Dim Waghorn by Paul Matts

The police walked in, looking for Dim Waghorn.

‘He ain’t here,’ Stef, the barman snaps.

‘Ain’t been in all day,’ Sly, one of his patrons adds. The other two fellas at the bar, Daz and Rootz shake their heads, as if confirming this fact.

Mickey Fleas, pissed, appears from the Gents. Half-finished pint of Guinness in one hand, another full one waiting for him at the bar. He tries to climb back onto his stool, but only half of his baggy backside makes any contact with the cushion. So, he slips. He regains his balance just in time.

‘Dim Waghorn? No, he ain’t here, but I might know where he is,’ he slobbers.

‘Where?’ the taller policeman asks, after a pause spent looking at Fleas in disgust.

‘The coffee shop on Portland Street.’

The two coppers turn and head for the door without another word. Can’t get out quick enough. The patrons all look, incredulously, at Fleas.

‘What?’ he shrugs, all innocent-like, looking at Sly. He finally settles on his stool.

Mickey and Dim have a criminal ‘partnership’. Mickey’s the ‘brain’, and Dim, well he ain’t called by that name for nothing. He ain’t the ‘brawn’, either. A ‘skinny runt’, or appropriate rhyming slang, is an apt description of Dim. He takes orders from Fleas. And the blame when the shit hits the fan.

The silence is then destroyed by the loud crack, smash and crash as Fleas, his new, full pint of Guinness and his vodka chaser plummet to the hard bar room floor. His scruffy plastic shopping bag spills its contents in a crumpled heap. His bar stool eventually joins the mess, landing on top.

‘Faarrckin’ ‘ell,’ he gargles.

‘You fuckin’ coward, you fuckin’ grass, you fuckin…’ Sly’s right fist is responsible for this mess, and his temper prevents him from completing his depiction of Fleas.

The police hadn’t made it to the door. They turn, assess, sigh and reluctantly trudge back and apprehend Sly. He accepts his fate like a man.

‘HE ASKED FOR IT,’ Sly protests he is led away. No defence; the police saw him bang Mickey Fleas hard. He manages to free himself temporarily from the grasp of the police and turns to point at his victim. ‘HE’S THE ONE YOU WANT,’ he screams.

Fleas just about makes it to his feet when he is hit by another punch so brutal it sends him flying a further five yards across the empty barroom, into a glut of tables and chairs.

This time it’s from the second patron. Daz Damage. Not his real name, incidentally.

‘We can do this all day, all day Fleas,’ Daz sneers, stalking the five yards over to Fleas. One cherry red Doc Martin boot eventually rests either side of Fleas strewn, portly body.

The cops look scared. They may now have a ‘situation’ to deal with. A violent ‘situation’. Involving the small-time gangster Mickey Fleas, and two local guerrillas about to knock the shite out of him.

Make that three local guerrillas. The toughest looking of the three, Rootz, gets up from his chair.

‘UNLESS, of course, you tell them what really happened. There’s no way Dim is taking the blame this time,’ Rootz suggests, acutely. His gravelly tones sound appropriate from a man six foot four tall. The flecks of grey hair protrude like tiny razor blades across his skull. His piercing blue-grey eyes and an anarchy tattoo on his neck give him a psychotic look that accompanies his menacing personality perfectly.

He stands over Fleas, next to Daz’s squat five foot ten, ripped and heavily tattooed frame. He has no hair whatsoever. Rootz towers over him, and in turn glares down at Fleas, flashing his gold tooth in the middle of his mouth in the process. Mickey Fleas literally pisses himself.

‘WHAT REALLY HAPPENED, FLEAS?’ Sly demands from the doorway.

The coppers, sensing they may have a bigger fish to fry than Sly, release him and head tentatively towards Fleas. Daz grabs Fleas by the ear and lifts him up.

‘No, no, no more,’ Fleas cries. Mickey Fleas is a bully. But he cannot take a kicking. He thinks the police will protect him.

‘I’ll come with you, just make them put me down,’ he cries. Seriously, tears are running down his sweaty, red, blotchy, drunk face. His receding brown hair is stuck to his forehead. He looks pathetic.

Of course, Daz smacks him once more. Just for good measure. Blood explodes from his nose, spraying Daz and making his white Lonsdale vest look more like some Jackson Pollock-based merchandise than regulation boxing attire. Mickey Fleas lies face down, breathing, barely conscious, blood dribbling from his temple to the floor under him.

‘No more,’ Rootz commands.

Daz stops, looks up and points directly at both coppers, his finger moving from one to the other. ‘If you think all these robberies are down to Dim Waghorn then you are miles off. This is the guy you want. The mastermind, the dumb brains. The selfish cunt. The three of us are ready to give statements, plus we have a witness at that coffee shop on Portland.’

The cops exchange uncertain glances, and nod.

‘Dim Waghorn? Where’s is he then?’ the taller one asks.

‘He ain ‘t here. We told you.’

‘Where’d he go?’

‘Dunno. He sure went fast.’

Cue an uncomfortable, lengthy silence. All parties looking straight at each other, daring any of them to elaborate.

Eventually Rootz breaks. ‘Fleas … ‘

Mickey Fleas painfully peers up from the corner of his bloodied eye.

‘It just ain’t your day. You’re going down.’ Rootz turns to the ginger copper, and then to the taller one. It’s as if he is directing the two of them.

‘C’mon Mickey Fleas, we’ll take you down the station and have a chat,’ the ginger policemen states, helping Fleas to his feet. His nose is clearly broke, and an imprint of Daz’s sovereign ring is beginning to show on his forehead. Ouch. Rootz, Daz and Sly stand and watch expectantly. It appears the coppers are doing nothing about the various assaults on Fleas that they have just witnessed. Then again they are outnumbered three to two. And the three are violent men, evidently. The police themselves outnumber Fleas two to one. Plus, Fleas can barely stand. Easy decision, really.

They drag Mickey Fleas across the bar, knocking chairs over as they do so, struggle through the exit door, and get stuck in the process. Eventually they make it out into the sunny spring day and force Fleas into the back of their police car, which is parked directly outside.

⃰⃰

When the coast is clear Stef the barman shouts down a flight of stairs, located behind a door to the back of the bar.

‘Dimmy? They’re gone.’

‘Gone?’ a high-pitched, feint voice is heard.

‘Yes mate. Come up.’

A pale, unshaven, thin male emerges from the steps. You’d have thought he had been down there for weeks judging by his dark, greasy, unkempt appearance. But no, Dim Waghorn always looks this way.

‘Mickey too?’ Dim’s voice is as puny as his body.

‘Yeah. Didn’t you hear the commotion?’ Stef asks, vacating the bar and heading across the bar room to straighten up the tables and chairs.

‘I heard a few bangs and crashes, yeah. Hello fellas.’ Dim waves a nervous hand in the direction of Rootz, Daz and Sly, who are still standing where Mickey’s body was slumped until about two minutes ago.

Mickey Fleas ‘owned’ Dim Waghorn after he got him out of a scrape a couple of years back. Dim was on the hard end of the sex-trafficking industry. A victim. He was used and abused and was in a bad way when Fleas happened to walk in on him in an uncompromising position. Fleas was collecting a debt from Dim’s client, see. Mickey Fleas then ‘rescued’ Dim from the clutches of his sex-trafficking pimp.

He led him into small-time petty theft on his behalf. Dim is a nimble, silent operator. Excellent for light-handed, skilful burglary. But he’s a bit slow on the uptake, and doesn’t think on his feet very well. This led to him being caught several times and earnt him several brief stopovers in prison. Fleas became his new pimp.

Rootz, Daz and Sly got wind of this one day in Stef’s bar as they overheard Dim talking to Mickey Fleas. Football hooligans, long-time members of the local ultras. Or ‘squad’. Anything that cannot be sorted with fists isn’t worth sorting at all, in their book.

They felt for Dim. They don’t like bullies who feed off people considerably smaller than their own size. Small-time gang theft is better than being a victim of sex-trafficking, mind. The ultras were not aware of Dim’s past and Fleas part in it.

Therefore, Dim Waghorn has now been commandeered by the local ultras. Pride ‘n Loyalty, is tattooed on their left forearm. If he has any sense, Dim Waghorn will either get out quick, or get initiated quick.

Either way, it should be another potential step away the gutter. Depending on one’s viewpoint.

Bio:

Paul Matts is a writer from Leicester, England. His first novella, ‘Donny Jackal’, a kitchen-sink coming of age drama set in English punk rock suburbia in 1978, is out now both in paperback and as an E-book. His debut novel ‘Toy Guitars’ is due to be published shortly, and he is the author of the short stories ‘Can of Worms’, ‘Spade, Rose and Blood’, ‘Revenge can be Sweet’, ‘The Bench’ and ‘One More Season’. He also writes flash fiction, including ‘Hollow Love’, ‘Wedding Shot over the Wire’, and ‘Family Guy?’ His fiction has been featured in Punk Noir Magazine, Brit Grit Alley and Unlawful Acts.

He previously promoted live shows as 101 Productions and owned The Attik night club from 2001-2007. He was also a songwriter and guitarist in The Incurables.

Paul also writes articles on music, in particular on the punk and new wave movement, and is a regular contributor for We Are Cult, Punkglobe, Razur Cuts and Something Else magazines. See https://paulmatts101.wordpress.com/ for more details, and to subscribe for updates.

Paul Matts

Can of Worms by Paul Matts

The best thing about moving into my new house is that I get to overhaul the garden. This hasn’t been the case for any of the previous houses I’ve rented. Usually you only maintain it. But here, I get to do what I want. It is overgrown and in desperate need of controlling, with leggy shrubs dotted across the lawn and the borders. An uneven slabbed patio area provides a concrete eyesore reminiscent of a warzone. Spilt and split bags of building sand, smashed glass, broken bricks and chunks of cement make it look like an early cold war snap of Berlin.

Me and my new girlfriend Tess moved in a week ago on a monthly rental so we could spend Christmas in our new home. We have now done so and we’re now at that dead bit between the big day itself and New Year’s Eve. The 28th of December, to be specific. ‘Home’, incidentally, is in an estate which residents dub ‘the Manor’. Tess grew up here. She moved away a couple of years ago after her Dad died but soon wanted to return. Her calling, she told me. Most of the buildings share a frontage looking like our back-age. Tatty, scruffy and currently decorated with green, red, white and yellow blobs of light.

I am keen to get stuck into the garden. So keen, I even may have to leave Tess in bed alone. Which is a tough thing to do. Saturday morning sex works, see. However, today, she is dead to the world following her first shift back at the pub, so I give her naked back a slow stroke with my fingers. Morning ritual. She likes it and is aware I do it, she swears. She has a firm body, not an ounce of fat anywhere. Must be her obsessive gym programme. Eventually, and reluctantly, I haul myself out of bed, trying to attract her attention on the way. No use. She remains static. I give her a final glance as I reach the bedroom door. She rolls over, landing face down smothered by our pure white duvet, with just her black hair peeking out of the top. Game most definitely over. This morning it didn’t even get under way.

No matter. There’s work to be done outside. I could do with working off some Christmas stodge. I’ll need my energy to dig out several shrubs none of which will feature in my grand garden design. Tess would have sapped some of exuberance had she been up for it.

I swallow a of cup of tea and some leftover, limp sausage rolls and head outside. Armed with a spade.

The objective this morning is to remove a pyracanth bush. All sharp spikes and tiny green leaves. The spikes are vicious, and as I don’t want to risk brutal maiming every time I step out into my patch of Eden, it must come out. I removed the branches last Sunday, so just the task of digging the main trunk and root remain.

My progress though, grinds to a halt after little more than ten minutes. There, in the clay soil, at about a depth of eighteen inches, is a round tin. It looks like a baked bean can, with the label removed. It appears to have cellophane stretched around it. Intriguing.

Worms wriggle all around the can, clearly revelling in the clay soil. And possibly irritated at being disturbed. I remove the can, wiping away the thick clumps of clay from its still shiny exterior. I brush away three or four worms simultaneously. There is something inside.

Obviously I tear away the cellophane and investigate. It’s a note.

Accompanied by a thick roll of fifty-pound notes. Must be about five Grand’s worth.

Well what do we have here?’ The note should shed some light. I brush away more soil.

‘To John Wand,

I should be long gone by the time you find this. If you ever do. If you’re reading this, then you have found my payment. Do with it what you wish. Just leave me alone.

Jimmy.’

Jimmy was the previous occupant of our new home. He left in a hurry; we’re still visited by debt collectors looking for him.

And John Wand? I know him, unfortunately. But he’s not a friend. A nutter. A recluse. I bumped into him in the local bookies on Boxing Day. The day after Christmas Day. He didn’t seem too thrilled when I told him we’d moved into Jimmy’s old place …

‘I’m your new neighbour … I’ve moved into Jimmy’s old place.’

John Wand looked right at me and remained stone cold still. He narrowed his already slit blue eyes. They are almost grey-blue, to match his grey head of straight, greasy hair. Loosely parted at the side. His bear-like shape, complete with very-round shoulders, gives his body a convex quality. His bulk is a bit like Baloo’s from The Jungle Book, from the shoulders down, anyway. He usually has a sky-blue Umbro sweatshirt on and was a Manchester City fan in his younger days; but has rejected them since they became rich and successful. A football fan who prefers to moan about the misfortune and daylight robbery of games twenty years ago rather than bask in City’s present-day success.

A silence ensued for a couple of seconds.

‘You ok John?’

‘Do you like it?’ John Wand asked, sternly.

‘What do you mean?’

‘Jimmy’s old place?’

‘Err. Yes. Nice big garden.’

A pause.

‘You like the garden?’ John Wand hissed, looking deadly serious.

Another silence. The chill in the air was biting. The cold days often attack in December.

‘Err. Yes. It’s nice to have something I can get my teeth into. The landlord said I can do what I want with it.’

‘What’s that then?’

‘I dunno. Maybe one of those modern, sharp, symmetrical designs you see at the Chelsea Garden Show?’

‘Does that mean you’ll be digging stuff up?’ His countenance took a step towards that of a serial killer.

‘Maybe. Why?’

And with that John Wand split. He seemed riled.

⃰⃰

Weird. Really weird. Now I have this note, which is addressed to John Wand. It’s from Jimmy. I count the fifty-pound notes, and there are a hundred and twenty of them. Seven thousand quid, then.

I won’t tell Tess about it, just yet. We’ve only been together for a couple of months. So, we’re still very much in the novelty stage of our relationship. She’s tough, strong and not to be messed with. She wears the trousers in our relationship. It might seem weird us moving in together so quickly, but it suits our circumstances. She wanted to move back to the Manor, and I was stuck in a property I shared with four others which was shit, let me tell you. Cold and damp, rubbish broadband and no peace due to my noisy housemates. I was glad to leave.

I put the can on one side and continue to dig. The air is still but the garden is bleak on this foggy morning. I can see only about twenty yards in front of me. Ten minutes later, the pyracanth, is out, root and all. I cannot stop thinking about the can of worms, fifty-pound notes and the letter, however. I stop and pick it up once more.

What do I do? I will have to confront John Wand, won’t I?

Or will I? Seven thousand quid would come in handy. It’d get me some nice pavers, a nice Al-fresco dining set and some trendy Miscanthus and other grasses, for a start. And a fire-pit. Tess’d be thrilled. It’d get me brownie points.

‘What’s THAT?’ a cool, gravelly voice demands from behind me. The voice is laced with aggression, cynicism and it startles me. So much so that I drop the can, sending the remaining worms and the one hundred and twenty fifty-pound notes across the damp, long, unkempt and clumpy grass, which has gone to seed in several places.

John Wand watches as the notes flicker to the ground. It’s as if he knew I would be up to something. He must have been watching me.

‘What’s that?’ he repeats, menacingly. ‘What’s that can you were holding?’

‘What’s it to you, John?’

‘What’s that?’ he repeats.

I ignore his question.

‘What’s THAT, IVAN?’ John Wand’s anger is on the rise.

I begin to sweat and tingle. I didn’t realise he knew my name. It is a freezing, foggy morning. John is wearing a Manchester City t-shirt (sky blue) with a picture of Denis Tueart’s spectacular overhead kick winner from the 1976 League Cup Final on its front. A golden 1970s soccer moment. He must be hard as hell to come outside wearing just this and three-quarter length trackie bottoms on a day like this.

‘Nothing,’ I eventually reply, nonchalantly.

‘Doesn’t look like nothing. Show me.’

I look at the can. And visualise my firepit, expensive slabs and trendy grasses. I sense John Wand is closing in on me. I take a step back.

‘I’m getting impatient. I’ll count to three,’ Wand threatens.

‘And do what?’

‘I don’t want to hurt you, Ivan,’ he hisses. John Wand often does so as he speaks.

‘Why would you do that?’

‘If people don’t do as I say that’s what tends to happen.’

I eyeball him. Or rather he does me, and as I can’t think of any other reaction, I look back at him in the eye. So that’s eyeballing him, right?

I read out the contents of the note. John Wand listens intently.

‘Where did you find that?’ he demands as I finish the recital and return to the sharp glare of his narrow blue-grey eyes.

I point to the hole around where the pyracanth stood.

‘Just there, in the ground.’

‘So that’s where he put it?’

‘Who?’

‘Jimmy.’

I scratch my head. ‘What’s this about?’

‘On this very spot, a couple of years back, he smacked someone over the head with a spade. An argument over a girl.’

‘Why is he thanking you?’

‘I helped him dispose of the body.’

‘Jimmy killed him?’

‘Yep.’

‘There’s only seven Grand at the most in the can.’

‘Counted it, have you?’

‘I’ve counted it, yes. It doesn’t seem much to me. Not for getting rid of a body, anyway. What business was it of your’s?’ I might be pushing my luck asking this.

John Wand chuckles. He lights a roll-up and exhales a tidy lung full.

‘It’s the final instalment, you prick. There’s been several of them. They add up.’ He seems to be letting my enquiry slide.

‘Oh. How come this instalment was buried here?’

‘I like to have a bit of fun. Buried treasure, X marks the spot, all of that. He left in a hurry and told me it was in his garden. Underneath a prickly bush. I was away in Spain until Boxing Day, see.’ He lets a sly grin escape from his mouth, showing a gap in the middle of his incisors. Like Joe Jordan in his heyday. Equally as frightening as the Scottish bulldozing centre forward, too. He then adds, ‘I’d just got back when I saw you at the bookies.’

‘A good living, then?’ I feel uneasy asking John Wand this. It’s as if I’m enquiring about its suitability as a job for myself. I’m not, incidentally.

‘Beats working. I turn up and screw people when they’re desperate. It adds up nicely, since you ask,’ he sneers.

Wand slowly releases another sly, wicked and menacing grin across his sun-tanned face. He sharpens his glare once more, so far into my eyeballs it connects straight to my increasingly heightened sense of fear.

‘Thing is, you’re now involved, Ivan.’

‘Eh?’

‘Involved. You know about what I do. So, I now I need to own you. And screw you as a result.’

‘Own me? Screw me?’

‘Yes. Own you. And screw you. You will have to do what I say. Otherwise you’ll end up in the same place as Jimmy’s love rival. In the ground. There’s room for more. I can’t have you threatening my activities. Or my livelihood. Might do the same to that pretty girl of your’s while I’m at it.’

‘Touch her and I’ll kill you.’

John Wand looks serious for a second. And then lets out an evil laugh that is so loud it scares me. It seems to echo around the patio area. It’ll probably wake Tess, too.

‘A-ha. You and whose army? You don’t know what you’re dealing with sonny. My disposals stretch into double figures now.’

‘Disposals?’

‘Dead body disposal. Lucrative. Disposal including killing someone? Even more lucrative. It’s got me loaded. Rich. I could kill you, your pretty girl Tess, her family and no-one would ever find any of you.’

I swallow hard. ‘You’re not serious?’

‘Depends on whether you’re a good boy from now on, doesn’t it?’

‘You can’t go around bullying people like this.’

Not the right time to tell John Wand what to do. If there ever is a right time. John Wand grabs me by the throat. He digs his fingertips into my upper neck and throat. I struggle for breath.

‘I’ll ignore that last remark. I’ll write it off to lack of experience.’ He then hisses wickedly. ‘But you only get one chance with a man like me. Do as I tell you.’

I can only make a clicking, clucking sound. I cannot configure my mouth appropriately to say any sort of word. I am in pain, make no mistake. I begin to feel faint.

John Wand knows this. He’s got me. I have only a few more seconds before I pass out. Or die, maybe?

‘SO, from now on, if you do EXACTLY as I tell you, we’ll get on fine. Starting with giving me my final instalment from Jimmy.’

‘O- k-k-k-k-aayyy,’ I somehow respond.

John Wand digs his fingertips in a touch further and tightens his grip on my throat.

‘I’ll watch while you get all that money from the floor.’

‘O-k-k-k-ay.’ He hasn’t let go of my throat, though. There’s more.

‘While I’m at it, I’ll commission a loyalty payment from you. Two thousand pounds should be enough.’

‘W-w-w-ha-?’ It’s not going to be possible to stay upright much longer.

‘Two Grand, by New Year’s Day. Otherwise you and your girl, and her little sister….’

‘LOOK UP, DICK-SPLASH!’

John Wand is interrupted.

And John Wand’s grip is released. An object drops from above and smashes right on top of his head. A heavy, heavy object. A huge, cast iron, barbell in fact. Blood explodes from his head. It shoots in all directions. I hop from my left leg to my right to avoid him as his bulk slumps down to the ground. His stomach wobbles as it settles into position. A pool of deep red liquid is quickly forming next to the right of his head. The puddle slowly expands. More blood splats over some of the slabs. It is Jackson Pollock-esq in its vivid, violent beauty. John Wand is on his back, his vacant eyes facing directly upwards. The top of his head is dented and split. His mouth is open, his tongue lolling to one side. God it’s a big tongue, like Gene Simmons’s. His face is a mess. His forehead split. Blood is running freely into its newly formed furrows and craters.

I lean in closer. I can see his skull through the skin of his forehead. A good two inches of it is visible, an inch or so above grey eyebrows, which meet in the middle so thickly that they look like a moustache that has grown in the wrong place. Obviously they are now drenched in blood.

The huge, heavy barbell has rolled to a stop on the patio, halting as it hits the low wall which separates the slabs from the lawn. Blood has been smeared along the ground as it completed its journey.

A journey that began from the upstairs back window, apparently. For there is Tess, leaning out, a cold look in her eyes. In total contrast to the look of complete horror slapped over my face, I’m sure. It was her voice that shouted, and her who dropped the barbell. No mean feat, but possible for a gym obsessive like Tess. It has been dropped with deadly accuracy.

‘I heard him laugh. I heard what he was going to do to us. No way is he going to hurt me. Again.’

‘S-s-so you did that?’ I am shaking, my heart beating so hard it surely is going to break out of my body.

Tess shuts the window abruptly. Ten seconds later she appears out of the back door, fixing her black, shiny kimono. Sexy as hell. Deadly as hell.

‘We need to get rid of the body, quickly,’ she says before continuing. ‘I mean, he is dead, right?’

I give no reply, and just stare at the blood splattered image of Dennis Tueart’s acrobatics against Newcastle United on John Wand’s chest. I can’t look at Wand’s disfigured face and head any longer.

‘He is dead RIGHT?’

‘Err, err sorry. Yeah. Defo. I’d say. No breath. Dead.’ I can’t be sure he’s clinically dead. I haven’t checked his pulse. I bend down and stretch out my right arm.

I put two fingers across his jugular. No pulse.

I am shaking, as if I’ve disappeared off into a parallel universe.

Tess on the other hand, is alive and full of focused urgency. She seems cold about what just happened. No hint of panic. Business-like.

‘Seems dead,’ I clarify.

‘We must be quick. I have some blankets and some space in my car boot.’

Hang on. It’s as if she knew this was going to happen. She almost seems prepared.

Tess returns with an armful of charcoal-coloured blankets. She lays them out over the uneven patio. We then roll John Wand’s disformed Baloo-like bulk into the blankets, his dented, crushed skull, sun-tanned face and body disappear into the dark grey fabric like a chunk of lightly cooked kebab meat being rolled into a whole-grain fajita.

Tess barks out an order. ‘Help me put him in the boot of my car. You do something about the slabs and the blood. Pronto.’

I nod, having very much taken the subversive role. A bit like my place under Tess when we fuck. Dutifully, I help Tess lift John Wand’s comatose body. She seems to virtually do it herself. My god he’s heavy. His bear like shape is difficult to shift. I can feel his limbs through the blankets. He feels warm. Sixty seconds back he was threatening me. We hump him into the boot of Tess’s Fiesta. And quickly slam the door shut, folding his arms and legs and, yuk, his neck as we do so. Like forcing a mattress into the boot.

‘What you gonna do now?’

‘Get rid of him. I know how. I have someone to help me.’

What? Again, it’s as if she knew this was going to happen.

‘Eh? How? Who?’

‘No time now. Tell you later. Slabs.’

I give her a terrified, hesitant look. But say nothing.

‘SLABS!’

‘Okay, okay. Right’. We both have jobs that need doing.

I hear her Fiesta speed away. John Wand is a passenger. I cannot be sure we weren’t spotted. Then again, round this manor, all sorts happen. It sounds like John Wand, from what he was telling me, was at the heart of some of it. A reclusive nutter and a bully.

I assess the area. My heart is pounding. My emotions are now beginning to change. I’ve never felt so alive. Really focused. Like Tess. She’d be proud.

I count six slabs splattered with blood. And another two with the pool of blood split between them. A rack of ten leftover slabs lean against the back of the house. I replace the bloodied slabs. There is no cement, so they come up easy. I scoop up all the blood between the cracks.

An hour later, the job is done. I take the bloodied slabs to the local tip in my Vauxhall Astra. Which is blood red in colour, ironically. I manage to sneak them into the hardcore skip without detection, despite the fact I am one of many folks at the tip on this foggy morning. The conditions are beneficial, I guess, for my operation; the lack of visibility would make it difficult for the workers to read my number plate, or indeed see my face. So, identifying me in the foggy crowd would not be easy. I should get away with it.

Do they even check slabs for blood? I doubt it.

I return home and wait for Tess. I sit on a tall stool in our kitchen. An hour passes. No sign of her.

A further hour passes with no sign of her. Then, I hear the click of the door unlocking.

‘Sorry I’ve been a while. I’ve been to the gym.’

‘THE GYM!? After what just happened?’

‘Yes. The gym. Is that ok with you?’

‘Not right now. No. What did you do with John Wand?’

‘I arranged his disposal. Like he did with other people.’

‘You disposed of his body?’

‘No. I got someone else to do it.’

‘Who?’

‘Never mind.’

I look at Tess, probably incredulously. I raise my eyebrows, puff my cheeks out and throw my arms out wide. She drops her gym bag to the floor. How she remembered to even take her gym bag after what she just did astonishes me.

Tess takes the hint and sits on the stool opposite.

‘This will shock you,’ she begins.

‘Go on.’

‘John Wand was a bully. And a rapist. He violated me and my sister Kat when we were younger. Me first, Kat second. He also threatened my Dad that he would do it again if he told the police. He even got money out Dad. Wand said he’d tell everyone across the Manor what he’d done to me and Kat unless Dad paid up when he demanded. Wand had done similar things with other families, apparently.’

I nod and feel queasy. I look her right in the eye. Her eyes are welling up. Tears trickle down her cheek.

‘What an evil piece of shit,’ is all I can say.

The look on Tess’s face tells me everything. No further words needed.

‘I thought your Dad died?’

‘He did. Two months after all of this. He topped himself. He couldn’t deal with Wand’s manipulation and felt hopeless. He said he felt he couldn’t do anything to protect us without risking our safety. And he couldn’t afford to give Wand money every time he clicked his finger. He couldn’t stand it, and Wand’s sneering as they passed around the Manor made it worse. So, he gassed himself in our garage.’ Tess relays this information calmly, her words punctuated by quiet tears.

‘I had no idea that was how he died.’

‘It’s not something you burden others with, is it? But it has made me who I am today. I’m afraid of nothing. Me and Kat raised ourselves. I was just eighteen when he killed himself. Mum had left home by then.’ She sniffs, wipes a tear and runs her hand through her floppy, shiny black hair.

‘So, were you always going to get revenge on John Wand?’

‘I didn’t expect it to happen so quick. Thing is, I’ve been ready. I recognised his laugh in the garden when he was talking to you. I’ve had nightmares about it. The same laugh I remember from when he cornered me and Kat. The same laugh I remember when me, Kat and Dad were walking around the Manor and he saw us. I hate that laugh.’

‘I just snapped,’ she offers, as if explaining herself.

Tess pauses, gets off her stool and gets herself a can of Red Bull from the fridge. She returns to her stool.

‘I knew when I came back to the Manor with you our paths would cross. Wand knows where I live. Jimmy’s old place. I knew he’d show up. I was ready to take my chance if it came. I wanted revenge. Not for what he did to me. For what he did to my Dad and my sister. So, when I heard that laugh, I got the twenty-kilo cast iron barbell, pushed the window open wide and … bullseye. I couldn’t have been more accurate. It has sharp, hard edges.’

I just sit. Taking this in. To think I was supposed to be getting stuck into the garden at that very moment.

‘Where is he?’

‘John Wand’s now with someone higher up the chain. A mean fucker called ‘Mustard’. Mustard told me he would help me get revenge on John Wand. Mustard disposes of people. He’ll finish Wand off first if he isn’t quite dead. Wand’s tied up in the back of Mustard’s van at the minute. He’s been gagged and cut open a bit more. Mustard’s a member of ‘The Outlaws’. Local council estate mafia, going back decades, right back to the fifties. They’ve got rid of so many folks you’d never believe it. And Mustard isn’t even charging me.’

‘Are we safe then?’

‘A lot safer than we were last night. Wand wanted to be like The Outlaws. But, The Outlaws don’t like bullies like him. They’ve got rid of quite a few of them over time. They’re a different level, see. Bigger operations. Bigger money. And they look out for their friends, acquaintances and administer justice accordingly. My Dad was friendly with some of The Outlaws. So was Mum before she left. And so am I, and so is Kat, and so now are you, Ivan.’

I think I am okay with this. Better to have Mustard and The Outlaws as friends than enemies. I feel slightly emotional. Honoured, even. However, I have a question.

‘How come The Outlaws didn’t do anything when it all happened?’

Tess closes her eyes and lets out a deep breath. She wipes her eyes.

‘I went to them after Dad’s funeral. Mustard told me to wait, and not do anything hasty. It would attract too much attention. It would be too obvious, he said. They were going to wipe Wand out in the new year anyhow, but when I heard his laugh and then him blackmailing you, I snapped. I knew Mustard would help me out immediately, and he did. Took John Wand off my hands. The Outlaws even steam-cleaned my car when I was in the gym and returned it to me.’

‘So, there’s no trace of Wand anywhere, especially in your car?’

‘Nope. Clean as a whistle.’ Tess smiles. Sweetly. And then continues. ‘And they’ll never find Wand. The police, Wand’s friends, family, no-one will. The entire Manor will be happy. He was despised.’

I smile nervously. ‘He has friends and family, then?’

‘No-one will miss him. Promise. Even if they did, they wouldn’t mess with The Outlaws. No-one does.’

‘Even the cops?’

‘Even the cops.’

Again, I think I am okay with this.

‘So, this is life in the Manor eh?’

‘Yep. You need to know who to trust, keep the right friends and hold the right grudges. Look after family, friends and call in favours. And ..’ Tess breaks off for a second and holds my hand, running her index finger along my palm. It tickles.

‘We’re seven Grand richer, apparently …?’

‘Seems so. Happy New Year …?’ I offer, tentatively.

‘Yes. Indeed. Happy New Year,’ she confirms, raising her can of Red Bull.

To the can of worms, I think to myself.

Paul Matts is a writer from Leicester, England. His first novella, ‘Donny Jackal’, a kitchen sink coming of age tale set in English punk rock suburbia in 1978, is out now both in paperback and as an E-book. His debut novel ‘Toy Guitars’ is due to be published shortly, and he is the author of the short stories ‘Can of Worms’, ‘Spade, Rose and Blood’, ‘Revenge can be Sweet’, ‘The Bench’ and ‘One More Season’. He also writes flash fiction, including ‘Hollow Love’, ‘Wedding Shot over the Wire’, and ‘Family Guy?’ His work has been featured in Punk Noir Magazine, We Are Cult, Razur Cuts, Something Else and Unlawful Acts.

He previously promoted live shows as 101 Productions and owned The Attik night club from 2001-2007. He was also a songwriter and guitarist in The Incurables.

Paul also writes articles on under-appreciated individuals in the punk and new wave movement and is a regular reviewer in We Are Cult and Something Else. See www.paulmatts.com for more details, and to subscribe to updates.

Paul Matts

Recommended Read: Donny Jackal by Paul Matts

It’s 1978, and young Donald Jackson is stuck in a dead-end job and in a dead-end town. But Donald is invigorated by the punk music revolution that is sweeping the country and he dreams of being the singer in a punk rock band. When a local band’s vocalist dies, Donald has his chance …

Paul Matts’ Donny Jackal is a cracking slice of kitchen-sink drama that is choc-full of realistic characters and has a strong sense of time and place.

donny jackal.

Spade, Rose and Blood by Paul Matts

She’s roaming the street in the very early hours of a wet English morning in August. Just like me.

I crouch down. She stands still. Suspicious. Unsure. Doubting. Lost. Fed up. All the same emotions I have. I approach her.

She backs off. I’ve decided she’s a lady. She remains still, her coat dripping in the drizzle.

I shrug and slowly straighten myself up.

‘Okay. Suit yourself. I’m Jim, in case you’re interested.’

I trudge back to my house. The light, persistent rain has soaked my t-shirt. As the key clicks loudly in the lock, I look behind to confirm I am alone. I am.

I’ve had enough. There’s more to life than my four walls.

⃰⃰⃰

Saturday heralds the start of a new weekend. Happy times for happy, contented people. Monotonous hours for the lonely. Spent looking at four beige, character-free ‘living’ room walls, in my case. ‘Existing’ room walls is more apt. This has gone on for four months. My garden is full of gargantuan plants, grown without hinderance for years. A jungle is a more appropriate description. I decide to tackle it. Gardening is good for the soul, people say. One reason Katie left me four months ago was, well, my home maintenance. Or lack of it. The garden being the principle example. She was always on at me to dig the borders, to get the brambles out. She even bought me a spade. It has remained untouched in the shed.

I’m realistic enough to understand she won’t be coming back, so I’m not tackling it in a desperate attempt to regain Katie. There were other reasons she walked out. I never really trusted her anyway. Kind of thought I had her ‘on loan’ for a while. She was too good for me. Batting well above my average. But I have spent the period subsequent to her departure in the doldrums. No doubting it.

As usual I hardly slept, so I might as well start early. I retrieve the spade and some shears. Being out in a garden at sunrise feels fresh. Kind of spiritual. The day promises much at this stage. The soft, hazy glow of the sun, the glisten of the foliage. The dew on the long, thick grass. Which has gone to seed. The seed heads are spiritual. About to drop on the ground, to recreate and start again. It is life’s force. Re-birth happens everywhere. Even here.

I begin pruning a forsythia, the biggest shrub in the garden. Next to it is massive silver birch tree. It is in full leaf now. The garden feels like a pastoral soundscape from Vaughan Williams, or a gentle Pink Floyd intro. You know, before the guitar has its say.

After ten minutes I have reduced the forsythia by half. It’ll grow back. Treat’ em mean, keep ‘em keen, as my Mum used to say.

‘This applies to both men and plants,’ she used to add.

I turn my attention to a prickly Pyracanth. Its white flowers have begun to morph into berries. Gardens grow and the world still moves on, whatever happens to me. The berries will be bright, plump and orange come autumn. Now they are light green, and small. I return to the house to get some protective gloves. Pyracanths are deadly. Catch your skin on them and it’ll bleed for most of the day. The soundscape would go from Vaughan Williams or Pink Floyd pastoral beauty to Iron Maiden heavy metal savagery with the blood let from one of their spikes.

Upon my return I see her. God knows where she came from. There are plenty of hiding places in this jungle. She may have been here for six months for all I know, quietly sheltering from mankind. The eyes give her away. The dog from the early hours this morning. Looking right at me. Suspicious. Unsure. Doubting. Not lost now, though. Not so fed up, either. She is small, a terrier I’d guess. Very scruffy, brown with dark flecks. Skinny. Her ribs show. Her eyes are uncertain and weary. But not frightened. Almost beyond scared. As if she’s decided sheltering in my back garden is as good as it’ll ever get for her.

‘I’ll call you Rose,’ I tell her. After a red rose scrambling up an apple tree at the bottom of the garden. It caught my eye as I ventured to the shed earlier.

I crouch down. As before. Again, she stands still. I put out my hand. She remains motionless.

But doesn’t retreat.

She then edges towards me, does a 360-degree rotation and settles down in the long grass next to me.

Rose looks up at me. It’s early in the morning. Things look better. Vital signs exist. Even for her. Even for me.

⃰⃰⃰⃰

Around mid-morning time without warning, Katie shows up.

She moved all her stuff out over two months ago. She even tried to sneak my vinyl copy of the White album by the Beatles at the same time. Bitch. I noticed and made her bring it back. ‘That concludes our business together,’ she said at the time, coldly. And that quite quickly, became that. I haven’t seen or heard from her since. Never once has she checked whether I was okay or not.

‘I’ve been thinking of you again,’ she begins. She is dressed in white, knee length shorts and a vest top. She looks hot. In both the heat of the morning, and in any man’s eye, I’m sure. Her auburn hair is gripped tightly back to her head.

‘Me and Mark have finished, and I’ve realised how much you mean to me.’

Unbelievable. You’ve no idea what you’ve put me through over the past couple of months. It’s your fault I have become a depressed recluse.

This is what I would like to have said. Instead I just smile and say, ‘Oh, right.’

She reaches out to touch my shoulder. I take a step back. Katie cannot expect to just walk back into my life when it suits her. Mark must have dumped her. She listed many reasons why she left me at the time. The real reason was she was shagging Mark O’Neill. I’m not totally stupid.

Just stupid enough to keep the whole thing in my head since.

I realise I am holding the spade she bought me. I have been using it to dig the garden. Wonder if she noticed? I tighten my grip on it.

‘Of course, your new friend would have to go. You know I how I hate dogs.’

‘You want to come back?’

‘Well that’s what you want, isn’t it? I know how much I mean to you. We can go back to where we were before.’

My grip on the spade tightens. I look at my knuckles. They are white. Rose looks perturbed. A barely audible growl escapes from her mouth.

‘What was that?’ Katie asks.

‘Just Rose,’ I respond.

I look at Rose. And then at Katie. And back to Rose again.

‘I don’t know. I’m not sure I want to put myself through all that again,’ I confess out loud.

‘Come on Jimmy, you know you want to.’

‘I’ll give it a bit of thought, then.’

She gives me a smug, knowing smile. And clicks her heels, as if she’s in the Wizard of Oz or something, spins and departs.

Unbelievable. Un-fucking-believable. The day had optimism. Now it has confusion.

My depression is not all Katie’s fault. There is another person who shoulders a share of the blame. Mark O’Neill. Fucking Mark O’Neill.

I was at school with Mark. A big shot. With a big mouth. He used to wind me up, tease me about never having a girlfriend. This continued throughout our adolescence. Mark had no problem getting girlfriends. Several at once, at times. A trait he has carried into adulthood, I hear. He lives in my locality, see. I bump into him, unfortunately, at the shops, pub or at football matches from time to time. He usually succeeds in delivering a remark designed to upset me even at the age of twenty-three years old. You’d think I’d be passed that by now. Come to think of it, you’d think he would be, too.

So, when Mark discovered I not only had a girlfriend, but a fit one like Katie, it must have at best, impressed him, or at worst, irritated him. So much so that when Katie and I moved in six months ago, he started showing up when we were out on the town together. He’d come over to our table in restaurants and pubs. He’d buy us drinks. Then he started coming home with us. He’d end up sleeping on the sofa. Like he was my best mate. I never got comfortable with it. I wasn’t supposed to, I guess. He was up to something.

And then sure enough one day, it happened. The sight of Katie’s naked back with Mark underneath her greeted me as I entered our spare room one day after work. Mark pleasuring her as she straddled him. This is something I will NEVER ever get out of my head. Ever. They obviously didn’t hear me enter the house. Katie swore it was a spur of the moment thing. But I know she lies. Mark, on the other hand, told me she had given him the best sex he had ever had. Over, and over again, on several occasions, over a ten-day period, according to him.

I attempted to have it out with Katie. It was a bit pathetic. She ended up leaving me for Mark. She confirmed sex with Mark was unbelievably good. ‘He makes my legs feel tingly for hours afterwards,’ she told me. I never got that sort of reaction.

She tried to sneak away my copy of the White album, too, remember. Takes things to a new level, eh?

Now that really is unforgiveable. I’m better off without her, I know that. She’s selfish, manipulative and uncaring. Entirely suited to a self-centred ego maniac like Mark O’Neill.

Then guess what? In the early afternoon Mark shows up. About an hour after Katie. He is asking whether she had been here.

‘She was here an hour ago. She said she wants to move back in here.’

‘In your dreams,’ he snaps. And laughs. ‘Did she say where she was heading?’

‘No,’ I reply, leaning on the spade. My grip tightens once more. Rose growls softly.

‘She’ll come back to me,’ he sneers, and scoffs at Rose. He aims a small kick in her direction. Rose growls again, only this time slightly louder.

‘Why are you here asking after her then, if you’re so sure she’ll come back to you?’

He laughs. As if my question is ridiculous. Which it isn’t, by the way.

‘There’s no way she’d come back to you, Jimbo. You’re a loser. I can’t believe she was with you in the first place. Just one bit of attention and she was straight in the sack with me.’

I look right into his eyes. He blows me a kiss. To make out I am soft. To make out I am worthless. To rub in that he shagged her continually while she was living with me. To take the piss. To wind me up. To get under my skin.

He’s succeeded. He turns to leave.

‘O Neill!’ I call, firmly. I enter a kind of new dimension. Not of this world, really.

Mark O’Neill stops. And slowly, nonchalantly, turns himself around.

Before he completes his rotation, I crack him on the skull with the spade Katie bought me. The blow is struck with all my bottled up, frustrated, anger. A metallic clunk sound is made on its swift impact. The spade vibrates afterwards. The fingers on both my hands fizz for a few seconds.

He drops to the ground, and slumps down on his side. Like a sack of soft cement. His eyes now look vacant. Wide open, but vacant. They seem to be staring across the patio floor. His cheek is squashed against a dirty grey slab. His immaculately gelled hair now has a dent in it, where the spade hit him. Blood is trickling into his mousy coloured hair, where it is joined by grains of sand and dirt. It proceeds across his forehead, and begins to drip onto the slab, and into the grout.

I look at him, take a breath and sit on a white plastic chair about two feet away from his body. Rose moves towards his body, sniffs it, lifts her leg and urinates on his chest.

Mark.is breathing, though. But he’s thoroughly unconscious. I don’t care if he lives or dies. I’ve just got years of mocking out of my system in one second. One second. If he survives, he will now respect me. If he cries to the police I will say it was self-defence. It will be his word against mine.

If he doesn’t survive then I will go on the run. I have nothing to lose now, anyway. Rose can come with me, if she wants.

Katie shouldn’t have bought me the spade.

Bio: Paul Matts is a writer from Leicester, England. His debut novel ‘Toy Guitars’ is due to be published shortly, and he is the author of the short stories ‘Revenge can be Sweet’, ‘The Bench’ and ‘One More Season’. He also writes flash fiction, including ‘Hollow Love’, ‘Wedding Shot over the Wire’, and ‘Family Guy?’ His work has been featured in Punk Noir Magazine, We Are Cult, Razur Cuts and Unlawful Acts. A novella, ‘Donny Jackal’ is to be published in 2019. He previously promoted live shows as 101 Productions and owned The Attik night club from 2001-2007. He was also a songwriter and guitarist in The Incurables.

Paul runs a music blog and has recently started a series entitled Significant Figures in Punk. This focuses on under-appreciated individuals in the punk and new wave movement. See www.paulmatts.com for more details, and to subscribe to updates.

Paul Matts

 

Steve Ignorant by Paul Matts

 

Steve Ignorant.jpg

One of the most important aspects of the punk rock revolution was the liberation it provided. Liberation in music. Liberation in fashion. Liberation in art. It truly kicked open doors in the culture of the 1970s and ushered in a new dawn of excitement and opportunity for those willing and wanting to embrace it. Music, fashion and art, however, do not really change the world. They merely enhance lives.

However, very quickly, a consortium of like-minded folk was formed by two individuals wanting to adopt the liberation punk provided. And take it somewhere. They created a vehicle allowing music and art to be more than mere entertainment. To try and effect change. And moreover, they did it themselves. DIY punk rock. Without the help (hinderance?) of a record company contract. Or a Svengali-style manager. Or cheap publicity. It had integrity. A lifestyle was created, which could operate independently. People were encouraged to join. It showed what could be achieved and the freedom it could provide.

It could be used as a way of getting a point of view across. It allowed anarchism as an ideology. Not something a record label would really allow. Labels may allow a band to have the odd slogan here and there. But not the advocation of direct action. Too risky.  Record labels want sales. And these sales will influence how that label promotes its artist.
Crass had no such worries.

crass

The founders of Crass were Penny Rimbaud and Steve Ignorant. As this article is dealing with individuals the focus will be on Steve Ignorant. However, expect a future article on Penny further down the line. To form such a collective, and develop it, make both these founding members hugely significant figures. And the same applies to the band’s other members.

Steve Ignorant, originally Steven Williams, was born in 1957. Penny, thirteen years older than Steve, was already part of the counter-culture scene. This helped in their working relationship, balancing Steve’s youthful exuberance. Rimbaud had been through it all before. He co-founded the Stonehenge festival with Wally Hope (AKA Phil Russell) in the early seventies. This could clumsily be termed a ‘hippy festival’. Not someone an angry young Clash fan would necessarily align himself with. Russell was subsequently incarcerated in a mental institution for possessing a small amount of LSD. He died after his release. Penny suspected foul play. He was angry. The establishment and system were the enemy and it was time to wage war.

On the face of it, the partnership of Steve Ignorant and Penny Rimbaud was an unlikely one. But quite ‘punk’ in my opinion. As in doing exactly what you want, and with who you want. A uniting of kindred spirits, as it turned out. A common bond. Steve decided to form a band after going to see The Clash;

‘Joe Strummer said, ‘If you think you can do better then go and start your own fucking band.’ So, I thought, brilliant.’ Steve Ignorant, Freq, 2011.

His mates in Essex weren’t into the idea, so he went to Dial House, a commune where Penny Rimbaud was based on the edge of Epping Forest. Penny agreed to play drums in Steve’s band. Crass. Other members Andy Palmer, Joy De Vivre, Pete Wright, Eve Libertine and Steve Herman soon joined, and the foundations were in place. Some of these members were residing at the commune.

‘They would learn from me. I would be like ‘why are you being so wordy? Why use ten words when you can just say fuck off?’ – Steve Ignorant.

Crass helped invent DIY punk. And inspired millions. And in doing so they had no restriction on their actions. It created a genuine punk ideology. It had a large element of anti-consumerism. No pandering to the masses. Individual empowerment was encouraged. As was the effectiveness of communities. Alternative methods of expression and the co-ordination of activities were employed, whether it be promoting a new record release or planning an animal rights protest, for example. All possible, due to the fact they were DIY. The definition of it. To the letter. Crass could connect directly in a way they wanted with their public. Steve has played down the claim that they DELIBERATELY invented DIY punk, however;

anarchy‘I think one misconception that people may have is that we deliberately started the DIY scene and we didn’t, you know? We just used what we had around us. The banners were made of old bed sheets, we painted everything black because that was what we had in the shed.’ Steve ignorant, Bad Feeling, 2017

Whatever the reason, the invention was there. DIY punk was born.

And then they invented and developed something else. Something that went hand in hand with DIY punk. Anarcho-punk. Anarchism was already part of England’s counter-culture scene. However, the punk revolution unleashed a new stream of anger which needed a home. A proper one, not just something hanging on to the coat tails of the Sex Pistols and The Clash. Steve and Penny invented a new subculture. It had to have meaning, especially lyrically. When Steve belted a barrage of words and messages across the verse of a Crass song, those lyrics demanded further investigation. How can someone sound so genuinely angry? Who or what is his muse? And the endless expletives enhanced the meaning, in my view. Pacifism. Organised religion. Environmentalism. Animal rights. Feminism. Environmentalism. The state of the nation. The punk scene. These weren’t banal, meaningless songs. Steve’s delivery inspired endless anarcho-punk singers that followed. Spitting rage, with succinct messages.

And then there was the sound of Crass. The band’s screeching guitars sounded threatening. Snarling. Not the comfortable, muscular, produced sound of most punk contemporaries. They were razor sharp. Not always easy on the ear. They couldn’t be any other way. Drums and bass followed in a similar vein. However, there were moments of tranquillity. Moments of barren, slightly erring beauty.

The production was basic, raw and proper. Proper insofar as it matched the subject matter.

Crass were one of the most punk of punk bands. Punk as in the liberating, free and open art form. The kind of art form that says what it feels and acts accordingly. From a blank canvas. There were already signs of punk rock ‘posing’ after its initial hurricane. Certain protocol became expected of bands. The music industry wouldn’t totally subscribe to punk rock principles and expected its bands to follow suit. Be punk, but on our terms, would be one way of putting it. The Punk Police were also beginning to appear.

Crass seemed to resent all of this and set out to be true to themselves and what they wanted to say. There appeared no time for ‘posing’, brown-nosing or acceptance. DIY not EMI, indeed. All they did seemed real. Check ‘Banned from the Roxy’. I love the line… ‘

‘They said they only wanted well behaved boys

Do you think guitars and microphones are just toys?’

It has integrity. Music can be much more than mere entertainment. Words can be weapons. Crass practised what they preached. If such a legendary punk venue as The Roxy didn’t like them, and barred them (apparently due to a drunk performance), then…

‘Fuck ‘em, I’ve chosen to make my stand

Against what is wrong with this land.’

‘Banned from the Roxy’, in my view, has some of the best lyrics ever written. Their mission, their opinion, their action. It’s direct. No ambiguity. Love it.

Crass’s debut album, The Feeding of the 5000, left a calling card like no other. It was released on their own label, Crass Records, in 1979. Checking in at just over half an hour, it is a collection of as sharp and intense punk rock ammunition as has ever been created. It still sounds fresh, and relevant, to this day. Whether this latter quality is a result of lyrical foresight or the world’s failure to resolve fundamental issues is open to debate. A bit of both, maybe. There is no fat on it at all. And all at a basic, low price. £1.99 maximum. Affordable. There is no point releasing an album containing your viewpoint if your public can’t afford to buy it. The opening track on their debut album is a poem, ‘Asylum’. Decrying Christianity in institutionalised form. With profanities thrown in. My god it wakes you up. Spoken by Eve Libertine, one of two women in the band. This was at a time punk rock was a male dominated domain. They didn’t just sing about feminist causes. They walked and talked them. And set an example.

crass lp

To be honest, upon its release, The Feeding of the 5000 blew everything else out of the water when it came to subject matter. True, the melody and lyrics to a whole load of Top twenty ‘punk’ tunes may have appealed to the masses, but ‘Do they owe us a living?’ related to your everyday life. Like it or not, it went for the jugular.

The band’s work ethic was staggering. Seven albums in five years as recording artists. Countless shows, obviously. Along with all the work involved in DIY punk. A double album with Stations of the Crass. The classic Penis Envy. Though all the tunes on Penis Envy were sung by Eva Libertine and Joy De Vivre, Steve was credited as ‘not on this recording’ but still a member of Crass. The band were always keen to credit all members as contributors. DIY indeed. All hands were on deck.

‘There was always people staying, people visiting, we’d be in the studio or rehearsing, writing songs, answering letters, it really was nonstop for all that time.’ – Steve Ignorant, Freq, 2011

Direct action involved the early spraying of stencilled anti-war, anti-consumerism, feminist and anarchist messages across London. A twenty-four squat of the Zig Zag club in London against the restraints of the corporate music industry was also organised. They were involved in the ‘Stop the City’ actions instigated by Greenpeace in 1983-84 which arguably paved the way for the anti-globalisation protests of later years. These are just three examples of the band’s direct action.

Steve and Crass were subjects of a dossier held by MI5. They were in good company, being alongside Dead Kennedys and Throbbing Gristle in this respect. Margaret Thatcher’s government did not like agitators and Steve and Crass fell squarely into that category. The Labour party even contacted Steve. Possibly they felt he could help their cause. Steve was having none of it, saying ‘it wasn’t somewhere I wanted to go.’

‘The cops were always watching. I got stopped in the street, really odd stuff.’ Steve Ignorant, Freq, 2011.

They had a deep catalogue of music. However, by the time of the Miners’ strike in 1984, they were burnt out.

‘It felt as though if another war broke out, Crass would be expected to write an album about it.’ Steve, Freq, 2011.

Penny claimed it was always the plan that Crass would end in 1984. Steve’s opinion differs. Whatever, it was clear time was up for one of the nation’s, and Punk Rock’s, most important bands.

What they had created was living on, however. There was much more to Crass than just the band itself. The subculture they formed. The DIY punk ethos. Their record label. It’d begun in earnest not only with the band’s own releases, but the Bullshit Detector series of compilations, featuring a whole host of newly formed punk acts. One band who had their first EP released on Crass Records was Conflict. Another anarcho-punk band, strong on animal rights and anarchism. Following his band’s split, Steve joined Conflict on stage on occasions and eventually became a second vocalist with Conflict from 1987. His profile in the music world was strong but it wasn’t as if he could get in touch with an A-lister like Paul Weller and do a project. He was almost too DIY.

‘I wasn’t in that network. I had to start right from the bloody beginning again. So inevitably I ended up on the DIY circuit.’ Steve, Freq, 2011.

In the meantime, the DIY culture Steve had helped create and develop became a considerable force in the early nineties. A combination of political and ideological activism helped a new free party scene emerge, leading to the formation of organised movements such as The Exodus Collective. Gatherings, raves, parties, free festivals became prominent. The numbers got larger and larger at these events. Once again the conservative government were alerted. They didn’t like it. They felt threatened. Again, by agitators. Poll tax riots took place in London around this time; more large public gatherings. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 was soon passed, effectively criminalising unauthorised large gatherings of people.

Steve had spells in the nineties singing with Schwartzeneggar and Stratford Mercenaries. He also worked as a solo artist. In 2007 he performed The Feeding of the 5000 in its entirety (without Rimbaud) at Shepherds Bush Empire. During 2011 he presented The Last Supper, a show where tracks from the Crass back catalogue were played. It culminated with a final show, again at Shepherds Bush Empire.

In 2013 he recorded and sang live with Dublin legends, Paranoid Visions. He worked as a Sculptor, wrote his autobiography, Rest is Propaganda (excellent) and served as a volunteer Lifeguard in his home village of Sea Palling, Norfolk. Respect.

slice of lifeHis latest outfit, Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life are modern day excitement. And class. There is spoken word (‘You’). Again, why use ten words when you can be more lucid? The anger is still there. Steve Ignorant is as relevant now as in the days of Crass. More so, even. With all that has passed since the days of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the world should have learnt and moved on. But has it? Where are we? And we still can’t blindly trust those in any position of power.

‘You don’t get me in the slaughterhouse,

You won’t hang me on your hook

I won’t be just another number to stick in your books.’

Taken from ‘Slaughterhouse’ – Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life, Just Another (2017)

Think for yourself. Do not jump in with your eyes shut tight.

There is musical subtlety and a heart-wrenching lyric on ‘Eleven Chimneys’. Steve’s delivery has depth and beauty. There is reflection and pathos on another spoken word number, ‘The Home Coming’. Both tracks are from the band’s 2015 debut, Love and a Lamp-post. The piano is haunting, the lyric questioning and cutting on ‘Stretford Blue’, again from Just Another. Steve references the performance of a punk singer bouncing up and down on the stage;

‘What does that front of his really protect?’

‘Slice of Life’, the final track on Love and a Lamp-post, is a sweeping torrent that you never want to end. I could go on. The band’s support slot for Sleaford Mods at Rock City, Nottingham, was spell binding.

Sleaford Mods themselves are an example of how modern culture has been influenced by Steve. Sonically different, obviously. But Jason Williamson’s vocal delivery has similarities to Steve’s. Half-sung, half-spoken. Very direct. Angry at times. And succinct. No ambiguity. Inspired to be lyrically direct. Why use ten words when you can say fuck off.

So many successful acts have been inspired to do-it-themselves. The ethos is the same. DIY music. DIY Punk. As in doing you want. DIY Punk does not have to be DIY punk-rock music, of course. Generation after generation of DIY acts, particularly those who based a lifestyle around it, such as The Levellers, owe a huge debt of gratitude to the path forged by Crass. Sonically different again, but with the same liberating, self-sufficient approach courtesy of their own ‘On the Fiddle’ record label.

Inspired by anarchism. Saying what they felt. Doing something about it. Zounds, Chumbawumba, Subhumans, Pussy Riot, and many more, have followed the example set by Steve Ignorant and the band he co-formed.

ignorant comic

Steve is now making some of the best music of his career. That, itself, is inspiring. A new album is out shortly. There are few people in punk and new wave, or in modern culture, have made the mark Steve ignorant has. DIY music and lifestyle, anarcho-punk music and many vocalists may well not have materialised without him.

He is a truly Significant Figure.

 

http://freq.org.uk/interviews/steve-ignorant-interview/

 

Bio: Paul Matts is a writer from Leicester, England. His debut novel ‘Toy Guitars’ is due to be published in 2019, and he is the author of the short stories ‘Revenge can be Sweet, ‘The Bench’ and ‘One More season’. He also writes flash fiction, including ‘Hollow Love, ‘Wedding Shot over the Wire’, and ‘Family Guy?’ His work has been featured in Punk Noir Magazine, We Are Cult, Razur Cuts and Unlawful Acts. A further novella, ‘Donny Jackal’ is currently being edited. He previously promoted live shows as 101 Productions and owned The Attik night club from 2001-2007. He was also a songwriter and guitarist in The Incurables.

Paul runs a music blog and has recently started a series entitled 101 Significant Figures in Punk. This focuses on under-appreciated individuals in the punk and new wave movement. See www.paulmatts.com for more details.

‘Blue World Remix’ – Figure Walking Remix by Tulipomania and Richard Hartline by Paul Matts

 

blue world

‘Blue World’ is a track from Figure Walking’s 2017 debut album The Big Other. This came out on Disintegration Records. Figure Walking are Greg MacPherson on vocals, guitars and keyboards, and Rob Gardiner and drums. Their music is a blend of blend of spiky, dissonant, post punk guitar chimes and powerful, almost tribal rhythms and punk explosions in places. The vocal delivery is passionate and resonant throughout the ‘The Big Other’, both lyrically and sonically. Social injustice is tackled throughout. There are reminiscences of Kirk Brandon on ‘Victorious’ and the addition of effective, chanting backing vocals on ‘Funeral’ (courtesy of Hailey Primrose, Izzy Goloch and Zorya Arrow) help create a tune that stands toe to toe with anything produced by the likes of Arcade Fire and Yo La Tengo.

‘Blue World’ is a standout track though. It is anthemic and celebratory in its original album form. But Philadelphia’s mood rockers Tulipomania, together with producer and engineer Richard Hartline have got their hands on it and given it a lift. The chorus, already optimistic and celebratory, has a choral element that provides a euphoric quality. The fresh, clear, spacy opening doesn’t hang around and gets to the fore-mentioned chorus quickly. A good move, as it leaves the listener in no doubt to make the most of its beauty and joy. Guitars chime, the rhythm track is hypnotic, and the vocals delivered in a manner wrapped in feeling.

Basically, to quote singer Greg MacPherson, the work of Tulipomania and Hartline…

‘lifts an already celebratory song to new levels of existential joy and transcendence.’

I couldn’t agree more.

Your summer will be better if you give this single a listen. Over and over. It was released on 7th June, on Disintegration Records, Greg MacPherson’s own label.

Paul Matts is a writer from Leicester, England. His debut novel ‘Toy Guitars’ is due to be published in 2019, and he is the author of the short stories ‘Revenge can be Sweet, ‘The Bench’ and ‘One More season’. He also writes flash fiction, including ‘Hollow Love, ‘Wedding Shot over the Wire’, and ‘Family Guy?’ His work has been featured in Punk Noir Magazine, WeAreCult and Unlawful Acts. A further novella, ‘Donny Jackal’ is currently being edited. He previously promoted live shows as 101 Productions and owned The Attik night club from 2001-2007. He was also a songwriter and guitarist in The Incurables.

Paul runs a music blog and has recently started a series entitled 101 Significant Figures. This focuses on under-appreciated individuals in the punk and new wave movement. See www.paulmatts.com for more details.

Paul Matts

Wedding Shot over the Wire by Paul Matts

My family was wrenched apart after the civil war. Firstly, the republican rebels won. They replaced the socialist government by force and dealt with any dissenters. I’m sure you can work out what that means. There was no way my wife (Martine) and I are going to risk anything happening to our home. Or to each other. We abide, reluctantly, with the republicans.

We feel particularly vulnerable as our home is fifty yards from the newly erected border. Over the border lies what is left of the old country. An area governed by the United Nations. Temporarily, apparently. Until the UN is satisfied the new regime governs its people ‘fairly and democratically.’ The early signs are not good. Last week at the border there was a protest. Against the new republican regime. Shots were fired. People fell. There were fatalities. The new regime had made a point. As a result, the UN is staying for the short-term, at least.

My son, Johan, sees things differently. He is not a socialist supporter. Nor a republican. Like me, he’s apolitical. Happy if things appear equitable. He’s also in love with a girl. Daniella. We’ve never met her. She lives in the UN sector. After the republicans ‘won’, but before the border security got its act together, a few made it across to the that sector. Over ‘the wire’, as we locals call it. Johan was one of them. To be with Daniella. He took the risk.

He messaged my mobile phone to say he was safe. A relief.

He messaged it again this morning. With further news. He and Daniella are to marry this afternoon.

‘Marry?’ Martine whispers. Her hazel eyes widen and moisten. She has hardly said any words since Johan left us.

‘Yes. Today.’

‘Where?’ She runs her left hand through her thick matt of unkempt, tousled black hair.

‘At an office over the wire.’

‘Oh.’ Martine is crest-fallen. This is not the way she thought it would be on our son’s wedding day. She turns and gazes sadly, longingly, out of the kitchen window. Longing for a different way.

‘He says he and his bride will stand opposite our house at five o’clock for a while.  We can see them if we want,’ I conclude. I know Johan would want us to see him on his wedding day, even in these circumstances.

Martine’s mouth opens wide. ‘Johan,’ she mouths silently.

‘That way, he says, we can share their wedding day for a few moments.’ I put the phone down on a dusty old kitchen table. I look out of the window with Martine. I can see the border from here. There is a twenty yard or so area between the barbed wire signifying the end of the new regime’s territory, and the wire denoting the start of the UN area. It’s heavily guarded, security personnel every twenty yards or so.  But you can see directly through to the other side.

It is there our son and his bride will stand, in about two hours from now. As a married couple.

Martine begins to cry. I feel two tears escape from my eyes. I never cry. Not even when Johan announced his intention to go after Daniella. Our tears are of frustration, really. This is not how Johan’s wedding day should be. Obviously. But it’s what it’s going to be. Apparently.

I catch my reflection in the mirror on the wall. Even with a red face and dark bags under my eyes, I still have the look of a razor blade. Barely visible grey bristles all over my head. Sharp, chiselled. A street fighter. With the look of an alpha male. A helpless, alpha male. I have always been strong. But I can’t do a thing about the situation my family is in. No street fighting man can defeat an entire regime. Whatever fiction tells us.

No further words pass from our lips for the next two hours.

Five minutes to five o’clock arrives. It is hot. With a blue, dusty sky. Dust and dirt seem to get everywhere. Vehicles are covered in it. Steam emanates from buildings, and smoke rises from fires in the litter strewn street. Quite a few people are now homeless, and the fires keep them warm when the night falls. Which it will do in two hours or so. It makes sense to get those fires started early. Me and Martine have spoken about taking someone in. We have room now Johan isn’t here. But nothing has been done yet. We feel suspended and stuck in a living hell. Our son ripped away from us. Our way of life crushed. The streets are a war zone. The authorities are clamping down on people taking in the homeless. At least Johan has a home.

I was not sure if Martine is strong enough to look at Johan and his bride today at five o’clock. But she arrives in the kitchen five minutes early. She has put on a dress not seen for nearly ten years. And tidied her hair. She looks beautiful.

‘I’ll go and wipe the dirt from the window,’ I announce. We can then get the clearest of views when they appear.

And then they arrive. Johan is dressed in a black suit. I have never seen him in a suit. He looks like a man.

‘He looks so grown up,’ Martine says, and smiles proudly. I put my right arm round her shoulder. She looks up at me and smiles with a tear sliding down her cheek.

There is Daniella. In white. Not a wedding gown. Something much nicer, and, I should think, much more beautiful. More appropriate. I can make out her black hair. They are less than one hundred yards away.

We step outside. We are marginally closer. I daren’t go too near the wire. We aren’t supposed to mix with people over the wire.

Johan and Daniella wave.  Bravely. Enthusiastically. Happily? We wave back. Martine cries tears of love. I am proud of my son. Johan deserves a good life.

I whip out my mobile phone. And take a quick picture. A Wedding shot over the Wire.

We stand looking at each other for about ten seconds. Any longer will arouse suspicion. We all know this.

A security guard directs a forbidding glare at me. He then looks over his shoulder. At Johan and his bride. And turns back to me. I think he may have clocked what’s going on.

He allows a soft, sympathetic smile to escape from his mouth.

Bio: Paul Matts is a writer from Leicester, England. His debut novel ‘Toy Guitars’ is due to be published in 2019, and he is the author of the short stories ‘Revenge can be Sweet, ‘The Bench’ and ‘One More season’. He also writes flash fiction, including ‘Hollow Love’ and ‘Family Guy?’ His work has been featured in Punk Noir Magazine, WeAreCult and Unlawful Acts. A further novella, ‘Donny Jackal’ is currently being edited. He previously promoted live shows as 101 Productions and owned The Attik night club from 2001-2007. He was also a songwriter and guitarist in The Incurables.

Paul runs a music blog and has recently started a series entitled 101 Significant Figures. This focuses on under-appreciated individuals in the punk and new wave movement. See www.paulmatts.com for more details.

cropped-photofunia-1541437529-12.jpg

Short Story in a Song: Peter Gabriel’s Family Snapshot, by Paul Matts

 

Peter Gabriel is one of the most innovative of solo artists in music. He was originally the singer with Genesis, his swansong album for the band being The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. It hinted at the slightly more edgy, disturbing sound his solo material would ultimately take.

It was five years after leaving Genesis before ‘Family Snapshot’ emerged. The song was inspired by the book An Assassin’s Diary, by Arthur Bremer. Bremer attempted to assassinate a politician who supported racial segregation. It is on his third solo record, Peter Gabriel. Famously, the first four solo albums were all called Peter Gabriel. Hardly helps for casual identification purposes. Some term the album Melt, due to the cover art.

Very few things grab news headlines quite like the assassination of a public figure. Even in this age of instant, throw away content. The reports describe the event. Contemporaries, colleagues and officials clamber to get their responses in. The public is stunned, unable to believe what has happened.

The event is, of course, tragic. A life is taken, often in its prime. Millions are saddened instantly. The family are broken. The world seems to turn on its axis. It is certainly in shock. There is no more famous film footage than that of JFK’s assassination, one of the major news events of the 20th century. It is known to all, and people can often remember what they were doing at the time it happened.

There is often a political angle to it. The victim is killed for a purpose. Often to further the cause of a political opponent. Events such as these are littered throughout history.

But what of the direct relationship between the victim, and his killer? The victim is wiped out by a single person, invariably. Strip away the political, ideological dressing, and you are left with two individuals. Apparently, made for each other.

‘Family Snapshot’ deals with such a relationship. Two individuals made for each other.

One is known to millions. He is one of the world’s most famous people;

‘The streets are lined with camera crews,

Everywhere he goes is news.’

He is a person. As is the assassin, too. Human beings, the same species. But something triggered vastly different lives for the two of them. The assassin has chosen not to accept his. He wants his moment of fame. His fifteen minutes.

The assassin narrates the story. His thoughts, plans and feelings are articulated as the day of the assassination begins.

‘Today is different, today is not the same.

Today I make the action.

Take snapshot into the light, snapshot into the light.’

The assassin wants the world to notice him. He wants some action, too. The early stages of the song give his intentions. Not merely to shoot someone. But to make news himself. He cannot really do this by merely shooting a regular person. He needs to shoot a famous figure. A really, famous figure.

‘All you people in TV land,

I will wake up your empty shells.

Peak time viewing blown in a flash,

As I burn into your memory cells.’

He has done his homework. He is listening to the radio. His tension builds as the victim approaches. He knows what is pending. What is imminent. The listener gets a real sense of the parade as the song gets into its stride. Flags waving, crowds cheering. The excitement of it all.

Tension builds in the music. Tempo rises in the music. The listener’s heart rate begins to increase. Lord knows what the assassin’s heart rate must be reading.

‘They’re coming round the corner with the bikers at the front,

I’m wiping the sweat from my eyes.

It’s a matter of time, a matter of will.’

p gabrielThe narration is crucial. It’s a commentary, punctuated with hints of the assassin’s feelings. Music continues to build, almost to a crescendo. And then a momentary drop. As if the assassin is having a small doubt. However, he reveals his justification for what he’s about to do;

‘I don’t really hate you. I don’t care what you do.

We were made for each other, me and you.

I wanna be somebody. You were like that too.

If you don’t get given you learn to take,

And I will take you.’

Back to business. A darkness falls over the music. Until now it has almost been full of vigour and excitement. But these adjectives describe evil too. The moment of destiny arrives. It’s now or never.

It’s now. The shot is fired. The bullet flies.

And now the listener is now taken to another dimension. An empty, hopeless, suspended state. Knowing it is too late. Knowing things will change for good. But, apparently, the assassin has no remorse.

Just an explanation…

‘All turns quiet, I’ve been here before.

A lonely boy, hiding behind the front door.

My friends have all gone home, there’s my toy gun on the floor.

Come back Mum and Dad.

You’re growing apart, you know that I’m growing up sad.

I need some attention,

I shoot into the light.’

The assassin’s motives are revealed. Jealousy, a broken home and a lack of happiness, love and attention. Every day human emotions and events. That effect so many of us. But thankfully, with a different outcome for most.

Sympathy with the assassin is one emotion left with the listener. It makes sense. It just cannot be excused.

The music is stark and full of pathos at this point. It tells the story itself. It leaves the listener numb. The same numb feeling you get when you hear of an assassination. However how many of us put ourselves in the shoes of the assassin, and really get inside the person and ask, ‘Why did they really do it?’

No political justification, in this case. Just two people, made for each other.

Bio: Paul Matts is a writer from Leicester, England. His debut novel ‘Toy Guitars’ is due to be published in 2019, and he is the author of the short stories ‘Revenge can be Sweet, ‘The Bench’ and ‘One More season’. He also writes flash fiction, including ‘Hollow Love’ and ‘Family Guy?’ His work has been featured in Punk Noir Magazine, WeAreCult and Unlawful Acts. A further novella, ‘Donny Jackal’ is currently being edited. He previously promoted live shows as 101 Productions and owned The Attik night club from 2001-2007. He was also a songwriter and guitarist in The Incurables.

Paul runs a music blog and has recently started a series entitled 101 Significant Figures. This focuses on under-appreciated individuals in the punk and new wave movement. See www.paulmatts.com for more details.

Paul Matts

 

Hollow Love by Paul Matts

This happened once before. When we children, I was with Leah when she had her first attack. Of amnesia. At a beautiful beach in Dorset. She couldn’t remember who her Mum and Dad were for an afternoon. It was scary. One minute we were eating ice creams on the promenade wall, the next she was totally numb. Oblivious to everything and everyone around here. She mumbled ‘Who are you?’ and ‘Why are you shouting at me?’ as her Mum and Dad went into panic mode. Her Mum (Cheryl) slapped her face impatiently. Leah’s deep dark eyes showed no emotion.

She was seven years old, and I was invited on holiday with her family. In order ‘to keep her company,’ Cheryl told me at the time.

Over an hour later Leah asked me ‘Shall we go to the arcade Marky?’ As if nothing had happened. Relief all round. She was back.

‘Cancel the ambulance. She’s okay now. We’ll get her checked when we’re back home,’ Cheryl ordered. Her Dad (Vin) obeyed.

They never actually check her themselves. They always got someone else to do it. A nanny, a doctor, a teacher. Someone’s duty. Not a genuine parental desire over Leah’s well-being. No love, no guidance. That I could see, anyway. Basically, I hate Vin and Cheryl. Always have.

Leah moves silently. Her movements match her ghost-like pale appearance. With her long, greasy brown hair and dark eyes she can look sultry. Or threatening.

Her Mum and Dad shower her with everything money can buy. She doesn’t have to earn anything. It’s given to her. They are busy people with their fitness empire. They love her I’m sure, but don’t seem to have the time to love her. It’s always seems low on the list of priorities. They fob her off.

Twelve years passed. She apparently had a second case of amnesia. She left her house wearing jeans and a blue t-shirt. And Convex shoes. I note these details, see. From my window. She just walked. And apparently kept going. She wandered to the Severn Bridge. A passing motorist showed rare compassion to Leah in pulling over to check on her. Another called the police.

‘I was wondering what it might feel like to fly,’ she told the policewoman. Leah was taken to hospital. The police assumed she was about to jump and kill herself. She ignored questions about her identity and home. ‘She’s away with the fairies, and just keeps saying she wants to fly,’ the policewoman told me.

I am Mark Needham. Leah Worthington’s next-door neighbour. I have worshipped her since we were tiny. I was in when the police turned up. They tracked down her address from her purse, which was in her jeans pocket. Lucky. Her parents are away, of course, and her nanny Irene was still out looking for her.

‘Do you know Leah?’

‘Yes. We’ve known each other all our lives.’

‘Next door neighbours all that time?’

‘Yes.’

‘We think a familiar face would be good for her right now. Would you come with us to the hospital?’

I climbed into the back of the police car. The journey was over in a flash. My heart was pounding as we entered the building, then the ward and finally the room occupied by Leah.

‘Marky!’ she screamed when she saw me. She bounced on the bed and beckoned me over for a hug. I obliged.

She seemed so awake. Vibrant, even.

‘Your eyes look so clear, Leah,’

‘That’s nice Mark. No-one has ever said anything like that to me before.’

Her eyes did look clear. Not the bloodshot watery eyes I have been used to seeing over recent times.

‘They do though. Considering what you’ve been through.’

Her expression instantly changed. ‘What have I been through?’

‘You’ve been missing. Irene has been looking for you. We thought it was amnesia again.’

‘Amnesia. That’s when your memory goes, isn’t it?’

‘Like what happened on the beach all those years ago.’

‘I don’t remember,’ she giggled. A joke.

‘I didn’t lose my memory this time Marky. I had to…get out. I am sick of being in a world full of everything I’m supposed to want. Phones, tablets, make-up. I never have to make any food. I’m protected from the outside world. It’s all done for me. I have everything, but I want none of it.’

An uncomfortable silence followed.

‘There is no real point to my existence,’

Maybe she did want to top herself?

I gulp. ‘You made a run for it?’

‘Yes. And I’ll do a better job next time if things don’t change.’ She had determination in her voice. And eyes.

‘I don’t want to be protected from the world any more. I want to be part of it. I want to make mistakes, get a job, whatever. I need a reason to live.’

‘Okay.’

‘I want to fly.’

‘That’s what the policewoman said you told her. She thought you wanted to fly, as in jump. Off the bridge.’

‘Kill myself?’

‘Yes.’

She sat back and took a breath. Of resignation.

‘I know people think I’m weird. Wouldn’t you be if you had no reason to exist. I want to have a purpose. Not just an allowance.’

She had me transfixed, hanging on her every word

‘I want to fly. I really do.’

That was two weeks ago. Following her discharge, Leah didn’t wait about for Vin and Cheryl. She took herself to a homeless charity and offered her services.

She has purpose as far as they are concerned. She will always have purpose in my eyes.

Bio: Paul Matts is a writer from Leicester, England. His debut novel ‘Toy Guitars’ is due to be published in 2019, and he is the author of the short stories ‘Revenge can be Sweet, ‘The Bench’, ‘Family Guy?’ and ‘One More season’. His work has been featured in Punk Noir Magazine, WeAreCult and Unlawful Acts. A further novella, ‘Donny Jackal’ has recently been completed. He previously promoted live shows as 101 Productions and owned The Attik night club from 2001-2007. He was also a songwriter and guitarist in The Incurables.

Paul runs a music blog and has recently started a series entitled 101 Significant Figures. This will focus on under-appreciated individuals in the punk and new wave movement. See www.paulmatts.com for more details.

Paul Matts

Family Guy? By Paul Matts

Karan O’Keefe’s life is based around fund raising. An orphan as a child, from the age of eighteen he has focused his time on persuading people to part with a portion of their salaries. By way of direct debit, into the coffers of various charities. And he arranges events, such as today’s fundraiser for Human Rights in front of the Town Hall, Old Market Square, Nottingham. Which hasn’t gone well. Constant rain closed the live music stage half-way through at midday and Karan was let down by his door person. Which meant loads of people got in free. It was three quid entry into the pop-up festival arena. It has a creche. The entry fee was to be the main source of income. People put loose change into the buckets, mind. But these buckets don’t seem particularly heavy. A shit day, really.

Now, at three o’clock, his ex-girlfriend shows up. Beth was the love of Karan’s life. Or so he thought, four years ago. That was when they broke up. Since then he has struggled to get her out of his head, really.

He could always sense when she was near, without needing to actually see her. A sixth sense. He just got this feeling again. He turns around. As she approaches, dressed head to toe in black, she appears pale and gaunt. Her pink bobble hat seems far to big for her head. It’s like she has lost weight.

He has just began to think of other things, too. He’s moved on a little.

‘Hello Karan.’

Karan nods, and smiles suspiciously. ‘Beth.’

She smiles back. She really does look thin. Beth looks to her right, sniffs and gets straight to the point. ‘That boy, playing over there in your creche, is your son.’

A pause. She was always blunt, not one to waste words, people told her.

‘How can it be? We broke up four years ago.’

Another pause. Another sniff. The rain is dripping off the tip of her nose.

‘He arrived eight months after we broke up.’

‘Who is that he is with?’

‘Josh. My boyfriend.’ Again, no words wasted.

‘Why didn’t you tell me before?’

‘I was mad at you. You put your charity work before me every day. So I left you. Another pause. ‘Then my life hit the skids.’

‘How so?’

‘I got kicked out by my parents when I found out I was pregnant. I was still mad at you. I immediately met Josh, he let me live with him. We kind of drifted together. Then I got cancer.’

‘Cancer?’

‘Breast cancer.’

Karan’s eyes are wide open, and he looks at the boy in the creche.

‘Are you okay?’

‘Not really. My chemo is finished and I still have the cancer and it’s spreading.’

Karan can’t believe it. At three o’clock, he was having a shit day. By ten past three, he has been reunited with Beth. Who has a child. Apparently by him. She has a new boyfriend. And cancer.

‘You and Josh are the best two people I’ve ever come across. Josh has been so good to me, and you only ever want to help people. However much it pissed me off back then.’ She smiles almost apologetically.

Karan puts his box of soggy Amnesty International leaflets on a bench and sits. Beth puts her hand on his shoulder.

‘Do you believe me?’

‘Do I have any reason not to?’

Beth gives a half, but sincere smile. She has deep hazel eyes.

‘Does Josh know about me?’

‘Yes. He knows about our history, my cancer obviously and that Eddie is your’s.’

‘Eddie?’

Beth crouches down so her eyeline is level with Karan’s.

‘If the cancer beats me, it’s not fair to expect Josh to bring Eddie up on his own.’

Karan nods silently.

‘I was hoping we could all get together. To talk.’

Karan gulps, and runs his wet hand through his wet hair.

‘I know this must be a lot to take in. If we get on, should you agree to a get together, I’d love you to help Josh with Eddie.’

‘What, like…two Dads?’

Beth smiles. Weakly this time, and with desperation. She finally nods in confirmation.

‘ I don’t know what to say to that,’ Karan replies.

‘Here’s my number Karan. And address. Take a little time and get in touch if you can.’

Karan looks Beth right in the eye. The phone number is different to the one he has for her. No wonder she never replied to the hundreds of texts he has sent her over the past four years.

‘Don’t be too long though, I may not have that much time.’

‘You might, Beth.’

A tear appears in the corner of her eye, and escapes down her cheek. It merges with the rain.

‘I’m not sure, Karan.’ She kisses Karan’s cheek, gets up and heads towards the creche. Karan watches her every frail step.

He watches Josh greet her with an outstretched arm. Eddie runs towards his Mummy, shouting out as only a three year old can. The creche has great toys, apparently.

Karan was an orphan. It was tough. There is no way he wouldn’t help Eddie. And he would always do anything Beth wanted him to do. Even after all this time.

Charity isn’t just Karan’s job. He cares. Too much at times. It lost him Beth. But it is his best trait.

Luckily for little Eddie.

Bio: Paul Matts is a writer from Leicester, England. His debut novel ‘Toy Guitars’ is due to be published in 2019, and he is the author of the short stories ‘Revenge can be Sweet, ‘The Bench’ and ‘One More season’. His work has been featured in Punk Noir Magazine and Unlawful Acts. A further novella, ‘Donny Jackal’ has recently been completed. He previously promoted live shows as 101 Productions and owned The Attik night club from 2001-2007. He was also a songwriter and guitarist in The Incurables.

Paul runs a music blog and has recently started a series entitled 101 Significant Figures. This will focus on under-appreciated individuals in the punk and new wave movement. See www.paulmatts.com for more details.

Paul Matts