bar-fightGetting Laced. That’s the name of the first short story I ever wrote. Of course, it wasn’t called a short story back then. In those days the teacher would tell us to do some ‘composition’ work or prose, maybe. So I produced a few badly handwritten sides in an exercise book: a couple of friends and me hitting the local pub instead of the school canteen one lunchtime. We were fifteen years old but the pub landlord, he turned a blind eye to under age boozers all the time. Wasn’t such a big deal in those days, but then, nothing was: cigarettes wouldn’t kill you as much and neither would the world, no such thing as global warming let alone jihad. That story of mine, it started off good and mellow; three friends on an urban adventure but it moved into violence easy enough: a bunch of Nazi bikers rolled into the pub; mean looks followed by spilt pints, our apologies offered but dismissed before their skulls landed on ours. In the story, we got the shit kicked out of us. In the story, I mentally cursed the pub landlord but prayed for him to reach for the phone, or under the counter for a double barrel shot gun. In the story, I watched him, typically, still looking the other way until I blacked out.

It wasn’t really such a story, though. I remember feeling guilty after I turned it in for the teacher to mark. I felt even worse when she handed it back a couple of days later, all full of praise and surprise that someone like me could produce something like that: she went on and on about feeling, pace, tone and all the rest of that happy horseshit English teachers cream themselves over. I felt bad about it, like I conned her and everyone else in the class. How could you call reality a story? Worse still, it wasn’t even reality: in the process of writing, I embellished. I lied. They weren’t greasy Nazi bikers at all but a handful of well dressed, neatly turned out Mods. I lied more, of course. I cursed one with a harelip, afflicted another with a squint, another too many missing teeth. In my telling of the story, I made grunts as they beat me. In reality, I screamed like a little girl. My telling of the story, it was neither one thing nor the other. Not real, not made up either. And that bugged the hell out of me.

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