Fiction: The Glazier
By Rory Hughes
“You know what makes me smile?” said Shane.
The man behind the glass was silent, feigned disinterest belied by his clammy face. Shane rapped on the glass and broke the old man’s facade.
“You know what makes me smile?”
“I not understand,” said the man.
“Come off it with the broken English bollocks, old man, I know who you are, I’ve researched you, watched interviews… I know everything about you, Cosman…”
The man’s name was Cosmin Dascălu, and at 42 years was not really that old at all; a former Olympian gymnast who, like so many ephemeral competitive athletes, soon transitioned to coaching, in 2003 moved from Timișoara in Romania to Canterbury, England and with the financial help of his father, opened his own gym; Dascălu was far from world-renowned but certainly respected within his community and by those familiar enough with Olympic gymnastics, that is, until girls started coming forward, making the phone call, the post, the tweet.
“What makes me smile,” continued Shane, “is that in here, bastards like you don’t get your own little private quarters, playing checkers and doing crosswords and having group wanks over your crimes. What makes me smile is that it won’t be too long before you get to feel what she felt, what they all felt; you know you don’t look so bad for 50; I’d even go as far as to say you’d be quite a catch for some of the boys in here.”
“You are one of the boyfriends… husbands”, said Dascălu, dropping the pidgin charade.
“I’m the boyfriend. Do you even remember Laura? The first girl to have the guts to come forward; break the dam.”
“These other girls were cowards?” asked Dascălu.
Shane failed to conceal a postmortemic grimace.
“I did time here,” he said, a fact he pulled out prematurely; an evasive manoeuvre. “Yeah, I did time here, framed for armed robbery, 16 months, saw it all; but I’m out here now; and you’re in there,” he said, pointing at the glass, and through that, at Dascălu’s throat, “and you know where you stand; guys like you are lower than the dirt in the yard and if a lifer with fuck all to lose feels like sticking his shiv or his dick in something, you’ll be first in line.”
When Shane arrived home, Laura was foetal on the sofa, dull-eyed, browsing Netflix. She sat up when Shane walked through the living room door.
“That Jerry guy pull another sickie?” Laura asked.
“No, I went to see someone on the way home.”
“See someone?” Laura’s forehead crinkled.
Shane flumped down next to her and took the remote off of her.
“I had to take care of business,” Shane said, pleased with himself, emphasising the cliché with an old-timey New York mobster accent. Laura looked puzzled, and then her expression dropped.
“You’re using again…” she said, blankly. Shane was outraged.
“I’m not… are you fucking with me right now? I did this for you. The person I went to see…”
“Was who?” said Laura, her voice quiet, composing herself as best she could.
“I went to see him.”
“Him. Him who? What him?” Laura asked, unravelling.
“Christ’s sake… the fucking instructor,” he said, scrolling through the TV guide.
Laura’s whole body was overcome with paresthesia; something was trying to crawl out of her stomach and into her throat. She swallowed it down.
“You had no right,” said Laura, trembling. “You had no fucking right.”
Shane switched the TV off.
“This is the thanks I get? For standing up for you?”
“You don’t understand.”
“I understand everything.”
“This is not your fight.”
Shane shot up from the sofa and went to the kitchen. He spun off the cap of a 35cl bottle of Famous Grouse and let it bounce off the worktop and onto the floor. He heard Laura’s crocodile tears from the living room. Mad woman. He’d done what he was supposed to.
As Shane had been speaking, gesturing, Dascălu had spotted the tattoo of an inverted triangle on Shane’s neck.
“You are the window man, the…” Dascălu searched for the word, “the glazier.”
“Yes… Shane. I am correct?” Dascălu shifted in his seat, and licked his lips. “That’s right, the glazier who broke more windows than he fixed, she would always say this… with the bad temper, the… mood swings.”
Shane was speechless.
“Robbery, you’re saying it was, Shane?” asked Dascălu
“Framed… that’s funny, isn’t it?”
Shane was disappearing.
“And how old was Laura when you met, Shane? These are some crow’s feet for a man in his early twenties. ”
“‘Old man’” Dascălu scoffed.
The guard in the far corner sensed malice brewing between the two men at the second station. He adjusted his baton in its holster and turned on his heels to face them.
“Who do you really hate, Shane?”
The guard’s attention was then stolen by the visitor at station three. He was certain he’d been talking to an inmate, but now there was none to be seen. The visitor held the black phone limply in his right hand, barely to his ear.
“Is it me you hate?”
“You’re the glazier, Shane, the window man, so tell me this. What is it you can make with just glass and aluminium spray?”
Shane was becoming disembodied, a ghost of stone, a witness to nothing beyond the man in the reflection. Dascălu stroked the glass with his index finger.
“Go on, Shane,” Dascălu said into the phone, his voice traversing the wires, entering Shane’s ear canal and finding a home in the centre of his being, “…hate me.”
Rory Hughes is a South London-based writer and music journalist. His short stories have appeared in publications such as BlazeVOX, Angel Rust, Fleas bon the Dog, Literally Stories and Alien Buddha. He has a transgressive novel, Theseus 34, planned for publication in 2023. He also works with the underground music zine Astral Noize.