The heaving mass of distressed and aggravated festive shoppers pressed and shoved all around Dec as he made his way, unnoticed, down the High Street. His confident gait not part of their final Christmas preparations.
This time of year, held no special feelings for him. His childhood Christmases forgotten in the many drunken brawls his parents enjoyed. Memories of the last minute ‘Provie’ cheque. Made-up presents to tell his mates about, and oh yes, more drunken brawls from his parents.
However, this year was feeling a bit different, and it was nothing to do with shimmering tinsel, blinking lights or cheap crackers.
He passed the entrance to the shopping centre, glancing at the heavy glass plate doors shuddering under pressure as they spewed out the raw and naive, then sucked in more willing, gullible victims. He smiled, continued walking, and left them to their own providence.
The building that had been craving his attention the past week stood a few doors down from the shopping centre’s ravenous jaws, and as Dec approached it the smile slipped from his face and was replaced by a nervous frown. A frown that lined the scar running down the side of a face older than its years. He pushed the frame of the small round glasses against his nose and stepped closer to the window. His reflection stared back at him with identical unease, but he took no notice.
Inside the building, dressed in its corporate subtlety, the queue of people lengthened, waiting, like parasites draining the very life blood from that which he sought as his own. One more day.
“What damage could they do in one more day?” he thought.
The moment of anxiety was gone. Slipping his cold hands into the security of his warm trouser pockets, he gathered his balls, and his thoughts, and carried on up the High Street in the direction of the ‘Way Inn’. A shite name for an equally shite pub.
He would return tomorrow for the head to head, the final battle, like a knight returning to slay the dragon.
That was it he thought, “a brave knight, a big gallus cunt in a shiny suit, charging into danger then retreating in victory to the Calton sunset, fucking poetry”.
Already feeling better, he parted the festive crowds. The preparation was done and tonight was for fun, nothing could get him down now.
Even the sluggish old women with their pink knitted hair do’s and cheap eau de toilete couldn’t dampen his spirits. The fat mothers dragging their blaring brats by their hoods slipped by him insignificantly. The glassy eyed wino pleading for money on the same spot he had stood since Dec was a boy didn’t concern him. And in Dec’s head, he was still a boy. Dec that is, not the wine soaked nicotine ridden old grey wrinkled fucker on the corner.
The world was throbbing and shoving and screaming and smelling of puke and piss and beer, and he loved it!
After what seemed like no time at all he reached the peeling doors of the ‘Way Inn’ and paused in perspiration for what might lie before him.
He reached for the brass handles, worn from decades of working class men, and pulled the heavy door open, holding it with his shoulder as he made his way through.
He paused again to adjust his eyes to the thick wall of smoke that greeted him on entry.
This was a pub without a lounge, and the bar could’ve done with the help.
The workers were out on the bevvy, the Friday before Christmas Eve, and the pay packets were taking a severe mauling. Glasgow ovens were full of drying out dinners that would soon be replaced by donner kebabs, beef curries and fish suppers.
He pushed through the beer soaked bodies of the great Scottish workmen heading for the bar and a long overdue pint.
As he reached the bar he shouted for a beer, loud enough for the barman to hear, but obviously too loud for the hulk of a man whose ear was closest to Dec’s mouth.
The big man turned around and in no uncertain terms let Dec know he was pissed off, without saying a word. Dec took his look as a sign he should pipe down a bit, and quietly slid into place beside the bar.
For all his best efforts, the barman hadn’t heard, and Dec stood patiently waiting for another chance to grab his attention, a little more quietly.
The barman turned, and Dec caught his attention with an agreeable grin, and a twenty-pound note held up as bait. Red faced, and looking as if he drank as much as he served, the man made his way towards Dec, not bothering to steer clear of the puddles of spilt beer gathering in the cracked and worn lino behind the bar.
The strain of serving the festive throng was telling on the man, betrayed by the sweat marks on his shirt as the Buckfast seeped out his pores.
Made by monk’s, don ‘t you know? He eventually reached Dec’s end of the bar where his arrival was announced with an, “Aye!”.
Customer service obviously not his forte. Dec asked for a pint and watched as Buckfast man snatched a glass from the shelf above the bar, while wiping back the beads of sweat sitting on his forehead with the other hand.
Glass in hand he turned and lumbered back in the direction he had just come. He paused before struggling with the black handle of the pump, and proceeded to draw Dec’s pint from it.
Dec couldn’t help but notice more sweat marks on the back of the big man’s shirt and wondered how long it would be before the damp patches joined forces to complete the look.
He watched as the barman tried to reduce the three-inch head that adorned the pint that was soon to be his, the beer flowing over the side of the glass and in to the drip tray, which dripped badly.
Job done, he headed back while Dec counted out change, preferring to hold onto the twenty for a while.
He exchanged the cash for the pint, counting it into the sweaty hands of the man, who accepted it willingly, but without thanks, before turning and heading off to another dear customer.
Dec picked up the wet glass and held it to his mouth, taking the first long gulp just as the next customer, making his way into his soon to be vacant space at the bar, jostled him, causing some of the contents to spill down his jacket.
“Naw, it’s okay, no need for apologies” he mumbled sarcastically.
Any other time his shackles would have been up and words exchanged but not tonight.
Away from the bar and the danger of loose elbows, he took another long drink and, above the noise, heard his name being shouted from the far end of the smoke-filled room.
Through eyes that had now become somewhat accustomed to the environment he could see his brother Marky, standing on a stool and waving his hand in the air to catch his attention. Discreet as usual, Marky repeated his welcoming shout.
“Heh Dec ya big wanker, over here!”
A few heads turned to face the “big wanker” who was now making his way towards his brother. As he approached the table where Marky was now seated he noticed he had company, a girl, of sorts.
“A’right Dec man,” smiled Marky, “everythin’ a’right fir the ‘morra?”.
Dec looked at him and then the girl, still a bit thrown, and answered.
“Aye, all set Marky, enough said eh?”
His brother must have been sitting drinking in the bar for a while because he proceeded to introduce the skeletal girl sitting at his side as, “the lovely Lorraine.”
The lovely Lorraine gave a forced and embarrassed smile and nudged Marky as Dec sat down on the stool opposite the happy couple and placed his glass, amongst the others, on the beer soaked table.
He noticed the run in her American tan tights and the pink, ‘cover-up’, nail varnish on the scraped heels of her red ‘fuck me’ stiletto’s. He hated American tan tights on women, reminded him of the tea his granny used to make him drink as a child, when all he wanted was Irn Bru or Coke. Then it spoke.
“Mark’s been telling’ me aw about you Dec, he’s dead lucky to huv a brother you know, a wish ah hid a sister but” …… and spoke, and spoke.
The skull must have hammered on for about five minutes, with Marky shuffling excitedly on his stool like an awestruck lover and Dec examining this creature from god knows where. The first two sentences were all that really registered.
As she worked her jaws, his eyes fell on the peroxide blonde of her hair. At least it was peroxide blonde for around three quarters of its length, the rest a dirty brown color from the roots out.
The makeup barely disguised the blackheads gathering at the joints of her nose, and the cheekbones, needlessly accentuated with blusher and sucked in, ‘twenty Mayfair a day’ cheeks.
“So anyways Dec, are you looking forward tae Christmas then?”
Dec was startled back to reality as the skull came to the end of her speech and darted a question at him.
“Aye I’m looking forward to it alright” smiled Dec, looking first at the skull then at Marky, “but eh, me an’ Marky have got a wee bit of shopping to do the ‘morra, that right son?”
Marky nodded and caught the edge of his raised glass at the same time, spilling a lost mouthful of beer on the lovely Lorraine’s skirt.
“Fuck sake Marky”, she moaned, “this is ma wee cousin’s skirt, it’ll be aw stained now ya daft cunt”.
She searched in her bag while Marky apologised and eventually pulled out a tissue and began dabbing at the wet patch.
“Don’t worry doll you can wash it at ma house later on the night, you’ll certainly no be wearing it that’s for sure”, laughed Marky, winking at Dec at the same time.
Jesus. Dec fought back the image floating into his head of the skull, minus the cousin’s skirt.
He knew Mark would have no such trouble and would welcome any such vision into that empty brain of his, and that before Christmas Eve arrives, the skull would be penetrated, in one way or another.
He fought back that image too. Still laughing, Dec’s brother stood up, paused to drain the last from his glass, and continued to mock the skull who was paying no attention whatsoever to him.
He collected the glasses along with his own and told Dec he was going to the bar for another round.
Dec sat for a few seconds in silence before telling Lorraine he would go and help Marky at the bar. She neither agreed nor disagreed, too busy cleaning, so he left her to it and joined his brother.
“Don’t get me another pint of this piss Marky” said Dec, joining his wee brother, who had just given his order to Buckfast man. “Get me a Jack Daniels, an’ jist a wee bit coke mind”.
“Ah, am ahead of you there, big yin, doubles already ordered, tonight we are gonnae get pissed” slurred Marky in the future tense while living in the present.
“So, the bold Marcus” taunted Dec, “Where did you find the midden?”
“What Lorraine, naw she’s sound Dec honest, a think she looks a bit like that Ivana Trump bint, it’s nice fir yer brother tae have a nice-looking bird on his arm for a change” replied Marky, pride written all over his face.
“IVANA TRUMP! You’re off your fucking trolley, she’s no like Ivana Trump for fuck’s sake”
“No think?” asked Marky seriously.
“You’re fucking blind ya cunt, how many beers you had the day, she’s a pig Marky”, said Dec.
“Fuck off you, she’s no a pig” said Marky defiantly.
“It’s been that long since you had a shag Dec your brains sending you mixed messages”.
He patted his brother on the back but was really congratulating himself.
“Marky, trust me.” Dec placed his hand on his brother’s shoulder and leaned towards him, “She is one of the biggest pigs that you have been wi’, and let me tell you fir nothing, there’s been a few. In fact, if pigs could fly Marky, the lovely Lorraine sitting over there would be a fucking Wing Commander.”
“Aw shut up needle dick and haud this” said Marky, handing his brother two of the three Jack Daniels with one hand and holding out the money for the barman with the other, who accepted with no word of thanks, again.
As he followed his brother back to the table Dec sipped some of the Jack Daniels from the glass he intended to give to Lorraine. They sat down either side of the lovely Lorraine, more composed now, but complete with wet patch.
As he lifted his glass to drink, Marky reached over and hit his glass off Dec’s,
“Here’s to the morn then bro’” smiled Marky as the glasses met.
Dec nodded uncomfortably at his brother in agreement, not wanting to say too much in front of Lorraine.
The brother’s enjoyed a few more raised glasses in the company of ‘Ivana’ before the ringing of last orders sounded in Dec’s ears. The night had gone fast, how time flies when you’re enjoying yourself.
Marky had decided that the night was still young and the invitation to head back to his flat was accepted by the other two.
Along with the invitation came the suggestion of a carry out, that Dec knew he would pay the best part of but agreed nonetheless, knowing that his gear was lying back at Marky’s and would be snorted in his absence.
His brother stood up and started searching through his pockets, pulling out a fiver and some change before looking at his brother for some financial backing to his big plan. Dec joined his brother in the upright position, though somewhat unsteady, and the pair headed off to the bar one last time.
‘Buckfast’ man had at some point given into the beer and had now joined his fellow piss heads at a nearby table.
A younger, slightly less bloated replacement now battled with the optics on the opposite side of the bar. Dec took him to be the son as he noticed how mother-nature in all its wonders had used its genetic powers to mould the boy and then allowed the booze to complete the job.
The boy’s father sat like a King holding court, with the chair just barely managing to contain him, and not realising nor caring, that his subjects were only laughing with him in return for the free drinks that he poured down their throats.
As Dec approached the bar, now quieter give or take a few stragglers, he shouted for the barman’s attention and got a quicker response than he had done all evening. Well, it was closing time.
“Lookin’ for a carry out mate, any chance?” asked Dec with an agreeable grin.
Father like son the barman wiped the sweat from his face and transferred it to the grimy sleeve of his shirt before replying.
“Can do, need to charge you bar prices though that a’right?”
Dec nodded while he got the money together to see what was on the menu. He counted the assortment of notes and coins, the usual dregs after a night out with his brother, and made a mental list of requirements.
“Right, we’re havin’ a bottle of Buckfast, and jist give us a half dozen can’s, Red Stripe if you’ve got it” said Dec. “Don’t suppose there’s any chance of just getting it and replacing it in the morning, naw?
The barman moved off to fill the order giving Dec a knowing smile that shouted “fuck off mate eh?”
“Naw, thought no” muttered Dec.
He turned around to let his brother know that the drink was coming and wished he hadn’t bothered as he caught him with his tongue half way down the skulls throat.
He smiled though as he noticed Marky’s hand had made its way to the inside thigh of skeletors leg and was rubbing away at what his mind was telling him was
Lorraine’s crotch. The daft wee bastard was actually rubbing at the gusset seam of those American tan tights which Dec could see was about three inches from the actual pants, clearly visible up the lovely Lorraine’s cousins skirt.
Dec got the carry out procedure completed and headed back to the table to drain the last mouthful from his glass.
They never noticed his return so he also drained the last from the lovely Lorraine’s glass as well, while watching Marky, so near and yet so far, rubbing away at thin air. He got up, moved round to his brother’s side and planted the biggest, wettest kiss on his cheek.
The lovers pulled apart with a sucking sound and Lorraine adjusted her modesty.
“Did a no huv a drink left?” she grated.