Authors: Gerard Brennan
OTHER STORIES AND NOTHING BUT TIME
Published by Blasted Heath, 2012
Individual stories copyright © 2008-2012, Gerard Brennan
Collection copyright © 2012, Gerard Brennan
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission of the author.
Gerard Brennan has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
All the characters in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Cover design by Blasted Heath
Formatting by Jason G. Anderson
Visit Gerard Brennan at:
(first published in
“What did you do to your face, son?”
“Don't start, daddy.”
“You're asking for trouble.”
“No, I'm not. I'm just… I've every right to look the way I want to.”
“Son, Belfast is full of animals. They don't care about rights. Fellahs like you attract the wrong kind of attention from…”
“Big fellahs like you?”
“Hey. I'm no queer-basher.”
-basher. Thanks, daddy. Just thanks.”
And then he storms out. My eighteen-year-old son, slamming doors like he did when he was five and couldn't have the last chocolate biccy. But at least back then I could talk to him. Make him laugh with stupid chicken-crossing-the-road jokes. Now every time I open my mouth I say the wrong thing. And if I complain that he's being too sensitive, sure isn't that the wrong thing to say too?
It's not that I resent the way he is. At least, I don't think so. Not on what you'd call a
level anyway. I love him. Always have. That's why it scares the life out of me that he runs around Belfast city centre holding hands with other boys. Wearing eye make up. Spiking his bottle-blond hair to attract as much attention as humanly possible. He thinks that because I'm a bouncer, having a gay son is a dent in my machismo. But that's not right. Being a bouncer though, I've seen some horrible shit. What some of these young thugs do to innocent kids without provocation… horrible. But give them a reason… well.
I just have to hope for the best. He's not interested in what I have to say and I'm late for work. Nothing for it but to get my arse in gear.
I check my clip-on tie and button the cuffs of my white shirt before I leave the house. Then it's off to Lavery's for another night of keeping the peace.
And, of course, I arrive as some little hard-nut is giving Sammy lip. It's only a touch after eight and this skinny wee spide is swaying back and forth, pointing the finger at a man twice his size and saying dirty rotten things. He has that face you see all around Belfast. These wee hoods all look related. And the standard haircut, shaved all over except for a stupid wee fringe gelled into little points, it adds to the clone look. I'm in no mood for diplomacy.
I grab spide-boy by the collar of his knock-off Ben Sherman and yank him backwards off his feet. He squawks and pukes a little as he hits the ground. I bend at the waist slightly and look right into his beady eyes.
“You can either take yourself off, or I can dance on your head,” I say.
“I was only sleggin', mister. Bit a banter, ya know?”
I hate that.
Bit a banter
. Like that's their catch-all excuse to show nobody any respect. I want to stomp on him. Crush him under my steel-toe Caterpillars. But I can't. I'm not taking an assault charge for this scumbag. Best I can hope for is he comes back later on, drunker and looking for revenge. I want him to come at me, fists swinging. Then I can get some real digs in. Is it any wonder us bouncers come across as a bit surly sometimes? The stress of self-restraint eats our insides out, so it does.
So I let the wee man go with a nod and a snarl. He skitters off. Of course, he shouts a bit of abuse from a safe distance. They all do that. But never mind him, eh? It's the start of the shift. I'll see worse as it goes on, no doubt.
“All right, Sammy? The headers are out early tonight, what?”
Sammy shrugs, dead dour and protestant-like. “Aye. But sure what's new, Paddy?”
Sammy's all right, like. From the other side of the city, but you're not long learning that geography means less and less these days. One of the good things about working a door in the city. You mix with both sides of the fence and the easiness of it shows you how life's getting a bit better around these parts. Catholics, Protestants, Eastern European immigrants. We're all of us just slapping spides to make a few quid.
It gets to the quiet part of the night, when it's too late for anybody else to get in, but too early for the lightweight drunks to be kicked out. As usual, we're smoking and chatting. Same old same.
“So I told her to get off her arse and get a job if she wants gold chains and nights out. It's been salad all week. That's passive aggressive behaviour that is.”
Sammy's conclusion to his most recent marital spat. He's modern enough to tout phrases like passive-aggressive and suggest the woman of the house earn a crust. Still Stone Age enough to be frightened of the microwave. But we nod our appreciation for his woes. I'm up next.
“How's your Sean?” Sammy asks.
“Ach, I don't know. He's a mystery to me.”
“He going to go to Queen's, like?”
Paranoid, I weigh up the tone he uses when he says Queen's. Nothing in it, of course. Sammy knows Sean's gay, but he's not one of the judgemental Freebie-types. Not sure what kind of protestant he is, but he's quite relaxed about the gay thing.
“No. He changed his mind. Says he wants to be a hairdresser.”
“Hairdresser?” This from the new boy. Twenty-year-old Jimmy. Cock-of-the-walk in his wee mind. Prick to everyone else. “What is he, a fruit?”
I square up. “Yes, my son's gay. That bother you, wee fellah?”
“No, Paddy. Sorry. I didn't know.”
He says sorry like he's offering condolences. I want to bite his ear off. But that would be out of order. Let him call me next time his back's to the wall, though. Might take me a little longer to respond than usual.
I turn back to Sammy. “He doesn't talk to me, you know?”
“Kids, what?” Sammy says.
“Aye.” What else can you say, like?
Spide-boy comes along pretty soon after that. He's on his own, which surprises me a bit, but carrying a Stanley knife, which doesn't surprise me at all. He waves it around and I make placatory gestures for the sake of the cameras. Meanwhile I'm calling him all the names of the day in a cheery voice. I'm looking to wreck this wee bastard and he's given me all the reason I need. Jimmy shits it, though.
“Paddy, Paddy! He's tooled up!”
“I'm not blind, son. Stay cool, all right?”
But he decides he wants to play the hero. He darts forward, eyes on the knife and the spide panics. He slashes upwards and opens up the dimple on Jimmy's chin. Jesus. Close one. Of course, blood's flying everywhere and Jimmy's screaming like he's dying. Spide-boy's gone all pale, waiting for Jimmy to bleed to death or something. Sammy goes to Jimmy, leaving me the gift of demolishing the spide. I go a lot harder than necessary, but with Jimmy cut and all of it on camera, nobody's going to give me any grief.
I leave bloody footprints on his clothes. Serves him right.
Waiting for the ambulance and talking to the peelers passes a bit of time. Paramedics reckon Jimmy needs stitches so he's off for the rest of the night to get his first battle-scar taken care of. I hope he's learned his lesson.
I get home at the same time as our Sean. That happens a lot. Takes me a while to close up, takes him forever to catch a taxi. Tonight he gets out of a PSNI car though. He's been slapped about a bit by some kids. The cops reckon they were hoods from Sandy Row, but they always say that when something happens on the Golden Mile. Could have been anyone, so although I'm boiling inside, I've no plans to go down there. I might call a few friends on the doors tomorrow, though. See if I can pick up a lead.
I'm nodding and half-listening to the cop who's about a year older than our Sean and probably as catholic too. But I'm watching my son. He's sat down on the doorstep trying hard not to cry. My heart's broke and I wish to God this baby peeler would get out of my face and let me talk to my son. I arrange a time to bring Sean for a less garbled statement and see them off.
“Come on inside, son. I'll make you a coffee.”
“I'm sorry, daddy. I should have listened to you.”
And I swear to God, I'm almost crying. I want to tell him I was wrong. He should be able to look like whatever he wants. The world shouldn't be this ugly. I love him and I want to protect him and I'll find the bastards that humiliated him and they'll pay, oh Jesus, will they pay. But my heart's too weary to handle a big emotional scene like that. I just nod, and I can see in his eyes that it cuts him to the core. And I hate myself for feeling a little bit happy about that. I think desperately to come up with some wise words to make things a little better for him.
“We shouldn't tell your ma about this.”
His face goes stony and I've lost him. Christ, I'm such a coward.
(first published in Thuglit, 2009)
The sweet scent of groupie sex hung in the air. I grabbed the tequila bottle by the neck and gulped down a mouthful. Another hotel room. They'd all merged into one. Especially since our manager had decided not to book us into five-star penthouses. He said the savings would buy us better equipment, but I was still battering out licks on the same old Les Paul I'd started our first six-month tour with. We'd just played the last set. No more shows. No more hotel rooms. And no more groupies. Except this last one.
Buck-naked and handcuffed to the headboard, my last fuck of the tour smiled up at me. I stood at the foot of the bed, not wearing much more myself — just my silk boxer shorts and a smug smile. Her body was at my mercy. Five minutes she'd known me, but she trusted this much. I'd have passed it off as typical groupie dumb-bitch behaviour, but this one didn't strike me as the usual awestruck bimbo. She wasn't after a story to tell her friends. She wanted to give me a story to tell. I plonked my tequila bottle back down on the dressing table. She writhed a little on the crumpled sheets, just for show.
“You ready to go again, rockstar?”
“I need another minute.” I smiled to myself. “Just lie there and wait for me.” Like she'd a choice.
“Oh, you're so mean, Joey D. Leaving me all chained up like this. I need some attention.”
“What are you, some kind of nympho? I already fucked you twice.”
“They were intro-fucks. Now that we've got to know each other, we can really go wild.”
I shook my head, but my dick twitched in my boxer shorts. She was something to look at, all right. Her golden brown skin and black shock of thick curly hair spoke of Latin blood, but her stunning green eyes had an Asian slant. Hawaiian, maybe? Certainly a world apart from the flame-haired
I'd pursued in my youth. Forget those frigid Irish chicks. I'd moved on to better things. I ran my fingers through my mane, a match for hers in length, colour and volume. Rock and Roll, baby.
“Maybe a line or two of coke will get you going?” she said.
Seemed like a good idea. I scooped the baggie and my little pewter straw from the round table in the corner of the room. I held it out to her.
“No, Joey. I want
I poured some snow on the table.
“Wait, Joey! Why would you want to snort off that old thing? Lay some of that powder on me, why don't you?”
“Party on, my lady.”
She giggled. “
What are you, a knight?”
I ignored the wisecrack. She'd told me her name earlier, but I didn't care about that shit. No need for names in this business. Something you learned pretty quickly on the road.
I powdered her from her tits to her trimmed pubes and got to work like a Dyson. She giggled as I disappeared the coke, working from the top down. I didn't get it all. Got distracted by that musky scent from between her muscled thighs. I tossed the straw over my shoulder and it pinged as it bounced off the wall. She raised her hips to meet my tongue, purring like a kitty cat.
When I'd had my fill, I crawled up her body, licking patches of the missed coke off her skin on the way. My senses hummed. As we kissed, she hooked her toes into the waistband of my shorts and slid them down to my ankles. I reached out to the bedside cabinet for a condom. I always kept them next to the Gideon bible. I'm not sure whether or not I meant it as an insult. I bagged Little Joey and guided him towards her.