by Jacob Blue Fox
© Jacob Blue Fox -- all rights reserved
They say that the best place to get scrumpy is in Southwest England, I really don't know, I'm just a vistor believe it or not. Back home is America, the part of America where pine trees are thin and tall and you can breathe the air without feeling a twinge of sulfur, dioxin, or PCB in your plural cavity. I thought I would come to England to jump start my writing career seeing as though I'm not good at anything else, except bad timing.
I was in a town called Oldham near Manchester and near that was a pub The Laughing Fox that had a small wood sign with a red rose on the crest. The facade facing the narrow street wasn't cheery, nor was the dark green door I open, it looked as if was covered in charcoal and ash, but I thought it might have been from years of neglect. I didn't even notice the same ash on the sidewalk in a ring pattern. As I shut the door behind me a police van speed by with it's siren blaring. I smiled and sat at the bar, on a genuine wooden stool.
"A pint, please." I asked the elderly woman behind the bar.
She turned and frowned at me. Large furrows dug in between her eyebrows. It was as if it hurt her to look at me.
"Are you one of those skinheads?" she asked me.
"God, no!" I didn't understand why she had asked me that but then I took my cap off. "Oh this? I'm going bald and frankly it looks better on me to have it this way."
I'm not a vain person but there would be no way in hell I would let the world see me as a balding 28 year old. How would that look on the dust cover on my first book?
"Just keep that cap on, " She said with a light accent. "I don't want any trouble in my pub."
"Why would there be any trouble?"
When I asked, it was as if her head found another hinge in her neck. "You really are from another country."
"I don't usually watch the news, I'm more of a sports page and Dickens person. Why?"
She leaned in and spit a bit into my baby browns when she spoke. "Those SCABS are rioting about wages. They formed there own union and they say that the skinheads are invading the police, the brigade, everyone. No one to trust they say."
As I had said before, I'm cursed with bad timing.
"I'd best advice you keep that hat on, luv." She said, not giving much comfort.
"I think I will."
This was only the second day I was in England but for the first time I really didn't want to be there. As I looked around the room I could see there were only a few customers and they stayed a good distance from the windows. Most sat calmly in booths sipping Guinness or some other dark ale out of glass pints. Most looked up from their drank and gave me a cold stare which loosely translated into 'Why are you here, Yank.' Their hospitality was colder than eating ice cream cones in the arctic nude.
The barmistress handed me a pint of something, it was lighter in color than Guinness, a dark red. I hadn't even asked.
"This will put hair on your chest or your tongue."
"What is it?"
I looked at the graying women. Her face showed the same emotion as when I walked in, apathy. I thanked her for the drink and made the mistake of chugging. The taste was of a combination of crap, turpentine, cheep watered down Wal-Mart perfume, and the flavor of the insole of your shoe after a brisk run through a cow pasture.
"I told you it was good." she said, smiling.
I looked up from the glass, trying my best not to vomit, and asked. "What is your name?"
Her smile widened. "Mary."
"Well, Mary. My name is Owen and I think you have sterilized me."
Mary laughed once and quickly motioned below the bar. "Duck!"
I heard the mob and turned to look out the window. A wave of dark colors ran by screaming and waving lit Molotov Cocktails all around. There were at least fifty SCABS marching down the streets. This wasn't a union strike, I had seen union strike. My father was a Teamster. He walked the picket lines. This was no strike, this was a walking war. The walls muffled the sound but it was a cacophony of howls and chants. More money, more this, more that, more anything. They were desperate looking, hungry, tired. I felt empathy for them. Then one of the rioters looked in the window. He was small fellow with mouse-like features. Not quite a mouse, but his ears were large, his face showed a bit of muzzle and when he opened his mouth a pair of long incisors showed. He looked at me in my baseball cap and I looked at him wearing his disheveled clothing and tired coat. We looked at each other for a second and then he threw his rock into the window. He was small but powerful, his rock went through the window and crashed into one of the legs of my stool. It was only a small rock, hand-sized at best, but when it hit the leg of the stool, the wood shattered and it sent me to the floor.
"In here! One of them skins!"
I heard his accent and I looked up and I saw three of them climb through the window. They pulled me up and dragged me out into the street. Three became thirty, all angry, all desperate, and one holding my arms back. The tallest stepped forward, behind his lion's mane a Molotov cocktail exploded.
"I ought to rip your throat out, skinhead." He snarled.
"I'm not even from here! I'm not even from this country." I yelled, but all I could do was watch his fingers wave, becoming itchy.
"You call that an American accent? You are pathetic."
He came closer, within a few feet. It was then I felt the man behind me pull my arms harder, digging his claws into shoulders. An uncomfortable pressure built in front of the joint. The lion man walked closer and I could see his work shirt had his name stitched on it, Seamus. His breath was awful.
"What is your favorite football team?" He screamed.
I was confused. "Denver Broncos."
His yellow eyes lit up. "Wrong. I'll tell you what your favorite team is."
M<y face was the first to feel his fist. "MAN!"
My right shoulder gave way with the hit, and after a wet crunch, I lay on the road. I screamed, breathed, screamed, breathed, then I realized my arm wasn't where it was supposed to be. Then I felt a kick land in my chest.
Another kick to my stomach and I finally vomited the swig of scampfy.
The kick was hard, unnatural, I must have been lifted up because I landed on my shoulder and it went into the socket. For the first time I could only feel the pains in my abdomen, not my arm. I turned my head and I saw the steel toed boot coming.
Again, my ribs took the blow and breathing began to hurt. I didn't think I could hurt any more, then I saw the lion's shadow pass over me. When he landed on top of me, digging his shoulder into my sternum, I groaned. I didn't think he weighed that much, I was wrong.
Then quickly he ended it. With a clawed slash to my face.
It was there that I had the greatest epiphany in my life. Man only wants two things, hate or love. Everything else is apathy. Nothing else matters. All of man's actions can only lead to hate and love, the rest is void and apathy. And when the police sirens scattered the mob away from me, I realized that was only created out of hate too.
Website Copyright 2004,2005 Michael Bard. Please send any comments or questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org