Gary smiled.
      “What’s made you so happy then?” asked his wife.
      “Nothing much,” he said. “Just something that caught my eye. It reminded me of someone, that’s all.”
      “Anyone I know?” she asked.
He shook his head.
      “Well, I’m off now. I’ll see you later,” she said, grabbing the car keys from the table.
Gary listened as his wife turned the car in the driveway. He picked up the paper and read the story again.

Body parts dumped in skip

Police discovered the dismembered body of a man yesterday in a skip in Caledonian Road, Belfast, following an anonymous tip off.

The dead man, Frank Harris, aged 35, had been missing for four days.

A police spokesman said: “This was a brutal and horrific killing. Officers faced the gruesome task of recovering severed limbs.”

Mr. Harris, a prominent paramilitary member, had received a number of threats to his life in the weeks leading up to his death.

Police are appealing to anyone with information to contact them on the confidential phone line 0800 2345000.

Yes, he’d got it right. It definitely said Frank Harris and somehow, as he imagined himself back in the street where he spent his childhood, Gary was not surprised.
      There were lots of kids, all of similar ages, growing up together in Seymour Park back then – collective evidence of the sixties baby boom. Gary’s house was on the corner at the top of the street and most mornings during school breaks the kids would gather at his gate and plan their adventures for the coming day. Gary would come bounding out holding a half eaten bacon buttie in one hand and tugging the door shut with the other.
      “Hiya” he’d holler as he sprinted towards them.  “I know what we should do
today. It’s the best game ever – you’ll love it! Just wait ‘til I tell you.”
He would then gather them round and explain in breathless, excited tones what he had in mind as he scoffed the remains of his sandwich.
      Gary was small for his age but big on ideas! In fact his head was so crammed full of ideas that he often felt as if he would just burst if he couldn’t share them. When he talked, his words tumbled out in an endless stream as if he was in a race to complete each sentence. His wavy brown hair was cut into a short crop and his deep brown eyes were framed with long eyelashes that curled like a girls. He had a long, thin scar on his left knee which he got from losing control of his go-kart during a downhill race and a smaller scar just above his right eyebrow which was the handiwork of Frank Harris. Frank was the eldest of the Harris family and had firmly established himself as the bully of the street. His favourite pastime was chasing the other kids down the street and pelting them with stones.
      “That boy’s one wee shit” Gary’s mum would say, “but he’ll get his comeuppance some day son, you mark my words.”
      It didn’t seem that way to Gary though. He would watch the procession of angry mothers and fathers, as one after the other they marched up to the Harris’s front door, ready to give them a piece of their minds. But Gary knew this was pointless because Mr and Mrs Harris never came to their front door. Whenever they heard the bell ring they would simply fling open an upstairs window, lean out and launch a tirade of abuse at whoever was standing below. Frank could always be spotted snickering in the background, well out of arms reach.
       Except for the one time that Gary’s dad got his hands on him. Gary had been playing in his front garden when Frank lobbed a stone at him. Gary ducked, as usual, but this time the stone skimmed the top of his head and landed in his baby sister’s pram on the porch behind him. As his mother shrieked, Gary’s dad vaulted the garden wall and sprinted after Frank. Gary had never seen his dad so angry or move so fast!  He watched as his father caught the back of Frank’s collar and dragged him to a stop.  He spun him round, grabbed hold of each arm tightly and shook him furiously. Frank’s head bobbed backwards and forwards.
      “Don’t you ever do anything like that again” Gary’s dad shouted, “or I’ll have the police on you. Do you understand?”
      “Ok, ok, I won’t do it again, I promise.”
      “Bob, leave it. He’s not worth it,” yelled Gary’s mum. “Come on now, the baby’s alright.”
Gary’s dad was red in the face and he was panting heavily.
      “You could have killed that child,” he said as he raised his hand to swipe him.
      “Bob, stop it, please,” cried Gary’s mum.
Gary’s father loosened his grip and Frank broke free and sped back up the street, throwing Gary a look of naked hatred as he passed him.
      “What have I done?” thought Gary, “why pick on me?” It wasn’t his fault, after all, that his dad had gone racing after Frank like that. Gary wished he hadn’t though because now Frank would really have it in for him. He had tried his best to avoid Frank after that and, apart from a few minor run-ins, had been relatively successful right up until Christmas morning.
      Christmases were the best part of living in Seymour Park for Gary and by ten o’clock on Christmas morning he was in the street, seeking everyone out, eager to discover what Santa had brought. That morning Gary had woken up to discover that he’d got his very first bike. He was simply beside himself with excitement and couldn’t wait to try it out.
      “Mum, come’s a’s a bike, Santa’s brought me a bike.”
      “Isn’t that great?” she said. “I told you if you were good, he’d bring you
something nice.”
      “I want to go on it now, can I mum, please?” he said trailing the bike towards the
      “Just hold on a wee minute.” she said. “You’re not going out there until you wrap
 up warm.”
Gary wriggled impatiently as she made him put on his green duffle coat. He groaned as she insisted that he also don the matching red mittens, scarf and hat combo, which was a special Christmas present from his aunt. Gary felt he was cursed with having an aunt who was such a prolific knitter. Unfortunately for him she knitted everything in course, Irish wool that itched and scratched like crazy.
      “Now can I go mum?” he asked pulling at the scarf which was already bringing
his neck out in a rash.
      “Yes, ok but don’t be going too fast,” she said.
      Gary threw open the door and stepped outside. It had snowed for a few days and although the snow was now melting Gary could still feel a fresh, crisp bite to the air. With his stabilizers mounted firmly on the back wheels of his bicycle to stop him falling over, dressed as a mobile Christmas tree, he rode proudly but slowly up and down the street. A small posse of kids tagged him. One boy ran beside him the whole way whooping loudly and shooting his pistol in the air. He was decked out in his new cowboy outfit - hat, holster, chaps with fringing and a sheriff’s badge. The pop, pop, pop of the gun echoed down the street as it fired its caps followed by a thick, sulfurous smoke that hung in the air.
      “Anyone seen Cleggie?” asked Gary.
John Clegg lived in the house directly opposite and he and Gary spent most of their spare time together. Gary could often be found sitting in John’s kitchen, tucking into a huge plate of sandwiches, along with several of John’s bigger brothers. The brothers would swoop on the plate as one flock.
      “Boys, boys, remember your manners,” Mrs Clegg would say. “Go on Gary, don’t be shy, just help yourself.”
But Gary had learnt to abandon manners entirely and dive in quickly or risk ending up with nothing. He liked Saturdays better because Gary’s mum always made a fresh batch of chips which he and Cleggie got to share, just between the two of them.
      Gary couldn’t figure why John wasn’t already out in the street. They had agreed to meet up first thing and Gary was growing more and more impatient to show off his new bike to him. As he scanned the street hoping to catch sight of him, a strange shape came into view in the distance. Gary squinted as he tried to make out what it was. Suddenly he froze as the familiar but terrifying outline became clearer. No doubt about it - it was a dalek - and it was heading straight for them! Gary’s heart thumped wildly.
      “Quick everyone, run for your lives,” he shouted as he sped back down the street and into his driveway.
Gary’s mum had heard the commotion and was standing at the door.
      “Gary, I thought I told you to go slowly,” she admonished.
      “There’s a dalek out there mum!” he panted as he raced by her into the house.
      John, in the meantime, was slowly making his way down the street, eager to join the throng around Gary. Unfortunately, he had forgotten to tell anyone that he had asked for a dalek suit that year. The hood of John’s costume obstructed what little vision he had and muffled any sound so he didn’t hear the shrieks all round as he came trundling to meet them or see them scatter indoors to seek refuge, scared out of their wits. So it was a complete surprise to him when he unzipped his costume and found himself standing alone in an empty street. He eventually spotted Gary peeping out from behind the curtains of his front room and waved over to him. Gary rolled his eyes and waved back.
      “It’s all right mum, it’s not a dalek after all,” he said as he made his way again to the front door, “just Cleggie”.
      One by one the other kids slowly crept back into the street. John was feeling hot now and had clambered out of his suit. His fringe was stuck to his forehead as he turned and grinned at Gary.
      “Did I give you all a fright?” he asked.
      “You eejit,” said Gary.
John draped the costume over his arm and beckoned Gary over to inspect it close up. Gary was impressed by how real it looked. They didn’t notice Frank Hunter skulking up behind him.
      “Hey Gary, where’s your dad today then?” asked Frank.
Gary’s stomach churned as he slowly turned round to face him.
       “He’s in the house watching television,” Gary replied. “Why?”
Frank ignored him.
      “What’s this rubbish then?” he sneered. “Let me see”.
Gary tensed as Frank moved closer and started prodding and pulling the suit. He was torn between feeling sorry for John and relieved that he’d left his new bike in his driveway far away from Frank’s clutches.
      “It’s my Christmas present,” said John softly.
      “What’s it meant to be?” asked Frank.
      “A dalek costume,” replied Gary, “and keep your hands off it.”
Frank laughed and lunged forward to snatch the costume from them. 
      “Please Frank, give it back,” said John.
       “Want it back, do you?” Frank taunted, dangling the suit over the nearest slushy puddle. “Well come and get it then”.
      Gary sucked in his breath and watched as John stepped forward. He caught the glint in Frank’s eyes as he suddenly let the suit go. He laughed as he stomped on the suit over and over and ground it in the dirt with his foot. John wailed and as he bent forward to pick the suit up, Frank pushed him face down into the puddle. Gary could hear the crunch as John’s glasses broke.
      That did it for Gary.
He lunged wildly at Frank and started pummeling his chest and stomach but Frank just laughed and swatted him to one side. Gary’s cheeks burned red as Frank then turned and swaggered back up the street towards home.
      “What am I going to tell my mum?” sobbed John. That’s another pair of glasses I’ve broken. She’ll have my life.”
       “Come on Cleggie,” said Gary, scooping up the tattered suit in his arms. “I didn’t get to show you my new bike. Do you want to go for a spin on it?”
      “Maybe later.”

      Gary lifted up the phone and dialled the familiar number.
      “Hi John,” he said. “Have you seen the paper today?”
      “Yes, I read what happened. Some people might say it’s been a long time coming.”
      “Yes, I know,” said Gary. “There was a rumour going round that he was diverting money from some paramilitary organization.” Gary paused. “Had you heard that?”
      “Wouldn’t surprise me at all.” he replied. “Funny, isn’t it, how rumours start?”  
Later that night he thought back to John’s words and couldn’t help wondering if John knew more than he was saying. Gary decided he would never ask him again. He simply did not want to know. He was shocked that he felt more glad than disturbed to hear the news about Frank.
      “Maybe its just fate,” he thought to himself, “or perhaps he’s finally got his comeuppance after all.”  




add a comment  no comments

Recent Articles

He piles 'em high

Posted on February 21, 2018

I could grow to hate books. A strange thing for a writer to say but hear me.. >>> more

Creeping guilt is worse than creeping pounds

Posted on January 18, 2018

I’ve just eaten the last Christmas mince pie. It tasted.. >>> more

Go easy on my teeth

Posted on November 30, 2017

Years ago I used to be scared of the dentist. Now I have a new fear: the.. >>> more