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Sheila, Take a Bow

Family ties bind.

In the Gutter, they tend to stumble and bumble. 

Sheila, Take a Bow by Paul D. Brazill

She’s lost the plot again. It’s the third time this week. Sheila should never have come off her meds in the first place and now she’s just bounced straight back onto the cider. In fact, she’s bouncing around my front room at the moment, smashing into the telly, and knocking over the ornaments. As she waves a bottle of White Lightning cider around, I fear for the glass coffee table. I really do.

She’s wearing a polka-dot swimsuit and pink sunglasses with heart-shaped lenses. She keeps saying she’s Lolita and though she may have the body of an emaciated twelve-year-old, Sheila is knocking on sixty.

She falls onto the black leather sofa. ‘Why not, eh?’ she says. ‘Why the fuck not?’

In less than a minute, she’s sound asleep, snoring like a chainsaw.

There used to be an annoying BBC comedy show on the telly in the seventies called Some Mothers Do Have Em. Well, some sons have mothers like Sheila, too.

I’m cleaning up the room when I hear the ice cream van’s chiming of ‘That’s Amore.’

I freeze. It’s just after midnight and I know it can only be Alberto.  I put a checked blanket over Sheila and wait for the knock at the door. It doesn’t come. Instead, it’s kicked off its hinges.

The Monolith storms through the door first donning the usual: a long leather coat, shaved head, and wrap-around shades. Behind him is Alberto Amerigo, a tiny little man with dyed black hair and a pencil moustache. He wears a shiny white linen jacket with a pink carnation in the lapel. He looks like a spiv but he used to be a barber, then an ice-cream man, and now a loan shark.

Alberto looks around the trashed room. ‘Magnifico, bonny lad,’ he says with a smirk. ‘You’ve been redecorating, I see.’

I shrug.  

He clocks Sheila’s snoring form. ‘Your mother back for a bit?’ 

I nod. ‘For my sins.’ 

Alberto smirks.

‘Families, eh?’ says Alberto. ‘They’re a bind, at times. Which conveniently brings us to the dosh you ripped off from my Alessio.’

I shuffle my feet, feeling the urge to run. When it’s a choice between fight or flight, I do a runner every time. Especially with The Monolith in the room.

‘I didn’t rip him off. I beat him fair and square,’ I croak.

Alberto nods and The Monolith punches me in the guts.

‘Playing snooker with a half-drunk kid who is also colour blind is not fair and square as I see it, ’says Alberto.

I see Alberto has a point. As well as a pair of knuckle dusters that he gives to The Monolith.

‘I’ll pay you back,’ I say. ‘Really.’

‘I know you will, bonny lad. And then some.  But I’m guessing you don’t have the dosh at hand?’

‘Naw, sorry. Greyhounds.’

I shrug. Alberto nods and The Monolith hits me again.

‘As I thought. So I have a plan. A way you can pay back me and my nephew. And maybe earn something yourself.’

‘Is it risky?’ I say. 

‘Yes, bonny lad. Very,’ Alberto says.

He and The Monolith look at each other and start laughing.

Which is when Sheila wakes up. She throws off the blanket and staggers off the sofa, legs wobbling

‘Friggin hell. It’s The Walking Dead,’ The Monolith says. 

He turns and grins at me as Sheila smashes the cider bottle over his head. Then, she head-butts Alberto and jabs the broken bottle into The Monolith’s throat before slashing it across Alberto’s face.

The men’s screams meld with Sheila’s laughter and all I can think is, that’s more bloody clearing up to do.

Paul D. Brazill is the author of Cold London Blues, The Last Laugh, Guns Of Brixton, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc. member whose writing has been translated into Italian, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. He has even edited a few anthologies, including Exiles: An Outsider Anthology, and True Brit Grit.