“So, you got a woman?”, Gus suddenly thinking how Eddie was around a lot, a little bit of doubt there all of a sudden - in his mind: Three days in a row now, Gus starting to feel like he was being tested or something. The powder was long gone and now they were smoking Gus’s weed, the best part of an eighth gone in less than a couple of hours. Gus was pretty wasted but Eddie didn’t seem any different. They were watching this nature show, Eddie slouched down on the sofa; Gus in the armchair with a leg hooked over one of the arms, sulking; but right by the window so he could keep an eye open for passing girls. He was getting pissed off with how Eddie would sit there flicking through the channels till he found a nature show – just switch off whatever Gus had been watching and look for animals - lions, fish, whatever, so long as it was animals - so Gus couldn’t watch his shows. Guy buys a car off him, breaks his nose, and comes over every day till the coke’s all gone - and now he’s working on the dope.
“Watch this,” Eddie said, “how the Jackal chases the little Ostrich chick.” They watched as the big Ostrich chased the Jackal off, the bird at least three times the size. “Now watch the Eagle.”, and this Eagle that’s been sitting in a tree watching swoops down and gets hold of the chick, but it loses its’ grip and the big Ostrich is coming in fast, seeing the danger behind. “Here’s the interesting bit,” and now the Jackal’s got the chick, a little bit injured from the Eagle, or dazed; and he races off with the chick flapping around in his mouth. “How about that?”
“What, how the Fox got the food?”
“Jackal. No, how he played the double bluff – he goes for the chick knowing that big daddy Ostrich is watching. He knows the Eagle’s watching too, and that the chick’s just a little bit too big for the Eagle to get away with it easy. Big daddy Ostrich gets after him, the Eagle goes for it – fails. Big Daddy sees what’s happening and gets after the Eagle, and while those two are all tied up Jackal goes back in there and steals the bird.”
Gus looked out of the window, a couple of girls coming down from the direction of the Humber pub, vest tops and shorts - sunglasses “Bullshit,” he said, “looked like luck to me.”
“Luck? No way. That’s one clever little dog.”
“You didn’t see what he did? How he engineered the whole thing.”
Now Gus looked at Eddie. “Engineered?”, he started to roll a cigarette. “How the fuck did he engineer it? Shit happened - he got lucky.”
“You don’t think he was clever?”
“No. He’s a fox.”
“You didn’t see his face, while it was all happening?”
Gus drew air in through his nostrils. “Yeah, I saw his face. He saw food, he was quick, and he got the chick. What else is there?”
There was a silence. Eddie said, “I watched that Jackals’ face right from the start. I believe that he weighed the whole thing up very accurately. He judged the size and weight of the chick as being just too much for the Eagle. That the Eagle would have his chance - but the Jackal reckoned on that - reckoned the Eagle would disable the chick just enough so that he could capitalise on its’ weakness while the dad was preoccupied with keeping the chick safe.” He sat back and looked at Gus.
Gus said. “You talk posh.”
“I don’t talk posh I talk proper.”, thinking maybe Gus would get it. “I’m telling you, the dog planned the whole thing – made it happen.”
Gus said, “Bullshit.”, then, “Maybe we don’t see things the same.”
Gus said, “Maybe so,”, his best little girl voice,
And Eddie said, “Say that again.”
Now Gus turned from the window and looked at him. “What?”
“Say that again, the way you said it.”, Eddie all dead eyed.
Gus sat up. “Alright, keep your fucking hair on. I agree with you that the fox was pretty slick, but I definitely saw an act of er, opportunism, rather than an act of predetermination. Predetermination?, is that the right word?”
“It’ll do. Planning and organisation.”
“Predetermination…” Gus was watching one of the girls, closer now so he could see how she was sucking on an ice lolly, the sun casting deep shadows so her tits showed nice and clear. “Predetermination. Preconceived – conceived? Pre…”
Eddie started laughing, liking how the dummy just let things sail straight over. “Prehistoric,” he said, “like you, Neanderthal.”
Gus turned and said, “Pre posterous.”, in his best posh voice, and Eddie laughed even more; Gus too, smoke coming out of his nostrils and making him cough. They laughed as they went through all the pre words they could think of; prehensile, preventative, preemptory, taking it in turns until it petered out. Then Gus said, “So this Jackal’s a dog then, but not a fox?”
“Yep, Jackal’s a dog.”
“But not a fox?”
“Nope, fox is a fox.”
“So how come a male fox is called a dog?”
Some other girls came walking along the Road, Gus saying, “Check this pair out. Now that’s what I call foxes.”, so Eddie got up out of the sofa and went over to the window to have a look. They looked like teenagers.
Gus carried on ogling the girls while Eddie went through into the kitchenette to get a couple of beers, muttering, “Pre school.”, but not laughing any more.
Gus leaned out of the window and shouted down to them, ”Hey girls, wanna see my muscles?”, and started flexing his biceps. Eddie opened the can and poured beer into a glass and went back to watching the TV, ponies now - half listening to the girls on the street, laughing at the big ape up in the window with the funny cardboard thing on his nose; and Gus saying, “Wanna come see my tattoos?” - then leaning back in to Eddie, “Premenstrual.”
When the girls were out of sight Gus got in his chair and started watching the programme. “What’s this?”, he said, so Eddie had to tell him how these ponies were a rare breed up in the Shetlands, and then where the Shetlands are. Gus yawned and said, “Gimme the remote, you think I’m watching a fucking pony show you’re out of your mind.”
“I was on the canals one time, walking with my girlfriend, down on the towpath – Sutton Stop way. No, Hawkesbury. We were just around this bend when these five ponies appeared, running; wild looking things, like gypsy ponies.”
Gus said, “Yeah, what’d you do?”
“We got to one side and let ‘em pass. Like I said they were running – like they’d been spooked. I didn't know what to do.”
"You should've blocked their way and waved your arms around."
They were silent for a while before Gus said, “Anyone with ‘em?”
Eddie said, “Nope.”, watching the ponies on the screen.
Gus reached out a hand, palm up. “Well I don’t give a shit.”, he said, “Pass me the remote.”
Eddies’ glass hit the wall - an arc of beer momentarily suspended there before it splayed out and splashed, like in a cartoon. “No.”, Eddies’ voice loud - and Gus jerked back as the glass smashed.
“’Fuck’s the matter with you?”, he said, looking at the mess.
Eddies’ eyes moved from side to side and he put his head at a funny angle, “I’m bored of all this inane shit.”
“All what inane shit? Nobody fucking asked you to come here today. Or yesterday, or the day before. Come round here sponging all my coke and my weed. Ain’t you got things to do? Or you just like coming over here and fucking around with my channels? I sold you a fucking car and sorted you out a few lines – what, we best buddies now or something? You broke my nose. You got a My Little Pony thing or something? Jesus.”
There was a standoff. Eddie wanted to hit him again, but the guy was big alright, and right now he was looking pretty solid and concentrated so it wouldn’t be easy. Not easy at all.
It took a little while, Eddie watching Columbo and Gus back in a sulk, but the tension passed. The adverts came on and Gus said, “You seen that show before?”
Eddie said, “What show?”
“The one with the jackal.”
Jackal now. Eddie got up and started picking up some of the broken glass, “Maybe.”
He took the glass through and Gus listened to it going in the bin. “People can cut their fingers on that.”, he said, “it should go in a box and go in a recycling bin.”
Eddie took a beer out of the fridge. “What, you mr social conscience now?”
Gus mimicked him, silently this time, You mr social conscience? “I used to work on the bins, Winston.”
Eddie said, “Yeah?”, smiling, out of sight through in the other room. In his mind he pictured how he’d passed his bank card over to Gus on Saturday, so he could chop his lines, and the sap hadn’t so much as given it a look - right there in his hand, Mr. Edward G. Carlisle, inraised letters.
He came back through, sour faced now at having to drink the beer out of the tin. He stood in the kitchenette doorway taking little swigs. “The way I see it we’ve got two choices?”
“Oh yeah, what are they?”
“We go out and get some women…”
Gus grinning now, “So why bother with a second choice?”
“Because, there’s other things that are fun to do too.”, making Gus nervous; that little bit of doubt creeping in again. He shifted a little in his seat.
“So what’s number two?”
“We rob somewhere.”
. . .
They went in the Audi. Gus went on about putting the roof down but Eddie refused, not wanting to look faggoty with the ponytailed muscleman posing, big arms draped all over the window sills. It was around six and the sun was still high, plenty of traffic on the roads into town but not as much as was going the other way. Gus had said how do you plan on getting these women?, and Eddie said first you go out and look for ‘em; Gus sliding on his shades so he’d look cool; in his torn looking vest. He’d brought a CD, put some music on so they wouldn’t have to talk, and he started flicking through tracks and turning them up loud, nodding his head in to the beat – Eddie gritting his teeth because he didn’t like to attract attention and he wanted to listen to the car; but still liking the feel of the steering, the suspension – the way it pulled: Plus he’s watching the road, the mirrors.
They got into town and were queued up on Hearsall Road waiting for the lights when Eddie saw the police car, a couple of cars behind. He didn’t have anything on him, the dummy did. He was high though. Gus still had the music turned up loud so Eddie reached over and pushed the eject button, watched as the disc came out of the slot.
This time Gus threw the punch, a left hand that got Eddie square on the chin, making his head bounce off the car seat, but not as much as Gus would have liked, his arm not having the room inside the car to give it as much as he wanted.
Eddie got that nasty feeling in his jaw like something had come close to breaking, or at least stretched some stuff that didn’t want to be stretched, but he stayed clear headed. “The fuck you do that for?”, he said, mean voiced, rubbing his jaw with his left hand and clenching a fist with his right, so Gus had to flinch.
“Who the fuck do you think you are turning off my CD like that?”, he said.
Eddie stared at him, “What?”
Gus turned away but his eyes stayed on Eddie there at the side. “What’s wrong with, hey Gus, mind if I turn it down? How’s about a little bit of peace and quiet? Wanna change the tune?, but oh no, mr fucking psycho here has to just turn it off. And you’re fucking lucky I didn’t get a decent swing at you or I’d have knocked you out – you hear?”, showing he had a temper. Eddie nodded but his face looked too calm and Gus started to worry. “You ok?”
The car behind started sounding its’ horn so Eddie checked on the police car, moving now but not looking like they were paying the stationary Audi any attention yet. He flicked on the right indicator and eased into the lane that turned onto Rushmoor Road, watching in the passenger side mirror as the police car continued past them and on up towards Hearsall.
After a moment Gus said, “What you going down here for? Head for the City Arms and we’ll park up off the High Street. We’ll do the City Arms, the Oak; the women’ll be showing up around eightish onwards so we’ll have a couple of beers and get ourselves in the zone.”
Eddie put the car in the shade of one of the trees lining the pavement at the side of the road. “Wait here,” he said, getting out, “I’ll be about five minutes,” and before Gus could ask where he was going he’d slipped into the estate they were parked by; this maze of square-looking flats three or four stories high, kind of purple painted handrails and facias everywhere, all butted right up against the ring road. There was a ditch running through in between some of the blocks, looking like overgrown drainage.
Eddie had left the keys in the ignition so Gus switched on the electrics and put the roof down. He lit a cigarette and positioned one bulky arm over the drivers’ seat, perched because of the headrest; the other along the window frame, Gus working at getting his pose just right. There were a couple of wino-looking women outside the Bowling Green and Gus watched them having this slow motion argument – sounding like they were arguing about whose round it was. He watched a man go in there with a bin bag over his shoulder, something bulky in there, and come out without it: The way it was this side of town; you get robbed, you go to the Bowling Green, buy it back. Weird too, you look at Spon Street you’d think it would be posher. He was thinking maybe go over and have some fun with the winos – he could keep an eye on the car and talk shit with the two women, play ‘em along for a little while; maybe even get a nice early catch. They looked ok, if wino women were your thing; scraggy hair, little vesty tops and shorts and trainers, lots of skin on show. They looked good enough, but who’s to say? He’d known ‘em get volatile. Plus Winston was due back any minute. It was hot and he wanted a drink but he didn’t move.
He put the music back on and a few people up the street looked over; Gus sitting there with his shades on and the cigarette sticking out of his mouth, nodding his head in time. He was thinking about how to get back onto Earlsdon High Street, the bit at the top being one-way so they’d have to turn round and go back into town, come off the ring road and up the Kenilworth Road, then up Spencer. Do the Earlsdon run and if things turn out right maybe Careys? Nah, dress code. The West Indian? Curry, Gus remembering that he was hungry. Maybe they should eat first. They could get a burger ‘n’ fries, one of those milkshakes.
Eddie came back and got in. He pressed the button for the roof so it started closing, ejected the CD, and dropped a little bag of white powder in Gus’s lap. Gus’s face went red and the veins in his neck were standing out like they’d been inflated. With the hood up Eddie took a small chrome plated handgun out of his jeans, tucked in there like in the films, and dug a little cardboard box out of his pocket. Breathing harder than usual, through his nose, he opened the box and shook some bullets into his other hand, released the barrel of the gun and started loading the chambers; Gus watching with his mouth open. Eddie touched Gus’s middle with the tip of his finger, somewhere around where his kidneys would be.
“See that?”, he said. Gus nodded. “You ever hit me like that again, and that’s where I’m gonna shoot you you fucking moron. You hear?”
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