We’ve already witnessed Barry at his most obtuse in his disastrous dalliance with Betty and Dickie Burn, but rest assured he’s had years to perfect that craft. In most instances these mistakes become inconsequential with the passing of time, only inflicting his conscience during the depths of inebriation or infrequent epiphanies, when introspective self-doubt occurs. But Barry’s got a knack for his past mistakes, or, in this case, a misdemeanour, resonating in the present in the most unlikely and disastrous of ways. We’re about to witness the best yet, as a misdemeanour from the past will converge with an ongoing mistake Barry’s making in the present. We can consider the result of this to be an omnishambles.
‘Right, so what’s the difference between chopping up an onion and chopping up a banjo?’
He gives Barry a vexed glance and sighs with a wearied reluctance, as he waits for him to provide the punchline.
‘Nobody cries when you chop up a banjo.’
‘Wot hav’ you got against Banjos then?’
‘Nothink, it’s just a joke, innit?’
‘I’ve never seen someone playing a banjo.’
‘You never seen Deliverance? Squeal like a pig? Nah?’
‘Nah, what’s that all about?’
‘It’s about some well off blokes who go hunting in some American backwater type shithole, anyways, they piss off some rednecks, who start hunting ‘em down…fucking cunt!’
Terry Tone gives Barry another uncertain look which he’s oblivious to as Barry is momentarily pre-occupied with his reflection in the wing mirror, as he’s uses it to see if he can remove a piece of food from between his upper front teeth.
‘I went out with this bird once, she had a large gap between her top two front teeth. I found it sexy to be honest.’
Barry was so stunned by what he hoped was just an arbitrary musing, and not some relief gained from the flushing of a pent up deviant latency, that he stopped running his thumbnail between his Maxillary Central Incisors. Doing so allowed the sides of his mouth to sink with repugnance, and crucially, in private. Barry hesitated, vainly dwelling on his reflection and because Terry Tone’s musing was a question, hoping that the subject would be changed by a spontaneity that’s often created in the agonising uncertainty of this kind of silence, which Terry Tone had so effectively wielded moments earlier.
‘So, what woz you saying about squealing pigs then?’
‘Hahaha. You’ll have to watch it mate.’
‘So, wot’s the fellas name again?’
‘Eddie Priceroy’ ‘Wot kind of name is that?’
‘Wot kind of name is Terry Tone?’
‘I dunno, it just stuck. Zip has this other geezer called Tone who does this and that, and I came after, so-’
‘Yeah I know, you told me already. Tone Terry doesn’t have the same ring to it though, does it? Sounds a bit, well, odd, and shit.’
‘I suppose, yeah.’
‘Plus it would be odd if people just called you yer surname all the time, even though it’s often a first name, innit?’
‘Ziploc could just call you Tony. Why don’t you ask him to?’
Terry Tone’s sarcastic shake of the head and following silence deflated Barry’s glibness and their contemplation of what would soon occur arrived. The rain teemed relentlessly on the windshield and the wind buffeted the car’s angles with extraneous litter, which only served to delay its callous repatriation into the forgotten crevasses that only exist in heavily urbanised areas. Barry started tapping his fingers against the window as he watched the door, distracted occasionally by wiping away the condensation he made on the passenger window with his fingers, ‘I’ve always hated waiting, waiting for yer dinner, waiting for the hands on a clock to hit half three so you can get out of school. You know, the stuff you can’t control, where you’re waiting for other people to get their arses in gear and do somethink. Right now I’m imagining what the geezer we’re waiting to appear is doing. How shit is that? In fact, he’s probably havin’ a shit, right now.’
‘The door’s opening.’
‘Is that him?’
‘I dunno, it’s too fucking dark.’
‘He’s coming closer.’
‘Why are you crouching down?’
‘Element of surprise, innit?’
‘You fucking muppet…right, I reckon it’s him.’
‘Okay, let’s do it.’
Sometimes my memories of this period seem like a bad movie from the nineties, like one of them Steven Seagal or Jean Claude Van Damme shitefests. Anyway we snatched this Eddie Priceroy guy without much fuss. Terry Tone held him down while I gaffer taped his hands and mouth, we put him in the boot and took him back to Ziploc’s. We got there, Eddie started kicking after we opened the boot so Terry Tone smacked him around a few times and we taped his legs together. We carried him in like giant fucking slug and sat him down on a chair in the middle of the kennels. I felt for him to be honest. He had that look, you know, like toffs do when they drink champagne all day; rosy cheeks, shiny, look like they’ve been breast fed until they were twelve, he was totally out of place in this scenario. A bloke like him hadn’t been exposed to adversity of any kinf, certainly not to cope with this.
This I do remember well, cause it happened to me – Ziploc always started by asking ‘Do you know who I am?’ This Eddie fella shook his head. Mistake. That pissed Ziploc off, it didn’t help that his mouth with still gaffered right enough, so Ziploc removed it fast with total contempt. The fella started screaming for help, dead high pitched, which made all the dogs bark and go mental. Ziploc just laughed, that’s all he wanted to see – fear. He trained his dogs to react to it. If people are scared they’ll do fucking anythink to make it stop. Anyway Ziploc threatened to remove his thumbs if he didn’t ‘shut the fuck up now, as you’re upsetting the dogs’. For a man who loved dogs so much, part of the plan he had to acquire the dog track on the cheap wasn’t particularly nice. I’ll say this for Ziploc, when it came to money he was thorough. The owner was targeted first, some fat Maltese bastard, but he was squeaky clean, and Ziploc wanted to acquire it as a legitimate front, for money laundering as it turned out, so going after the owner directly was a last resort. Eventually he found out that this Eddie fella who worked at the dog track had gambling debts, not to mention a huge student loan on top. Ziploc promised that if he did this for him then the gambling debts he’d built up on the dogs and he owed the Malteser (that’s what we ended up calling him) would be written off when he got control of the track. Let this be said though – Ziploc was a lying bastard – had no intention of wiping any debts clean, but as this Eddie fella didn’t know him, how would he know that? I learned a lot from Ziploc, how to lie better being one of them.
Eventually Ziploc explained it all to him, what he needed to do. He had to take a machete to the dog that Ziploc would provide to race at that day’s track meet and it had to be done on the premises. My bit in it was simple, to film the dog being tortured at a distance, yeah I know, it sounds shit, and it was. I made the point to Ziploc how likely is it that some geezer with a camera on him would hang around to film someone who worked at a dog track cutting up a dog hours after everyone had left. Ziploc had thought several moves ahead, ‘let me worry about that, don’t overthink things Barry, you’re just collecting footage of dog racing, you’re an enthusiast Barry, you’re flamboyant, you can sell that fucking shit. See, I know what you’re like Barry, you’re a thieving cunt, a chancer, a survivor, I mean you survived crossing me, didn’t ya? And that’s why I want you on this, you’re so fucking preposterous they’ll buy it.’ A spot on the track’s grounds was picked out for the attack and where I was to film it from. I also got hold of this brilliant camera, dead professional like, the kind that can sit on your shoulder, the kind they use for shows on the telly. Ziploc had several policemen in his pocket already to put legal pressure on at his say so, no problems there. The idea was to put the Malteser under legal pressure and from them animal welfare Nazis, that would tarnish the name of the place as the Malteser fella allowed dog torture on his premises, and because Eddie was his employee spinning it so it would stick would be easier. Once that was in place it would allow Ziploc to lowball the Malteser bastard, which combined with Ziploc’s rep, would convince him to sell.
Naturally Eddie wasn’t up for his part. Who would be? Plus he was worried about going to prison. Ziploc tried to reason with him and all that, ‘don’t be a stupid cunt, nobody goes to prison for torturing dogs’. Eddie kept resisting and then he went back into his nasty routine and did the usual, ‘Now, if you don’t fuckin do it, I’ll cut your facking toes off’. Ziploc was pointing at me feet as he was shouting this, he then turned round angrily and glared at me, like I was to take that as some cue for me to take my shoe off and show the fella the missing toes. Now it’s one thing to have a rep for removing people’s digits, but actually showing them that you’ll do it, even to someone who works for him, is pretty powerful, and it certainly worked.
Things worked out for Ziploc, he got the dog track, and at the discount he wanted. As for Eddie, well, things didn’t quite go to plan for him. Two cleaners heard the dog yelping as he was slashing it, they confronted Eddie who, I dunno, panicked, cause he was in some mental state from cutting up that poor dog probably. Anyway he swiped at one of them with the machete, got them across the chest, lost a lot of blood they did. For me sins I got to watch and record the whole incident. I thought Ziploc would be angry but he was delighted, he told me to grass him up to the bill and hand over the footage. Eddie got done for GBH. No trial, pled guilty, wisely kept his mouth shut. Five years he got, poor bastard.
‘That’s it! Get your tonge in there, clean it up, like a dog’
‘Hold still will ya.’
‘Shit, someone’s at the door.’
‘Just fucking leave it.’
‘No, no, I better see who it is.’
‘You stay here, and be quiet!’
Barry watched Betty put on her dressing gown, pause the camera erected on the tripod and waited for her to close the door behind her before heading to the en-suite to wash out his mouth. He returned to the bed and studied his phenotype with a dysphoric sneer amid the garishly embroidered and impractical borders on the ceiling high mirrors on the wall opposite. Barry was soon distracted by curiosity as a muffled conversation was emanating from downstairs. Betty had let whoever appeared at the door in, which to Barry seemed risky, but then he remembered that it was Betty who seized the opportunity he’d given her. Barry had learned from heel, literally, how adventurous she could be, ‘Don’t get me wrong, the sex afterwards is interesting, I mean she’s active. She aint as young as the wife but she’s certainly less frigid, you know, she knows what she’s after, and she bloody well lets me know when I’m not coming up to scratch – in all ways.’
Barry held the door ajar to try and hear more detail, but the conversation started to dissipate into silence just as he did so. He was able to glean from the depth and coarseness of its tenor that the other voice was male, but it couldn’t be Dickie – he was in Vegas on a stag do for his younger brother. Barry lay back down on the bed, completely naked, and waited with mild dread for the resumption of the ‘footwork’, which he’d have to start from the beginning again. Barry chose to focus on the prospect of a reward, specifically the element of intrigue of what Betty could initiate should he sufficiently satisfy her.
Half an hour passed and Barry was getting anxious. He was trapped, if he snuck out and was seen, that would cause an issue. The street was littered with gossips, mostly frustrated women past their meridians whose only route to excitement is through petty forms of vicariousness, ‘plus the wife never questions me where I’ve been. Just gotta remain calm and wait, I fuckin hate waiting, feels like I’ve spent half me life doing it’.
Barry started to hear faint voices from the back garden, he walked to the window and peeked around the curtain carefully, he saw Betty and a man sitting at the table in the Burn back garden talking. Their body language, best Barry could tell, seemed amiable. Betty had gotten him a drink and she seemed completely at ease wearing only her dressing gown in his presence. The man looked fortyish and was cue-ball bald, with a thick luxurious beard that was immaculately groomed into a point under his chin: a surrogacy that offered sufficient compensation for what had been lost elsewhere. He was powerfully built, and his arms were festooned with dark ink tattoos that almost gleamed in the sun when they met its rays at the correct angle.
It now occurred to Barry as he watched on that this man might be another bit on the side for Betty. Perhaps she had a cabal of men, or was developing one, finally frustrated at Dickie’s lack of enthusiasm for her needs – one of the few things she had confided to Barry. He continued to watch the conversation but was frustrated at not being able to make out what was being said, the window was slightly ajar but its hinges offered the scope to open considerably more. Barry put slight pressure on the frame, which he increased slightly when it rejected his first effort as inadequate; eventually the window clumsily sagged open several inches with a quintessentially loud rubbery groan, which, of course, caught the attention of Betty and her guest in the garden. The man stood up and started striding towards the back door. Barry closed the curtains quickly and hurriedly started to get dressed, he’d gotten his jeans and socks on before he heard a cacophony of swearing that started to get louder and was accompanied by the accelerated pounding of feet on stairs which mirrored his now elevated heart rate. The bedroom door was flung open with such force that it boomeranged off the wall and almost closed over on Betty who lagged behind the man, who was already bearing down on Barry.
‘Who the fuck is this cunt?’
‘I’m having an affair.’
The man facing Betty kept his pointed finger firmly into Barry’s chest, before facing his anger in Barry’s direction again, whose hands had been raised apologetically since he exploded into the bedroom. His eyes narrowed to conveyed confusion, started to widen in acknowledgement, and the whites of his eyes shone with shock and rage, all in the space of seconds. He seemed to simmer down suddenly, taking a step back from Barry, but seemingly oblivious to its presence upon entry and its position now with his back turned to it, his leg clipped one of the tripods legs. It sequestered his focus, his neck distended and his head tilted slightly backwards in immediate confusion, before his facial expression melted into a mild disgust as his brain finally registered what it was likely there for.
‘Ed, come downstairs.’
‘Seriously Bets, what the fuck is all this?’
‘If you come downstairs I’ll explain.’
‘I fucking know you. It’s you.’
Barry, still with his hands raised and his fly still unzipped, looked at a startled Betty, who offered no encouragement at what his response should be.
‘Fucking say your name!’ Eddie navigated his way around the tripod, and despite being a similar height to Barry, his superior muscularity, coupled with Barry’s mild cowering posture, made him seem taller and more imposing. Barry retreated with his arms still raised until his back touched the wall.
‘His name’s Barry, just leave him be Ed.’
‘Oh I know what his fucking name is.’
‘I don’t follow?’
‘You don’t recognise me?’
‘Nah mate, I’m sorry.’
‘C’mon, think now, Freddy Ziploc Quince, the dog track, you fucking filmed me doing that nasty shit and then grassed me in.’
‘What the fuck?’
‘Yeah, it’s me. Eddie, Eddie Priceroy. Remember?’
Eddie’s left forearm was now sitting across Barry’s chest, pinning him to wall, with his face bulging into a shade of enraged burgundy, which contrasted startlingly with Barry’s ashen and gaunt anxiousness.
‘Did you ever tell Betty how you lost your toes?
Barry looked at Betty for help, but all she offered was a defensively curious cross of the arms. She looked down at Barry’s feet and saw that he had his shoes on. It then dawned on her that there was no way Eddie would know about Barry’s missing toes if he didn’t already know Barry, and that what he said about Barry’s involvement in ensuring his incarceration was true. She walked towards Barry quickly with menacing stomps of the feet and stood alongside her brother, hemming Barry in against the wall.
‘Barry, is it true?’
And for one of the few times in his life Barry was left speechless.
© Niall Cullen (2015)