The Urbanista Writer’s Ledger (TUWL) continues with a new and original piece from the mind of Roy; a short story entitled, Whose Coat is this Jacket?
Roy wanders his world and reluctantly engages with people that nobody else wants to connect with. They, like him, are real…but don’t actually exist. He’s barred from Linen Warehouse and believes fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth. It’s dark, it’s funny and it’s scummy. Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Whose Coat is this Jacket? is an unsettling and darkly humorous portrait of family dysfunction, personal survival and the penetrating dread of physical and emotional violence. Enjoy.
Whose Coat is this Jacket?
The telly is on but no ones watching it. Eggheads. Me Ma shouts the wrong answers from the depths of the back kitchen. We all call it the back kitchen, despite it being situated at the front of the house. My sister, Olivia, occasionally looks up at the telly and blags that she knew the answer. Me arl fella is scanning The Echo, bins perched on the end of his nose. I’m impressed that they remain there, despite the vigorous head shaking he’s doing in accordance with his reading matter. The aroma that floats through the ether can only be described as tea, generic tea. There isn’t a particular smell. Everything just seems to amalgamate into one. Foodstuffs petrified to come out and play incase me Da kicks off.
I ask if I can have me tea later, as I’m playing footy at The Pitz in an hour. I’m an idiot for expecting this request to be met with reason. The atmosphere builds the moment my question leaves my lips. You think I’d get used to it. We all should be by now. Here we go. Here we go. Here we fucking go.
“So yer Ma will have to put your tea in the oven then, eh? Like you’re special and different?” barks the miserable old cunt.
I murmur what I perceive to be a perfectly reasonable response “Yeh, I’ll eat it when I get back from footy”.
And so it begins…
“You cheeky little bastard. Your tea will be in the fuckin bin when you get back. The sooner you fuck off out of here from under our feet, the better. Putting football over your own family, you’ve got a cheek”.
I’m not even angry. This is quite mild, considering. Situations usually get much more overblown in this abode. I clock our Olivia, who looks up from underneath a furrowed brow. I genuinely fear for her when I finally get my act together and vacate this shit tip.
The Gripe looks like he’s about to spontaneously combust with rage, the bad weirdo. It’s unclear whether he’s fuming about me postponing my tea or whether he’s reading about another ketwigged, scrambler bike riding, crop growing, under armour wearing pellet. If he had his way, he’s put them all in the army. No idea why, he’s got no military experience, neither did any of his family, or anyone he even knows, for that matter. I recognise the look on our Olivia’s face. I identify with it. Fear, nervousness, anxiety and terror. I really feel for her. As taught by my Ma though, we’ll all say nothing and just crack on. The golden, unspoken, non-negotiable rule of this family is: IGNORE EVERYTHING. Due to that rule, I won’t mention our Dean. No one mentions our Dean. He’s a smack head, y’see…a gay, schizophrenic, smackhead – the full hit. I dare not mention our Dean though, so I won’t.
I make my way upstairs to collect my kit. En route, I meet me Ma at the kitchen doorway. She points to the oven and gives me a vacant smile and an exaggerated thumbs up. The poor cow is literally to scared to speak now. I shake my head and charge upstairs to my room. Everton shorts, Holland socks, France top and a pair Adidas world cup astro boots all bundled into my Lowe Alpine rucksack. My keys and phone are still in my jacket pocket, which I can’t place. As I begin to make the descent back down the stairs, I notice that the volume on the telly has been raised significantly. This is not unfamiliar. We’ve all been trained to know what this means. It’s bubbling.
As much as I’d rather not, I must return to the living room – as I’m fairly certain my jacket is in there. Mum’s still in the kitchen, acting busy doing nothing. Olivia has got her head down, snap-chatting as if her life depended on it. It may well do.
“Has anyone seen my jacket?”
“I haven’t got your fucking coat!”
“I didn’t say you had it, I just asked if you had seen it?”
“And why would I have seen your coat, you fuckin’ soft twat?”
“I just thought I’d ask, as it’s got my keys in and don’t want to disturb you when I get back from footy?”
He’s sat up a bit now. You don’t scare me daddio.
“So your Mum’s going to have to get up and answer the door to you because you’ve lost your stupid coat?”
He’s up on his feet now, bouncing on the balls of his heels, as if he wants to have it with me. My following remark doesn’t quite quell his indignation.
“It’s not a coat, it’s a jacket”
And we’re off. He’s manoeuvred himself straight in for a flying headbutt. I’ve half anticipated it and got myself out of the way. As a result, his fod only crashes into my shoulder. Our Olivia lets out a high pitched squeal and shifts like Usain Bolt out of the blocks. No sooner has he connected than I’ve give him it right back, with a left hook straight to his jaw. It’s clean. My fist cracks. He’s going down, and cracks his eye on the telly stand on the way. I volley him full force in the stomach. He ends up in the foetal position. I boot him again, this time in the small of his back, so I can open him up. He’s getting familiar with the carpet and attempting to grab my legs. Instinctively, I’ve grabbed the Our Lady ornament off the windowsill. Time seems to freeze for a millisecond. In that millisecond, I think of our Dean. How his life would’ve been different had this fucker just accepted him for who he was. I ask myself if our Olivia would’ve attempted suicide three times before she was fifteen, if she hadn’t been subjected to the goings on in this hovel. Me Ma is practically a modern day slave due to this twat. I fuckin slam the statue into his skull as hard as I possibly can, several times. Me Ma is hovering in the doorway watching, shielding our Olivia’s eyes and trying to muffle her screams. There’s a look between us though. For once, words are very unnecessary. I contemplate this pathetic bastard on the floor, with blood flowing out of his ears.
I spot my jacket down the side of the couch, retrieve it from the floor and put it on. I motion to my Mum to make herself scarce. Unsurprisingly, she complies. The front door shuts and I hear the engine of her Kia Venga start to shudder away. She’ll have gone to our Jean’s, her sisters. Where she always goes when he kicks off. Seeking solace but also pretending to borrow an oven dish.
I crouch down and check his breathing. There doesn’t appear to be any. I’m gonna be late for footy at this rate. I better get moving. My keys and phone are still in my pocket. I glance down at my arl fella and wonder what kind of upbringing he had. His parents were both dead before I was born. I’m in danger of experiencing a shred of compassion for him here. Not good. I counter-act this by stamping on his head. The force which I land upon his skull knocks me off balance and, as a result, I end up on the couch…convincing myself that my tea will taste much better after it’s been warmed up. I begin to experience a heavy bout of disassociation, as if I’m elsewhere. The Eggheads theme tune brings me back. It sounds sinister, frightening almost. Fuck this, I’m offski.
I only make it to the bottom of our street before something dawns on me. There’s something I must do…something I’ve previously never been able to do. I make a 180 degree turn and break into a jog. Nerves set in as I slot my key back into the door. I won’t even bother attempting to explain how much I’ve always wanted to do what I’m about to do. I begin to tip-toe back into the living room, not sure why. I scan the room in an agitated manner. I know exactly what I’m looking for and where it usually is – but as a result of the previous fracas, everything has gone west. Frantically, I start to turn the room upside down. There it is. I point it at the telly and turn the sound down, right down, all the way down. Now I’m laughing uncontrollably, then silently glowering at my Dad’s lifeless body sprawled out on the deck. I wonder what I’ve done. Then I fasten my zip all the way up to the top and move to within an inch of his kite before I spit out the words “I told you it was a fucking jacket.”
Roy is the alter writing alter-ego of Liverpool writer and performer, PJ who also organises the excellent La Violette Società nights at Parr Street Studios. As part of the Writing On The Wall Festival 2019, Roy can be seen at the ‘If They Don’t Read Books, Don’t Fuck ‘Em’ event at Parr Street Studios Friday 3rd May. Tickets can be purchased here.