Extract: Stitch by John B Spencer

‘You think, because I have tattoos, wear body jewellery, I should live in a tip?’

‘That isn’t what I said.’

‘It’s what you implied.’

Winston’s ground floor flat, Carrington Road, North Sheen, fives minutes from the Gloucester House Gate to Richmond Park, Winston jogging five miles most mornings, learnt to hate dogs, some dog walker, distant voice calling to her animal, just before Fido arrived intent on ripping through flesh and bone. every fucking time. The flat – bought with money his Aunt Anastasia left him – a combined living room and bedroom, futon rolled up against one wall, kitchenette beyond a pine shelved divider, extractor above the gas cooker. The walls all painted white with pale grey wood trim and door, light fixtures chrome silver, rush mat flooring, no television, no books, newspapers, magazines. no mess.

Aluminium framed album cover on the wall.

Never Mind the Bollocks.

Nothing else.

Winston saying, ‘You learn to live without it.’

Sophie saying, ‘Without what?’

‘The bollocks.’

Wondering if he should tell Sophie about the dog this morning – would she scold him like an angry mother? – brown cocker
spaniel, Winston scooping up the dog without breaking stride, closing its jaws with one hand, the other gripping its ruff, swinging
the dog on its own weight, the way you would a chicken, breaking its neck.

Tossing the dead animal into the undergrowth.

Hearing the owner calling, ‘Caliban!’

Saying, now, to Sophie, ‘Would you call a dog Caliban?’

Sophie saying, ‘Caliban was a Shakespearian villain. The Tempest. I suppose it would depend on the nature of the dog.’

Winston saying, ‘Aren’t all dogs the same?’

Then: ‘A fucking nuisance?’

Sophie saying, then, about the flat, ‘It’s so spartan… without clutter. The room of an aesthete.’

‘Aesthete?’

‘Someone who appreciates beauty, simplicity… like a monk.’

Winston saying, ‘Are you always this patronising?’

‘I didn’t mean-‘

‘You mean ascetic.’

‘Oh… do I?’

Sophie wearing a navy brushed jersey blouse, the blouse hanging loose over dark chinos, charcoal Mary Jane’s with wedge
heels. Going for the sophisticated older woman look…

The actress, Francesca Annis.

Attractive, but not necessarily available.

Who did she think she was kidding?

Winston reaching forward.

One hand, undoing the smoked pearl buttons of her blouse, starting from the bottom. Sophie saying, ‘What are you doing?’

Winston saying, ‘Take it off.’

Exposing the grey lace bra.

Winston saying, ‘And that.’

‘I’m self-conscious.’

‘You’re beautiful.’

Winston dropping to his knees.

Pulling down the chinos.

The matching grey lace panties.

*
Bobby-Boy reversing out of the parking slot, back of Charlie Paul’s block, Addison Gardens, right hand pouring blood despite he had one of Charlie’s T-shirts wrapped around it, thinking, One of Charlie’s T-shirts? Recipe for gangrene, or what? Worried about getting blood all over the interior, not looking where he was going, too pissed off to concentrate on his driving, backing – smack! – into the milk float. Bobby-Boy thinking, Milk float, for fuck’s sake? How many milk floats are there left in London, and I have to back into one of them?
Saying to the milkman, mid-forties, picture of health, sleeves rolled up tight around his biceps – macho man don’t feel the cold: ‘Fuck did you come from?’

Checking out the damage.

Saying, ‘This, I do not believe.’

Rear off-side wing caved in, indicator and rear light gone, Bobby-Boy looking at a new panel and spray job, could see the
mechanic, now, sharp intake of breath, knowing shake of the head, saying, ‘It will cost.’

The milkman, all the time in the world, checking the float, the rear platform where the milk crates were stacked, the angular metal corner responsible for the grief to Bobby-Boy’s motor, Bobby-Boy saying, ‘The most exciting thing happened to you all year, right?’

The milkman saying, ‘You want to get that looked at.’

Bobby Boy’s hand… dripping blood on to the pavement.

Then: ‘I’ll need your particulars.’

Bobby-Boy saying, ‘The fuck for? Show me one fucking scratch.’

The milkman saying, ‘Nasty knock… could be all kinds of problems surface later. ‘

Then: ‘When there’s personal injury involved, the police have to be involved.’

Bobby Boy thinking, This is all I need.

Not bothering to explain.

Handing the milkman two twenties.

Saying, ‘Go away.’

Fifteen minutes earlier, on Charlie Paul’s front balcony, Charlie standing in the door in vest and underpants, Bobby-Boy still
hungover, each Marlboro Light tasting worse than the one before, thinking, Fuck knows how many nights in a row Charlie had slept in those underpants, didn’t bear contemplating, palming Charlie – hard – on the shoulder.

Then again.

And again.

Each shove harder than the last.

Saying, ‘Fuck you think you’re playing at, Charlie?’

Then: ‘I ought to bust your fucking face!’

Charlie saying, ‘I don’t need this, Bobby-Boy.’

Bobby-Boy saying, ‘You think I’m fucking blind?’

Then: ‘You think I don’t know you’ve been trying to get into Toyah’s knickers for fucking years?’

Then: ‘Jesus fucking shit!’

Shoving Charlie again.

Charlie saying, ‘She called me. what was I supposed to do? Tell her to fuck off?’

To the left of the front door, four panelled window with frosted glass, toilet off the front hall. When he was a kid, Bobby-Boy used to stand on the balcony wall in these flats, blow raspberries down the overflow pipe, the noise reverberating in the toilet cistern, scare the shit out of whoever was sitting in there.

Bobby-Boy saying, ‘Why me, God? What the fuck have I done to deserve this?’

Then: ‘Fucking bollocks!’

Punching his fist through the bottom right hand frosted glass panel.

Saying, ‘Oh, shit!’

Charlie, looking at Bobby-Boy’s hand, blood everywhere, glass shards poking out of the flesh, saying, ‘That looks nasty. I better run you up the hospital.’

Bobby-Boy saying, ‘Go fuck yourself.’

The milkman, now, not taking the two twenties.

Saying, ‘Cuts no ice with me, you waving money around.’

Bobby-Boy saying, ‘Then, you can go fuck yourself, too.’

The milkman needing to think about that.

Saying, ‘Too?’

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About John B Spencer

Also by John B Spencer (published by The Do-Not Press)
Quake City
Perhaps She’ll Die
Tooth & Nail
Grief