Dennis teaches writing at Cumbria University, and at the Facets of Fiction workshop. He is a fan of the short story in all aspects.
Blogging at Bhdandme.wordpress.com and on Vimeo at BHDandMe
A Penny Spitfire, BHD's novella from Pewter Rose Press, for more go to pewter-rose-press.com
Also via the blog: Talking to Owls, short stories, monologues and flash fictions...
The taxi rank was tucked against the wall downhill from the station. Two women laden with shop[ping bags were climbing into the last taxi. Manx loitered awkwardly on the pavement, waiting for the next one to pull up. A little man with bird bright eyes followed him down and stood beside him.
You must be a clever bloke, the little man said, pointing to Manxís briefcase, and staring into his eyes.
Not especially, Manx said, feeling uncomfortable.
Oh, Iím sure you are, the little man said, still staring and stepping closer. I bet youíre very clever indeed.
Iím just average, Manx said, smiling.
No, no, the little man insisted. Iím sure youíre very, very clever. Why would you need one of those otherwise?
I might have my sandwiches in it, Manx said.
You see! You are clever. Thatís a very clever thing to say, in a situation like this. Why I bet youíre clever enough to talk your way out of anything. He was standing so close now that Manx could smell the beer on his breath.
I donít know about that.
Now me, Iím sure youíd think I was a stupid man, wouldnít you?
Iím sure youíre not stupid.
Are you now? Are you really?
Manx said nothing more, but that was not enough. It had gone beyond the point of saying nothing. I think thatís what you think I am, the little man said, stepping up so close that he and Manx were almost touching. You think Iím stupid.
I think youíre a bully, Manx said.
I said, I think youíre a bully. The little man took a pace back. I think you like to bully people with briefcases, because you think theyíll let you.
I think you enjoy it.
The little man almost stopped, but he could not.
Who the fuck do you think you are?
No one important, Manx said, turning towards the next taxi, which had just pulled up beside them.
Donít fuckiní turn your back on me, the little man shouted, and he made a grab for Manxís sleeve.
And Manx dropped the briefcase, and pulled away, and grasped the little man by his wrist, and twisted it, so that the little manís arm was locked out straight; and Manx swung him round, and almost instinctively, for the first time since heíd done Judo as a kid, he swept his right foot round in a curve, like some fancy dance move, and took the little manís legs from beneath him; and as the little man fell, he turned him, using the twisted arm, which he now held firmly in both hands, as a lever.
And the little man landed face down on the pavement with his arm pulled taut and vertical behind, and with Manxís foot pressed against his ribs.
And Manx knew for the first time in his life the wild joy of having another living thin entirely within his power, and the little man said, Iíll fucking kill you, you bastard.
And Manx twisted the arm, putting the weight of his body behind it, and the little man screamed, and Manx felt something give, inside the little manís shoulder, and it reminded him of something but he could not remember what.
And Manx said, thatís not what I want to hear, and the little manís eye, because the side of his face was pressed hard against the pavement, looked up at him like a birdís.
And Manx said, I want you to say, please donít hurt me, but the little man said, fuck you Jack.
And Manx pressed down with his foot and felt something brittle crack, and he pulled harder against the arm, and he could feel the little manís muscleís tearing.
And the little man screamed and shouted please donít hurt me, but Manx said, itís gone beyond that now, and the little manís eye filled with tears and there was the sudden sour smell of faeces.
And Manx said, youíve shit yourself, but donít be embarrassed, because that often happens in situations like this, and the little man screamed more desperately than before.
Then the taxi driver, whoíd witnessed it all, and had got out of his cab, which might in other circumstances have been a foolish thing to do, said, youíve done enough, mate, donít you think?
And Manx looked at him, and knew he was right; but then he remembered what it was that twisting the arm had reminded hin of, and he also remembered running away from a bully when he was at school, and he gripped the arm tighter and twisted it as hard as he could, and he felt it come away, just like the turkey leg had at Christmas, and the man on the ground stopped screaming, and heaved a great sigh, as if he really did regret everything, and Manx thought to himself, that however clever he was, he wasnít clever enough to talk himself out of this one.