Squidgy, muddy, puddles spatter Jon’s calves as he jogs away his Sunday hangover. The perfect cure for one too many bottles of wine. He often tells himself he’ll cut down, but once Friday comes around – it’s back to square one. Beautiful sky Jon thinks – looking up – taking a deep breath of the crisp country air – exhaling it like a smoker. A calming silence clears his thoughts: tantalizing his mind with euphoric, summery images. Feeling happy, energized – like a careless child: forgetting that tomorrow – he’s going to kill someone.
Gary’s prison sentence is up; a three year stretch for burglary and ABH. The sturdy gate slams shut as Gary steps out to freedom; greeted by the drizzle, grey, and dankness of a gloomy Monday morning. He’s feeling happy though – finally a free man. ‘Don’t come back Gaz!’ Booms the bald, pug-nosed guard as Gary gazes across the street, soaking up the silence: ‘definitely not!’ This was it – his time had come, new life, new start.
Pacing through the streets of Winchester, the morning comes to life; cars whizz past, aggressively – as Gary avoids the puddles rapidly forming at his feet. Catching his reflection in a shop window, he looks pale, scrawny – like a lanky, junkie with a mop-top. Gary speeds up, sweating as he makes haste to the hostel; one more fix: to celebrate his freedom – then he’ll make a new start.
A thick scoop of peanut butter melts into Jon’s toast as he crunches through the crispy white bread and licks his moist lips; watching the crumbs snowflake his ceramic tile floor. Nice hit of protein he thinks as he squeezes his pec muscles like a solid pair of plump breasts. He’s become slightly obsessed with his appearance since shifting the weight. Once a portly, reticent, number cruncher; now a muscle-bound Personal Trainer, with a shaved head, fake tan, and a slight hint of arrogance.
The depression had taken over after the attack, leaving Jon feeling weak, afraid, and suicidal. A friend took him to the gym one day and he was instantly hooked; he’d found a new purpose. Within weeks he left his office job and signed up to a Personal Trainer course. Jon finally felt content, but there was still something he had to take care of: killing the weasel who raped him: causing his depression. Then he would be at peace.
The dingy old hostel has seen it all – junkies, ex-cons, runaways – all playing their part in giving society the finger. A strong (hospital) smell of disinfectant lines the sticky red, sick stained floor, and sunny yellow walls; painted that colour to “cheer up” the misery and inevitable death that hangs over the building like a black, oppressive, winter cloud. Sitting on his rock of a bed – pensively staring at the floor – Gary’s unaware that Jon has entered the room.
As Mozart’s piano concertos fill the air (Gary’s favourite inside) – Jon takes light, stealthy steps across the musty, spacious room. Carefully lifting a beer bottle from a cabinet, he advances towards the slightly meditated ex-con and squeezes the bottle tightly: parallel to Gary’s cranium. Taking a large swig of the warm, frothy lager – Jon announces – ‘you finally got some taste then mate!’ Looking startled, but happy – Gary leaps up and gives Jon a hug; ‘good to see you, man!’
A few years back – during the world cup – England had gained a victory and Jon and Gary were out celebrating; they’d been friends since school. Entering a packed bar – well known for accommodating shady characters – everyone seemed in good spirits. Even the local gangster; a rather rotund man named Bobby – around 50 years old with a high-pitched voice and thousand-yard stare. He was a baleful, bully of a man – ‘turned on’ by inciting fear in those he associated with. Well known for suddenly turning and committing violence – if he felt like it. The local police were on his payroll and supplying the bars and clubs with drugs was one of his top earners. ‘Alright lads’ the rotund man shrieked as the two friends approached the bar; ‘what you drinking?’ That was how it started.
Many beers, many shots, and many lines later – the pair ended up back at Bobby’s country house. A quaint old Victorian building with a swimming pool out the back. Irony stood out like a sore thumb in the fat man’s bachelor pad; peaceful Buddhist statues, knives, beautiful works of French art, and knuckle dusters lined the dusty brick walls of the volatile, gangster’s kitchen.
Around five am, the true menace of Bobby’s character was revealed; thus, devastating the lives of the two school friends. Gary had fallen asleep on a sunbed by the pool, and Jon was inside – comatose – coming down from the perpetual supply of coke. He thought he was dreaming at first. The smell, the disgusting body odour of the fat bastard as he pushed Jon’s face into the pillow; holding the knife to his neck. Was it a dream? The numbness, the empty, depressing, suicidal thoughts; the blood and pain the next day. It was no dream.
Just two weeks later – Gary was back there. Jon had kept quiet and pretended to have the flu. After another heavy drug fest – Bobby had tried it on with Gary – who’d retaliated by throwing an ashtray at the wall in an indignant flurry of rage. The rotund man went ballistic, rendering Gary unconscious by throwing him head-first into a wall. He decided to set him up by planting a £12,000 Rolex in his pocket and called it in as a burglary – claiming he was assaulted and acted in self-defence. With the cops on Bobby’s side – Gary didn’t stand a chance. Three years of Gary’s life was taken, nearly destroying him; visits from Jon had kept him going – and it was during one of these that the truth emerged about that dissipated night. Revenge was going to be sweet.
‘Once this is over Gaz – I’m gonna get you back on track – I’m setting up a gym in Malta and want us to go into business together.’ ‘Sounds awesome’ Gary retorts. After a few beers: feeling jovial, but slightly apprehensive – the pair head into town – to the bar where it all started.
The seedy little bar is practically empty – just a few washed up, garrulous losers talking about fights they had twenty years ago. Towards the back of the bar – underneath a low archway – leading towards the ‘so-called’ restaurant serving frozen scampi and microwave lasagne – a familiar voice becomes prevalent. A squeaky, nauseating tone – ‘yeah, yeah, anyone says that to me – they’d never walk again’. It’s the Rotund rapist – shovelling sloppy forkfuls of lasagne into his mouth – gormandizing like a starved pig.
He spots the pair approaching the bar and bursts into laughter – ‘ladies – what you doing in my bar’ he announces in a sardonic manner. ‘We don’t want any trouble – just a beer’ retorts Gary. ‘I’ll be the judge of that son’ barks fatty. ‘Now get the drinks in and come join me – I’ll have a bottle of sauvignon: Red’. A sense of intimidation and coercion fills the atmosphere as they catch up – this is exactly what the pair want.
It’s happened again – they are back at Bobby’s mansion – they had no choice. After selling them a gram of coke each – he insisted they came back to his place, and naturally share the powder with him. ‘I’m going for a piss – rack em up’ Bobby announces – earnestly. ‘Cool’ re-joins Jon. If the pair remember correctly – the gangster always was a greedy bastard, who imbued himself with great pleasure by snorting his line, followed by the other persons. It was a great way to show his metal, his assertiveness as a small-town gangster. It meant – I’m in control – not you. Shaking off his pissy fingers – Bobby strides back into the kitchen and lives up to his reputation, and some. He annihilates the three lines of white powder, not giving a second thought to the other two.
It’s like a zombie movie – the squealing, the eyes sinking back in his skull; the thick, gloopy, red and white snot oozing out of his deep, crusty nostrils. He stumbles to the cold, tiled floor, resembling a psychotic clown as he grins and waggles his pudgy pink tongue. Bobby’s overdosed, dead – not on cocaine – but on the pure heroin, Jon had purchased earlier. The pair appear rather sombre – not celebrating as much as they initially anticipated, but nevertheless, they both sense a new beginning. It’s over – new life, new start.
Six months later the plane lands at Malta International Airport. The interviews, the police, it was relentless, but freedom had prevailed. Stepping outside the sun hits them – it was finally here – Jon the head Personal Trainer – Gary the manger at their upmarket St Julian’s gym.
A.T Hawthorn – 21.10.19