Tim was nicknamed Mayhem because
he used the word a lot. If he was moving house hed come in the pub and
say it was mayhem, if the toilet was crowded it was
mayhem and if his smoke alarm went off at 3am and it wouldnt
stop so he had to permanently dismantle it, it was mayhem. He lived
above a newsagents for a bit until his Status Quo CDs pissed Rafeeq, the owner,
off so much that he evicted him and some rockabillies moved in instead.
He was fond of drinking snakebite, that
electric mix of cider and lager normally drunk by the dangerous, especially on
a Sunday after hed been orienteering. When he drank it his face went
cardiac maroon apart from a white, half inch wide line just beneath his
hairline. His hair was lank and black, especially after orienteering because he
would never bother to clean himself up. He never ate properly either, so his
One Sunday afternoon we had an argument
about politics. Id been feeling bad because Id badly mistreated
Ellen, my girlfriend, the night before. I told Mayhem to fuck off and left the
pub. It was November and dark and rainy. I didnt go straight home, but
had a Becks in a strange pub on Ecclesall Road and then made my way to
the 24 hour Spar by Hunters Bar roundabout.
I was enjoying the cold air and the fresh
wet in it as I tried to decide which frozen meal Id enjoy after my
evening spliff. The lights from the Spar made the pavement glisten, and there
was a ramp with a banister for disabled people adjoining the steps that led
into the shop. I was about to walk up the steps when I saw Mayhem coming
towards me from the opposite direction. I turned quickly into the doorway of a
closed fancy dress shop. I would wait until hed passed or done his
He walked past the ramp. A homeless guy in a
Nike baseball cap and Nirvana hoody sat on the brick edge of where the ramp was
highest, by the door. He was polite and quiet in his requests of strangers. I
watched Mayhem walk past him and over the wind heard him say, Get a job
you lazy cunt, to the homeless fella, who immediately stood up and swung
Slight and drunk, Mayhem ducked and slipped.
The punch hadnt connected, and Homeless stooped over Mayhem, shouting.
Using the banister of the ramp to struggle to his feet, Mayhem half rose then
rolled under the bottom rung of the banister onto the ramp. Homeless swivelled,
and ran up the steps to the door of the shop before pursuing Mayhem down the
ramp and the street into the darkness. I laughed, and decided to celebrate with
another pint and no dinner.
I next saw Mayhem in the pub on the
following Wednesday, in the evening, he was in for some European match on Sky.
He was standing blocking my view when he asked me if Id have a look at
the CV hed just prepared for an agency. He had a black eye and was
holding his arm at a strange angle.
His long, weak fingers pulled it, with real
difficulty, from his jeans pocket. Folded in 4, it was handwritten in blue biro
on squared paper, like you get in maths exercise books. Damp had smudged his
name at the top, and it finished halfway down the page. Mayhem was 39. There
were no jobs listed until 1987 and he didnt have any hobbies or
interests. The A4 sized sheet was coming apart in the middle where holes where
staples had been were widening.
I gave it him back and said it was fine. I
couldnt improve that.