#FRIDAY FLASH: STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE

The Last Laugh paperbackGINGER RONNY HAD told Burkey about the murder towards the bitter end of one of their occasional raucous Tuesday night drinking sessions, as the dawn had desperately begun to grasp for life and Malcolm Duffy was grumpily getting ready to close up Le Duffy. But it wasn’t until the cusp of Wednesday evening—as Burkey struggled out of bed to start his night shift at the slaughterhouse—that the reality of the situation finally melted into his consciousness, like ice cubes in a glass of Jack Daniels.

‘Jude Walker,’ he groaned, as he sat on the stained and wobbly toilet. ‘Jude friggin’ Walker.’

He put his head in his hands as he pebble-dashed the inside of the toilet bowl with the residue of the previous night’s boozing session and tried to force a tear or two with the same passion that he’d shat. But he couldn’t. Despite all Jude had done for Burkey over the years, the man had been a nasty twat who’d had payback coming to him for donkeys.

Burkey showered, dressed and left his flat, a hovel that was above a closed down dirty book store and had been advertised as being a ‘loft-style apartment’. He started to have a nagging feeling tugging at him as he limped down the stairs, and it wasn’t just the need for a little eye opener before he started work.

As he shuffled into Le Duffy’s dimly lit bar, adjusting his eyes as he negotiated his way through the closely stacked tables, he realised what the problem was. Ronny had confided in him, Burkey. Or Gimpy, as Ginger Ronny usually called him. Of all of Ronny’s dodgy cronies and neo-incestuous family members he’d confessed a murder to Burkey.

Although they occasionally got drunk together, Ronny and Burkey had never been friends, as such. Even back in school he’d been worse than most of the other kids when it came to cruel jibes. Ronny had taken great pleasure in taking the piss out of Burkey’s limp. They were bound together by a love of the booze, though.

Malcolm served Burkey his usual pre-work shot of peppermint schnapps. He hated the taste but it didn’t smell of booze, they said. He sat at the bar, knocked it back and ordered another. This Ronny situation was a quandary and a conundrum, as his old granddad used to say. What the hell was Ronny up to?

He ordered another drink and tried to piece together what Ronny had actually told him about killing Jude.

It went like this: Ronny was in his Ford Granada in the car park outside The Bongo Club getting a blow job from Skinny Minnie, one of the club’s barmaids, who gave extras when it came close to her rent day. She was dressed as a schoolgirl since, although she was forty if she was a day, she had the skinny, petit body of an anorexic teen which boosted her earning capacity.

After she eventually swallowed his load, Ronny loosened his grip and allowed her to come up for air. He pulled a wad of notes from his Wranglers and peeled a few off. Most of the cash he used to pay her was counterfeit but there was so much of it in the town these days that it was becoming accepted currency.

He sat and smoked a joint while Minnie cleaned him up with baby wipes and there was a knock on the window. Well, more of a bang. Ronny wound down the window to see the massive form of Jude Walker shouting and screaming about something or other. Ronny had no idea what he was on about. Not that it mattered since Jude had a tendency to completely lose the plot over any old thing when he was snorting the crap coke produced by the same Russians that made the fake cash.

Ronny knew that there was nothing he could do to placate Jude and began to wind up the window when Jude stuffed a massive hand through the gap and grabbed Minnie by the throat. Well, Ronny, ever the gentleman, couldn’t allow that to happen so he pushed open the car door sending Jude sprawling backwards until he crashed his head against the breeze-block wall that everyone used to piss against when they went outside the club for a cigarette. Ronny walked over and saw that Jude was out for the count. And then, before he could do anything about it, Minnie turned up with a brick and proceeded to smash the shite out of the unconscious Jude’s big fat head.

Ronny apparently grabbed the brick from Minnie and slapped her till she calmed down. Then he started to hyperventilate. Jude Walker was an old school-friend, for sure, but he was also the off-white sheep in a very dark family. A very loyal family indeed.

Burkey looked up at the cracked triangular clock that hung behind the bar and realised that he was going to be late for work if he didn’t get a move on. Fuck it, he thought. This was serious stuff. He ordered another drink. A proper one this time. A double Jack D.

The bar had started to fill out without him realising it and he was in his pots, singing along to the Pina Colada song when someone tapped him on his shoulder. He could almost taste the sour breath.

‘Burkey, I need you,’ Ronny whispered in his ear. Burkey turned and saw Ginger Ronny, high as a kite, wearing a cagoule and covered in all sorts of mud and shit.

‘What do you…want?’ said Burkey.

‘I need you to help me bury him.’

***

‘Get a friggin’ move on Gimpy,’ said Ronny, as it started pissing down.

Ronny must have thought that using Burkey’s old school nickname would motivate him. Far from it. He was starting to realise that Ronnie was just manipulating him. Using him to do his dirty work.

Burkey forced a smile. He was getting soaked to the skin in a vandalised cemetery after spending the last half hour digging a grave, and Ronnie was going on and on at him like fingers down a blackboard.

Burkey stopped, the pain in his bad knee getting worse and worse in the cold and wet weather.

‘Give me a minute or two,’ he said.

‘Oh, for fuck’s sake, Gimpy, I friggin’ told you…’

Burkey swung the shovel without thinking about it and it smacked Ronnie square on in the head. Ronnie just stood there, an unlit cigarette in his hand. A blank expression on his face that reminded Burkey of a cartoon character.

So Burkey twatted him again and Ronny fell forward, joining him in the open grave. There was a flash of lightning, followed by a rumble of thunder as Burkey managed to drag himself out. He paused to catch his breath and got down to covering up the bodies with renewed enthusiasm, safe in the knowledge that he’d make it back to Le Duffy in time for last orders. But he’d keep himself to himself tonight, that was for sure.

(This yarn first appeared at PULP METAL MAGAZINE and is included in my collection THE LAST LAUGH)