Theme Parks and Obstacle Courses – a Novel

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“Alan,” said one of the men standing behind him. “Easy.”

“Yes Alan, you’re being rather rude, you know that?” Pat liked to get a hold of their names. It was like a handle on their irritation.

“What’s your fucking problem?” demanded Alan the Stockbroker.

“That’s the million-dollar question,” said Pat. “Even I’d like to know the answer.” Pat summed it up as he leant forward, down into the man’s face. “Right now it’s you, pal. You’re my problem.”

The stockbroker began to swell up, the shoulders of his expensive woollen coat rising like the feathers of a peacock. His mouth turned down at the edges.

The situation was read perfectly well by the two men that flanked Alan, especially the balding one at his left shoulder who had cautioned him.

He now wore the expression of a man who has discovered the tail of his coat is caught in the train door as it is pulling away from the platform.

“Come on Alan, let’s go,” he said, putting a hand on his shoulder. Pat’s eyes bored into Alan’s, but the outlines of the other two were clear in his periphery so he could attack them if they intervened.

Pat leant closer, increasing the degree of provocation. This one was almost a no-brainer; three on one. The odds made it look like their fault, especially given Alan’s aggression and the pissing on the bins.

He looked deeply into the liquid, glassy surface of Alan’s eye to read what was in there. Alan was almost all the way past restraint. Empathy, humility and the taboo of physically assaulting another person were nowhere to be seen.

He was almost past the instinctive fear of tangling with another animal so evidently larger and more physically powerful than himself.

“Go on,” said Pat, as solicitously as a man would say to a lover.

Alan went. He drew back his fist to his ear like he was shooting an arrow. Pat took as leisurely step forward as Alan threw the punch, bringing his forehead down so the missile grazed the top of his skull.

Alan’s sudden shift in weight carried him straight into Pat’s embrace. Pat brought his chin down to his chest and lifted his eyes.

Alan’s fury began to decay into fear. One of his mates grabbed at Pat’s coat, but Pat drew down his shoulders under the jacket to pull the material tight across his back. The sudden tightness broke the man’s grip.

Pat held Alan out in front of him and launched a knee into his midsection, curving it in from the right. There was a snapping sound, not unlike a twig being broken in the night air.

Alan’s breath gushed out in a plume of steam and Pat dropped him onto the damp bitumen where he propped on his hands and knees, face down. Pat bent down and seized Alan’s jacket, gathering the soft, expensive wool into his fists.

And tore. It ripped along the stitching, exposing the satin lining beneath. The streetlight pooled on it in oily little whorls. They looked like sinkholes of liquid darkness.

The second of Alan’s friends had bolted for the street. Pat looked at the bald friend, who stood nearby. He swallowed hard and was visibly shaking.

Pat wasn’t sure if he wanted to kick Alan in the face, try and sink a boot into his broken rib or punch the bald guy off his feet. The moment elongated. The night was perfectly still.

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