A big welcome to Paul on his TKnC debut...
THIS OLD HOUSE
Ten Sycamore Hill was, in the mind of Peter Ord, the font of all of his misfortunes.
While women, work, cars and kids came and went, the only constant in Peter’s turbulent life –apart from the drink, of course -was the weather beaten Victorian detached house overlooking Hart Village; it’s increasingly battered facade and interior seeming to degenerate with each one of his trials and tribulations. With every one of Peter’s disappointments a window frame would crumble; with every disaster - romantic or otherwise- a door handle would come loose or slates would be ripped from the roof by an unsympathetic wind; when his health failed, so did the heating. And, as Peter’s bank account was slowly depleted, the wallpaper and paint seamed to peel itself free from the walls before his eyes.
Each night, as a pickled Peter staggered back from another interminable drinking session at the Raby Arms, he would look up at his home perched on the hill, looming over the village like a great black crow and, soaked in alcoholic self-pity, he would curse: ‘Fuck. Fuckin’... fucker ... fuck.’
Or words to that effect.
And then one Halloween, Peter had an idea.
‘You know, it’s actually possible to kill someone with a bottle of Pepsi and a packet of Mintoes?’ said JT peeling an unlit pin-sized roll up from his bottom lip.
Peter nodded. ‘Oh, aye?’ said Peter, as he hung his camel coat on the mooshead coat rack and sat opposite JT with a sigh.
‘Aye,’ said JT. 'Not a lot of people know that.’
JT, a gaunt, jaundiced looking man with a spidery black quiff, sat at a his usual corner table, near a buzzing slot machine, drumming his fingers on his pint glass to The Shadow’s ‘Apache’ which played from a crackly speaker.
Peter sipped his pint of Stella, gazed at the fading bat-wing tattoos on his hands and faded in on the memory of a drunken night at a Newcastle tattoo parlor that then segued into the time he first met his wife, Deborah, at Astros nightclub. Twenty five years ago now. There’d been a lot of booze under the bridge since then, he thought.
The Raby Arms, an anonymous country pub, was always smoggy- despite the smoking ban-and, indeed , the interior, including the mirrors, the windows and the faces of most of the regulars, all seemed to have a nicotine sheen. As on most nights, the pub was half empty.
There was a loud bang and Big Jim burst through the doors bringing a waft of autumn leaves with him. Peter and JT both laughed as Jim stumbled into the toilets, his fly open as wide as the Grand Canyon, muttering to himself.
‘Here he is, the David Niven of Hart Village,’ smirked JT.
‘So you reckon it’s a non starter then?’ said Peter, massaging his left arm.
JT took a swig of Stella. 'Oh, aye. Great idea. Get Big Jim to burn down your house and then collect on the insurance. A fool proof plan, that. About as fool proof as that canoeist that did a Lord Lucan and got spotted in Rio or somewhere.’
JT had a point, thought Peter. Big Jim wasn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the box. He remembered the time in the pub quiz when Big Jim had answered a question about the largest Loch in Scotland with ‘Chub’. However, Jim was cheap and Peter really wanted rid of that house. The bills were mounting up and the Invalidity Benefit that he’s started getting after his first heart attack barely covered his drinking sessions.
Peter sighed again and slouched in his chair as he wiped his sweating brow with his ubiquitous tie. ‘Just think, ‘ he said. ‘This time of year kids are always pushing bangers and fireworks through people letterboxes. It’s happened to me loads of times. Now, if I happen to leave some booze splashed around the place and work on my old motorbike in the front room and it catches fire, well...’
They both looked up as Big Jim plonked down next to them.
‘Peter, I’m you’re man’, said Big Jim.
‘I’ll take that with a mountain of Saxa,' said JT.
JT and Big Jim had left and Peter propped himself up at the bar. He was watching ‘Deal Or No Deal’, trying to ignore the numb feeling in his arm, when he heard the bang.
‘Bollox!’ he shouted.
Hot, sweating and wheezing, Peter rushed out of the pub and up the path towards his burning home.
‘Tosser!’, he shouted at Big Jim, who was rushing down the path in a panic. Peter was volcanic and the pain in his arm was getting worse. He heard a sound, turned and saw a group of kids dressed as vampires, werewolves and ghosts.
‘Trick or treat,’ they shouted.
‘Bolox,’ he whispered and then he gasped and crumpled to the ground.
The weight of an elephant was on Peter’s chest before the last stages of the coronary kicked in. The kids were lifting his wallet and watch and, as they frisked him, Peter looked up at his burning house and saw it’s black silhouette against the waxing moon. His vision started to fade like hot breath on a cold window pane. Ten Sycamore Hill’s windows and front door seemed to light up a glowing red like the eyes and mouth of a grinning Jack O’Lantern. And then he thought he heard a laugh.
BIO: Paul Brazill was born in Hartlepool, England-a town famous for hanging a monkey-and is now on the lam in Bydgoszcz, Poland (South of Hel). He has had stories in (or coming up in) Powder Burn Flash, Six Sentences, A Twist Of Noir, Flashshots, Beat To A Pulp and the book 6S2V. He can be found stalking ‘you would say that, wouldn’t you?’ at: http://pauldbrazill.blogspot.com/