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Mayhem. By Zack Wilson.

Tim was nicknamed ‘Mayhem’ because he used the word a lot. If he was moving house he’d come in the pub and say it was ‘mayhem’, if the toilet was crowded it was ‘mayhem’ and if his smoke alarm went off at 3am and it wouldn’t stop so he had to permanently dismantle it, it was ‘mayhem’. He lived above a newsagents for a bit until his Status Quo CDs pissed Rafeeq, the owner, off so much that he evicted him and some rockabillies moved in instead.

He was fond of drinking snakebite, that electric mix of cider and lager normally drunk by the dangerous, especially on a Sunday after he’d been orienteering. When he drank it his face went cardiac maroon apart from a white, half inch wide line just beneath his hairline. His hair was lank and black, especially after orienteering because he would never bother to clean himself up. He never ate properly either, so his breath stank.

One Sunday afternoon we had an argument about politics. I’d been feeling bad because I’d badly mistreated Ellen, my girlfriend, the night before. I told Mayhem to fuck off and left the pub. It was November and dark and rainy. I didn’t go straight home, but had a Beck’s in a strange pub on Ecclesall Road and then made my way to the 24 hour Spar by Hunter’s Bar roundabout.

I was enjoying the cold air and the fresh wet in it as I tried to decide which frozen meal I’d enjoy after my evening spliff. The lights from the Spar made the pavement glisten, and there was a ramp with a banister for disabled people adjoining the steps that led into the shop. I was about to walk up the steps when I saw Mayhem coming towards me from the opposite direction. I turned quickly into the doorway of a closed fancy dress shop. I would wait until he’d passed or done his shopping.

He walked past the ramp. A homeless guy in a Nike baseball cap and Nirvana hoody sat on the brick edge of where the ramp was highest, by the door. He was polite and quiet in his requests of strangers. I watched Mayhem walk past him and over the wind heard him say, “Get a job you lazy cunt,” to the homeless fella, who immediately stood up and swung at him.

Slight and drunk, Mayhem ducked and slipped. The punch hadn’t connected, and Homeless stooped over Mayhem, shouting. Using the banister of the ramp to struggle to his feet, Mayhem half rose then rolled under the bottom rung of the banister onto the ramp. Homeless swivelled, and ran up the steps to the door of the shop before pursuing Mayhem down the ramp and the street into the darkness. I laughed, and decided to celebrate with another pint and no dinner.

I next saw Mayhem in the pub on the following Wednesday, in the evening, he was in for some European match on Sky. He was standing blocking my view when he asked me if I’d have a look at the CV he’d just prepared for an agency. He had a black eye and was holding his arm at a strange angle.

His long, weak fingers pulled it, with real difficulty, from his jeans pocket. Folded in 4, it was handwritten in blue biro on squared paper, like you get in maths exercise books. Damp had smudged his name at the top, and it finished halfway down the page. Mayhem was 39. There were no jobs listed until 1987 and he didn’t have any hobbies or interests. The A4 sized sheet was coming apart in the middle where holes where staples had been were widening.

I gave it him back and said it was fine. I couldn’t improve that.



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