The Debt of Violence

Somebody will pay for what has happened here. Somebody always pays. That's for sure. It's the only sure thing.

He's not dealing any more. His phone's dead. He showed me the bullet wound; the gauze. Rolled down his sock and lifted his trouser leg as we waited at the lights. A hole right down low, by the ankle.

Fired seven shots, he said. Seven fucking shots! They'll kill a man for nothing today. They'll kill a man for nothing!

And I could tell by his voice: he would as well.

Somebody's gonna pay for what happened here. That's for sure. He's already scheming. Working a way out. Preparing to get more than just get even.

The Police are watching him now. Victim turned loose turned suspect. They want to know WHY? They ALWAYS want to know WHY?

People don't just get shot, he said they said to him.

I did, he said he said to them. I just got shot!

He's moved his garage; changed apartment; is laying low; biding his time. He's working a way out. I could see the cunning in his reptilian eyes, the knotted tension in his jaw. I watched him scheming as he drove; going through his options, the angles. Something eating away inside of him, something that only feeds on men, some loss of something that is hard to define.

Somebody’s gonna pay for what happened here. That's for sure. Somebody always pays.

Tailgating – following right up tight behind. His frame widened; pushed forward; looming large in his windscreen; his face twitching with anger.

The law of Increasing Returns: the debt of violence. On his upper lip a scar, like he's had a hook ripped up out his mouth. It glistens as he drives, as he schemes; it widens as he moistens his mouth, as he works a way out.

Comment ça va, mon ami? He suddenly asked. How are you, my friend?

I replied with a face like I was bored, like nothing ever changes. He nodded his head like he understood, only with a menacing air about his despondency.

Then he said:
The shooter’s in prison.

That's not justice; that's a reprieve!

I'll do all I can to have him released.

Staring ahead into nowhere he grimaced a smile at some sadistic ending he had in mind.

Somebody will pay for what happened here. Oh, somebody will definitely fucking pay!

He's completely turned now. It's like his face is on inside out. Nothing hidden. He really is what he is. And he always said he was an animal.

The first time I hooked up with him alone he told me that.

I'm an animal, he said, laughing. Then he made out like he was gonna punch me in the liver. He pulled up centimetres short, his wrist curled his fist clenched, and made a restrained, frustrated noise like he was biting down on rope.


He drove me miles out of town that day to one of his small illegal businesses. He showed off the Games Room, bounced a ball around the pool table. He showed me his office, nothing but a rickety partition room with a dusty desk and phone. He walked me around the garage, showed me the empty oil stained pits and two engines hanging from hoists. Then he opened a door right out back to reveal a man in an empty room, bound to a chair, beaten and bleeding and dribbling blood. He allowed me just a peek, a warning to play it straight with him, even if he wasn't to play straight with me. After showing me what he wanted me to see of his life he gave me five grams of the best heroin I'd had in France and then left me stranded miles from nowhere, loaded, to make it back alone.

But that was then, before he had been baptised by the bullet… before he had finally became what he was to become.

So we're in the car, now, three years later. He's driving me to some third party dealer. He's got money, he's successful, has property, eats out, but he's gonna rob me. I know because he does nothing for nothing. The old adage: Time is Money. He only moves for profit even if it's just a gram he would not otherwise have had.

He believes in the dollar. He lives by the dollar. He's been wowed by the dollar. He worships the dollar. He drives by the dollar. He's driven by the dollar. He's been claimed by the dollar; chained by the dollar; bent over by the dollar; fucked by the dollar. He took seven bullets for the dollar, and he'll take seven more.

His foot slams on the brake peddle and the wound in his ankle seeps through his sock which is over his tracksuit bottoms. He's all twisted up with hate, barely keeping it inside. He screams something in Bulgarian, gives an offensive hand gesture to a car behind which has horned at us. He slows to let the car overtake and as it does, he picks up the same speed, keeps alongside and leaning across me he forms his fingers into a gun and starts unloading imaginary bullets into the drivers face. Then he slows and lets the culprit car slide on past. The car's tail lights go on, it signals and then takes the first turning off the motorway.

Emil rips the gearstick back, slides it sideways, pulls it back again then shoves it forward hard. The car makes an horrendous grating sound, jolts, then catches the road and rockets forward the momentum pinning us back. Emil's face is crazy, like he's on a fairground ride, caught between enjoyment and fear. I can see his bottom teeth. He's holding the steering wheel straight with both arms; the muscles tensed and prominent. It's like he's heading for a wall and he's made his mind up not to stop. I think this may be the last time I see him. I think all business is just about done here.

Somebody will pay for what happened. That's for sure. Somebody always pays. I paid today. Two grams short of five. Robbed. The debt of yesterday at my door today. When he was done, in profit, he dropped me off home. I shook his hand for old time sake, and maybe for tomorrow. I clapped him around the shoulder, like how you'd pat a fine dog or horse.

Merci, Emmy, I said... Merci.

He smiled and resembled a memory of the summer to come, something that won't be here in the future. He looked up and around and nodded to the clear blue sky. Then he moved his shades from his head and dropped them down over his eyes.

The future from here looks dark, he said.

That's not the future it's the distance, I replied, and if the distance is anything it’s the past.

Whatever it is it's fucking dark, he said. And those are maybe the final words to be had from a man sunk down deep in debt to himself.

[Audio version to follow shortly]


In the spring, when the days first turn good, they sit outside under the Magnolia tree.

The bloom of the Magnolia is white and bulbous and drops like dead doves, weighted in the belly, each one making a little fump:


To this beautiful carnage they drink strong beer and watch the world and lay back in the cool of the blossom. From afar they look like an assortment of old discarded clothes.

11am. clear skies above. the lazy sound of traffic droning by. a haze out in the distant like there lies the sea.

This world proffers daydreams. A daydream that things could be just how they are only better. A daydream that we need no more than temperate days and fruit and water and the cool of streams and grass and fraternity and love. Over there, under the Magnolia, when the days are kind, when the time is right, when a breeze breezes through and tickles over the soul, the drunks and the bums and the waifs and the strays find solace in the low of the day. I too can be found under the Magnolia, drawn by historical forces. My being is light in strange moments in strange ways. Behind my closed lids there is orange dimming black then coming through to orange again. I hear the faint stirrings and mumblings of the others, feel an insect run over my hand, catch another little 'fump' and meditate in the floral fragrance of birth and death. I am close to somewhere I once was, to something lost; something missing; something gone. Under the Magnolia I am not who I am but who I was, simultaneously at peace in various moments of my life.

I was borne into this world by a drunk: a bad one. My mother did not drink to be saved but for revenge, to wage war against a life which had cast the first stone. I often find my mother under the Magnolia. She turns up in the guise of young women so completely ruined, abused and emotionally swollen that they are no longer sensitive to the human touch. To register at all one must hit hard. There ends no woman left; just broken bones where the soul got out. My mother never stays long. She sits there stewing in her drunkenness, shifting between drink laden faces, each look a pictogram of the hateful, bitter emotions chewing away inside of her. Then she is gone and there is left a melancholic tranquillity in the day, over the city, like I've stepped back in time.

The world around the Magnolia is full of ghosts. It's what brought me here. People turn up with missing parts, sometimes in flames, caught in existential screams between planes of life they cannot escape. They move in and out of this timeless place, appear for moments and then disappear again for weeks or years or lifetimes. I am here now, I was here before and I shall be here again in the future. On the trunk of the Magnolia I carve my name; on my body and on the page my words. This is my life and this is my time. I close my eyes and hope in some way to go on forever, but I know my heart will not hold out.

                 fump... the only plan I have.

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