All Architects Are Called Zach (Part 1, words 1,838)
By Mark Burrow
1. Publican Enemy
Freddy walked into his local. The door hadn’t swung shut behind him when he clocked the heads angling in his direction.
The landlord, Joe, who had recently lost his wife of 40 years and was waiting to hear back from the hospital on whether or not he had liver cancer, said, “And what the fuck do you think you’re doing in here, you fucking disgrace?”
Freddy held his hands up. “What’s up, Joe? Did I do something wrong?”
“Oh, no, nothing wrong… You freak of fucking nature… Pretending to be a dinosaur… Telling us you’re a Cockasaurus and charging everyone with your prick out and then smashing a fucking window,” he said, pointing to the boarded-up glass. “Get the fuck out of here… Don’t let me ever, ever see your face in here again.”
The regulars in the bar, each with their own medical conditions, fears and disappointments, stared at him, pint glasses half-raised to their gawping mouths. “Oh, fuck the lot of you,” said Freddy. “As if I want to drink in this shit-tip anyway.” He pulled the door and stepped out, hearing Joe shouting back at him.
Freddy could smell revolution in the air. An uprising against F C McNamara. A printer’s son. A lad who was as honest as the day is long. Conspiracies ranged against him that went beyond theory. He imagined men in cheap suits, crouching in high, half-open windows with Carcano, bolt-action rifles, lining him up in the crosshairs of their telescopic sites. They were capable of heinous acts of wanton terror. Detonating nail bombs in bins and placing Semtex under parked cars. Committed and pitiless, they could strike at any moment.
The sun was an open wound, dripping red. He knew that quitting his job was a mistake. Whichever way he looked at it, calling the boss of the supermarket a fucked-up, Tory voting fascist was never going to end well. But the bloke was actually a Nazi and Freddy had had enough of hearing Nazi fucks talk about immigration and why the country was going to the dogs. The country was built on the fucking labour and sweat of immigrants. Who do they think rebuilt London after the Great fire of ‘66? Dancing, happy-go-lucky cockneys? No chance. Those cheeky chappies were getting pissed and wanking over jellied eels, having a right old knees-up to the Stuart equivalent of Chas & Dave.
As for last night, it was a blur. It had definitely been a big one. Completely arseholed. There was a note from Davina, written in crumbling lipstick, left on his kitchen table, telling him that he was a massive C-U-N-T and that she was going to get her brothers on him. The flat was a state. The television screen cracked. Coffee table broken. Fragments of glass spread over the carpet and lino. A photograph of his mum and dad torn to pieces. He walked up the hill. Wanting a cigarette. Not that he smoked anymore, but still… He’d have to leave the City as Davina’s brothers were fucking mental. They’d knife him for fun.
He should have gone to Uni like that teacher, Ms Dermott, had said back in third year. She thought he would be a great Sociologist, which was nice and everything but what did Sociologists do to earn money? His mum wouldn’t be very happy if he told her that’s what he was going to do. She’d be like, “You fucking what?” Besides, he didn’t trust the advice of middle-class wankers. Those who were in the know. Born on the other side of the fence. The silver spooners. Oxbridge types with Southern accents. City planners. Councillors. Hedge fund managers. Wearers of quilted jackets with deep pockets for short hands. The type who say they’re eco-friendly but come December they’ll be flying long-haul to the Southern Hemisphere, desperate for a touch of the ol’ soleil. There’s a reason all architects are called Zach.
Davina tipped him over the edge. Said something in the pub which riled him. Set him ticking after ten pints – and then some – and countless lines of the Bolivian marching powder. He had been telling D about how football lost its soul. Why it was a game for the working class but it had been ruined by the sovereign wealth funds, and the American sports magnets, and the mysterious billionaires who appeared and disappeared. And they had conned the working class. Getting the them to fatten the coffers of the rich. Effectively paying the rich to systematically tear the heart and soul out of their own game. It was a metaphor for the Tory’isation of the whole fucking country. This wasn’t racism either / neither. It wasn’t being a nationalist. Freddy told her this over and over, repeating that football would never be the same again. Kids of today would never know the joy of The Big Match on a Sunday afternoon with the dulcet tones of Brian Moore.
Walking along the angled street, heading straight for the blood red sun, he wondered why he had felt so passionately about it. He fucking hated The Big Match. Hated Sunday TV as a boy. Hated Sundays, period. Roll on Monday morning, he’d think when having to listen to the shitty arguments between his mum and dad. And school was a pile of shit too… That’s how bad it was… In the cold, sanguineous light of an October afternoon, he realised he could not care less about football.
He had said to D, “What ever happened to the world of Saint and Greavsie?”
It made him cringe to think about how he sounded. He’d been on the verge of tears.
“I hope they’re more fucking interesting than you,” she said.
“That’s what I’m saying. Nobody cares.”
“I don’t know what you’re on about, Freddy… Who the fuck are they, then?”
“It doesn’t matter. You can all carry on, enjoying your comas.”
“Fucking hell. I should have gone out with the girls. You’re so resentful.”
That was it. That was the catalyst for what followed. “No, I’m not. How fucking dare you accuse me of being resentful. I don’t resent anyone.”
“And the rest,” she said, drinking her Malibu and coke. “I was talking to Olly in IT in the pub after work about the epic-sized chip on your shoulder.” She put the glass on the beer matt and stretched out her arms to show him. “It’s this massive,” she said.
Freddy entered another pub and was appalled to see the same set of regulars turn their heads to him as he pushed open the door. The sudden rush of outside light made them blink in the pub’s nocturnal, booze-basted gloom.
“And what the fuck do you think you’re doing in here, you fucking disgrace?” said the Landlord.
“Who’s Joe now? Have you lost your fucking marbles? Is that it? Get out and don’t ever, ever let me see you in here again.”
Freddy glared at the regulars, with their missing teeth, diabetes and itchy moles, sensing their boundless disapproval. He shouted, “Fuck the lot of you,” and slammed the door shut behind him.
He kept walking, searching his pockets for a mint, or chewing gum, or a boiled sweet, or a bag of leftover coke. These streets go on forever. Where do they end? A drink would straighten his mind out. Calm down the violence in his head. My ugliest thoughts never make a sound. And resentful? The fucking cheek. As if. Freddy was adamant that he never held a grudge against the living or the dead. Not him. He kept putting one foot in front of the other, on a pilgrimage towards the next boozer, checking the pavements in-case there were mines and bombs and booby traps which might explode and rip his body to pieces.
He scanned the buildings for an off-license or supermarket. Somewhere to buy some cans to quench his thirst and soften the edges of his hangover-paranoia.
And who the fuck is Olly in IT? D had never mentioned that snidey cunt before.
In the shop windows, he noticed the steel shutters pulled down. Everybody had upped sticks and gone like in a disaster movie. The disaster being his life.
Not a car driving by on the road or a cat moodily patrolling its territory.
Up above, in the shadowy windows, he imagined fingers on triggers, twitching, waiting for the message to shoot: “You have permission to assassinate the nobody.”
Except they wouldn’t say that. There’d be a special codeword that only the assassins understood, such as: “Blue horseshoe loves Anacott Steel.”
Or: “All architects are called Zach.”
He visualised bullets piercing his flesh, breaking bones and organs, causing his body to flop lifelessly to the ground, threads of blood seeping into the cracks in the concrete and dripping down the gutter. Only a somebody gets assassinated. Never a nobody. Just ask Simon Schama. He fucking loved Simon Schama. History was about the emperors and monarchs and the Archduke Ferdinands. Not the nobodies getting glassed and knifed and done in by pills. He saw a pub, pushed the door and was greeted by familiar and decidedly unwelcoming faces.
“I’ll call the police,” said the Landlord without a trace of humour.
How many pubs could one man be barred from in one night?
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll never, ever, ever darken these doors again,” said Freddy before the Landlord could say it himself.
Freddy let the doors close behind him and stood outside. Fuck this for a game of soldiers. All I want is a beer. Head bowed, he kept moving. Thoughts racing wildly. Sweating buckets. So thirsty. Gasping for a pint. Did I kill someone? Could they have killed me? Was that it? Anything was possible when he was out of his mind on booze and coke. He walked for ages, or must have done, for when he next looked up, he realised he was on the estate where he had lived as a young boy. He saw the turd coloured bricks of the flats and the white panels of the tower block and felt a sickly sensation. Worse than any vertigo. His childhood was not a happy one. His dad was a proper bastard and his mum was away with the fairies. It was not surprising that her head was a mess. She had to deal with that prick for a husband, four wild kids, and never a pot to piss in.
Tapping the button for the lift, Freddy noticed the graffiti on the silver coloured doors. The tagging was done by his brother, Tony. He smiled at how the Council had left it like that for twenty odd years. He tapped the button and listened out for the clang and whine of the motor. Moments went by and there was no sound. He decided the lift wasn’t working. It never fucking worked. His mum rightly moaned about how often she was forced to carry his younger sister, Carrie, a pushchair, and umpteen bags of shopping up four flights of stairs.