Beatles Mahoney – part 1

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A story I wrote at university. It wasn’t very well received. Not everybody likes a magical hobo.

A familiar feeling overcame Beatles Mahoney – failed thespian and professional kleptomaniac – as he clambered with considerable difficulty over an upturned market stall, a live Rainbow Trout flapping in his gnarled grasp: it was the woe of imminent arrest.

 

The outline of advancing stab jackets and the protrusion of steeply-domed black helmets could be seen by Beatles as he looked back through a mist of sparkling scales and droplets of hobo-sweat, causing him to clamber a little faster. The disturbing signs of trout-related crime were now readily apparent to passers-by up and down the street, so Beatles swerved sharply into an alley and away from the disapproving gaze of polite society.

 

The hiss and crackle of the police radios that had been advancing upon him all morning now dulled, and the familiar feeling of fear subsided into a low, tense buzz as his feet slapped down amongst the discarded fag packets and broken hubcaps strewn across his path. As the hubbub gradually ceased, his mind relaxed a little and he thought of Frank. He was sure that Frank would be pleased with this new acquisition – it was more than impressively shiny, and it glinted with a thousand subtle shades as Beatles carefully smoothed its ruffled scales. He fondly imagined the man’s smiling face as the trout was presented to him – Beatles was a mind that was quite prepared to retrospectively amend a grimace of horror into a gratified smile.  “My hat goes off to you Beatles!” he’d say “never have I received such a fine gift!” – and his would be the glory of the present well-chosen. He was shaken from his covetous reverie by a breathless shout from the mouth of the alley.

 

‘Sir! Put the fish down and get your hands on your head!’

 

His lapse of concentration had lost Beatles the lead, and he cursed as he sped further into the gloom, the angular arrangement of scrabbling limbs that propelled him forth calling to mind those of the spider or the shock victim. With his new prize spitting fourth shards of prism-colour into the muggy gloom, he jerked and scraped forward, all four limbs working in crazed hyper-semaphore as the long legs of the law vaulted over an old trolley, skidded round a ruined dishwasher and steadily closed the gap between them.

 

But Beatles had spied a low doorway in the wall ahead – escape could be possible, his heart sang. If he could only get out of this alley and to Frank, then his work would be done. But the Policemen were gaining on him, and as he skidded wildly through the opening, he was confronted by a very solid looking brick wall. He emitted a desperate wail as he attempted to claw his way up, but the futile scratchings had only served to alert the advancing authorities of his position. As the agents of the law rounded the last corner, breathless but triumphant, he knew the game was up. Beatles slid sorrowfully back down the wall and was presently arrested for petty theft.

 

*

 

Relieved of his fish, Beatles sat shivering in the cell of Woodford police station, where an officer was attempting to placate his huddled form with a cup of terrible coffee.

 

‘You could’ve put a bit more in, y’know.’

‘It’s fine.’

‘S’a bit weak.’

‘I know it’s weak, it’s fine.’

 

Constable Hobbs did not think the prisoner in any position to negotiate, but he put a bit more in anyway and thrust the vessel unceremoniously back through the bars of the cell.

The constable’s expression was one of weary resignation tinged with mild disbelief.

 

‘How many bloody times, Beatles?’

 

The owlish eyes stared back at him.

 

– ‘What was it this time? A fish? … Last week the bloody nose off the statue in the square? Coupla weeks back, after the lads brought you in, they said people ad been complaining to the counsel about subsidence, and when they investigated they found five tons of rubble missing from forty feet underground George lane! Five tons! I mean … ow did you even get down there’s all I wanna know … Havin’ a shitting giggle as far as I’m concerned.’

 

The eyes closed in fond remembrance.

 

Officially, Constable Hobbs told Beatles that in light of his kleptomania, he would have the right to a course of government-funded psychiatry sessions on his release, but even as he was saying it, he knew that it would be useless. Kleptomaniacs could be cured, but creatures like Beatles had the word ‘steal’ hard-wired into the matrices of their brains – an ancient, vestigial instinct that predated the human concept of possession by a long shot.

 

‘Well, I’m gifted, int I?’ Beatles reasoned. ‘No use stealin’ normal fings. Where’s the challenge in it?’

 

Hobbs gave up on the speech and left the poor creature to his coffee, taking up his usual position at the desk down the corridor. Next week he would see what he could do about going on the beat.

 

Meanwhile, Beatles, accompanied by his customary collection of blasphemies, had found a loose brick in the wall of his cell and was worrying at it with considerable tenacity. It was a beauty. When he got it out he would give it to Frank. He’d like that.

 

‘You’d best not be pissing around in there!’

 

Half-hearted and empty, the threat was drowned out by the gradually increasing scraping sounds coming from the cells. Alarm bells blared in Hobb’s head as he hurried in the direction of the noise, breaking into a run as he neared the source.

 

‘What the bloody –?’

 

What he saw was Beatles, crouching furtively against the wall and periodically straining bodily against the sides of a large hole that had appeared in the wall of his cell. From the angular form of the prisoner’s pockets, it was clear to Hobbs where the bricks had gone. As soon as he saw Hobbs, Beatles flung himself back from the opening as if he had been shot, and assumed the Position of Innocence.

 

‘I weren’t stealin nuffink, was I? Just a present fur a mate, aren’t they?’

 

He looked guiltily at the pocketed bricks.

 

‘You’ll put them back or God help me, I’ll put you in cell B. We’ll move cells once your done, understood?’

 

Beatles had been in cell B, and what it lacked in windows, it certainly made up for in wildlife. He stared balefully at Hobbs for a few moments, as if deciding what to do with him, then he started slowly to put the bricks back.

Halfway through this though, there was a sudden change in his movements, and Hobbs fancied, becoming nervous and fingering the truncheon at his belt, that something seemed to change in the captive.

 

Quick as lightning, Beatles spun round, and to Hobbs’ complete surprise, eyed him in a predatory fashion.

 

‘What you got there, Constable?’

 

‘What are you on about? Come on, get to it, for god’s sake!’

 

But Beatles did not get to it. He started slowly to stand up, and inch towards the jailer.

 

‘Nah, nah … I see you – you’ve got something, aven’t you Constable?

 

‘You sit the hell back down, or Christ help me I’ll …’

 

Beatles was up and about and was shuffling around him with purpose, now – actually circling him.

 

‘Do you know, Constable?’ he said as he clamped the wailing Hobbs’ head in place with a hand.

 

‘you’ve got lovely eyes.’   

 

The grasping, outstretched hand that rushed to meet him was the last thing that the constable ever saw.

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Tough Crowd – Part 2

 

 

What happens when a man is trapped in a suit of armour and forced to play the bass?

Maybe this.

Steve’s contribution was going alright; you could sort of understand the gist of what he was hollering about. I gave him a little wink and hoped he was watching, wondering if he could actually see. The crowd were gradually warming to Gaddafi. At least two people had emerged from their cocoon of deadened brain cells and were at least patting their legs in vague rhythm.

Norm, buoyed up by this development, started thrusting at the microphone stand with one leg in the air – Norm was such a bastard sometimes. He thought he was cool, but he just looked vaguely like Mick Jagger – if Jagger had been an absolute idiot. We were all getting quite into it, though, and we really started show-boating. I attempted to play with my teeth, but you can’t really do that with a sitar. Emitting a mental groan I realised Jake had subtly taken out his old man and was proceeding to keep surprisingly good time with it on his home-made bucket drum. We had got about seven people now, but whether out of genuine interest, or a misplaced sympathy, we weren’t to know.

 

We had got through the first fifteen verses when I had a troubling thought. Steve’s oh yeahs – which had by now become mere parodies of human speech anyway – were getting fairly thin on the ground. As I looked up, it became clear that he had vacated the stage. It wasn’t particularly hard to find him as I followed the deafening holler of a long overdue

thas wa I’m talin bo! –

directed into the weeping face of the badly afraid birthday girl as she frantically tried to shoo him away and pick the cake and errant candles from her hair. There were about five people actually looking at the stage by now, though, and whatever issues Steve was having would have to wait.

 

We finished to what I decided was applause, and went immediately into a hip-hop-style cover of a B-side called SpiderBong by Hat Bandit and the Incombustibles, which some people knew, and joined in with half-heartedly.

 

It was all going pretty well, really, considering. Jake did have to put his John Thompson away after a while, as it had started to hurt quite badly, but we all felt that he had lasted a fair old while, but then we had no real yardstick by which to judge his technique.

It was halfway through the searing folk-metal Abbots of Buckfast that we had to end. It was disappointing, but it’s very hard to play over screaming.

We didn’t have to look very long for Steve, for there was a hard and fast line of man-shaped destruction made of broken tables and shell-shocked emo-kids that wound from the stage to the bar.

 

It was here that Steve sat, steam curling from the gaps between the spauldrons and vambraces of his metal parts, his sweat having evaporated in the super-heated conditions inside. We hurriedly picked our way over the broken glass and dodged appalled drunkards to make our way over to him.

 

-Steve! Mate! Are you okay?

 

As we crowded around his hunched form I thought I could hear a quiet sizzling. This was not good.

 

-Can you hear me, man?

 

I peered into the hot blackness of the visor.

 

-Say, something, Steve!

 

A pause … and then;

 

-Tha  wam … talli … ba …?

 

He collapsed, then, and sparks flew out as he struck the iron of the table legs.

 

Shifting our monolithic friend was going to be nigh on impossible seeing as he had actually cloven the floorboards with his weight and we had nowhere sufficiently nearby for refuge anyway, but Joe the landlord, who had earlier seemed un-phased by armoured Steve, had now apparently had quite enough of this chaos and preceded to holler and scream at us all – he said we weren’t even that good and he’d heard several bands in Cork public houses who captured our sound with much more panache and taste – and, to the great surprise of everyone, smashed a bottle of Famous Grouse over the helm of our half-buried bassist.

He then ordered the resident parrot to peck out our eyes, which, for a second, we all expected to take place – thankfully, the bird just continued to totter around the bar quite calmly. On top of this, we discovered that Jake was not in fact behind us, nor similarly dumbfounded by the raving Irishman’s conduct; he had, in fact, again produced his – surely injured – old man and was waving it about in the icing-smeared face of the birthday girl, who now seemed to have been abandoned by her friends who had so heartily cheered for her transition from nineteen to twenty earlier on – she didn’t look at all appalled by the flailing member, apparently resigned to a particularly rubbish birthday. We all thought it best we left; we just had no idea how we were going to go about such an escape.

 

Before we even had time to consider yanking on Steve’s legs he began to stir; he laboriously hauled his arms free of the ground and started to drag himself like a steel-clad lizard through the mayhem that was The Fox, renting a welt in the ground and leaving a trail of steamy hell in his wake, on his way to the door. We sheepishly followed, feeling rather like criminals. Look what we had done!

Well, we all felt guilty save Jake, who was relieving himself into a pitcher to the horror of the man whose drink it was, and Norm, who has no concept of guilt.  I wondered how much Jake had actually had to drink and remembered that during our set,someone had handed him a large bottle of some kind of rum which he had emptied into himself within the short space of time we had attempted to sing one verse of a Reggae song called Jah and Only Jah Will Save Us From the Dragons, woven, rather cleverly we all thought, into the middle of Spiderbong.

 

Outside, after watching Steve somehow clamber to his feet, we faced the problem of what happened now; Steve’s giant form was still wreathed in steam and blood and cake…and … Norm was still singing at the top of his voice and Jake was emptying the contents of his stomach against the window of a blue Ford Fiesta.
–          Bloody…I think he’s really bad, man.

–          He is really bad!

–          Awha…talli bo…talli bo…talli….talli bo…

 

Steve’s attempts at sticking to his earlier assignment trailed off into indecipherable mumbles and we made a collective decision to call an ambulance; the ambulance team would be surprised by the situation and most probably unsure about what they were to do about getting him into the ambulance but they would have to do their job – they’d be obliged.

 

The ambulance arrived, sirens blaring; their faces, upon realising what they’d become involved in, resembled those of startled baboons but they quickly set about manoeuvring Steve between the double doors. It was difficult and they, somewhat ironically, probably hurt themselves quite badly in the process, but it happened and soon Steve was whisked away into the night.

Tough Crowd – part 1

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This was written with my friend James after a particularly pointless gig in Hackney. Some might say this gibberish is too weird to live, but I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions. This definitely isn’t what happened. 

– It doesn’t really matter, man. Just leave it on, and if anyone sees, we’ll just tell them we’re in, like, a re-enactment society or something.

 

We staggered out of the flat, holding each arm and someone at his back and all the light of the morning coating Steve’s articulated bulk and leaving traces on the eye. It took nearly an hour to complete the twenty-minute journey to The Fox, and we had to turn him sideways to get him to fit through the door.

 

Surprisingly few people turned to look at this swaying man in what must have been about a six and a half foot tall suit of full jousting armour, and there was a point at which Steve flailed a lethal arm over the bar, destroying at least four quite full pints.

 

The barman considered getting angry, but we told him Steve was in there, and he’d always liked Steve.

 

Steve, in all his glimmering magnificence mumbled a word that sounded like ‘bollocks’, tripping over the noises like wires in his head. We all sighed in unison as a bloke in a shell-suit stifled his giggles as he attempted to feed our baffled friend a half-pint of bitter through his visor. Steve struggled to fend off the attack with his great steel-clad limbs like a beetle trapped in some mischievous little boy’s fingers.

 

–          Come on then, you metal bastard. ‘Ave a bit of this down ya!

–          Bloody … leave ‘im alone, yeah? You’ll make him drown!

 

Steve swung his body forward violently, attempting to purge himself of the dangerous reservoir that had built up in his helmet. The bitter was flung out in a great, fanning spray and he leaned, one arm on the bar for support and one gauntleted hand on his knees, retching with the stuff dripping from point of his visor.

 

–          Are you okay, mate? Just blow it out and don’t pay attention to him. Idiot.

 

Joe lately, the landlord, silently swung into the room from a point seemingly where there was no actual door. He was a hard man to work out at the best of times. He could tell you, with his dead-pan face and expressionless eyes, that Rizlas didn’t biodegrade for at least a thousand years and you’d never even question it – you couldn’t help but believe him. It didn’t help that you could never really even see his eyes, due to the oversized bowler-hat that he insisted on wearing while at the bar. I suspected that it was for this reason that it was worn.

 

–          You boys playin a set tonight, then?

–          Yeah, Joe. We thought that we might.

–          Well, it’s your own feckin funeral. It’ll just basically be buskin’ indoors.

 

It was true. The Fox during the rest of the week was a respectable, bohemian establishment – gloves on the walls, parrot on the shoulder of the barman, a hairy retro dog outside – but The Fox on a Saturday became populated by drinkers who had succeeded in rotting away the aural centers of their brains, never to politely listen to another single note of music in their lives. We would be wasted on them.

 

Steve uttered a metallic sound which I decided was probably pessimistic resignation, and we all agreed. It was one thing to play fruitlessly to the zombie-drunk, and quite another to offer ourselves over to the violent indignation that would surely result from towing an armour-clad behemoth onto the stage and trying to fit a bass in his hands. People would think we were a novelty act, and that would never do.

 

–          Ah, but the wonga!

–          The wonga?

–          The wonga!

 

Norm was a little bit of a creep, but we didn’t mind because he could play the bongos like nobody’s business. If anyone was going to galvanize the lot of us and give us a push onto the stage to blow this mob of dead-eyed drunks away, it would be Norman ‘Bongo-man’ Unclebutton; he insisted on a ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ stage-name, which we resented.

 

–          Fifty quid’s not bad lads, and if it means rockin’ out to this bunch while they raucously sing happy birthday to the  lady in the corner with the pink eye-shadow and double Ds and present her with a nice little cake, then so be it. I’m game!

 

None of us believed we would blow them away but we nodded in unison and put our hands, one gauntleted, in.

 

Eventually we managed, as a team, to balance Steve precariously on a wooden stool which seemed far too fragile indeed to bear twenty-and-a-half stone of knight-in-shining-armour. Once we were all set up with our various other instruments and had evaluated the noisy room with our eyes and our ears – there was much shouting and retching and clinking and clanking and…and – we decided that Steve should sit it out, bass propped up against his knee, and not do too much at all really. Maybe the occasional muffled ‘oh yeah!’ or ‘that’s what I’m talking’ ‘bout!’ – Theoretically, it would be fine.

 

We launched into Gaddafi Isn’t Very Nice, twice the speed we normally play it at. It’s our political number. I screamed every word like a madman. The girlies were struggling to wail their birthday chant over our noisiness, which was satisfying.

– Ass wha’ am tallin’ bow!