Things That Are Mass-Bloody-Produced in Bloody Leeds by Don Stoll

Brit Grit, Don Stoll, Fiction, Punk Noir Magazine, Short Stories

Back then Ellen had wavy hair falling on her shoulders. But twenty years on, even with it chopped short I recognized her in the paper right off. Then I saw the headline about the Leopard of Leeds being caught, all credit to Detective Inspector Ellen Flay of the York and North East Yorkshire Police.

She’d told the press it was bollocks to talk about the “Cannibal” of Leeds since the victims weren’t just eaten but first hauled up into trees. Then she’d interviewed every bloody teacher in Leeds to ask did they recall any strong athletic lads who’d shown a “peculiar fascination” with jungle cats. You could read between the lines that the Leeds City Police weren’t pleased when she was detailed from York and North East Yorkshire to go after the Leopard. But she caught the sick bastard, with a chap who’d taught him ten years back supplying the first clue.

I’d met her one afternoon in a pub near the docks in Hull, place called The King’s Arms where no royal had ever taken a drink. I took the only empty stool at the bar and she was on my left, green jumper and red wavy hair.

“That good?” I said because she had The Third Man in front of her. “What you having?”

“Film was better,” she shrugged. “And you can see what I’m having.”

Half a bitter. I got her another and said “Asphalt Jungle’s playing at the Odeon.”

She said “That an invitation?”

The thing she said before I’d sucked down too many pints that sticks in my mind now was that she wasn’t like other birds.

“Not going to do as you command, Georgie,” she said. “They say it’s a man’s world, but that doesn’t apply to Ellen Flay.”

The full story of that day would be pieced together for me later by Ellen and a massive former rugby player named Rod, sat on my right at the bar. Last call came and she said let’s catch the matinee. Rod was needed to prop me up as I staggered there.

I was brutally hung over the next day when, from behind, Rod snatched me off the ground. Shook me like he hoped I’d make a noise that would give away my contents, set me down hard.

“Left the popcorn trick for schoolboys and got right down to business, eh?” he said.

Rod was a solicitor, deprived of the privilege of pleading in court. Seemed to relish the chance to speak in front of the people queued up for a bus not ten feet away.

“Bloody popcorn trick,” he continued. “How do you pull that off and not dribble butter on your trousers? Never mind what else you might dribble.”

Not objectionable to me in those days. But Rod wore suits and aspired to bespoke.

“Both of you with your knickers down, and you with your thumb—or a more suitably configured digit—stuck in the Christmas pie. ‘What a cheeky lad am I!’ And her. . .”

He wrapped a hand around the index finger of his other hand. He left the tip poking out.

“Call the caterer—they’ve stuck foot-long hot dogs into ten-inch buns!”

He was not striving for anatomical accuracy.

“Don’t get the idea I’m like that”—he allowed his wrist to dangle for the benefit of his audience—“but I had a sudden ravenous craving for a sausage roll. Then you start kissing the girl right where it makes them cry, Georgie Porgie.”

I had the flexibility for acrobatics of that sort back then.

#

Ellen and I would return to the Odeon to see Asphalt Jungle a few days later. I had hair then, combed back like Dix Handley in the film. Just like Dix I’d have a bit of it curling forward, straying loose from the neatly combed part.

I was a true redhead but she colored her hair. Said she was a natural dirty blond. After seeing her in the paper I saw her on the telly talking about the Leopard, and she was dirty blond.

She worked in The King’s Arms and said they needed somebody.

“Frank’s an all right boss,” she said. “A good sport.”

I thought why not? Would be no different from The Plough, where I was already working.

Frank resembled Harold Wilson. He had a moon face and fair hair and a pipe he kept clenched between his teeth. I think he knew I was fiddling the till but let it go.

“Crime what bartenders are paid,” Ellen would say, and I don’t recall him arguing.

Ellen spent what she fiddled on clothes.

“Sodding Hull,” she said one morning. “Fancy a weekend in Edinburgh, Georgie?”

Just like with the Leopard, if Ellen made up her mind the deed was done.

“I can borrow a motor from a customer,” she said.

She nestled her chin in the hollow over my collar bone.

“Not easy on our slaves’ wages, though.”

She knew I kept what I fiddled in the dresser with the drawers that always jammed, tucked into a pair of socks. I got out of bed and showed her the entire lot.

“Been robbing banks on the side?” she said.

#

Frank gave us a Friday and a weekend and a Monday off. Ellen arranged with a regular to use his Mini. We left before sunup.

“Only a hundred miles now” she said when we stopped for petrol. “Starving. Split a horse with me at that pub up ahead?”

I couldn’t bring myself to answer after searching my pockets for my wallet. She saw my mistake in my eyes.

She said “Got a quid on me, but not spending it on petrol.”

She handed me the note.

“Get a half,” she said. “When I come along you don’t know me.”

She got out.

“Thanks ever so much for the lift,” she said in a loud voice.

The petrol bloke who was helping someone else turned to look at her.

When she came in the busy pub, her green jumper was gone. She had on a thin top. She’d piled her red hair up on her head, off the pale flesh of her neck. She started talking to a fortyish chap, good-looking enough to take for granted being chatted up by a pretty young stranger.

After a half she switched to lemonade while he drank pints. I nursed my half stingily. By closing time we might have been the only two people in there not pissed out of our minds. That’s counting the barmen.

Pulling him toward the exit, she caught my eye and held her thumb and index finger an inch apart. He didn’t live far.

I followed, but not too close. They went into a little semi-detached.

I pictured him removing her thin top.

I circled back to the Mini. Couldn’t relax. I wanted fags, but thought I should hang on to the few bob I had.

Finally, Ellen came walking toward me. I rolled down my window.

“Need a lift?” I called out in a voice like she’d used at the petrol station.

No one was around to hear.

“Don’t play the fool,” she said climbing in.

“In there a long time,” I said quietly.

“Half-hour? For”—she patted her bag—“few hundred quid.”

She extracted a wad of notes.

“Was going to buy a motor for his old mum tomorrow,” she said.

“Car for his mum? Maybe you shouldn’t have taken it all.”

“Old mum can take the bus.”

She could see I was unhappy.

“Not going back now,” she said. “But what we don’t spend in Scotland we’ll give to widows and orphans back in Hull.”

She laughed.

“Taking the piss,” she said.

I started to drive. She rummaged about in her bag for a smoke.

“It’s a loan, Georgie. I took the lot to be safe, but we’ll spend a fraction of it.”

I looked straight ahead.

“His address is up here,” she said.

I turned toward her as she tapped her forehead.

“What we spend we can replace with what’s in your socks, then we’ll send it to him by post. So old mum waits a week to get her car.”

She was staring at me.

“Got nothing to do with old mum, does it?”

“Just wondering what you got up to in there,” I said.

She closed her bag.

“No,” she said. “You wonder what he got up to. Didn’t shag, if you must know.”

“You were there long enough,” I said. “He did something.”

She brought her mouth up to my ear.

“Sucked my tits,” she whispered.

She pulled her face away.

“What was your plan to save our trip, Georgie? Or to buy petrol to get home with? And how was I supposed to occupy him till he nodded off? It’s what he expected.”

Her voice had risen.

“What else did he expect?”

“What else?” she said. “Squeezed his cock, which he expected. Squirted on his sofa. Cleaned it with a cloth after he’d fallen asleep: another thing we’re expected to do.”

“We?” I said.

“Playing the fool again. You know what I mean. Birds.”

I was silent.

“Only used your hand?” I finally said.

“Sure you want details? Even if his was bigger than yours?”

I tried to focus on the road.

“You asking did I suck his cock? And what if I had? Shall I tell you about his cock? Like every other sodding cock I’ve ever seen or squeezed or sucked or licked or had stuck inside me, one orifice or other. You blokes are hilarious, the attention you give your cocks and your fantasies about them. ‘Rock-hard,’ blokes say. ‘Hard’ is relative, hope you know. Try to smash your old gran’s porcelain teapot with it. And worrying about comparisons. . . ‘Mine long as Tom’s?’ ‘Thick as Harry’s?’ Fucking hell, the differences between cocks aren’t worth mentioning. Cocks are—don’t Americans say this?—a dime a dozen. Could be mass-bloody-produced in some dreary factory in bloody Leeds. Rolling toward you on an assembly line, one every few seconds—cock cock cock cock cock—only your job isn’t to. . . I don’t know—insert a widget—but to do something to make it get hard and blow its top. And you blokes are all so obsessed with your cocks that you might as well be mass-produced too. If I ever meet a bloke who gives half as much thought to his brain as he does to his cock. . .”

I waited.

“Finished?” I said.

“Yeah,” she said. “Turn around. You’re out of the flat by Sunday, Georgie. Don’t ever want another word out of you except ‘Hand me a pint mug, would you?’ or the like. Sodding twat.”

I was out of the flat the next day. Hell hath no fury. I know that’s about a woman scorned, but I say it’s a woman, period.

#

Twenty years on now. But in the paper and on the telly she still looks good. Be easy to get in touch, say “Remember when. . . Sodding twat I was, but we can laugh about it now, Ellen.”

But not sure Ellen’s the forgiving-and-forgetting type. Wasn’t back then. Once a sodding twat always a sodding twat, she might say.

END

Bio:

Don Stoll’s fiction is forthcoming in THE BROADKILL REVIEW, XAVIER REVIEW, THE MAIN STREET RAG, WILD VIOLET, COFFIN BELL, BETWEEN THESE SHORES (twice), PULP MODERN, and YELLOW MAMA (twice), and recently appeared in THE GALWAY REVIEW (tinyurl.com/y6nxt9nv), CLOSE TO THE BONE (tinyurl.com/y38ac6jv), HORLA (tinyurl.com/y3k6eewx), and YELLOW MAMA (tinyurl.com/y5zt5loj). In 2008, Don and his wife founded their nonprofit (karimufoundation.org) to bring new schools, clean water, and clinics emphasizing women’s and children’s health to three Tanzanian villages.

Don pic.

Trust by Don Stoll

Brit Grit, Don Stoll, Flash Fiction, Punk Noir Magazine, Short Stories

You know that game where you’re supposed to let yourself fall backward and trust someone to catch you so you don’t knock yourself out? I used to appreciate that game.

People call what I used to like perverted, but is trust perverted? Among human beings there’s no sentiment more noble than trust. Soldiers know this. The enemy wants to kill you. But they wouldn’t have to try if you couldn’t trust your own side. Inside of a day you’d go mad or kill yourself. And think what trust means to man’s best friend. A dog shows submission by rolling onto its back so that another dog—if it was in the mood—could tear out the submissive one’s exposed genitals. Dogs form lasting bonds that way.

I used to play that game, and you probably think it’s perverted. But I call it noble because it’s about trust.

I’d stopped in a town north of Oxford on my way up to Coventry to see the cathedral, which is what tourists did. In a pub called The Plough, I met Nicola and decided not to go back to California for my last year of college. The owner didn’t care that I had no work permit. He hired me and I worked behind the bar with Nicola and moved into her bedsit.

During my first week with her, I woke up in the middle of the night tied to the bed. I’ve always been a sound sleeper, proving it has nothing to do with having a clean conscience. She took me in her mouth and bit down. I tried to scream but she’d taped my mouth shut. I had an orgasm like I’d never had before.

She removed the tape. She said next time I’d have something else in my face. She said are you ready again and I said give me a few minutes. She said I think you’re ready now. Suddenly she was pressed against my tongue and her teeth were in me.

It took all my strength to be gentle, what with her being the opposite. But the effort of restraining myself generated an intensity that I was able to direct to the place I wanted it most. I felt like I was a foot long and made of iron. That was my incentive to put my tongue to her with the lightest pressure I could manage, despite so much pressure inside me that I always thought would blow too soon. Pressing ever so lightly, not easy for a man because he wants to show off his strength. Making tiny circles. Reminding myself how small an area I had to cover so my tongue wouldn’t go wandering off.

She would talk about the effort she had to make to keep quiet because we had neighbors on all sides.

“Like fireworks, Alex,” she’d say. “Know it sounds tired and yeah, it’s better than that. But still like fireworks because you think it’s over and then look out, here we go again. I have to keep sucking to keep quiet even after you’re a wet bloody piece of meat.”

She didn’t mean bloody figuratively in that slangy British way, but bloody literally.

#

Nicola was adventurous in other ways, too. By herself she’d traveled a couple of times to Africa, and not even to the cities but way out into the country to stay in villages in mud huts. To me that sounded more dangerous than what we did in bed, but she laughed.

“The people are lovely. Long as you can do without a proper toilet you’re fine.”

“And without electricity,” I said.

She made a face: a shudder, I guess.

“I was fine until the last night of my second trip. Had the same illuminated watch I’d owned for years. Never realized what it meant to me until that last night because when I woke up in the night I’d always look at it right off to see the time. But during my last night it stopped working and I woke up to pitch darkness.”

She made the same face.

“There was no dimension to anything. I put my arm in front of me to make sure I hadn’t been buried alive but it was no good: couldn’t see it. Found the door and went outside, but it was cloudy. Couldn’t see the stars.”

The memory was making her sweat. I brushed her forehead dry with my hand.

“There was a lovely family whose hut wasn’t fifty meters away. Léoncé and Flavia and lots of children. I thought I could probably find it even in the pitch dark, though I’d have to take care not to fall because of the rough ground. But I knew Léoncé would build a fire if I told him I was frightened.”

I brushed her forehead with my other hand.

“But out there you don’t go walking about alone after dark. Hyenas.”

There was a limit to my sympathy. Pitch darkness doesn’t bother me and Africa didn’t interest me.

“Don’t go back,” I shrugged.

She rolled her eyes.

“I’m bloody going back.”

She had the same look she would give me before asking if I wanted to be tied up.

“And you’re going to help me face my demons, Alex.”

#

Nicola’s only valuable possession was an old steamer trunk that had belonged to her grandfather. She kept it next to her bed, covered by a cheap tablecloth. We ate for free at The Plough when we worked, but otherwise we ate in to save money.

“Bloody slaves’ wages to tend bar in this country,” she would say.

The steamer trunk served as our table. I would sit on the bed, with her on the other side of the trunk in a decrepit wooden chair that I was too heavy for.

“You think that’s a good idea?” I said when she told me I was going to lock her in the trunk and keep her there for an hour.

“Same trust you show when I tie you to the bed I’m going to show you. For one full hour I’ll be absolutely terrified.”

She smiled even though she was sweating.

“But I’ll get through those sixty minutes and be a different person.”

I uncovered the trunk. It was beautiful even though it needed refinishing.

“You’re willing to ruin this by drilling holes in it so you can breathe?”

“There’s holes in the sides you’ve never noticed because of the tablecloth,” she said. “My grandfather did that.”

I knelt to look.

“Made a habit of traveling in it to save on fares,” she added.

Even Nicola wouldn’t be able to stretch out in it. I wondered if her grandfather could have been smaller than she was.

“Taking the piss,” she laughed. “Got no idea why the holes are there, but it saves us drilling.”

#

We gave careful thought to when I would lock her up. We agreed that in case she started screaming, we’d have to do it during the day when the neighbors were at work. The one afternoon that we both always had off from The Plough was Wednesday. We decided on eleven to twelve so that afterward we’d have plenty of time at The Plough.

“I’m under no illusion about this, Alex. Expecting to need a few when it’s over.”

At ten on our chosen Wednesday morning she had the idea of making love in our usual unorthodox way.

“Want to be as relaxed as possible to start out,” she explained.

We finished at quarter to eleven. She put on her most comfortable clothes and took some deep breaths.

“Ready.”

“You have ten minutes.”

“No,” she said, taking another breath. “Let’s go.”

She climbed into the trunk and lay on her side, bending her knees. I shut the lid and locked it. I put the key in my pocket. I sat on the bed. I’d expected her to want to talk, but she was silent. I knelt and put my ear to a hole. Her breathing sounded abnormally regular, if that makes sense. She must have been focusing on her breathing to try to relax.

“You want music?”

“All we have is rock,” she said. “I probably need something else.”

“Then the radio.”

I found an old geezers’ station: classical. This’ll put us both to sleep, I thought.

“That’s good,” she said.

I sat on the bed and listened. A symphony, I guess. I imagined sitting in a concert hall and thought pitch darkness I can handle, but trying to hold still for this would be torture.

I got down on my knees to listen to Nicola’s breathing. It had slowed down like she was asleep. I waited for a quiet moment in the music and whispered her name. Sleeping.

Five after eleven. She had another fifty-five minutes. A total of fifteen minutes to get to The Plough and back would leave me forty minutes to drink, time for two or three pints. But I couldn’t chance her waking up with me not there. I figured I could give myself twenty minutes, though, long enough to finish two pints if I hurried.

The Plough was empty. Not what I’d hoped for, but the drinking went fast: no need to occupy my mouth otherwise with talk.

On my way out I met Ian Watson and a whole crowd of his friends. They were celebrating his birthday. They said have one with us and I couldn’t say no. Plus I had that twenty-minute cushion in case Nicola didn’t wake up. I told myself she wouldn’t.

I finished my pint quickly and said I had to go and Ian said why. I told him Nicola was waiting. But he said what’s so important she can’t wait a few more minutes, bloke only has one birthday a year. I said fair enough but after this one I’m really going and I’ll make it quick.

Which I did, and which I think was my mistake. Because that was four pints on an empty stomach since I hadn’t eaten anything since I’d wanted to hurry back to Nicola. And the fourth drunk too fast since I’d promised to make it quick, and I think halfway through somebody bought a round of whisky for everyone to pour in their pints. But I’m not sure about the whisky because by then I was far gone.

#

I staggered home at three o’clock. It must have seemed like forever to Nicola, wondering what had happened to me and when I’d come back and terrified I never would.

Yet when I pulled her out she stopped screaming. She had every right to keep on, only at me because I deserved it. But it was like she saw I was pissed and decided screaming wouldn’t do any good.

Instead of screaming, she got quiet and said “You need to sleep it off.”

#

I woke up to that biting sensation I knew so well. Except it got worse—a lot worse—and when I looked down at her she was standing up with the whole thing in her mouth. I screamed but she was laughing. Before I could get out of bed she’d run to the loo and flushed it away.

I was one moment looking at myself, not able to believe it, and the next covering myself with the blanket to soak up the blood, paying no attention to Nicola. It was gone, what was the point?

But I paid attention when she said “I’ve called the police, told them got a Yank working at The Plough with no permit, guess he forgot he’s here on a tourist visa. They’ll collect you in the morning, ship you back to California.”

California, town north of Oxford, I didn’t care. I was wondering how fast I could get to a hospital and what the rest of my life would be like.

“Bloody fool you were to trust me,” Nicola said. “Like I was a fool to trust you.”

END

Third-person bio:

Don Stoll’s fiction is forthcoming in THE BROADKILL REVIEW, XAVIER REVIEW, THE MAIN STREET RAG, WILD VIOLET, COFFIN BELL, BETWEEN THESE SHORES (twice), PULP MODERN, and YELLOW MAMA (twice), and recently appeared in THE GALWAY REVIEW (tinyurl.com/y6nxt9nv), CLOSE TO THE BONE (tinyurl.com/y38ac6jv), HORLA (tinyurl.com/y3k6eewx), and YELLOW MAMA (tinyurl.com/y5zt5loj). In 2008, Don and his wife founded their nonprofit (karimufoundation.org) to bring new schools, clean water, and clinics emphasizing women’s and children’s health to three Tanzanian villages.

Don pic.