Powder Burn Flash # 143 - Paul Brazill
Sleeping It Off
by Paul Brazill
In the beginning is the sound. The light comes later.
The sound is a thump, thump, thump that goes on and on, over and over again. The sound is my head exploding .
I open my eyes and shards of sunlight slice through the blinds. Squinting, I focus on the worn Mick Ronson poster and the familiar red flock wallpaper. Once again I’ve fallen asleep fully clothed on my sofa, tangled up in a tartan blanket which has seen better days, and nights. The coffee table and the floor near the sofa are littered with the usual debris of beer cans and gin bottles.
I pick up a can of Stella, lay back and steadily sip.
Memories of the previous night trample over my thoughts with dirty feet.. Eventually, I turn on my side and look around the room.
As well as the alcohol, the table is covered in a fair amount of Colombian marching powder and in the corner of the room, next to the CD player, holding a glass of what looks like gin and tonic, face down in a pool of puke, is a man.
And he’s dead.
The evening was melting into night and dark, malignant clouds were spreading themselves across the sky. I pulled down the metal shutters and locked up Las Vegas Amusements as a battered yellow taxi cab spluttered to a halt in front of the arcade.
I shuffled into the back seat of the cab as the driver struck a match on the NO SMOKING sign and lit his pin sized roll up.
‘Astros?’ said the driver.
’Aye’, I replied, nodding, ‘Same shit,different day.’
‘Didn’t you say that yesterday?’ he smirked.
The taxi snaked it’s way along the sea front, past pubs, greasy spoons, gift shops and amusement arcades, as the rain began to pour. We pulled up outside Astros as a leathery bottle blond struggled to control a black umbrella which fluttered and flapped like a big black bat trying to escape from her grip.
I was nestled on my usual bar stool, calmly contemplating the evening’s third double whisky, the ice cubes shimmering, glimmering and glowing in the wan light, when I briefly turned my gaze outside to where the rain fell down in sheets and the wet pavement reflected the pub’s flickering neon sign.
Dressed in a white linen suit and a gaudy Hawaiian shirt, a blast from the past that was positively seismic burst into the room. Tony Amerigo, a man with a face like a blackcurrant crumble, a liver like the Great Barrier Reef and the smell of a soggy mongrel, sidled up to me, shuffling and sniffling, moving in close and conspiratorially like a double-agent in a Harry Palmer film.
‘Jesus Christ,’ I said.
‘Close but no cigar,’ said Tony. ‘Thought, I’d find you here,’
‘Long time no see,’ I say.
‘Sounds like a Chinese take-away,’ replied Tony.
‘Aye, You could make that into a joke. Albeit not a particularly funny one,’ I say, slowly tearing up a beer mat.
‘These are the jokes, folks. Still working at Las Vegas?” asked Tony.
I nodded.“Same shit blah blah blah. Still a tabloid bloodsucker?’
Tony chuckled, wiping the charlie from his nose
Let me lay my cards on the table here: I like a drink . However, I like to think of myself as a long distance drinker – more suited, say, to the cross country run than a one hundred metre dash. But as that night wore on I began to break into a bit of a sprint.
‘The things is...,’ slurred Tony, almost knocking his beer over as he reached past a mountain of cigarette butts to get to the beer stained manuscript of his great unfinished novel which, almost inexplicably, he’d actually finished. ‘The things is ... the things I’ve done. The places... I’ve been. ... I can tell you ...’
And then he told me in lurid detail. Bordellos in Barcelona. Camel racing in Tunisia. Blackmail in Slovakia. Drug smuggling in Colombia. Not the stuff that dreams are made of, perhaps, but compared to my mundane life ...
Now, whether Tony was telling me lies or not, I didn’t know. Indeed, a lot of the tales that Tony told sounded like they’d been dug up in some murky hinterland somewhere on the outskirts of the truth. However, the more he regaled me with his exploits and adventures, well, the more I started pulling on the threads of of my own life so hard that the whole thing felt like it was about to unravel.
‘So,’ said Tony, lighting a cigar. ‘This is what happened in Warsaw.’ He turned to a page in the manuscript and smiled to himself and I took another gulp of Stella and headed toward oblivion, like dirty dishwater down a plughole.
In the early hours of the morning, when I awoke back at my flat, a Christina song was playing at a low volume and Tony was laying on the floor foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog. And then he went into convulsions.
I drained a glass of gin, turned over and went back to sleep.
The cash from Tony’s wallet is in my back pocket along with his credit cards. I’ve burnt the manuscript of his book , found the CD with the hard copy and changed the author’s name to mine. In a moment, I’m going to move the body to my freezer and cover it with frozen food until I work out what to do with it.
I turn on the television, take the drink from Tony’s hand and slowly sip it until I start to feel like one of the kids in the old Ready Brek advert. I watch the snooker for an hour or so. And then I close my eyes and go to sleep.
BIO: Paul Brazill is workshy and feckless. He was born in a town famous for hanging a monkey and is now on the lam in Poland (South of Hel)... .He came into the world whining and spluttering and hasn't stopped since. ...He's not saying that he shot Liberty Valence, but he does know a bloke that says he did ..He can be found stalking CrimeSpace, My Space, Facebook, Six Sentences and other such classy joints - if they don't take an injunction out - and http://pdbrazill.blogspot.com/