“I want all you skinheads to get up on your feet. Put your braces together and your boots on your feet and give me some of that oooooold moonstomping…” the record kicked in. Sprocket stuck through the hole of the rotating yellow Treasure Isle label the disc span on Joe’s Dansette. Reflected onto the deep black of the vinyl, up on it’s left hand side was the moon as it shone it’s light through the bedroom window.
It was a Friday night and Joe Bovshover was back from work, he’d wolfed down the shepherd’s pie at the caff, had a behind the ears and under the balls bath, and was heading out: brogues shined, knife edge crease to the sta-prest, braces over Brutus, and wedge in his bin. ‘Andsome. He was a full of life 17 year old and looking to gain a lot more experience before Monday rolled around again.
It was gigs of a weekend; a couple of pints, a smile from a sort, and music, didn’t always matter what, but loud music. Music that’d make you pound away the workaday week on the dance floor. It was better than the tele’. His dad reckoned the breweries paid the BBC and ITV to screen crap of a weekend to make sure the pubs were overflowing.
Walking down the steps of the Hope and Anchor was like leaving 9 to 5 self behind. The Mithraeum over in Walbrook had served this function back in Roman times. Through the throng of the bar: the leather jackets, the girls with the spiked hair, and the skinheads like himself, down to the band.
The stage was tiny and to your left as you entered. It took a minute of two for your eyes to adjust to the gloom, and for your ears to pitch to the loudness. People were chattering, ordering drinks and flirting. A song was playing, a real humdinger: Mucky Pup… a punk record from local Essex Road boys, Puncture. Yep, there were a lot of mucky pups here alright, and like the tension in the fast paced punk rock all looking for a release. The band hadn’t started yet, people were settling in and getting drunk.
Then a riffle of drums, some to-ing and fro-ing on stage and all eyes turned. Some snaps of the snare, and notes from the bass and they were off. The front of the crowd started jumping straight away. There was a lot of teenage boredom to let loose there. Teenage boredom and speed. Joe wasn’t one for the crush, not with decent shmatta on at least, so hung back and finished his pint.
The band were good. Fast, tight, and with a dynamic singer with a captivating pair of eyes. The more they played the deeper he was pulled into them. She was wrapped in a crazy dress that was more of a robe and her head was framed in lace with long pigtails hanging either side. They more she committed to the music, the faster the pigtails whipped around her head. She held the stage. Her dancing was angular and she used all the small amount of stage space to magnify the pulse of the music with her prescience.
Those eyes, though. Lene Lovich had ethereal eyes. Eyes akin to Le Fanu’s ‘In A Glass Darkly’ laid open on a supper table. With the beer running through him, not enough that he needed a piss but enough that he was feeling his swagger, with the stomp of the music and the pull of those eyes he elbowed his way through the densely packed crowd to the scrum at the front. He started jumping, losing himself and becoming part of the mob. They’d reached boiling point and were ready to roll out of the saucepan of Friday night. The next song started with a high pitched wail, the keyboards hummed and the pressure built to a steady beat. From the opening low throb of the keyboard he knew the song. It was his favourite of the band’s: Birdsong. Lene Lovich prowled the front of the stage, sweat streaming from the enraptured crush and then as she struck a pose, arms akimbo they were up and on the minute stage and in with the band.
It was joyous, ecstatic, Dionysian even. They’d been longing for this release all week. Keeping it clenched inside them from teachers, bosses, and dole queue clerks all week. Now it was finally their turn. Joe was up on the stage, jumping in time to the pulse of the music with the rest of them. He was next to Lene Lovich, who was still singing, and dancing herself. Close up she was even more fascinating. Her eyes said so much, only Joe couldn’t work out what the language was, he just knew what they were saying. She was doing a dance in front of him, bobbing up and down. He was facing her, drawn in, and moved to wrap his arms around her and plant a kiss. She was having none though; her eyes flashed and she took a bite of his cheek. The sheer shock of it sent him reeling back as she swirled away into the throng as people cleared the stage for the next song.
In a daze Joe stood to the side and dabbed his cheek. The sweat from his brow was running into the cut making it sting. There was blood, not much but blood all the same. Red, krovvy, claret.
He wasn’t too pleased, but he’d had far worse of a Friday night. It was nowhere near as bad a pasting as the Gooners might administer. Fuck it, he rubbed his cheek and moved back to the bar. At least he’d have a story.
As he handed over money in exchange for a lager top, that cockney nod to sophistication, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror behind the bar. On his cheek, on the left hand side of his face the bite resembled a red downturned mouth, just above and to the left of his bigger downturned mouth. The sight caught him as funny, it didn’t hurt much, the adrenalin was still pumping, but the sweat running into it made the wound sing, but there was enjoyment to that song too. He thought of the bite and he thought back to those eyes.
Reynolds was a cold person. He didn’t feel that himself of course, oh no, he was above that and that’s where the coldness lay rooted. He never had got on with other people. He saw them as pawns on a chessboard. He scraped to the bigger pieces, but was looking to use them either by obsequiousness or, at the moment they started to topple, by adding a push. Suffice to say he’d been a prefect at school.
Girls were a problem, and at the same time no problem. Whilst he couldn’t talk to them as people or get them to like him as himself, the fact that he was already a managing director made sure that those who were blinded by his position, or calculating enough to see him for what he was and play him for it fell his way. One of those wankers that couldn’t chat up a girl in a pub but would always be in the stationary cupboard with a temp after promising her the earth, or a full time job at least.
This particular night he was he’d been out with some of the management from the job. In the City, that part of London where no-one really lives but so many lives are ruined. He’d laughed at the right jokes, bought the right people the right drinks. It wasn’t a night out with colleagues for him; it was a ladder he was climbing. Sometimes the snake is on the ladder.
The glow of the red wine he’d been drinking brought some colour to his pallid cheeks at least. He was making for Liverpool Street and the train that’d take back to his suburban flat.
As he strode the tumble of building works that were making up the Barbican out of bombsites, he heard a soft step behind him, the tread got heavier as it approached and then sped up. Reynolds quickened his gait but the following steps got faster yet.
He turned and caught a quick glimpse of a red gingham checked button down shirt and an overly hirsute snarling face. The eyes seemed to flash amber, and the fire in the amber made him piss yellow as he broke into a run.
It wasn’t just the eyes; the snarling mouth had sharp pointed teeth. Sharp pointed teeth that weren’t natural to a man, and this man did not look anything natural. His cold piss ran down his leg and his trousers clung to his leg as he ran.
He didn’t get far. He was caught by the back of the collar and pulled forcibly back by one quick tug. He dropped heavily onto his back. He wheedled on the ground, Kafka’s cockroach but with less dignity as his arms and legs were wheeling six times as fast. He suddenly reeled in pain as three sharp kicks danced into his ribs knocking the air from his lungs. He tried to scream but there was no breath to do so. The sound the kicks made as they landed was akin to a baby a shit. He flung his hands to his face and tried to curl but his assailant was upon him. All breath seized as the teeth found his neck, tore at his throat and then the blood began to pour.
East London streets see more than their fair share of piss, and shit, and blood, and now Reynolds was part of it.