Colin opened his eyes and groaned. His head throbbed, his stomach and mouth hurt, and he was soaking wet. He lay in the urinal a few seconds while he figured out where he was, then sat up and looked around. Bubbly, foul-smelling liquid dripped down his face. He wiped it away and felt a sharp stabbing pain in his forehead when his hand brushed against it. He explored the area with his fingertips and winced when he touched a tender, round lump.
The toilet door opened. Colin startled, fearing it might be the skinhead returning to finish him off. But as the figure loomed closer, Colin relaxed. It was just one of the domino players from the bar.
The old man leaned over him and smiled. “The sit down bogs is over there, lad,” he said, pointing at a cubicle door. He laughed raspingly, then stepped up to the urinal a few feet from where Colin sat.
Colin leaned forward onto his hands and knees and crawled out of the urinal just as a fresh torrent of urine made its way toward him. He stumbled to his feet and spat a glob of blood onto the tiled floor. He realised he still had his penis out, and pushed it back in and zipped up.
The old man looked over his shoulder and smiled. “Is that the new fashion then?” he asked.
Colin staggered to the sink to look at his battered face in the mirror. His bottom lip was split and oozing blood. There was a red lump the size of a golf ball on the left side of his forehead, and the beginnings of a bruise just above his right ear. The spikes he had spent so long twisting his hair into were all wilted and bent out of shape, frothy with soap bubbles. A wave of nausea hit him. He leaned over the sink and retched. Blood, beer and half-digested chips splattered into the porcelain bowl.
“Can’t take your beer, that’s your trouble,” the old man said, walking past. “You should stick to shandy, lad.”
Colin turned on the cold water tap and splashed water onto his face, then ran his hands through his hair. He tried to mould it back into shape but it was too wet for that. He reached for a paper towel but the dispenser was empty. He sighed, took a final look at his reflection in the mirror, and walked back into the bar.
Brian’s eyes widened. “Fucking hell, what’s happened to you?” he asked.
Colin attempted a smile as he staggered back to his seat, and winced at a sharp pain in his lip. “That fucking skinhead cunt smacked me in the bogs.” He looked around the deserted pub. The old couple with the dominos pointed and laughed at him. “Where is the bastard?”
“Went ages ago. You all right then? You look a right fucking mess.”
“Yeah well, I’ve been better.”
“Mate, if I’d known I would’ve come in and helped you out. So what happened then?”
“Took me by surprise, didn’t he? Fucking little coward whacked me while I were having a piss.”
“Fucking hell, what a cunt,” Brian said, shaking his head. He lit a cigarette and took a deep drag, exhaling the smoke in Colin’s direction. “You want me to take you home or something?”
Colin shrugged and reached for his beer. “Nah, I’ll be all right.” His hand shook as he raised the glass to take a sip. Searing pain shot through his mouth. Colin jerked the glass away, spilling beer down his already wet clothes.
Brian looked at Colin and raised an eyebrow. He smirked. “You’ll need to drink it with a straw, mate. I can remember when me brother gave me a fat lip years ago, it fucking killed for ages.”
Colin put the glass down and reached into his leather jacket pocket for his cigarettes. The gold pack was damp, and his fingers sank in as he gripped it. He flipped up the lid, took hold of a cigarette, raised it to his mouth–
–and looked down at the soggy brown filter tip in his hand, the rest of the cigarette still in the packet.
“Oh for fuck’s sake!” Colin flicked the cigarette filter away and turned to Brian. “Give us a fag Bri, mine are all wet.”
Brian tossed his cigarette pack across the table and held out his own cigarette for Colin to light one from. Colin closed his eyes and sighed as he exhaled. The nicotine rush cleared his head a little. He opened his eyes and looked at his beer longingly, wishing he could drink it without pain. He decided Brian’s idea of using a straw wasn’t as daft as it sounded, and looked toward the bar. The barmaid stared at him, her arms folded. She frowned. Colin placed his hands on the table and pushed himself to his feet. The table wobbled under his weight, and Brian grabbed his pint glass to stop it from toppling over.
“Have you got any straws?” Colin asked the barmaid.
She shook her head, frowning. “I’m not serving you looking like that. You’ll have to leave.”
“What?” Colin said. “I haven’t done nothing. I got attacked in the bogs.”
“I don’t care, this is a respectable pub. People come here for a quiet drink, they don’t want to look at louts like you and your friend over there. Now get out, you’re barred.”
Colin knocked over an empty stool and glared at her. “It’s a fucking shit pub anyway.” He looked at Brian, who frowned back at him.
Outside, Colin shivered in the cold while he waited for Brian to finish urinating against a wall. A dark blue car pulled up at the kerb just as Brian finished, and its tinted passenger-side window rolled down. A young man wearing a suit and tie leaned out, then beckoned Brian over with his fingers. Brian walked up to the car and leaned down to look inside.
“What’s up, mate?” he asked.
“SID’S DEAD!” the man shouted.
The driver of the car, another young man in a suit and tie, laughed and aimed a bottle of tomato sauce over the passenger’s shoulder. He squeezed the soft plastic bottle and a stream of red tomato sauce flew at Brian. Brian jumped back, but couldn’t avoid his face and clothes being splattered with it.
“You fucking cunt,” Brian shouted. He reached for the car’s door handle and pulled, but the door was locked. He reached through the open window and grabbed a handful of the passenger’s shirt. The car sped away with a squeal of tyres, causing Brian to withdraw his hand quickly.
“FUCKING TOSSERS!” Brian shouted after the car as it raced to the end of the street. It disappeared around the corner with another squeal of tyres. Brian turned to Colin. “Did you see that?”
Colin nodded. “Yeah. Fucking trendy wankers, they’re worse than fucking skinheads.”
Brian took a handkerchief from his jeans pocket and wiped tomato sauce from his face, then dabbed at the smears on his leather jacket and T-shirt. “As if anyone cares about that drugged up cunt anyway. He couldn’t even fucking play.”
“Yeah,” Colin said, not really interested. He had heard Brian’s tirade on the relative merits of Sid Vicious and Ronnie Biggs versus Glen Matlock and Johnny Rotten many times before and had no desire to hear it again. “We going to The White Swan then, before I sober up too much?”
Without waiting for an answer, Colin marched unsteadily up the street.
* * *
Continued next Friday.
Punk Faction by Marcus Blakeston is also available in paperback and ebook if you don’t want to wait that long.