The International Writers Magazine
:Dreamscapes Fiction

Sorry It’s Like This
Mark Cunliffe

Charles Warner, esteemed actor of stage and screen sat in the deserted bar at The Winchester as it neared closing time and nursed his whisky. Up ahead, he saw the large figure of bouncer and general help, Victor emptying the ashtrays.

He sank a little more of his whisky and winced as it burned an oily hot trail down his throat. Victor lumbered towards him, a soppy smile upon his face. "All right Mr W?"
"Hullo Victor"
"Mind if I join you?"
"Be my guest" said Warner and he lit up two cigarettes, offering one to Victor, who took it from him with a surprisingly gentle huge hand.

After a moment’s communal smoke in silence, Victor leaned his bulky frame closer across the table and began to speak. It was a conversation Warner always welcomed; it was one of praise for his performance. "Saw your film last night I did. A cracker. I enjoyed it. Didn’t seem fake like some films are. I can see the homework you put in ‘ere paid off. You looked like a real gangster, just like the Guvnor ‘ere you did"

Warner smiled at this. He had accepted the part of gangland boss instantly without really knowing how to play it. He had never moved in such circles, and frankly was rather glad he didn’t have to. The director and movie bosses advised him to come here and watch some real heavies, see life at the sharp end, and despite a little early trepidation he agreed. It was a valuable experience and one that Warner thought helped give him a good performance. Now the film was out, Warner was ready to leave these haunts for good, he was more than happy to do so as he felt he had suffered these past months for his art. Suffered the loutish thugs and infantile manners and the endless loud clubs that made up part of Victor’s Guvnor’s empire. He closed his eyes and thought back to the grotty dives, their walls slick with sweat from numerous heaving bodies crazed by alcohol, drugs and tunes. He could see in his mind’s eye now the night Victor showed him round one, how he looked out across the balcony as the kaleidoscopic lights bounced off the thrusting thighs on the dance floor of the so called ‘ravers’ who were little more than children, high as a kite and already sold to the Guvnor’s criminal beat.

Suddenly he realised that Vic’s large, poorly constructed face was awaiting a reply; "Well thanks Vic, I’m glad you enjoyed the performance, like the sign in the gents I aim to please"
Victor laughed, it always unsettled Warner, it was a gurgling almost babyish laugh, quite unlike what you’d expect from a heavy who’d seen one too many prison cells. But then he always looked like an infant trapped in a wrestler’s body. Steinbeck’s Lenny made flesh.
Finally the laugh subsided and Victor spoke again. "You know what I don’t get?"
"Probably" Warner half joked as he took a drag.
"Well that’s it innit? I mean here we are, you, an intellectual and me, I’m just a bouncer but we get on don’t we?"
Warner stared ahead reflecting, "Yeah we do," he replied truthfully, it wasn’t really Victor’s fault he was a thug. Sure, he wasn’t exactly company he would usually call on, but he was ok.
"That’s what I thought. It’s mad though innit? I mean, I’m only any good for lifting, shifting and beating up, and you’re an actor, you were in Oliver"
"No," he corrected, "I worked with Olivier"
"Yeah sure" Victor trundled on, "Anyway you came ‘ere and settled in, got on with the lads, the Guvnor, his wife, and me especially. I think we’ve a real bond, don’t matter what class we are or any of that crap"
"Yeah I like you Vic, you helped with my role a great deal" replied Warner
"Kind of you Mr W. But who’d have thought it eh? Me and you being pally like, I mean I’m only good for hittin’ people and you’re an actor"
"Don’t put yourself down Vic, you’re a good lad, everyone here is"
"Yeah, yeah, and you got on with everyone didn’t you?" He said stubbing his fag out.
"Yeah" Warner said, a little tired of Victor now. He rubbed at his eyes and stared at his rapidly decreasing whisky.
"The Guv?" said Vic, his endless questioning continuing with no clear end, as far as Warner could see. Still, not his fault, not really, he can’t help being at the bottom of the class system Warner thought. His glass was now empty.

Warner sighed, he wanted another drink, time was nearing, where was the barman? He leaned across the table eagerly at Victor’s large frame "Yeah sure Vic, how about a drink?" Now get up and do your job, pour me a drink, and shut up. He thought, though he’d never say, he’d heard tales of what Victor would do to people who crossed him, this was why the Guvnor employed him here. But he would not shut up.
"His wife?" Victor replied.
Warner faced Victor, rapt. His bladder felt full, his face flushed. It no longer mattered that the bar was due to close up, as time seemed to slow down. This wasn’t the drinks fault.
"Why’d you have to sleep with her? ‘Cos now I have to do the only thing I’m good for and we were getting along so well"

And now time stopped. He felt dizzy and sweaty and sick. A thousand tremors began to rumble through his head and he could hear them violently swirl around his ears. The last thing Charles Warner remembered before being led out into the cold, dark alleyway in the rain, was Victor's mumbled "Sorry It’s like this".

© Mark Cunliffe March 2006

Two short stories by Mark Cunliffe

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