20P DOMINO – A SHORT STORY BY T.L. HUCHU

“The laddie who pinched 20p off the pool table obviously didnae know it was Callum McDonald’s in the first place. Imagine it, Crofters on a Sunday afternoon, footie playing on the TV screens, hungover punters picking up from Saturday night. You’re hardly gonnae know whose 20p coin’s on the table, are ye?”

“Who puts 20p on the deck anyway? That’s just asking for it. A penny’s enough to hold your place.”

“Aye, but you should see that joint on a Sunday afternoon. All sorts in there, families and scum. Takes at least an hour to get a shot on them tables. So there’s all these coins lined up, tokens, people drinking Tennent’s on the side all waiting their turn, civilised like.”

“I know the scene.”

“Anyway, we blink for like two seconds… I’m telling you, there was seven different pairs of eyes on that table. One minute it was there, and the next it was gone. Now we all know who done it.”

“Chris Parson, been doing it since he was fifteen. Big lad, they let him in on account of his size, but really shouldn’t have. The drink’s nae good for him.”

“Was probably shopping around for a wee dram, poor fellow. But, fuck’s sake, you dinnae touch Callum McDonald’s money, no even if he dropped a penny.”

“Rather excessive what he did though.”

“We can debate that all you want, but it was a matter of principle.”

“It was just 20p! You could go into Tesco, pinch a hundred quid’s worth of gear and no one’s gonnae touch you for it.”

“Difference is, the gear in Tesco isnae Callum McDonald’s.”

“You’re right about that.”

“He disnae have shares in the company, so he’s hardly gonnae bother you if you go into Hermiston Gait and help yourself, is he?”

“I still think the whole thing was over the top… You buying another round?”

“I got the last one.”

“Yeah, but—“

“And the one before that.”

“Never you mind.”

“It wasnae just about the 20p, it was a matter of principle. When Callum McDonald put his money on that table, behind a line of 1ps and 5ps, he was acting in good faith. He was saying, I could be an arsehole and jump right to the front, but I’m one of you, I’m one of the people, I’ll drink my Tennent’s patiently and wait my turn like everyone else. That’s touching right there. Then, as soon as he’s turned his eye, he gets stabbed in the back – metaphorically speaking, of course – no one stabs Callum McDonald in the back, or anywhere else for that matter. That’s just asking for it.”

“How was the lad to know whose money was on the table anyway?”

“Callum McDonald didnae just lose 20p that afternoon. It’s his reputation on the line there.”

“Bollocks.”

“Matter of principle. He was saying what’s mine is mine and everyone else better know that.”

“He could have said words to that effect and that’d have been enough.”

“You talking about the same Callum McDonald I’m talking about?”

“Come on! He impaled the kid with a wooden stake like a fucking vampire.”

“Wasnae no wooden stake I saw. He broke the cue across his thigh like that and goes, ‘I’m only counting to three until every penny that was on that table’s been returned in the right order.’ Fair warning. The kid’s staring at him like a deer in the headlights of a twenty ton truck. So Callum McDonald takes the cue and plants it square into his heart.”

“Like a vampire.”

“In front of CCTV and everything. The blood, you should have seen it. Spurted out fifteen feet. And the kid’s just looking at this hole in his chest as old Callum McDonald casually reaches into his pocket and takes the money back. Wasnae more than a pound in there in coins of varying denominations. The kid drops to the floor, lassie behind the bar’s screaming like a psycho, Callum McDonald puts the money back on the table and says, ‘Play on lads.’ Calm and collected like he was having tea at his gran’s.”

“Rather gruesome if you ask me. Listen to those sirens. What on earth is going on out there?”

“It’s a point of principle. The kid was asking for it.”

“No one asks to be impaled in the fucking heart with a wooden stake.”

“It was a pool cue. This wasnae Van Helsing. The money on that table represented something, a fundamental part of our culture, how Brits queue patiently and uncomplainingly every single day of the week. The lad should have known stealing that money was tantamount to wanking in front of the queen.”

“Puh-lease.”

“It was an assault on our national character.”

“Sticking a wooden stake in his heart was an assault on our national character. Two wrongs dinnae make a right, and I dinnae know about you, but I think most people would have something to say about broad daylight murder.”

“There was a time, once upon, on these Isles when a man had every right to defend his property.”

“Pacification. Fucking sirens going off again. Cannae get no peace here.”

“What.”

“Modern state and all that. That’s what they call it. But even in Saudi Arabia, no one’s gonnae stab you in the heart for stealing 20-fucking-p. Alright, they might chop off your hand, but still, compared to that…”

“What you having?”

“The same.”

“Hold on—“

“—there you go, lad.”

“Cheers. I’ll square you off when I get paid.”

“Crofters lose their licence, hardworking folks soon find themselves out of a job because some punk stole 20p.”

“There was a number of health and safety issues in the place. Almost got electrocuted taking a piss one day.”

“Point is, no one would have looked into that at all if this thing here hadn’t happened. Look how far we’ve had to walk just to get a cold pint. Affecting our quality of life, this is. To top it off, Callum McDonald’s in the Saughton as we speak. No right, is it?”

“Hang on, why you even telling me this story? I’m the one who told it to you in the first place.”

“Reliving the trauma is therapeutic. And anyway, you still havenae heard the news about old bobby. Happened just last night.”

“What news?”

“See…”

“?”

“…”

“You gonnae tell it or no?!”

“I dinnae like your tone of voice.”

“Fuck sake, will you just tell me what happened, you’re killing me here.”

“So old Callum McDonald’s in the jail, and normally you’d think that’d be the end of it, right? I mean, he goes down peaceful, like Nelson fucking Mandela. Well, detective running the case – you know the kind, tall, Primark suit, looks more like a bouncer than a copper – visits Callum McDonald’s place.”

“He’d have to. Part of the investigation and all that.”

“Right. Detective by the name of Davidson walks into the flat in Wester Hailes, stolen TV, stolen hi-fi, stolen family portraits, stolen fridge, stolen fucking groceries in the fridge.”

“Bet no one got impaled for those groceries.”

“Anyway, the detective takes a shine to Callum McDonald’s bird.”

“No!”

“Keeps going back on account of ‘further investigation’. You can imagine it, frail defenceless female, vulnerable, boyfriend’s in the jail, no coming out any time soon, nature takes its course and Davidson’s soon giving her a good seeing to every now and again. Police car parked outside and everything too.”

“Woman gets lonely, I can understand that, but Callum McDonald’s no gonnae like that.”

“He hears about it in Saughton of course and goes raj. They had to put him in the cooler and everything. So, he tells his lads to put it to right.”

“You dinnae want tae mess with the cops like that. Better let it go.”

“They don’t touch the cop. They’re insane, but they’re no crazy. Turns out Davidson has a junky brother in Sighthill, somewhere. So, the lads get a hold of him, go all medieval, I’m talking pre-Magna Carta here, bust him up real good and throw his body in the canal.”

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph.”

“All I can tell you is, it’s a state of emergency in Wester Hailes today. Cops breaking down doors and knocking in skulls, no seen anything like it, no since Andy Kirkpatrick in 1988.”

“You mean those sirens.”

“I’m telling you, this thing’s only getting started. No idea where it’ll end up. You want another one?”

“Aye, make it the same.”

“Righto… Oh, and I almost forgot-”


Photo: Mark Morgan Trinidad B

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