It so happened that Giggles, or Will, was in town at the alt rock pub with one of his friends who was visiting from London. I walked into town—the weather wasn’t as bad as it had been in the past week; still bad, but not enough to wish for sudden climate change—walked through the High Street and headed to the alt pub: The Lady Luck. Something about it struck me as familiar, and, with that familiarity, a small amount of dread. But I couldn’t nail anything down, so I ignored it and went inside.
In England, I developed the habit of going into a bar to wait for someone and ordering a drink before I looked around for that person. Since then, it’s made me late for so many things that I can’t count. Essentially: I have a terrible memory when it comes to being at places at a certain time and have a bad habit of wandering into random places. Luckily, it turned out that, as my ale was being poured by the man who looked like he had recently been in a fight with a tattoo artist, I heard Will’s special brand of disbelief-fueled obscenities from the back.
I walked in the back room and saw him circling a pool table like it was a piece of roadkill and he was a vulture. Off to the side, with a shit-eating grin, was a man slightly shorter than I, with a black-and-red beard, black clothes, and what looked to be Hot Topic chain-inclusive black jeans. He took a drink from a cider and said, “Mate, if you can’t accept a loss, there’s no need to swear.” He laughed.
“That was absurd. That was impossible. You’ve never made a shot like that in the past—how long have I known you, three years? You can’t do that, you don’t have the skill to sink three balls at once.”
“That’s what she said.”
Will cocked his head to one side and said, “That doesn’t make any sense.”
I said, “You don’t make any sense.”
Will turned, saw me, “Hey Narrator. This is Sven. Sven’s being a cunt and displaying unheard-of luck right now.”
“We’ve met,” said Sven.
I cocked my head. “We have?”
Then it hit me. Way back at the beginning of the year, I was here with The Student and this guy and an anti-Semite. “Oh. This is the Nazi place.”
Sven laughed. “Luke isn’t working today, no worries. The rest of the people here are cool.”
I looked around. Most of the people here were borderline goths. The remaining people were two extremely out-of-place posh-looking girls at the table closest to the door, and an older biker couple at the bar who were trying to convince the bartender to have a three-way. The posh girls (who I thought I recognized from somewhere) left the pub, and the bartender looked like he wished he could follow suit.
What was important, though, was the music. Over the surprisingly great-quality speakers mounted on the walls, the acoustic, twelve-string version of “Hear My Train a-Comin” by Jimi Hendrix played.
“Okay, I dig.”
“Cool. Want to take over for Will? He’s being a bit—”
“Well, well, well, look at what we have here,” said a disturbingly sadistic-sounding voice. “If it isn’t my chum, Kike McYankerson.”
“Fuck,” I said. I knew that voice. It was The Interloper. I turned, saw the man—this time alone (which meant there would be no reprieve brought on by a friend with a black bag)—and said, “Gayn cacken ofn yahm.”
That froze him for a second. The presence of a language other than English, I’d learned, had a freezing effect on the small-minded. Enough, at least, to confuse them for a bit and possibly allow for an escape.
The Interloper shook off the Yiddish and said, “And these cunts, they your bum buddies?”
“What?” Will asked. “Who are you? Narrator, is this one of the Thes?”
“Kind of. He’s The Interloper.”
“What does that word mean? My name’s Tim. Sod it, Jew, I’m gonna kick your ass.” And then, I shit you not, he rolled up his sleeve like he was a villain from a 1950s high school sitcom.
Sven propped himself up on a stool near the back wall like this was a damn prize fight, and he had ringside seats, and Will leaned on the stick and said, “Narrator, before I go in on your side, I must know if what you did to anger this man is valid.”
By the time he got to “I must know,” The Interloper had reared back and I held my fists out in front of me like this was a 1920s boxing match. (I’d never been in a fight before—the closest I’d been to one was a shoving match when I was in gym class and I tripped a guy during the mile run—and I thought this was how people fought. Now, I know better. I know people fight like in West Side Story, and that’s why I’ve been practicing my snapping rhythm.)
He brought the fist forward, the thought that I was doing this wrong flashed through my head and then, in a flash, a black-draped figure smelling suspiciously of cider appeared between me and the fist. The figure’s hand reached out, grabbed The Interloper’s wrist and jerked it down with such speed and force that The Interloper himself fell to the ground with a quick, “Bloody hell.”
At that same time, The Interloper’s keepers burst through the door of the pub with the trusty black bag and a new addition: a Taser. They skidded to a halt at the entrance to the pool room, saw The Interloper on the ground and breathed sighs of relief. “He was going from kebab shop to kebab shop trying to start fights with people,” said the one in the Led Zeppelin shirt.
I didn’t say anything, I was still surprised by The Stalker, who was now standing to my left. I didn’t notice before, but the scent of cider came from the presence of the pint of Strongbow he’d been holding in his right hand through the entire ordeal. “Yes,” said The Stalker, “perhaps the two of you should consider chemically castrating your friend.”
The two Englishmen looked at each other and gave off a couple nervous laughs. On the floor, The Interloper groaned. “I think me arm’s broken.”
“I’m not joking,” said The Stalker. “Ask my friend here: I don’t joke.”
I shook my head. “He doesn’t.”
“I believe,” continued The Stalker, “that your now-injured friend suffers from an excess of testosterone—or, more likely, he has a deficiency thereof, and thus feels the compulsion to dominate other people around him. A sort of compensatory alpha complex, if you follow my thinking on the situation. In my thinking—and I am no doctor, or psychologist—this could be remedied by cutting off the source of the excess testosterone.”
The Interloper wept on the floor. “Lads, please don’t cut off my bollocks.”
The two Englishmen looked at each other again and, without further commentary, dragged the crying man out of the pub.
After a few seconds of silence, conversation in the pub started back up.
“Did you just threaten to chemically castrate someone?” asked Will.
Sven stood up and walked over to shake The Stalker’s hand. “Brilliant, mate. I’m Sven.”
The Stalker sniffed the air and squinted at Sven. “You should switch to cigars. They’re more fragrant than Marlboros.”
“Er,” I said.
The Stalker slurped at his cider and turned to me. “Narrator. Au revoir. I’ll be seeing you at The Flock tomorrow, yes? I hope you’re prepared in the event that it’s your turn.”
I turned to the side to drink out of the glass ale I had, said, “Whose turn is it?” drank, and turned around to see that The Stalker had vanished.
“Is he Batman?” asked Sven. “He just... was gone.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “One thing I do know: He’s a dangerous man, and God help us all if he turns against us. If that day comes, he’ll be as bad as the people he fights against.”
Will and Sven turned to each other. “Who does he fight against?” Will asked when the moment of confusion was over.
“What? Oh,” I said, “sorry. Got on a Batman track there, quoting Commissioner Gordon.” I coughed. “Right. Next game?”