Something I wrote years ago and got to thinking about this morning.
The day always started like this. He never intended it to, but it always did. Let’s face it, All-Bran tastes like shit – he wouldn’t even give the budgie that crap – and the well-intentioned cup of tea just never seemed as appealing as the four-pack of cheap unbranded lager from the local offy. And so Danny Allinson cracked open his first can of the day. It was half past eight.
It wasn’t always like this. The faded poster on the wall of the bedsit spoke of a British heavyweight title fight. He was 23 at the time, four years a pro, but it was a step too far and too soon. His opponent that night, Carl Lonergan, was nearly ten years his senior with twice the number of fights under his belt and gave him the mother of all beatings. Sure, Danny had tried to come back, but he was always ‘that lad that got his head woven into the canvas against Lonergan’. After that, he was just a stepping stone for any other young fighter on the way up. He wanted to advise them, let them know what they were getting into. Tell them not to go anywhere near his manager when they’d beaten him.
His manager, Alan Crossley, was a grade A twat. Said he’d put all his prize money in a trust fund. What the fuck did Danny know about trust funds? Apart from the lack of trust that is, which he found out when Crossley legged it to Barmouth with the whole lot, leaving Danny penniless. He’d had an aversion to Wales since then.
He’d squeaked out a living on the doors in town, but once people got to know who he was, they’d all fancy a crack at him after ten pints. “Take him on his left Dave”, he’d heard one bloke say. “He always drops his left, that’s how Lonergan got him”. The fury washed over him and seven months in Armley for ABH was the result. That was his door security career finished.
The benefits paid for the bedsit, a few cans of beer and the occasional packet of Old Holborn. He wasn’t a big smoker, never had been, but a roll-up once in a while took the edge off that first drink of the day. Now and then, he’d have enough for some millet for the budgie. He could never work out how he came by that thing. Pointless bloody bird. He’d called it Adam Faith. It was his idea of irony.
The loss of the money was the start of it – the drinking. By that time, his legs had gone. He was no use as a fighter any more, not that he wanted to carry on. He’d had enough years before, but just kept going. One more. Just one more. It became a mantra to him, he’d said it so often to the wife. The wife… There’s another story. Once the gravy train had stopped calling at Allinson Junction, she’d soon buggered off. She took the boy. No idea where he is now. Probably university age these days. Danny would have liked university. A different crowd to the lowlives he mixed with at that age. And he was smart, but that didn’t matter much when his dad got ill. Money. That was what mattered and Danny knew that a lad who could punch could earn some, much more than the coal board were going to cough up. That was his dad’s pun.
“Bugger this”, he said to Adam Faith, swilling down the dregs of the can and heading for the bookies. Two hours and four races later, he’d done all his remaining money and was back within the four walls of the bedsit. He was sick in the sink. Grab another can. That should take the taste away. “How the fuck did this happen?”. Adam Faith didn’t reply, merely headbutting the small mirror Danny had found round by the chippy. “I looked after meself” Danny continued, scarcely noticing Adam Faith’s indifference. “I liked school. I getting good marks until… well, you know”. Adam Faith didn’t know, or if he did, he wasn’t letting on. Danny threw the can across the room. “It’s all that bastard’s fault!” he yelled. He could hear them downstairs, perturbed by the noise.
He went next door. Little Marco was about the closest thing he had to a friend. Marco was six and loved Adam Faith – the bird, that is – and would pop round sometimes to see him. “Look after him Marco”, Danny told the young lad as he handed the cage over. He went back to the flat. He packed a bag. A change of clothes, a train timetable, an emergency can of lager and his dad’s old hunting knife – the only thing he’d left Danny.
Tomorrow wouldn’t start the same way. Tomorrow, he was off to Barmouth.