Sunday, 2 December 2012


 This is a story I'm quite proud of, but it has never received an especially wide audience. It was originally published online, at an arts mag called Smallfish Online (it's not still there, so don't bother looking for it). I thought it might make interesting reading in the light of some other stuff that's been up here recently, including the poem 'Plantations'.


Zack Wilson's  debut novel 'Stumbles and Half Slips'  is out, from Epic Rites Press. Also available from

They see me on the bus and can't help it. "No surrender! No surrender! No surrender! To the IRA!" they chant. Two lads and a girl who looks like she knows better. Students probably, full of cooking lager and disappointment because England could only draw. They've seen the green flicker of my football top through the gap at the top of my jacket and made assumptions. I turn and stare at the taller of the two males. They're sitting in the sideways seats normally reserved for the disabled and I'm standing up at the front because I'm only on for the two stops.

My stare shuts them up for a bit. The girl's hands fumble with the scrunchy holding her blonde hair back, as she half giggles, "Don't, he's getting angry, don't." Her accent is southern and exclusive, as are those of her friends when they remark, "So what. Stupid paddy cunt," and, "fucking terrorist."

I decide it's time to speak. "Have you three got a problem?" I ask.

I think my Sheffield accent throws them. They were probably expecting Kerry or cartoon Belfast. The girl replies, giggling again and avoiding my sharp glare. "No…no," then her friends start chanting "No surrender" again, briefly. I shake my head and leave it. My stop's coming up.

There's a kind of quiet hostility on the bus. The other passengers seem to be trying to work out whom to hate most and can't quite decide, so they fear and mistrust me as much as the students. I can hear my three antagonists muttering and laughing, there's some kind of joke being told. The girl can't help her giggling, she keeps saying, "Shut up, shh!" then snorting and laughing again.

My stop arrives. The bus doors hiss open. I turn to the students and challenge them. "If you three twats want to make something of this then we can get off the buys now and sort it." I thought the lass would be flattered to be included.

"Just banter, mate. Just banter," the tallest of the three says from underneath his NY Yankees baseball cap. There's an expectant hush from the other passengers. I can feel their slight approval now. Taking control is something they can admire.

"T'int funny then," I reply. I stand and wait. The driver, a butch woman with boy's hair and nasal piercings, has left the doors open. I glance across at her. She's placid, waiting, looking ahead with no sign of irritation at all.

The students mumble. I lose patience, shake my head and tut. I raise my eyebrows inquiringly at the driver. She looks back with a sympathetic and world weary expression. I get off the bus, and the doors close.

The adrenalin's going and I'm full of empty, frustrated anger. I've got the game on the telly in the pub to look forward to anyway, and hopefully the boys can give the Danes something to think about and we can do better than England's pitiful draw at home to Macedonia. An away draw'd suit me fine and I feel better in the fresh air as I head to the pub.

It's not a part of town I'm used to, and I realise I've got off a stop too soon. Never mind, the walk'll do me good.

I'm almost cheerful again when I see three people up ahead, walking towards me through the yellow sodium light. As they get nearer I realise it's the students. They've got off at the stop I should've done and they're either lost or they've come to find me.

It takes them longer to recognise me, but they manage to do so at a distance of about thirty yards. They point and laugh. The girl seems to be trying to discourage the two lads from doing something. The lads begin to run towards me, chanting 'No surrender' at a quick rhythm.

Whether this is a joke or not I decide I've had enough. I stand and wait, next to a side road and a billboard. The first one to reach me gets my shoe in his groin, hard. He gasps and falls. That's him out of the game for a while. I see the other's face, washed out pallid in the streetlight, change its expression from sneering triumph to naked fear. My keys are in my left hand, and the long back-door key protrudes from amongst my fingers. I jab it into his solar plexus and he stops and totter back but doesn't fall. I smack my forehead into his nose and feel a satisfying squelch and crunch. He bends over and veers sideways, hands to his face. I kick his head and he falls into a foetal position.

His mate's lying by the billboard, trying to sit upright. I put my left foot in his chest and push him prone. I stamp on his elbow. Then I grind it into the pavement with my heel. He yelps and bleats. I pick up a decayed half-brick lying under the billboard and raise it above my head.

The girl's standing 10 yards away, frozen and crying. I raise the brick higher, yelling, "I'm gonna fucking kill ya!" I look down and he's shut his eyes. I bring my arm down hard.

The old brick breaks apart on the pavement six inches from his head. Lumps and rotten dust scatter and stick to the snot and tears on his pale, podgy face. I remove my heel from his elbow and spit. I breathe through my nose, deeply. All three of them are crying, moistly, childishly.

I lean over him and whisper. My voice is harsh and guttural as I give him some ancient words. " 'Our cry was no surrender/No republic we will join/And this will always be in mind/Derry, Aughrim and the Boyne.' My parents are Prods from Larne, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom," I add, as I turn away.

I leave them. I'm feeling quite good and I've got a taste in my mouth that only lager will shift.

Sometimes violence is the only thing these people understand.

 Zack Wilson's  debut novel 'Stumbles and Half Slips'  is out, from Epic Rites Press. Also available from

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