noir, Powder Burn Flash, Thrillers Killers n Chillers, Beat To A Pulp, and other such classy joints. He can be found stalking ‘you would say that, wouldn’t you?’ at http://pdbrazill.blogspot.com/ He also writes a regular column, ‘I didn’t say that, did I?’ for Pulp Metal Magazine http://pulpmetalmagazine.webs.com/