Tells me last time I came in here I caused so much trouble that the manageress decided that was that, says I walked out singing something about the I.R.A, waving a barstool above my head, which I smashed up in the car-park, apparently… Fuck knows. I want to tell her to stick her pub up her fat fucking arse, but the thought that this is the only pub in the village limps across my head like a leper ringing a bell… I tell her that I’m sorry, that I was drunk, but she just shakes her fat head again, her chins wobbling like that red thing under a cockerel’s beak… I ask her, Can I speak to the gaffer please?... She says, Not here today, and her fingers tap a little drum-roll on the Heineken pump... There’s a silence between us. Then the door bangs behind me and this pissy old gadge shuffles in. He gives me a quick sneery look as he hangs his walking stick on the brass rail in front of the bar. Over his shoulder a middle-aged couple are sat in the corner gawping. Pint, Bert? sings fatso. Please Barbara says Bert, rubbing a snuff-stained hanky under his big blotchy nose. Fatso starts tugging at the hand-pull, her little pink sausage fingers whitening with the effort. She glances up at me, her lips quick-curving into a ghost of a smile. She says, I think you’d better go… Bert tuts, shakes his saggy head, looks at me out the corner of his eye like I’m not even fit to look at. My lion sits up. WHAT’S YOUR FUCKIN PROBLEM, SANTA-NOSE? I slap the rail, grabbing a bar-towel which I lob at fatso as I turn and leave… As I cross the car-park my phone buzzes. It’s Grace. I stamp on it till it cracks and it occurs to me that I still have the social down the road. I fucking hate the place, but.

A slight diversion past the offy for a quarter-Bell’s takes me on the road behind our house. It makes sense not to go the front way. Grace’ll be home. I neck the Bell’s in three then throw up in the jitty that cuts across to the club. When I stop retching there’s a wet itchy-heat behind my ball-sack… Shit… Swinging the club doors open to the grumble of bingo balls, I take a quick left into the bogs, get myself into a cubicle. If I take my jeans and trainers off and someone looks under the door it’s going to look a bit fucking weird I reckon, so I just pull my jeans and pants down and sit on the bog. I look down. In my red pants the shit looks like brown egg-white. I take my lighter out my jacket-pocket, and holding the side of my pants off my leg I start to burn at the seam. This makes sense. If I just ripped them off shit’d splash everywhere… The smoke stinks plasticy, and I feel sick. I lurch my head to the side and throw up. The sick is watery-yellow. I watch as it runs down the scrawled cubicle wall. U.D.M scab wankers. MTFC. Pakis out. I cup the muddy gusset as I hold the lighter to the other seam. I can’t hold them off my leg very well and some of the material melts onto me. When the seam finally gives I drop my pants into the toilet and turn to grab some bog-roll... Fuuuck… I decide the best course of action is to rip the lining out of my jeans pocket and use that. My arse itches and my ears crackle as I yank at the material. It takes a few tugs but the lining finally gives. Even with both pockets there isn’t enough so I spit on my right hand then reach between my legs… It’s messy… I pull my jeans up and do the zip and button with my left hand. It’s tricky but I manage. My ears are still crackling as I flush the chain. My red pants bob back up, the shitty gusset forming a bubble in the bowl. A pocket-lining smeared with shit curls around my pants. It looks like a red sunrise over a valley of dirty snow. I wait for a minute then flush again. The picture just changes to a featureless Santa wearing a shitty hat. I leave it, go wash my hands… There’s no soap so I rub my hands under the tap until the shit’s gone. I notice there’s still some under my fingernails as I pull open the door to the grumble of bingo balls… Unlucky for some, thirteen... A pissy old fuck in a flat-cap mutters past me to get to the bogs as I hold the door open. I shake my head and tut. Some dirty bastard’s left a right mess in there, I tell him.

RIGHT! LET’S GET THIS PARTY STARTED! cries the sad 1980s bleach-blonde twat sat behind a Bontempi on the little stage. A plastic bum-tish bum-tish is followed by the chords to something I really don’t want to be hearing. Agafuckingdoo makes me want to punch myself in the face. Assorted scrubbers clutter around the bar trying to get served. Grey-faced dead-fucks asking for mild, fat slappers with bad perms for lager and black, home-tattooed hardmen in Mansfield Town shirts for Mansfield Bitter... Guinness and two double Jameson’s please, I ask the cleavage behind the bar. I pretend to scratch my top lip with my right hand. There’s a faint whiff but it’s not too bad… I sit by the doors at the back of the club. If I wriggle on the seat it eases my itch. As I drink, my ears crackle with the sound of corn-stubble burning. By the time I’m back at the bar the sad keyboard gimp has fucked off thank fuck, and the bingo balls start rumbling. I order the same again and the cleavage narrows her eyes at me. As she pours the Jameson’s the big-chinned club-steward puts his prison-tattooed hand on her shoulder and says something in her ear. They both glance over at me. Tenner in hand, I dip into my pocketless pocket and cup my nuts with the money… When I take my seat again I notice a girl I used to work with has come in. She looks a bit like a boy in her tracksuit. Her boyfriend looks like a hobbit. I gulp my Guinness as I watch them study their bingo cards. They’re just like the rest of them in here. Twitching with fuckarsed excitement every time they get a number, a quick slash of the pen then back to hovering over their bingo cards like their sad fucking lives depended on two fat ladies… I’d still fuck her though. Even though she does look like a boy… I neck a Jameson and light a roll-up. Some bozz-eyed heifer shouts HOUSE! and a disappointed sigh goes around the room. Hobbit boy and tracksuit girl point to each other’s cards and discuss their failure. What was her name? Sharon? Shannon? Shantelle? Ah, yeh. Shernice. Shernice O’Toole… Back at the bar I manage to be standing behind Shernice when she gets served. She turns around with her pint of lager and black and I say Hello as the keyboard gimp hammers out Telstar. Bum-tish bum-tish. Shernice smiles, says Eyup Billy, fancy seeing you here… Yeah, fancy. Council do it?... I point to her near-skinhead. Oh, she says, blushing slightly, rubbing her many-ringed free-hand over the top of her head, Fancied something a bit different. Something moves in my trousers. Sexy, I say. Shernice laughs, her cheeks still flushed as a staggering gadge carrying a froth-flecked pint-pot pushes past her to get to the bar. Alan’s off to the horse, she says, nodding in the direction of hobbit boy, who sits chewing a bingo card at their table, his eyebrows joined in a pubic V as he squints in our direction. I’ll come and have a drink with you if you like? Catch up and that. She smiles, and the ring through her eyebrow lifts slightly.

The Final Countdown dadada-daa’s through the club wall as me and Shernice talk shit by the extractor fan. We mooch round the side of the building away from the doors because Shernice says Alan’s mum is a nosy old cow. I run my palm over her near-skinhead and she giggles, and for the first time I notice she has the ghost of a little ‘tache. She tells me about getting signed for Town Ladies footy team and I tell her Well done. I go to kiss her cheek on the N of done and her face moves so our lips meet… She kisses like a hungry miner eating a sausage roll… With her hands on my arse, she pulls me into her and I slip my hand up her Man U shirt. I kiss her neck, and watch the bump of my hand moving under the devil crest. Her tits are small and firm, her nipples tiny and stiff. I switch hands, running my left hand under her footy shirt, my right hand sliding down her tracky bottoms as she unbuttons my jeans. I stop kissing her neck as my palm cups a stubbly fanny... Wow. Matches your head, I say into her ear as I push my middle finger up her… She makes a little sound in her throat that makes me want to throw her down on the tarmac, fuck her hips off right here and now. I run a wet finger up to her clit as she pulls my cock out and I catch a shitty whiff of my earlier incident. I hope to fuck it doesn’t put her off. We kiss hard as we wank each other, her lips twitching against mine as I soft-rub little circles at the top of her cunt. Her clit feels like one of her nipples, this tiny stiffening button that has her biting my bottom lip as she OI! WHAT THE FUCK YOU FUCKIN DO-IN!... We both freeze and look towards the sound. Alan, backlit by a yellow streetlamp stands fists-clenched, and for the first time I realise that hobbit boy is also a stocky little fucker. Less hobbit, more troll. BASTARDS! he yells, disappearing round the corner towards the club doors. ALAAAAN! screams Shernice, chasing after him, ALAAAAN!... I look down to my cock and notice a streak of dried shit smeared down the shaft. I consider my fortune at not getting her to suck me off and I put it away, pointing northward still as I make a decision. Opening the doors to Two little ducks, QUACK! QUACK! I understand that I have no fear of anything anymore. I’m better than all these fuckers put together, and not one of them can hurt me. I walk in there a lion, scanning the flat-capped, flabby-jowled masses for Alan, because I have to tell the little fucker, tell him how it is, how it will be, and of who, exactly, I am… All the sixes... YOU BLEEDIN DIRTY ROTTEN DEVIL! squawks a voice to my left, and there stands Bilbo-mum, fleshy bingo-wings draped around her sobbing stump of a son. THEY’RE ENGAGED YOU DIRTY ROTTEN DEVIL! THEY’RE ENGAGED!... I take in the scene for a moment. Bilbo-mum consoling her dwarf offspring, Shernice kneeling by said dwarf, palms upturned in her pleading forgiveness, other assorted goblins gathered around them throwing me the daggers and tut-tutting their slob-lipped mottled faces in disgust. YOU’RE A DIRTY DRUNKEN DIRTY DEVIL! yells Bilbo-mum, shaking a fat little fist my way. I glance around the club, conscious of the quiet, of the sudden absence of grumbling bingo balls and Agafuckingdoo. The entire shit-hole watches on. Every man, woman and child, every inbred six-fingered sad-fuck peasant, every big-nosed red-eyed baggy-faced shit-shoveller, all of them, watching, waiting… WHAT? WHAT THE FUCK Y’LOOKIN AT?... The whole room seems to tut and shake its head. The only noise is the extractor fan, and then a single sniggering cackle… A rook coughing its liver up… Gerraht till y’can handle yer pop, someone half-shouts… The room becomes a rookery, and in my head, the sound of a distant violin being struck with a hammer… WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU LOT TO FUCKIN JUDGE ME?... The big-chinned club-steward grabs me by the shoulder. I push him over a chair and climb onto a table… LOOK AT YER! SAT TICKIN YOUR FUCKIN LEGS-ELEVEN OFF WAITING TO FUCKIN DIE IN THE SHIT YOU WERE BORN IN PLUCKIN FUCKIN CHICKENS EVERY FUCKARSED DAY FOR THE MAN! BAAAA! BAAAA! YES SIR NO SIR, THREE FUCKING BAGS... The table disappears from underneath me. There’s bumping and lights flashing. The next thing I know my face hurts and the air is cold around me. A yellow streetlamp backlights dark faces above. Someone is shouting something about killing me if they ever see me again. Something wet hits my face and I guess at spit. Another light flashes as a sharp pain explodes in my ribs. Something crunchy is in my mouth. I feel it between my teeth like sand and gravel. There’s a whining sound in my head but it sounds far away. Everything becomes still. I open my eyes and I’m alone on the pavement. It hurts when I try and stand up, and after a couple of tries I get to my feet but I fall over again. I decide to try and find home this way, on my hands and knees. As I slow-cross the road a car-horn pips. I don’t look up. Behind me is the sound of muffled music as I shuffle up onto the kerb. I drag my knee through a pile of dog shit. I lay under a hedge to gather my strength. Above me the stars brighten then blur. It’s the Birdie Song. It’s the fucking Birdie Song.