I met Liam in town,
-Just a quick one, eh?
It never was though but no one else was stupid enough to drink with him.
Most of his friends avoided him. There were always problems – insults, fights and more often than not, the police,
I found a quiet table. Liam went to the bar.
I watched him stand and wait for the barmaid next to a couple who were sat on stools holding hands.- always a bad sign.
She was heavily pregnant and if to emphasis this point there was an orange juice in front of her.
He drank whisky and gazed at the news as it flickered on a television screen above them.
It was about dead children being found in a basement in Damascus. People gathered around and wailed and shouted over the tiny dead, inert bodies.
I looked over at Liam to see what was happening with the drinks but the bar staff had either refused to serve him perhaps over some previous incident or they were avoiding the area, either way he was more patient than me but he was also more drunk too.
He must have been bored with this news or perhaps have seen it earlier for he turned to the guy next to him and said,
-Obama is going to fuck that Hassad up eh?
-Syria an all that shite, if you’ll pardon my French he said and smiled at the woman.
She tore the cellophane off a pack of cigarettes and avoided looking at him
The man turned to her and said,
-Eh what’s goin on I could do with one of those too!
He slipped down from his stool and they both went outside fore a smoke
Liam was eventually served and took the two pints of lager from the woman behind the bar and walked back to m
-Eh Henry … is that Hassad going to get it or what?
I took my pint from him and said,
– Yer what?
-His name. It’s Assad
-Whatever. Obama is going to bomb him or wade in with missiles eh?
I was hoping Liam would go back to talking football or something equally innocuous. His robust but simple approach to the world was difficult to respond to.
The couple came back in. He sat in the same place at the bar but she stood away from him and sometimes took a few steps as if warming up for sport as she moved her heavy body about.
On the screen above them, scenes of carnage had been replaced with football.
Liam didn’t seem to notice the game.
-Shouldn’t go around usin’ fuckin chemicals on children … I mean you have to make a stand don’t you?
I nodded and watched the couple. The man stared up at the screen and spoke to the woman out of the side of his mouth. I couldn’t hear what he was saying but her reply was loud and shrill,
-Shut up about it, will you!
The man shook his head and adopted an expression of disgust as he hissed,
-I’ll shut your fuckin rattle if you carry on…
-Oh will ya?
A few other people began to notice the couple but Liam was oblivious and still concerned with Syria,
– I mean we have to do something don’t we?
The woman put her face close to the man’s and it could have been an intimate moment except for her tone,
-Well what you going to do if I don’t shut up?
He raised a hand.
She glanced down at it and said,
-Aye that’s you isn’t it? Your answer to everything!
Liam wouldn’t let up about the news.
-I mean it’s a war crime you can’t just..
-Use chemicals on people.
Although I agreed with him on this I found myself disagreeing from habit,
-Like Agent Orange?
Liam looked confused,
-Is that the guy in Reservoir Dogs?
-You useless prick, said the woman in a loud voice
On the pool table a student man with dreadlocked hair was about to take a shot stopped to stare
At the dartboard a fat man with chalk in his hand turned and listened,
Two men who were about to leave stopped and waited.
Perhaps he was aware of all this, I don’t know.
For he contorted his raw red face and pushed back his dyed black hair with an angry flourish. Then he wagged his finger at her and before she could turn away he slapped her hard across the face
The sound echoed around the bar
-Stop with it you’re showing me up, was all he said
And she did. She recoiled and looked at me and then at Liam, and then at everyone else
The woman behind the bar found that the money she’d taken over the evening, needed counting and stared down into the till.
Even Liam had stopped talking
I glanced across at the man, who turned and said,
I’m going to order another drink. Anyone got a problem with that?
It seemed no one had
The woman hung her head and gazed down at the ground her sullen face had all ready began to swell.
-Come on we don’t want to get involved here, it’s a domestic innit, let’s go
With reluctance I finished the dregs of my beer and with the back of my hand wiped my mouth
-I don’t like this
-Forget it. It’s a domestic let’s go down the road, find somewhere else, said Liam
-I don’t know….
-Come on we can make last orders.
He had his jacket on and buttoned to the neck
The man ordered a whisky from the woman behind the bar. He smiled at her. She kept her eyes averted. A few people left. The darts was over and the pool table quiet.
The man was all tension He turned to watch us as we too were about to leave and said,
-Go on then
-How do ya mean?
–Get off to where ever it is you’re going.
I shook my head
-What you waiting for?
I tensed and Liam under his breathe said,
-Come on it’s none of our business…
We had to walk past them on our way to the door and did so without incident.
Then as Liam opened the door we heard a dull crunch. It had the sonic ambience bone cracking. We turned and the pregnant woman held her face
The man was starring at her, His eyes blazed as he said,
-Don’t you…don’t you ever…
Never ever hit a woman, never ever hit a woman
This was how I’d been brought up.
I couldn’t get this mantra out of my head. I’d heard it a thousand times from other men I’d grown up with.
The woman was pop-eyd as she spat out fragments of tooth from her slackened, bloodied mouth. One eye had closed and her nose had fallen to the left side of her face
I walked toward the man unsure of what I was going to do
He was holding a bar towel to the woman’s face. Between sobs she said.
-Is that it then?
-Got it out your system have you?
I watched them.
-Come on Henry let’s go said Liam
Her face was scornful as she said,
-Is that the best you can do ya prick?
The man sighed and then laughed and drew back his fist. I could see where this was going and said,
The punch was hard to her belly
She fell to the floor and said,
The man turned to me and said,
-Eh do you want some too?
-Leave it leave it Henry, said Liam
As I turned to face him he hurled a beer bottle at my head.
It missed and glanced off my shoulder. I continued to walk toward the man
Then my head exploded as the woman hit me with a glass ashtray from behind and screamed,
-Don’t you fuckin threaten the father of my baby
I put my head down as she ripped into me with acrylic nails that tore the flesh off my face, and watched Liam shut the door behind him.