1 Fucked Up and Wasted
Colin Baxter was already buzzing when he walked through the door of The Queen’s Head half an hour after opening time – four cans of beer to go with the bag of chips he had for tea had seen to that. The pub smelled of furniture polish and stale tobacco, masking the sweet scent of malt and hops he expected.
An old couple playing dominos near the door looked up at Colin and tutted to each other. The middle-aged woman behind the bar eyed him with a frown. Colin ignored them all. He was used to getting funny looks – everywhere he went people stared at him, like he was an alien or something. You’d think nobody had ever seen a punk before, the way they always stared. Still, it was their problem, not his.
Colin looked around the otherwise empty pub for his mate, Brian Mathews. He found him sitting by an old Wurlitzer jukebox, and raised his hand in greeting. Brian nodded back and glanced at his watch.
“All right, Col?”
“Yeah, not bad.”
Brian reached into his leather jacket and took out a pack of cigarettes and a box of matches. He pulled a cigarette out with his teeth and struck a match on the underside of the table. Colin took out his own cigarettes and leaned over the table to get a light from Brian.
“What did you want to meet in here for?” Colin asked, blowing smoke across the table. “The place is fucking dead.”
The old couple playing dominos tutted again. One mumbled something, the other laughed. Colin poked out his tongue at them.
“Happy hour, innit?” Brian said. “Might as well get a few in here while it’s cheap, then fuck off down to The White Swan once we’re bladdered.”
“Yeah, I guess. Or we could just get some drinks in here and take them with us?”
Brian laughed. “Nah, that barmaid’s been watching me like a fucking hawk since I came in. You’d have no chance getting out of here with any drinks.”
Colin looked at the barmaid and smiled. She frowned back, hands on hips. Colin walked up to the bar and drummed his fingers on it.
“Pint of bitter please, darling.”
“How old are you?” the barmaid asked.
“Erm … Eighteen?” Colin looked away and tapped his cigarette on the edge of a spotlessly clean ashtray.
The barmaid sighed. Colin looked up in time to see her shake her head and frown. She reached under the bar for a pint glass and filled it from a hand-pump, then put it down on the bar before him.
“Sixty pence,” she said.
Colin pulled a crumpled pound note from the pocket of his leather jacket and dropped it into the barmaid’s outstretched hand. She sighed again and straightened it out, then held it between her thumb and forefinger as if it was something disgusting while she took it to the till. She returned and dropped Colin’s change on the bar.
Colin’s eyes strayed to a naked girl on a peanut dispenser behind the bar as he picked up the coins and put them in his pocket. The young blonde woman in the photo had one bag of peanuts hanging over each breast. Colin thought about buying a bag, and wondered if the barmaid would give him a choice between left or right. But something about the way the woman stared at him made him change his mind, so he just picked up his pint and walked away.
“I thought you’d have saved that for the gig at the weekend,” Colin said, pointing at Brian’s Cockney Upstarts T-shirt.
Brian shrugged. “Nah, I’ll get me mam to wash it before then. Or wear something else. I haven’t decided yet. Besides, everyone else will probably be wearing the same shirt, and I’d rather be an individual than a sheep.”
Colin sat down and took a long drink of beer. He sighed and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
“Talking of which,” Brian said, spinning round in his chair. “What do you reckon to this? Twiglet’s brother did it for me, fucking smart or what?”
Colin stared at a white Exploited skull intricately painted onto the back of Brian’s leather jacket, with the band’s logo beneath it. He nodded.
“Yeah, he’s done a good job there. How much?”
Brian turned back and smiled. “Twenty quid.”
“Twenty quid? Fucking hell, where did you get that much money from?”
“I haven’t paid him yet, I said I’d give him it when me giro comes. Well worth it though, nobody else has got anything like this.”
Colin thought about his own leather jacket, the stencilled band names spray-painted onto it, and wished he could afford to have something similar done to his. Not much chance of that though. After he paid his grandmother for board, Colin’s giro hardly stretched to a couple of nights out a week and a new record at the weekend. Brian didn’t know how lucky he was having working parents who could afford to keep him for free.
The pub door swung open with a loud thud. Colin turned toward it. A young skinhead with an angry scowl on his face swaggered through the door. He was short, just over five feet tall and slightly overweight, and wore a green flight jacket with a Union Jack patch above the left breast. Red braces hung down from a pair of faded denim jeans, the legs of which were turned up six inches to show off a pair of highly polished cherry red fourteen-hole Doc Marten boots.
“Aye up, it’s the Munchkin Gestapo,” Brian whispered.
Colin laughed. The skinhead glared at him as he walked toward the bar. Still smiling, Colin shook his head and picked up his beer. He gulped it down.
“Sieg Low, Sieg Low, Sieg Low,” Brian said, holding a finger under his nose.
Colin spluttered beer across the table. Brian wiped splashes from his face with a frown.
“You dirty bastard,” Brian said. “You dirty fucker.”
“What a fucking rotter,” Colin said, recognising the famous quote from a write-up about it in Melody Maker. He sensed someone standing behind him and turned. The skinhead glared down at him. Colin nodded. “All right, mate. You joining us?”
The skinhead stared at Colin for a few seconds, then shook his head and turned away. He took up a seat a few tables away and sat with his arms folded, staring at his pint glass. Colin shrugged and turned back to his beer. He drained the glass and took it to the bar for a re-fill.
“What’s his fucking problem?” Brian asked, nodding at the skinhead when Colin returned.
“Dunno,” Colin said with a shrug. “I need a piss anyway. Watch me beer for me.” He put the full glass down on the table and headed for the toilet. “All right mate,” he said when he passed the skinhead. The skinhead didn’t look up.
Inside the toilet, Colin rushed to the communal urinal and pulled down his zip. The toilet door opened and closed behind him. Boots slapped across the tiled floor. Colin took a drag on his cigarette and sighed clouds of smoke while he urinated.
A hand grabbed the spikes on the back of Colin’s head and yanked it back. Colin cried out and dropped his cigarette into the urinal, raised his hands and tried to turn. His forehead crashed into the wall with a dull thud. Blinding white light filled his vision. His head was pulled back and slammed into the wall once again. The hand released his hair and he was spun around by his shoulder. He stared at the fuzzy blob before him and shook his head to bring it into focus. His eyes widened. The skinhead scowled at him and raised a fist.
“You fucking cunt,” the skinhead yelled, and smacked Colin in the mouth.
Colin’s lip stung. He tasted warm copper, felt something dripping down his chin. He raised a hand to his mouth. Rough hands pushed him back against the urinal wall.
“What the fuck are– ” Colin began.
The skinhead punched him in the stomach. Colin doubled over, the wind sucked out of him. His legs buckled from beneath him, his back slid down the urinal with a faint squeak of leather against aluminium. He looked up at the skinhead as he sat there, piss soaking through his tartan trousers.
“Not so fucking big now, are you cunt?” the skinhead yelled. He shook with rage. His fists clenched and unclenched by his sides.
Colin held his stomach and moaned. He leaned to one side and spat out a glob of blood. “What the fuck?” he asked.
“Like you don’t fucking know, you gobby cunt.”
Colin shook his head. “Mate, I were just being friendly. You’re a fucking psycho.”
“Fucking cunt,” the skinhead roared, and kicked Colin in the side of the head.
Colin didn’t feel the impact, everything just faded to black. The words echoed around his head, “—unt –unt –unt”, along with the beginnings of a cackle of laughter. The sounds mingled together before fading to nothing along with his vision.
* * *
Continued next Friday.
Punk Faction by Marcus Blakeston is also available in paperback and ebook if you don’t want to wait that long.