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F-18
Breaking Down The Walls Of Heartache
Alex Hay
She meant something when he meant nothing. Lost her- and himself.

From a distance, Tam watched in silence. Like him, the monster had remained in the same place all night, sitting dormant; poised. His eyes hurt from too many fags, the odd tear, and staring ahead into the night shadows of his past. Aches clung to him where his body moulded into the chair. It had been a long night.

An hour earlier dawn had crept by, nudging the darkness to another place; another time. The quiet of night fled too, bringing a slow thread of familiar sounds to his ear. Traffic flowed steadily- building to the morning rush. He knew it wouldn't be long.
A juddering cough brought the monster awake; a rumble and scraping of earth jolted it forward. Attack- snap-swift; exposed teeth jutting forward and sinking deep into the victim. Then- thrusting upwards- it tore a chunk from the body and backed-off.
Tam heard an agonising roar shiver through him, tightening to an empty ache somewhere inside. He felt sick; wondered if he would be able to watch it- to the end?
The monster took advantage and rushed in again, striking lower and gashing a serrated hole, exposing the innards. Dying cries echoed through Tam's ears; his eyes painfully hypnotised to each attack, knowing there was nothing he could do.

The monster relished it's work, each new lunge rewarded with teeth-filled matter and groans of submission from a carcass life had left a long time ago. A casualty of calendar with no defence against aggression geared for change. It lunged forward again- Tam's view obscured by a passing bus- as it clawed upwards, wrenching a section of roof apart, timber cracking like bone and the felted- flesh tearing with a rasp, showering slates to the ground. Dust puffed-up around the monster retreating on it's track, carrying it's spoils of debris aloft victorious; it's yellow skin- the colour of nature's danger- scarred and studded from battle with chipped black lettering highlighting the euphemism that belied it's terror; Caterpillar! It too, had lost out to a creature more rapacious; capitalism.

As the dust settled, Tam surveyed the damage from his location across the street. Part of the back gable corner was cleaved open with a bite-like breach in the roof, causing the remainder to sag sadly like a drooped eyelid. He thought of F-18. He wondered how soon it would be forgotten? How many pensioners would pass over the grave of teenage dreams, making their way to new sheltered homes- unknowing and uncaring- troubles care-taken by professionals?
It made him feel sad, and old too. The monster- and time- trammelling on without regret or remorse. The past, passed-over; pushed aside for the present- a gift to the aged.
The building had always been threatened by monsters. Giant ghetto housing crowded all sides, attempting to dwarf it's significance- but it was unique. A single story separated from the rest by it's squat individuality; book-ended by tenements and adjoined to a public convenience- needs meet needs.

Three-dimensional lettering heralded the unimaginative name; The Bungalow Cafe. A small building where big ideas were born; hopes died, and lives changed. An incubator of tender life being nourished and nurtured nightly; sheltered from external insanity for a few years; rejoicing in a rites-de-passage of Coke, heavy petting and rock n' roll. C-12..My Generation: (The Who).

A shoulder high partition of wood veneer and frosted glass separated the ice-cream, fags, milk, ginger, Askits and chocolate counter from the teenage den of infirmity. An aisle divided two rows of double-bench booths of dark wood, parted by formica topped tables on steel legs bolted to the floor. Each seat- curved like inverted barrels with tight, ribbed slats- held a historical record of use where dark-stain varnish had smoothed to the colour of sand from the constant caress of backs and bums. At one end, a window allowed little view of life outside. An opaque curtain half-way high denied curiosity from within and without. Opposite- and at the end of the aisle-sat the prime reason for being there. It didn't matter that Tony sold the best ice-cream for miles; had the coldest Cokes or the tangiest hot peas in winter. These- were fringe benefits; extras.

Sitting with it's solid bulk like some creation from Dan Dare, the machine magnetised and transfixed with mechanical brilliance. Encased in shiny chrome and sapphire blue glass, it changed lives more than ten years of mis-education. Lights danced in diamond circles of varying colour, alluring and sensual: displaying the glass dome on top; sci-fi design for hi-fi devotion.
It squatted; a shining Buddha of bop: electronic icon of rock n' roll- each click of letter and number producing a whirring response of wish as a row of discs spun around. On stopping, the selector arm quickly lifted the vinyl catch and flapped it broken-heartedly onto the turntable. The first crackles of needle on the run-in groove elicited Pavlovian readiness; adrenaline held off for the first beat before ejaculating into the blood stream forcing feet to tap, fingers to drum and hearts to pick up rhythm. For ears and minds dulled by the diluted sounds of Dansette and tinny Luxembourg, the Bal-Ami oracle of beat hit the soul of tender romantics like the first rush of love itself.
M-8..Here Comes The Night: (The Small Faces).
Nothing else mattered there- in the inner sanctum. Outside was far-off; real and adult-erated. Cocooned in glass and wood, dreams became real, only to realise how fragile real was. Eyes over Cokes and whispers to friends found couples warily exploring strange worlds within themselves as they probed each other.

A cafe- and yet- more. A sub-cultural temple of rock n' romance that fed craven needs of crying inexperience. Blessed in time, it bore the pains of love undone; listened to the prayers who hurt in sacrifice as they fell awkwardly on boys mean road to man.

Eddie Camshie; cheeky and a gemmie and going with Jean Thompson forever it seemed, until she got beaten-up once too often and left him a widower in Barlinnie. Wee Wils, and Fergie; the Laurel and Hardy of then. One dead in Belfast- the other in a bottle. Still see him today, jokey and jaked-up; grey hair, tan teeth and a bad sight.
Tam thought of Sandra. He always did- at least once a week- and after many years of two wives and three kids. She meant something when he meant nothing. Lost her- and himself- when lies and lust were part of being big; tough! Still she passes him by, never a notion, her eyes beyond yesterday and him, while he quakes each time.
A-6..Please Stay;.(The Crying Shames)

And Benny Sutherland, now a cop! Always had the force with him. Smooth and sneaky with sly up his sleeve,...dodgy. A fag,. a lenna-hauf-a-sheet, get us a drink an' ah'll skwerr yi later,....in never-never land! He tried to claim Tam once- in the cafe. 'You'n me,...ootside'. It wasn't only Tam that knew he was always tooled-up; a hunting knife wedged down the top of his Beatle boot. Live chicken better than dead pigeon!
He saw Bobby Watson again. Back home for another gloat. Photograph of him and Ronnie Biggs. 'Rio's magic, Tam, but I prefer New Zealand. Think I'll head over there again, after India'. Still looking like a hippie yet over fifty now.
'What do you need money for? I can live anywhere, so why stay here? Wee bit o' this, odd bit o' work, a couple of rupees, that's all you need, get by, move on'.

Tam remembered when he was seriously near the point of getting engaged to Sandra, sitting across from Bobby and Agnes McDade, and wishing he was taking Agnes round the back close rather than Sandra. He was sure Bobby was telling the truth when he said he was ‘doing the bizniz’. Sandra believed upstairs was alright for a fondle of external bra, but the path to glory held terror for her. He could still sense the soft warmth of her thighs beyond the stocking-tops, the only time she had failed to push him away, and then to be disturbed by some silly neighbour up the stair deciding to take their dog for a walk. Christ! It was pouring of rain and gale-force winds. Animal lovers?

All the winchin too. Sore-mouthed and forever hoping it would lead to greater things. Never had it so good, huh!.. Never had it- but, so good the times- it never mattered.
It was love, he thought at the time. God! Who kidded whom?
Shuggie Carling was still around too. Driving the buses and his wife away with the fairies. Five kids and a life-torn midden stinking of stale beer and piss. 'Good to see you Tam. Come up again, anytime you're passing'. Aye! Just a few steps below the gutter, canny miss it. He used to be dead smart too. Now- just dead!

Teenagers, eh! Lives jump-started by jive into the fast lane of odd feelings and worried nights. A young fraternity too blind to see the breaks; too frail to stop them falling-in and falling-out of love, or something they believed was passion. Eyes hid by shades, looking for wide-screen wisdom but selling-out for cheap Technicolor dreams. D-16..Cloud Nine;..(The Temptations).

Brian Cochrane was now somewhere in Canada, machine-tooling the good life. A heidbanger but a gen guy; living life wild and winning. Even had Helen Crosbie tempting him away from Carol Docherty by offering her body- and he took it! See her now too, behind a bookie's grill and no doubt a sure thing- if the odds are in your favour and you can last the distance.
Tam smiled as he remembered Jake Cairns. Stand-up comic that became a big joke; yelling, pleading, for people to laugh at him- not the joke. Court jester now for the clown prince- the people's favourite toilet. He still thinks he's funny,.. funny that!
J-4: Ha Ha Said The Clown:.(Manfred Mann).

The cafe absorbed it all. Soaked-up the tears and played safe; doing nothing, but being there. Trusted, it heard hopes and fears as if a confessional; housing within it the haven of secrecy, sacred to the apprenticeship for entry to life's maze. Gangs met and planned rumbles that were games to pose and posture; disguised as hard men displaying nothing more than a fear of female. Nihilism, a way of hoping to impress in an age where angst had yet to be born.

Walls listened silently as big ideas were backed by the Bal-Ami beat, never allowing adult reality a second spin. Sex, a series of fumbling situations that mainly resulted in sad sublimation and frustrated effort. Coke was the real thing- and things went better with it. Everyone tried their own combinations; Aspirins, Beechams, cough-syrup, and all believed they worked- until serious chemicals came around and twisted pretend into perfidy.

A thunderous crash rumbled across the gulf of melancholy nights that had meant so much, but fulfilled so little. The back-end of the building fell apart as the monster reared away from it's latest attack. Beatle-dusty bricks clattered and crashed belligerently, spiting the hallowed image Tam's mind tried to hold. Nostalgia fought for grip against the memory of tortured nights waiting around for something. The age when love was all around yet Tam remembered little of it.
He knew what was right. Trams died then too, and the myth was greater than reality. Fantasy sold soup and hairspray. He remembered the fun- but also the farce. Nights awake and feeling tears attested that the sixties sell-by date had expired. Like Elvis, it sold more after it's death; flabbed-out and went to pot, remaining in grainy black and white lies of flickering images. Only dreamers buy dreams.

Tam had a last look as the monster roared backwards, pulling taut a wire rope that circled the remainder of the bungalow. Grinding gears crunched as the rope caught and cut, slicing cleanly through the walls. A shriek, reminiscent of Mick Jagger, thrilled the site as dust fell on rubble; the cafe floored, no stone unturned. Again, Tam thought of F-18..Breaking Down The Walls Of Heartache:.(Johnny Johnson and the Bandwagon).

© Alex N. Hay...December 2002

email:alexn.hay@virgin.net

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