The Bad Earl – The Preacher

Now I find myself lyin’ on my death bed,

So I called the Preacher to me, and this is what he said.

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Beatles Mahoney – Part 2

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The second part of a ridiculous story about a magical hobo. Any similarity to real literature, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

On a broken swively chair, staring at the mouldering brick wall that dominated the view from the window, sat Frank Harris – once successful director and now, due to reduced circumstances, really just a lout with an office. It was in this that he sat, negotiating frantically into the phone, a large curry balanced expertly on the top of his knee.

 

‘I assure you, Mr. Jenson …!’

 

His tone was of supplication.

 

‘Yes, but if you just had a look at the script, I think …’

 

The curry, maliciously mimicking Frank’s tenuous grip upon the conversation, had begun to slide down his knee and was now threatening his unsuspecting lap with assorted slimy vegetables.

 

‘I’m aware that you haven’t had much acting experience, but honestly, I think this is the perfect role for you, I really do.’

 

The flurry of angered babbling that issued forth from the receiver made Frank jerk reflexively away from the source of wrath and as he realised his mistake, the tub of foul ooze inexorably upturned itself onto his toes.

 

‘Well, I think that you’re being wholly unreasonable, and I say a good day to you, sir!’

 

With this, Frank slammed down the phone and was left not only with the bitter taste of defeat, but also two fresh chillies nestled symmetrically on both feet.

 

It had been hard for Frank these days, to negotiate with his reduced circumstances. It seemed like just as he was getting them talking, they’d shoot another hostage. He looked at his answering machine, noting that there were two more messages than he had the fortitude to deal with. The problem was that the sort of person that would leave messages on the answer phone of someone like him was bound to have the word ‘tosser’ carved into their forearms.

 

Removing the chillies, Frank jabbed mechanically at the play button and braced himself for the grating beep that had long been the accompaniment to his failure. The message began;

 

– Ello there, sunshine! I’s me! Beatles! Listen, I’ve got sumfing ere for ya that you’re gonna love! I’ve been in a bit of trouble – nufin bad like – but I’ll meet you in the Nag’s bout nine? Sorted.

 

Sat atop the broken swively chair, spiced grease burning his knees, he counted the bricks he could see through his small window and let his thoughts linger upon the troubling visage of Beatles Mahoney. He groped back, seeking his initial memories of Beatles, and found him in the studio of The Frank Harris Drama School for Wayward Youths, craning his bandy limbs to form the likeness of a tree. He only remembered this first occasion because the general effect created by the oily locks that hung limply from his head had been of a bedraggled and malnourished willow. From the moment that they had met, the youth had idolised his teacher as some kind of master thespian – a player of great truths who would unfold his bounteous knowledge, provided he was showered with the appropriate adulation. He hadn’t the heart to tell Beatles that he had the stage presence of a dead fish. His stomach tensed at the idea, but he would just have to meet with the man and get it over with.

 

So, later that evening, the odd pair could be seen entering the Nag’s head – the wiry man and his greasy charge out to grace the streets with their custom. As they scouted out a free table, Frank started to feel acutely aware of the effort it took to quell his deepening misgivings. He looked around. The place was mercifully crowded, the cackle of a nearby flock of Essex Girls more than likely to mask their unseemly business. A mounted television in the corner of the room buzzed out the evening’s headlines –

‘Constable Hobbs of the South Woodford police department was attacked at his place of work yesterday evening, and although a medical team could discern no fatal injury, Hobbs was discovered to be blind, the irises entirely removed …’

 

The following clip showed a policeman being rushed out of the station by a medical team. The best was done to try and hide his face, but the two white discs, round with terror were caught for an instant in the spasmodic flashings of a press camera.    

 

Frank chose a table in the corner, and gestured Beatles over. As he advanced, Beatles systematically and methodically pocketed half-finished beers and full ashtrays, sliding them off of the tables and into the gaping and indiscriminate recesses of his huge coat pockets before shuffling over and hunching himself into his chair.

 

-‘allo there, sir!

 

He grinned at Frank, revealing receding gums and an unholy mass of wrecked and splintered calcium.

 

-Er, how’ve you been keeping then, Beatles?

 

Frank decided to keep quiet and let Beatles talk; he didn’t want to unknowingly slip into some kind of verbal contract with this maniac. There had been some unpleasantness a couple of years back with a court order. All blown over now of course, but nobody wanted a repeat incident.

 

– Can’t complain, ya know, hard life but someone’s got to live it, n’all. But seriously…

I think a lot about the old school, ya know.

 

He grew sombre, staring past Frank with his eyes clouding over.

 

– And you helpin’ me an’ that when all the others was just mean. Ya can’t buy those kinda friends an’ that’s the truth.

 

He started to unbutton his coat. 

 

– You mean a lot to me, you do Frank. An’ I know we’ve ad our problems in the past, so I’ve got somefin’ ere for you. Make amends sort of fing.

 

He had been rummaging in his abyssal pockets for something as he spoke, which he then produced with a flourish. Frank tried hard to suppress a convulsion of horror as the thing in Beatles’ hand stirred. It included toes.   

 

– For Christ sake, Beatles! If you can’t keep it together in here then I’m leaving!

 

– Ya don’t like it?

 

The look of despondency on his face only lasted a few seconds. Not to be bested, Beatles stared wildly at Frank from the other side of the sticky table. His eyes looked strange, eyes that flashed improbable colours as they were caught in the glow of the television. Beatles’ mouth flicked into a crooked smile of triumph.

 

– Ow bout’ these then, Frank?

– … What?

– Whacha fink of me new peepers? They’re luverly, int they?

 

Beatles got halfway out of his chair and did a jig, accompanying himself vocally.

 

– Jeepers, creeeepers, where dy’a get them peepers? Ha he he he!

 

Frank reluctantly forced himself to put two and two together.

 

– That … that policeman’s eyes? Hobb’s fucking eyes! Beatles? How did you-

 

Frank had now taken more than he could handle. One sip had not past his lips, and he was being made to dwell upon the impossible. Drink, he surmised, would have been a very good buffer against this, if he’d managed to have any. A bead of sweat trickled itself down the back of his neck and into his collar. He was attracted by the prospect of following it there somehow. How on earth did he do these things?

It didn’t matter. He decided that it was time to get out. Beatles however, hands once again delving into the caves of his pockets, had anticipated Frank’s concern and preceded to emit a trail of curling green smoke from his left nostril as he revealed the next wonder.

 

-Now this, I know you’re gonna love,

he said hurriedly.

 

-Fell off the back of a lorry.

 

He started to produce another … thing.

 

Frank, through his horror, was aware of a slight vibration in the air.

 

I looked up. I didn’t know what… but something was horribly wrong. I had the overwhelming sensation that someone somehow was watching me, but from inside my own head. The way I saw had… changed.  I screamed at the filthy man opposite to just stop whatever god awful thing he’d done to me.

 

“For Christ’s sake!” I sobbed, tears stinging my cheeks.

 

“just stop this, please!”

 

Beatles smiled, satisfied.

 

A buzzing, a dissipation of smoke as Beatles did up his coat pockets, and Frank slumped back into his chair, terrified.

 

– Pretty bloody weird, eh?

 

Frank talked in a slow whisper, his eyes wide.

 

– Don’t you ever do anything like that … again.

 

He then stood, violently knocking glasses from the table and breathing fast. Beatles’ look was pleading and he made to grasp at the cuff of Frank’s coat but it was jerked away, his hand flailing in the air. Frank turned around and ran from the pub as fast as he could.

 

– Wait, Frank! WAIT! I GOT SUMFIN! … ‘ERE! … FOR YOU!!