THE MORON CAME walking towards me not only talking to himself, bursting out into sporadic laughter but complementing the awful spectacle with an array of facial contortions that could only be seen to reinforce his rightful status as an idiot. Isis was tugging on my jacket sleeve, pulling me towards her as she lent into my ear, ‘it’s a mobile phone,’ she hissed, ‘hands free,’ as if this was some kind of excuse. I waited until he had just passed and booted his heels together, man this was some tumble, there was screaming in the street. I went up to him and noticed the earphone lying on the pavement next to his head, its new home, the old one having been reoccupied by a bubble of blood.
‘Someone phone for an ambulance,’ came a voice of concern from the gathering crowd.
‘Don’t worry I’m on it,’ I said, pulling out the guy’s phone from his inside pocket, ripping out the jackplug and punching out numbers with the urgency of authority. I scanned the crowd, no accusing faces, good no witnesses.
‘Aaaaaaaaargh’ I shouted, throwing the phone into the pavement where it smashed into many, many pieces, ‘its one of these hands free fuckers.’
‘Calm down mate,’ a suit said, fumbling with his mobile, ‘I’ll phone,’ and he did.
The boys didn’t come running though and when they did it was the police, no sign of an ambulance. Some woman, a passing nurse, was making the guy comfortable, lying him on his side and some other stuff.
The police are well trained these days there was no ‘what’s happened here?’ or ‘stand back please,’ no, they were right on the case making sure the guy could breathe and jabbering into a radio for advice. Changed days.
Changed days indeed but it wasn’t long before they wanted to talk to me.
‘What happened here, did you see?’ asked a tough looking kid, no more than twenty but well built and boxer faced like one of them Italian heavyweights.
‘Not much, well obviously he went flying but I don’t know, must have been talking into his phone, maybe he tripped on a loose paving stone.’
‘What that phone there?’ he asked, pointing to the smashed mess of wires and plastic.
‘Yeah, sorry that was me, I tried to phone you guys and it wouldn’t work, I must have been caught up in the urgency or something, it was one of these hands free jobs.’
‘Let me get this straight, you saw the guy trip,’ his tone had changed, more angered, ‘then went to help, tried to phone the emergency services with his phone then flew into a rage and smashed it when you couldn’t get through.’
‘Yeah. Like I said, it was one of these hands free mobiles, I’ve never used them, it got to me somehow.’
‘It was him.’
I spun round to face this accuser, a small woman about fifty whose gait appeared twisted into a wire figure of vengeance, her face a crust of ire. Yes she cut a formidable presence, but worse, much worse, I’d seen her before.
‘Did you see an incident?’ asked a suddenly animated Marciano unable to control his emotions, to disguise his enthusiasm, he’d smelt crime. Tuning into the vibe and anticipating an escalating situation his partner left the care of the injured man to the nurse and moved in closer, which irritated me, he was a ginger.
‘No but I’ve come across him before, he scrubbed a busker’s face with a brillo pad until it was just a mush of shredded skin and blood, the poor man was made and dressed up as a court jester, he was singing mediaeval ballads and playing a lute, this madman came walking by with his puppy, the dog took fright at the busker’s appearance, that was it, that was his crime and for that he was put in an arm lock and probably disfigured for life. I shouted at him to stop and he turned and stared straight at me with the face of a murderer, I thought I was next. It was him all right, where’s the loose paving stone? I tell you it was him.’
Ginger moved in even closer, close enough to grab me if I’d tried to make a run for it, Marciano started to inspect the paving stones, you could feel the change in atmosphere among the gathered crowd, it was getting thicker, a thickness somewhat akin to collective hostility. Anyone would of thought I’d just personally executed a busload of window-licking spastics.
‘It wasn’t me,’ I protested to the crowd.
‘What wasn’t you, the facial mutilation or the rendering of an innocent man unconscious?’ sneered Ginger, who had obviously made up his mind.
‘Both, I’m an innocent man, hear me, innocent, I was waiting for a bus with my mother, when this guy took a fall, I tried to help!’
‘Yes, my mother,’ I looked round for Isis, she was helping the nurse, wrapping her shawl round the guy, 'that’s her there keeping him warm.’
He tried but Ginger couldn’t hide the uncertainty that crept into his face like a dose of adolescent guilt. He was at a loss for words. Not so Marciano; ‘all right Mr Samaritan show me exactly where you were standing and describe to me exactly what happened.’
I dutifully complied and lied.
‘You see the problem I have here is that there’s no loose slab, no obstacle at all, not even a banana skin.’
‘A banana skin, what comic are you reading?’
‘I don’t know pal but one thing, sure as Sherlock, you’re no, ‘Friendly Ghost,’ and don’t get lippy, you’re not out of this yet. Did anybody else see this?’ he yelled at the crowd. A young, green-haired, stud-faced half-wit stepped forward, ‘I passed on a skateboard on the pavement just before it happened, I thought he was going to do me the way he was giving me the death stare but I was lucky, something behind me was bugging him even more, must have been that guy,’ he said pointing to the unconscious man.
I opened a chasm, a deep black hole with spitting cobras lurking in wait, a trap, something to stop me crossing over and ripping the tongue out of this punk’s head. It was barely enough, I teetered on the edge, only just able to control myself in the face of this latest outburst of bile. I could feel Marciano’s eyes upon me, gauging my reaction, a mistake here would have been fatal. A silence ensued, it was time to play my ace.
‘Why don’t you ask someone who might actually have seen what happened?’
‘My mother, okay she’s getting on a bit, her hearing’s not what it once was but there’s nothing wrong with her eyesight.’
I was surprised, Marciano looked as if he’d been expecting this, he was nobody’s fool, that much was obvious. Isis, as always, sensed her presence was required and joined us.
‘Did you see what happened madam?’
‘Yes, he tripped on his loose shoelace.’
Nobody expected that, not even me, Marciano shouted to Ginger to check if the guys shoelace was undone.
‘Yeah it is,’ he shouted back in a tone of not just disappointment but shear wretchedness.
‘Of course it is,’ shouted the twisted wire woman, ‘because she’s just untied it, what do you think she was doing over there? She’s lying look at her, she looks like a witch how can you possibly believe that apparition?’
‘Right that’s enough,’ I bellowed, ‘what the fuck is going on here? This toyshop clown appears from nowhere and accuses me of wanting to ‘do’ him because he was riding a skateboard on the pavement going on about a ‘death stare,’ of course I gave him a hard look there were old people having to get out his fucking road, did it make a difference? Did it fuck, he just carried on like the arrogant little shit he obviously is. Oh but, he’s a credible witness in your book isn’t he Marciano? And what about this mad old bag? What the fuck is she all about; court jesters, mediaeval ballads, lutes, frightened puppies, face disfigurements, I can’t believe I’m hearing this bullshit. Another credible witness though eh? She’s already admitted she didn’t see a thing. What a crock of crap! Answer me one thing you old bastard, where did I get a brillo pad from? Eh? Do you think I walk the streets armed with brillo pads, that they’re some kind of weapon of choice. Better search me Marciano see if I’m brillo’d up. Then she not only accuses my mother of lying, of tampering but calls her a witch. Just what the fuck is going on here!’
He was down but not out, there was no denying the element of truth in my rant, he knew it only too well, the crowd shifted its stance, started to murmur assent but he rallied, went in another direction, I wouldn’t have expected anything else.
‘Right, first of all don’t call me Marciano, second you’re swearing at the top of your voice in the street and placing a member of the public in a state of fear and alarm, that’s a public order offence, breach of the peace, thirdly there’s the small matter of that smashed phone, that’s destruction of private property, so if I was you I’d get off that high horse.’
Just then the ambulance arrived which created a distraction, a welcome break. The injured man got strapped in and stretched off. The crowd was going nowhere though, it was buzzing like a curious swarm of bees.
‘Right, said Marciano, ‘I’m going to tell you how it is; if Mr Unfortunate Accident there wakes up in the hospital, I’m going to cut you some slack, you’ll hear no more about this but if Mr Innocent Victim happens to wake up you can be sure I’m going to hunt you down, you’ll never know what hit you, now get out of my sight.’
Isis nuzzled into my shoulder in the taxi, she seemed content and indeed so was I, ‘do you want to go for some tea mother?’
‘No I would prefer a glass of beer, it reminds me of home.’
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