Have Some Cock

I’ve been absent quite often this year from Knifed in Venice, and recently it has nothing to do with lethargy.  At present I’m working on a project for television here in Fast City which has monopolized much of my time (and thought).

With any luck KiV will be back up and running at full speed shortly but in the meantime here’s a short story called The Greatest Cock That Ever Lived.

I was fifteen, it was April and the summer had started early.  My mother gave me ten pounds to run to the parade of shops at the bottom of the Oldpark Road to buy two steaks and some mince to fry into burgers for the dog’s dinner.  Dragging myself away from the television I threw on my trainers, laced up, pocketed the bank note and walked down to the bottom of The Bone.  I passed many people, they all knew me.  I said hello to them all before suddenly someone was calling my name from outside the Suicide Inn.
                ‘Doug, Doug, Douglas Morgan!’ the drunk cried swaying wildly.
                I crossed over the road, the windows were boarded up.  The bar was called Henry Joy’s but the locals called it The Suicide Inn because of the amount of times it had been shot into by loyalist paramilitaries and the fact that you didn’t need to be suicidal to drink in there but it certainly helped, especially if you sat by the window.
                I didn’t recognise the man, but his face looked like family.  He was.  He was my uncle Johnny, my mother’s brother.  He had been a prize fighter in his youth and took a few too many blows to the melon to be considered a valuable member of society anymore.  Sooner or later the critical melon blow comes to us all.  As I got within arm’s reach he threw a huge arm around me pulling me in for a hug.  He had a cockerel under his other arm, and had tied a bandanna around its head.
                ‘Doug, how are you?  I haven’t seen you since you were a little nipper.  Where are you guys living?’
                Don’t tell him, he’ll only get drunk and put a window in ‘Around Johnny, you know.  Top of the street.  What’s with the bird?’
                ‘Oh this,’ he said almost forgetfully ‘yeah this is Jean-Claude the greatest cock that ever lived.’
                ‘Is that so?’
                ‘You bet your spunk filled beans he is.  French bird, prize fighter.  I’ve pitted him against dogs and he’s licked every one of them.  Where are you going?’
                I checked over my shoulders, it didn’t do well to have people see you talking to a crazy man with poultry under his arm.  They’d all want to talk to you if they saw you’d stop to talk to a crazy man with poultry under his arm.
                ‘Mum sent me out to buy some meat for dinner.’
                ‘I’ll sell you this cock,’ he said ‘how much do you got?’
                ‘She wants steak.’
                ‘This cock is the greatest…’
                ‘Yeah I got that.’ I said impatiently.
                ‘Tell you what,’ said Johnny ‘I’ll make a bet with you.  You pick the dog, I’ll have Jean-Claude fight it and if he wins you give me the money and I’ll give you Jean-Claude.’
                ‘And if he loses?’
                ‘He won’t.’ Johnny insisted, his tone indignant.
                ‘But if he does.’
                ‘If he does then you can keep him and your money.’
                ‘So one way or another you’re getting rid of him, I thought you said he was the greatest…’
                ‘I know what I said.’ he snapped, waving a boulder sized fist in my face ‘He eats grain faster than a priest fucks.  I can’t keep up with him, I know you’ll give him a good home kid.’
           I took the bet, but felt bad about putting him up against a dog.  Most of the dogs in the neighbourhood were mean old junkyard dogs, the kind of beasts that would rip Jean-Claude’s head off and use it as a chew toy.  The only dog I thought he could beat was my dog Bosco – but there was always the slim chance that Johnny was telling the truth and I didn’t want my sad old mongrel getting hurt.
        I pointed to a hobo, a grumpy old bastard of a man with veins sprinting from both of his cheeks, crusty eyes and a big red nose.  The kids called him Wilf Tomato Bollocks and when they yelled it at him he yelled back banana dick!
         ‘What about Wilf?!’ I said.
         ‘What about him?’ replied Johnny.
         ‘Could Jean-Claude beat Wilf?’
         ‘Of course he fucking could.’
        It took a little convincing but eventually Wilf agreed to duke it out with Jean-Claude the French prize-fighting chicken for the princely purse of two three-litre bottles of White Lightning…if he won.  Strolling off behind the wasteland by the Suicide Inn I pitched up on a pallet and lit a cigarette as Johnny placed Jean-Claude three strides from Wilf Tomato Bollocks, explained the rules, and stepped back and called…
        ‘Ding, ding, round one!’ [read on]

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