I am sitting on the floor watching TV when something wet lands on my back. It's sperm. Little John has just shot his load. My mother is a drunken sprawl of flesh on the bed. She empties another drink into herself.
Little John was little. An inch bigger than a dwarf but no more. He looked like he'd been given the wrong head, it being a size too big. In his mid-forties he already had a full head of grey hair, the back and sides cropped short and the top longer, wavy and pushed back with stubby fingers. He was always fresh shaven, which is not clean shaven, and looking at him you could somehow hear the sound of him slapping alcohol on the tender around his face. He worked as a security guard, though what he guarded was a mystery. He used to come around every Thursday and had a habit of asking what colour knickers my nine year old sisters was wearing. In his inside jacket pocket, protecting his heart, lived a quart bottle of HAIG whiskey. Every now and again you'd hear him twisting the cap off, seething, then spinning it back on again.
Apart from the few seconds when he wriggled about on top of mum, and the ten minutes after, he was always in uniform. Sat naked and smoking on the edge of the bed the two cut a tragic still of life. My mother with her sagging stretch-marked gut and Little John, always in those grubby white sports socks, his genitals scrunched up and looking like something a bird would peck at. That's when it would start, the hitting. Mum would clench her fist, and without saying anything, would start waving it at little John. It was alcoholics' sign language, meaning: You want some of this? I' give as good as I get, me. Little John would watch, his face flushed red with spirits, laughing and rubbing and patting mum's back in admiration. Mum, her head full of drunk, unable to speak words for a moment, just remained there, swaying, her eyes fixed on nothing, shaking her fist at invisible forces which taunted her.
Then she'd slur: Shane, fucking get over 'ere! And as I approached, she'd say: Watch this little John! And punch me full welt in the face. We'd all roll around laughing. Then I'd clench my face, come back in, and she'd do it again. Then again. Then him. When my face was scratched, bloody and as red as theirs I'd go sit back down with my back to them and watch TV, feeling not much of anything at all.
I don't know what it was but mum would always become angry and mean after sex. Like she despised the man who was next to her, blamed him for some huge wrong in the world. She'd sit there wearing a stony face, not speaking, stewing in a drunkenness that very few will ever see, a hatred nourished over months and years and gallons of neat, 45% proof spirits.
It was almost three years, on and off, that Little John visited mum. In that time he lost his job, lost his bottom teeth, took on a filthy grey pallor, and ended with a drunkard's dry stubble and pasty, flaking skin with burst blood vessels across the nose and cheeks. As with many people who finally descend into the pit they've been circling around for so long, he fell in with just the clothes he was wearing. The very last time he visited mum his blazer was crumpled and split at the seams; his jumper full of holes and misshapen; his shirt filthy – the collar soft and sunken and the neck brown with grime; his trousers stained all over with blood, piss and semen; his shoes broke through, the upper coming away from the sole, the heels worn down, the thick grubby socks visible in turns as he tramped up the stairs. And finally, his quart bottle of whiskey, his appalling attempt at having style, was then replaced by a white carrier bag of bottles and cans, clinking away, warning the world he was close at hand. He was so dirty that even mum refused to sleep with him, screaming something about 'cock cheese' and telling him he needed a bath.
So instead of fucking mum, he sat on the edge of the bed, shared his drink and leered at my sister, asking innocent questions that somehow always revealed what colour knickers she had and may be wearing. And if once they looked sad sat there naked, now they looked even more miserable and downtrodden dressed – two people who had nothing to offer each other but dull lights and sad music and maybe grief-stricken memories of what someone's company and skin once felt like and had meant.
By that time my fear of the unknown had left, my familiarity with Little John allowing me to laugh and swear and throw things at him, my mother in hysterics as I called him a “drunken dirty cunt” and poked fun at his shoes and piss stained pants. Little John was so drunk that he no longer knew what was an insult, an angry wind or someone offering help. He just sat there with a bemused grin on his face answering in words that was from no language at all, a kind of middle ground that saved his soul for another night.
Little John didn't so much as leave willingly but was pushed out by other competition: not one, but two dominant males: Whistling Chris and Lloydy Baby. The first was a Travel Agent who hung around street corners peeping into womens' bedroom windows, and the latter, a tall, scarred, murderous Jamaican straight out the Black House. Though I 'm sure, a couple of scummy lowlifes like that would be of no interest to a group of highly cultured readers like yourselves?
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