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by S. J. Moran

It’s very easy to say I’d never do this, I’d never do that. I’d never, it’s easy, you say. But you don’t know, you don’t really know what you’d do unless you land in a situation. I mean technically, yes, I was wrong. But I hate to be told off by hypocrites. How do they know they wouldn’t have done the same thing in my position?

Imagine you’re sitting in a coffee shop, reading a novel by Cormac McCarthy, not bothering anybody, when an argument breaks out at another table. A fat, red-faced geezer is arguing with an old lady who looks like his mother. You can hear him ranting above the general burble of the place.

“That’s you all over!”

You can see she’s trying to keep positive, to smile and say something reasonable, at the same time perhaps thinking it’s lame to give up an argument too easily. But the more she shakes her old-fashioned head and tries to answer him sensibly, the more the buffoon raves. Just so, so noisy.

“You’ll never bloody get it!”

He gets up and starts slamming a chair around. All the time you’re thinking, this bozo is a royal shit. What’s it to me? Somebody will help. The girls behind the counter are looking grimly at the scene. They summon a bloke from the storeroom. Good.

“You sad old cow!”

All you wish to do is sip your coffee and continue to read McCarthy’s minimalist tale of mass murder. But the arse is now shuffling around the floor with the storeman, overturning furniture as they go and crashing into the wall like drunken heavyweights in a gay waltz.

You’ll lose your reading place now, for God’s sake. Remember it’s something about the custom grip of the German 45 that the hero fingers lovingly. Bozo and the storeman jog your table, causing a wave of coffee to lollop out of your mug.

You turn your head to one side, adjust your reading position and there in your line of sight you notice our mother, weeping and shaking her permed head. She searches for a tissue in her handbag while the baboon prances above the now floored storeman.

At this time the burble has stopped. You notice the walls of the place are all white. There is silence. It’s as if many doors have closed and you hear only a voice from the distance. It sounds clear, like a newsreader. “What would Cormac McCarthy’s bloke do?”

Of course afterwards you see all about it on Crimewatch. In the re-enactment, they say you picked up a heavy metal barstool from beside the window, rushed across the floor and smashed it repeatedly on the head of the person who made his mother cry, “the victim.” He flopped to the floor, and bounced — which was a bad sign. Then you (I mean I of course) went back and sipped your coffee (I mean my coffee) before calmly walking away.

All of a sudden, we’re criminals.

S. J. Moran has had stories in magazines and anthologies, including Bird Times and 100 Stories for Haiti. He has published a collection, The London Silence (Pretend Genius, 2004). He also writes poetry and has been included in Gargoyle (USA) and various anthologies. Website: www.sjmoran.com.