Chapter 1 Reminder: I went walking with Norman and I introduced you to a few neighbours, The Medic, Sid the tree and scared a teenager, then The Blank-Faced Man appeared out of the gloom.
Norman’s Walk – Chapter 2
This is The Blank-Faced Man.
You’ll have to make do with the sketch, I haven’t got a photo, because I didn’t say:
‘Hey mate, you look strange, let’s selfie.’
As I approach, I notice his eyes look like mine one hour after saying ‘shall we finish off that bottle of Jack Daniels?’ His pupils are rattling around dazed, deep inside his cavernous sockets. The rest of his face seems frozen in place.
‘Hello.’ I say, as I get close, to which he replies.
Norman seems to have a reasonable idea of what to do as I watch his back end scarper up the steps to the rugby pitches. Back down the path, I see the teenager turning back, the screams settling into a sad whimper that would take the rest of her life to get over.
‘Bit narrow this path isn’t it?’ I say with a tone I hope is jovial, but not jovial enough for him to murder me. He replies with a:
I then mentally consult the dog walker’s manual under the section: Encountering killers on narrow paths.
‘Maybe we’ll have to install traffic lights along here? Ha ha ha,’ I continue.
‘Or maybe a one way system. Ha ha ha.’ I make another mental note to throw my copy of the Dog Walker’s Manual in the bin. In desperation, and in case his ears were pretend, I try this.
Then his right hand jerks out and he tries to punch me in the face.
Let’s have a brief interlude here, because I want you to fully understand the world of pain The Blank-Faced Man is getting himself into here by trying to punch me.
I’ve had two fights in my life, and I’ve claimed victory in both, while never swinging a single punch that connected.
I wasn’t a heroic Rocky-type figure tiring out my opponent’s fists with my face.
I was much more pathetic than that.
But, on the subject of Rocky, could you get ‘Eye of the Tiger’ ready on Spotify to use in a couple of pages? Thanks.
The first fight was in the school playground, aged 8, against Besky. Here he is:
Notice the stubble at 8 years old. The fully loaded bullet belt and AK-47 stuffed in his back pocket were mandatory at St Pat’s in the 70s, so don’t worry about that.
Besky was the third hardest in school and incredibly volatile. He was hassling my friend for no apparent reason, and I had a strange feeling come over me. I think it was bravery, but I don’t know what that feeling feels like, so it’s more likely to have been unbelievable stupidity.
‘Hey Besky,’ I yelled across the playground, ‘leave him alone.’
The playground fell silent, almost:
Besky stopped dead, started to foam at the mouth and u-turned towards me. Then I remembered his fight from last week when he’d punched Jimmy Two Thumbs in the eye so many times it had given him diabetic retinopathy, or age-relate macular degeneration, I don’t know, I was 8, thick, and no way getting into medical school. It looked bad, that’s all I can remember and he was off school for a week. A week? Hang about, this might be worth it.
You may think Jimmy Two Thumbs is a rubbish nickname, since most of us have two thumbs, but he was born with two on one hand.
The extra was cut off at birth, so this sketch is a lie.
Bit of over-explaining there, back to Besky, who was about to smash my face in, and I would be forever known as Youngy Smashed In Face.
And, to make matters worse, back then (still now) my head was massive compared to my body and very difficult to miss.
Besky was 5 yards away and his hammer-like fists started swinging viciously in anticipation of connecting with the soft, sensitive, baby-like flesh of my face.
As an 8-year-old, I’d fought many an imaginary fight in my living room, jumping on the sofas after watching Ron Ely as Tarzan, so maybe I could handle this. I looked up for a vine to grab.
But I remembered my school wasn’t built in a jungle. So my backup plan of calling a herd of elephants from the savannah was also out.
It was just me and Besky.
As he charged towards me, I thought I’d better do something with my arms, preferably some sort of speedy movement based on this.
So I started swinging, more to create some sort of flappy safety zone that Besky couldn’t get into than anything else. Here’s what Besky must’ve seen.
Terrifying, I agree. But like a pro, Besky ignore all that flapping around and hammered a punch straight into my eye.
However, before it got there and gave me a serious dose of glaucoma with cataracts, the fist stopped in mid-air.
You know I said Besky was the third hardest in school, well Poot and Slog were one and two and I was on the football team with them. Seconds before impact, they’d grabbed Besky and dragged him away.
If you thought Besky was foaming before, well now it looked like he’d swallowed a Bubble Bubble Toil and Trouble Bath Bomb from Lush and this is what that looks like:
Now here’s the thing, Besky was so angry that he started crying, bawling his eyes out among the froth, and for people who weren’t up close and were at the right angle, it must’ve looked like one of my, I’m going to call them punches, had connected.
Besky was crying I wasn’t
I was deemed the winner. Press play on Spotify now…
That was my first victory in the bag.
The second time I was a fully grown adult, so it’s a lot more serious. Be prepared for bloodshed.
I was 20 and on holiday with some friends, let’s call it a ‘lads’ holiday in Ibiza even though that sounds like we just got drunk all the time and made fools of ourselves, so, like I said, I was on a lads holiday in Ibiza and I got into a fight with my mate Chris.
We were in a pub (of course) and there was a bench that we were squeezing into. Chris was in front of me as we shuffled along on our bums. Here’s how I remember it:
I’m not sure if the guy under the bench was dead or alive but he was quiet, so that was fine by us. Chris wiped the sick from the table and shuffled in. I was behind him and must’ve pressed my hand on his as I was shuffling along to sit down next to him.
As you know the hand is a very complicated thing, but there’s a little know nerve in there around about here
I think it’s called the Radial Ulnar I’m-going-to-kick-your-head-in nerve. When compressed with the palm of another person’s hand the nerve sends a signal to your brain which makes you do this
A certain amount of alcohol has to be consumed to trigger it to this level, but nevertheless, be careful out there.
Chris almost knocked the table over and the dead guy groaned a little.
‘OUTSIDE NOW,’ he screamed into my face.
‘I SAID, OUTSIDE NOW’ and he stormed out of the pub. When I say ‘stormed’, it was more like a wobbly light drizzle.
Me and Chris have been friends forever and still are, so I was a bit confused. He did boot our front door in at home once when my brother threw water on him, but that was a minor glitch, well major glitch for his parents who had to pay for it.
Back at the table, we all looked at each other and tried out our ‘what-just-happened’ expressions, which is a very easy expression to master when drunk. Then I finished my San Miguel because nothing is more important than that.
The outburst had put a downer on the evening, and then I got the message from deep inside, one clear, coherent thought shone brightly amongst the blur and jumble of my synapses.
That message usually comes about this time of the night and I’m powerless to resist it. Everyone else around the table said I went out there to find Chris, but I didn’t, I got the call and I was off back to the apartment.
It wasn’t my fault Chris was still waiting outside for me. His Radial Ulnar I’m-going-to-kick-your-head-in nerve hadn’t calmed down, so without messing about he threw a punch at me.
As I said, we were both drunk so everything that happens from here is in slow-mo.
I saw Chris’s hand coming my way, so I reached out with slug-like speed and caught it. Chris went for the left and I caught that one as well.
This is a reconstruction of what it looked like.
Now I’ve seen a lot of Strictly in my time but look at the line of the shoulders there, the classic tilt of the head, and the majestic elbow position relative to the arms.
We were just standing there awkwardly and so far there has been no damage done to anyone, but that was about to change. Get ready for the serious violence. Look away now if you don’t want to hear about the bloodshed.
Told you it was bad.
You’ll notice that fist doesn’t look like mine or Chris’s, a bit too angular and the arm’s a bit hairy, that is a completely separate fist.
That’s my friend Pete’s fist. He’d realised I’d gone from the pub and raced out to break up the fight. He’s a 6′ 3″, 18 stone rugby player and the act of breaking up the fight caused more damage than the fight itself. I got bundled to the ground by an aggressive elbow and the above ‘dush’ accidentally went into Chris’s lip and blood was shed.
The fight was over. And yet again, I claim a groundless victory. Chris ended up with a burst lip and I didn’t. I won so let’s do this again.
Hopefully, that has given you a good indication of what The Blank-Faced Man was up against – a seasoned brawler with a 100% record.
You will remember he’s about to punch me in the phizog for no reason. Well, he didn’t.
The hand jerks out, like a Gerry Anderson puppet whose strings had stiffened up a lot since the 70s, and he grabs my ear. I have two ears, which won’t be a shock to you, one of them sticks out a bit and the other one is nice and flat against the side of my head, I’m quite proud of it. Look:
He grabs my good one and yanks it towards his face. All I could think was not how weird or dangerous this was, but I hope that ear snaps back into place or I’m going to have two crap ones. Look at the other one, just so you know the seriousness of the situation
I could smell rotten vegetables as his face pushed up against my lug and a squelchy noise came out, like his vocal chords were made of bananas.
‘Shlisss ish… yorch… sholt.’
He retches a couple of times in my face, which is nice, and tries again. If you don’t speak banana, I’ve translated what I heard.
At that point, Norman barks from a safe distance away and the man falls backwards over his trolley and a load of rotten fruit tumbles out. Luckily he let go of my very attractive ear and I am able to run off like a coward.
I bound up the steps, as well as you can bound with long-term cruciate ligment issues. Norman waits at the top ready to accidentally jump at me and head butt me in the doodahs. He’s always there to make things better.
I limp along the side of the rugby pitch, trying to put a brave face on my sickening trouser pain, and at about halfway I look back and see the Blank-Faced Man jerking his body up the steps.
End of Chapter 2
Once again, I would really appreciate any feedback below. Whether it doesn’t make sense, it’s just silly or annoying, whether you’d read anymore, or you think it might make a good story. Anything would be appreciated. Thanks
Have a great weekend.
Take care and all the best,