Skip to main content

FLASH FICTION: With An Unbeliever On A December Afternoon

I wrote this for the fifth anniversary of Joe Strummer's death. It was originally published in Article Magazine in December 2007. Seems a long time ago.

He said his name was Strummer.

I asked, what was he doing on top of a multi-storey car park in Scunthorpe? He shrugged, asked if I had a cigarette. Leaning into the lit match, he swayed forward and held my arm to steady himself. ‘You can smell the fish and chip shop from up here.’

‘Really?’ I said.

‘No, you can.’ He steered me to face the wind and told me to wait. ‘Only if it blows in the right direction.’ For a moment, I swear there was the faintest whiff of vinegar on the raw breeze, then it was gone in a gust of steelworks sulphur. ‘Did you get it?’ He said. ‘Love that smell – saveloy and chips.’ He flicked the fag end away and the wind took it in a shower of embers. ‘Gotta love a saveloy, man.’ He punched me on the arm and laughed.

‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘gotta love a saveloy’.

He eyed my carrier bag. I offered it and he helped himself to the pasty I’d bought for later. He took a beer from the bag. ‘You don’t mind…?’ He wiped his fingers on the arse of his Levis, opened the can as he walked to the edge and looked over. ‘It’s a long drop.’

‘I know,’ I said.

In the years since that bitter day in December 2002 - a day like this one with its emptiness and dread, I’d had questions. About the things he’d said, the gritty, important things, the politics, the honesty, integrity; had he meant it or cared in the way I did when he’d said it? He’d sent me down a path and as it was going so wrong, I wanted to know.

He looked out across the rooftops. ‘Listen son, don’t tell anyone about me being up here.’

I said I’d keep shtum.

He came back to the bag, swapped his empty tinny for a full one. I took one for myself. We dinked cans and wished each other all the best. I looked at my watch. I was late.

Did he want a lift anywhere? He said not.

My car wasn’t parked where I thought so I made another circuit under the CCTV’s eye. As I came back to where we’d parted, the door to the stairwell slammed shut, rousting pigeons. Sometimes, especially on days like these, you just have to keep faith.

(c) Nick Triplow 2007


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

PULP! THE CLASSICS - The Hound of the Baskervilles

You'll be familiar with the story - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's super sleuth Holmes goes down to the Moors in search of the legendary hound. The brilliantly inventive Moffatt and Gattiss BBC version notwithstanding, the story first found its way into the public imagination in serialised form in the Strand Magazine in 1901/02. It was the third of four Holmes novels written by Conan Doyle and stands the test of time as a great crime novel in its own right. 'Murder ... Mystery ... Walkies!' Now a re-published edition from Pulp! The Classics, an imprint of Oldcastle books, features a vivid retro pulp cover with artwork by David Mann, tongue in cheek taglines and  orange sprayed coloured page edges. Each book in the series re-prints the complete original text and The Hound of the Baskervilles is a great addition. Perfect for Holmes completists, crime fiction fans and  lovers of pulp art, it takes its place alongside The Great Gatsby, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Tess …

FACE VALUE: Northern Crime Short Story Winner/FRANK'S WILD YEARS: New Edition/TED LEWIS: Update

"From rural noir to urban terror, high concept drama to blunt force trauma, Moth Publishing presents its first collection of prize-winning short stories." 2015 is about to end with a result. My story Face Value is a winner in the inaugural Northern Crime Short Story Competition. With the winners' anthology released on Monday 7 December in paperback and E-book, it's a great way to sign off after a hard-working but not always the most productive of writing years. I'm especially pleased Face Value made the grade. This week also sees the publication of a new edition of Frank's Wild Years. I'm grateful to publisher, Caffeine Nights, for the opportunity to put right a few of the things which have bugged me since it was originally let loose on the world, and for continuing to show faith in the book. The altogether sharper Frank's Wild Years will be available online, in bookshops and at WH Smiths travel stores from 3 December. This year I made a conscious deci…

The Jack Carter novels by Ted Lewis - Reissued by Syndicate Books

It's been a long time coming, but Syndicate Books is about to re-publish the three Ted Lewis novels featuring Jack Carter. The first, originally published as Jack's Return Home in 1970, was later re-titled Carter, then Get Carter, in the wake of the 1971 film, adapted from Lewis's novel and directed by Mike Hodges. Notably, the film substituted Newcastle for Scunthorpe, Lewis's unnamed 'frontier town'. With Carter dead at the end of the movie, Lewis returned to his main character in 1974 and 1977 for the prequels Jack Carter's Law (retitled Jack Carter and the Law in the USA) and Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon. Syndicate has created a must-have package with great design and excellent layout. I was pleased to contribute a biographical afterword for Mafia Pigeon - the novel which, in essence, brings the story to the point at which Get Carter begins. Lewis's style - his prose is unremittingly bleak and brutal - has influenced generations of crime authors, …