By James Jenkins
This fucking tunnel – railway bridge – colossal brick arch for all I can give a shit. It stands before me yet again, separating me from home. The pollution stained bricks loom before me, shadowing the final throws of my relentless journey. A walk that has no merit other than my final destination – that is until next time. Too long has this Victorian man-made-cunt spoiled my night. The impending sight dulls my throbbing joints, my grazed body, my saturated clothes that snag at me with each laborious step. The rain’s coming down sideways tonight, a freak of nature. I brave a look up – that mother of a sky – and I roar. I literally gape my gullet open and slur descent. Straight up into the fucking black night like it can hear me or less likely, give a fuck about poor old me. Poor old me – yeah right! I know, pour me another fucking drink. I laugh at this at least. Stumble – lurch – dragging myself to the impending behemoth, my only sanctuary from this rancid downpour. I question myself. Again. Take the long way around – they will be there. I don’t. Never do. Instead I reason that this will shave some ample time and therefore lesson the impending shit-show I’ve learnt to expect on my return… home? She won’t afford me any scope because I shaved another twenty minutes – time wasn’t the problem here you selfish bastard. Oh yes, I can tell myself that now, but the tap has been turned off. And not by me. Last orders. I could’ve turned in an hour earlier – fuck – two. It still wouldn’t have made a difference. The damage has long been done and yes, I know – by me. But I can’t shoulder all the blame surely? Some prick put that venue of liquid temptation in my way, and I can’t pass if I don’t have to earn the fucking money for us – her… him. God or whichever twisted deity who put us together needs to muck in with the blame too. It’s a weakness. I’m sure the fucker laughed his imagined face off that day.
The last streetlight hangs above blighted by the rain, spewing its pitiful gleam like a yellow headed beastie – my last sanctuary before the obsidian path that lays ahead. It won’t be too dark to see him. The boy. He will be waiting – too look at me. And yes, I’ll know those little peepers. An obstruction awaits. Steal barriers to prevent vehicles yet force me to navigate my already struggling motor skills around them. I feel like cattle led to the slaughter, and the irony passes over my head. I remember. You used to be able to drive a car right under this bridge until the accident. His accident. I choose not to think about that now. The unnatural illumination has bid farewell to me and the dark has accepted my soul only too willingly. I have only the moon light from the other side of this hollow construct to lead me. I’ll be home soon – the good it’ll do me. She’ll be waiting up. Pretending to sleep, but I’m nobody’s fool. Doesn’t stop me from playing along. My hand reaches out to the ingots of clay and I feel for the border – a ridge in the otherwise flat wall. And to think, some overpaid patsy of past society, receiving a handout from working folk like me. For what? An architectural hard-on for a feature in a long-ago-piss-eroded corridor. Still, I can’t complain. It’s all that stands between my balance and the inevitable fall to the gutter. I’m so dependent on this forgotten cunt’s legacy that I haven’t realised – they aren’t here tonight. Murderers! That wasn’t an accident. I’m not out of the woods – bricks – yet though. I see the flowers. The wicked in me disregards the emotion and I bend down to scoop up the most vibrant bunch. Perhaps they will make a difference but as usual I miss and even I know, another attempt would end with my frontal lobe crashing into that concrete footway. He watches the pathetic display with those eyes – so familiar to me. The shame. At least they’re not here. Canopies pulled tightly over premature faces. Mumbling away in some poorly constructed insult to the Queens-fucking-English. Stinking of unwashed cock and some highly concentrated Indica more akin to cat’s piss. Tonight, I only smell the flowers and petrichor. What is more, I’ve made it. One more step – lunge – stride – and I’m out. One more step and.
He's got me sitting down all nice and everything, but I can feel the moods changing. I play along, it’s his boozer. Everyone’s got an eye on me. They think their being all coy, standing around the bar and their little tables. Trying to make out nothing’s going on – one making a start to a painfully obvious conversation with his dick-ed mate. I just want to go over and smash the lip of that little top-knot pig fuc… “Bob. We all know what you’re going through…” – The fuck they do! – “…everyone is here for you…” – They stand around feigning sympathy so they can hold out for the real show. “…but, it’s not cool man. She’s my wife man. You need help man. Go home, your wife needs you.” This cunt in front of me, He’s a good sort but even now, I see his bint staring across the table at me with that knowing eye. I feel sorry for him – I really do. She’s jiggling those jugs of hers, distracting me from what really matters. He’s still prattling on about some shite. I’m not paying attention because my mind is focusing on his wife’s titties and he keeps prancing around the topic he so desperately wants to articulate. I force her to keep eye contact – I can’t let it end. “Bob man. Drinking won’t make you forget.” This guy – I like him – but he just doesn’t get it. I don’t drink to forget. Forgetting is my fear. I drink so that I remember nothing else – it’s the only thing I want to remember. “Lend me your wife’s...” He doesn’t like this – I know there’s no coming back from that. They end this fruitless intervention. Some other big bastard, I forget his name, well he takes exception… and then I’m outside.
My legs are like a couple of independent delinquents trying to navigate an Olympic Hurdle. I curse them as I take in my bearings. That same cunting tunnel – railway bridge or whatever its purpose is. There’s no rain tonight. I consider taking the longer route – turn right on Richmond – left onto Norwich Road. I don’t. I’ve always been a fucker when it comes to making the right decision. Bollocks to that streetlamp. I file through the cattle drive pedestrian obstruction. He’s there again. For a moment I think I see the car lights shining off the wall. My mouth lets me down and I let out a piteous moan, my arsehole nips up in defence of the roaring engine that is a figment of my darkest imagination. The morbid fuck in me almost hears the impact. But I wasn’t there. Of course, I wasn’t – I never was. If I wasn’t late, I wouldn’t have come this way at all. Well I’m here now! I walk the bricked vault and see them – The haunting pricks born from a generation of neglect – Self justified gangsters in a world of fragile pride – Children with no guidance – The frightened and vulnerable – My maker. I shout as one kicks the flowers – Cunt! I cry. Three of them, donned like reapers of the living. Nothing. I’ve done this before. I shout again but with no response as they walk on by – they reacted last time. I fumble forward, kidding myself they heard. That I’d done my bit. The boy’s gone now. Good. Why isn’t he at home? Parents need a fucking talking to. It’s not safe with those hooded pricks about. If he were my child… I exit the tunnel.
One heads straight for the flowers, his mates egging him on. I know what he’s doing before he pulls back that skinny leg. “No!” I’m too late as the callous little prick foot-punts them up into my face. The other two, they just laugh, and me – I’m crying. No! it’s not just because I’ve been on the sauce again. My hands grasp the air in a pathetic attempt of saving something – at least the boy isn’t here to see it all. That poor whelp. I know his mother’s grief and these demonic cunt-breeds are destroying his shrine. I launch my fist towards a face, but in between the pulled down peak and zipped up chin – miss. He’s quick. I’m on the floor before I know I’ve been hit. Those other little pussies join in now – stomping – kicking – stabbing. My broken fingers long to touch the fallen petals.
Back here again. I’d laugh if I didn’t sense what was coming. That putrefying sensation in my gut gnawing its way into my cranium. Already I’m in that blackened arch – his permanent tabernacle. I see them before they have a chance to make their way to the flowers. I scream and the torrent that follows breaks down my already limited filter. Obscenities that warrant a response. Nothing. Again, I roar and this time one of them looks back… there was a moment where we held each other’s gaze – a simple sucking of the teeth but no more. He turns. Catches up with his friends. I like to believe he saw me, but I know he won’t tell anyone. These kids, they have too much to lose. Reputation ruined by a ghost.
That’s why I’m here. I understand now. Cunts! – for what they robbed of me – his flowers – my life – leaving her, alone. The selfish bastard I am. I’d left her long before the accident. Emotionally at least, I was there physically – sometimes. I realise that she’s not waiting for me anymore and that this is my tomb. My fault. If I’d left earlier, taken the long way home. Avoided this place. Now she’s lost us both and I’m doomed to repeat this night after night. I drop down by the flowers and he is here. A kindness I don’t deserve. My boy and me. Together we watch as she brings us the flowers.
James Jenkins is a Suffolk based writer of gritty noir fiction. He has work published or forthcoming in Bristol Noir, Punch-Riot Mag, Bullshit Lit and A Thin Slice of Anxiety. One of his short stories is due to appear in the Grinning Skull Press Anthology: Deathlehem. He has recently signed with Alien Buddha to release his debut novel Parochial Pigs.