Lawe sits in the doorway of an empty shop on Salter Gate. Heavy rain falls; orange light from a street lamp illuminates each drop before it splashes onto the pavement. He stares at the rain thinking, It don’t look like rain, more like the bleeding sea falling. I never learnt to swim; if it was the sea I could dive in and that would be that. Nar, not for us. He makes a pair of fists and does a quick left-right-left punch into the splashing rain. He remembers how it began. He takes a good swig from a can of Carlsberg Special and shivers.
I were seventeen, no qualifications and needing a job. I were big and strong and ended up hefting meat in a cold store. Half a dozen of us is having our mid-morning cuppa when one of them, Glyn, ten years older than us, asks if I done any boxing. I hadn’t.
We goes into one of them big freezers so the boss can’t see us. It’s full of hanging carcases with an alley down the middle. Bloody cold, it were. He shows us how to stand, take guard, duck and weave, throw combinations and all. Bare-knuckled we was, shadowboxing for a bit till he eggs us on to hit him. I knocks his guard aside, gives him a one two to his guts and a hard straight jab to his face – were a gem. He stops us then. He were impressed, said I was a natural.
It was only when we’s out of the freezer that the blood starts to piss out of his eyebrow. He laughs, then he cuts a piece of raw steak from a carcass and tapes it over the cut, looked like a crazy pirate. The men treats us like a hero. Me and Glyn becomes the best of mates and he takes us down to his boxing club. I always liked fighting, but boxing taught us how to punch proper – real handy in a good dust-up on the street.
It turns out that Glyn’s a ‘Peterman’, safebreaker that is, not stealing from banks but from private houses. He works alone but gets greedy and steps on the toes of the Bolton Boys what’s doing the same places. Glyn asks us if I’d work with him providing extra muscle if the Boltons come calling; no brainer: money and violence – spot on.
I were at his place when them Boltons shows up, all gobby. It were bloody brilliant. By the time we’d done with ‘em it were A and E not steaks. Then it goes wrong. We’re havin’ a victory hug, close-up, and Glyn kisses us on the lips and he’s got a hard on. I weren’t having that. Once I started, well … I didn’t mean to kill him.
I did my time. Now, here I am, like this. Glyn weren’t a bad man despite being queer. I’m sorry, really. But you got to draw the line somewhere, have standards.
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© Phil Cosker 2021
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.