A Tiding – Part IV
by Timothy J Jarvis
Part IV of ‘A Tiding’. The first part can be found here.
Soundtrack: Juv, ‘Los’
Bizarre junk – a giant – a scuffle – wretchedness – a sore head – an ex-colleague – an accusation of rape – an argument – Colin again
Mark got up, walked to the door, and went outside. Colin’s carrier bag lay on the pavement, split open. Bizarre junk was strewn about: an LP of the show of an unpleasant, liberal-baiting stand-up comic; a sheeny page cut from a pornographic magazine, the women’s breasts and loins obscured by thick hatchings of black biro; an old deck of playing cards with photographs of the victims of lynchings on the back; a gaudy glass sculpture of a clown; a diamante-studded Alice band; and, weirdest of all, a merkin spray-painted bile green.
Once Mark had taken in this motley, he looked up and, in the cone of light cast by a street lamp, saw Colin tussling with the man who’d been peering in at the window. He was hulking, dwarfed Colin. He wore a wool three-piece suit, too small for him and strained at the seams, and black patent shoes with large buckles. He and Colin flailed at each other with their fists.
Mark hung back, watching them scuffle, unsure what to do. Then one of the giant’s blows connected with Colin’s cheek, broke the skin, and Mark shouted, ran forwards, barged the giant with his shoulder. The giant staggered backwards, tripped, landed heavily on his back, and lay winded, rolling his eyes.
Colin shook his head, blinked, crossed to the giant, kicked him, hard, in the groin, then fell to punching him. He lay groaning. Mark ran over, threw his arms round Colin, and dragged him off the giant’s sprawling bulk.
Grunting, the giant got ponderously to his feet, then staggered away down the road.
Mark let Colin go, and he, pulling another orange plastic bag from his pocket, dropped to his hands and knees and scrabbled for his things. Once he had gathered all up, he stood and glared at Mark.
‘What?’ Mark said.
‘I was going to stave in that vat of guts and lard.’
‘If I hadn’t knocked him down, he’d have torn you to pieces.’
Mark lost his temper.
‘Fucking shut up! I’ve had enough!’
He kicked a stone, then sat down on the curb and slumped forward, elbows on knees, chin cupped in hands. Colin stood peering down at him, absently dabbing the cut on his cheek with a handkerchief.
‘I wasn’t wrong, was I? That wretchedness I saw in you.’
‘What’s it to you?’
Colin sat down on the curb next to Mark. ‘Don’t you see? I can help, or rather the daemon I was telling you about can. I’ve nearly finished collecting my tribute now. I hope to be able to make my offering in a few days. Why don’t you come with me?’
‘Leave me alone.’
‘Suit yourself,’ Colin said, then got up and walked away.
Mark went back into the pub and sat morosely drinking till closing time.
The next day he’d a sore head. When he went out in the afternoon to the local supermarket, he saw, walking towards him, a colleague from the university, Angela, a professor in the History department, who’d been one of the most vociferous voices against him following his disgrace. He darted into a bookshop, but she’d sighted him, and, following him in, drove him outside again with her harangue.
‘You miserable shit.’
‘Leave me alone,’ Mark pleaded. ‘I’ve paid, and dearly, for my mistake.’
‘Paid?’ A bitter laugh. ‘You bullied that girl into retracting her accusation. You got away with rape.’
A small crowd gathered. Mark pushed Angela away, attempted to force his way through the mob, but was tripped and fell, grazing the heels of his hands. Angela crossed to him, spat. The rabble dispersed. After getting to his feet, Mark wiped the spittle from the nape of his neck, went home, hunched into his coat.
That evening, he drank the best part of half a bottle of whisky. Then he called Natalie.
‘Hello,’ she said, answering the phone.
‘Natalie, it’s me.’
‘Are you drunk?’
‘No. A little.’
‘What is it?’
‘I was wondering if I could see Jessica this weekend, take her on a day trip.’
‘You know what the court said.’
‘Please, I’m begging you.’
‘Bitch. I want to see my fucking daughter.’
Natalie sighed. ‘Mark,’ she said, wearily, ‘don’t call here again.’
‘Sorry, sorry. Please, it’s just…’ he began to whine, but she had already put the phone down.
The following evening he went back to the Saracen’s Head. Colin was there. When he saw Mark, he beckoned him over.
‘I’ve finished my collection. I’m going to present it to the daemon tomorrow night. Coming?’
To be continued…