The traffic trundled along Wakefield Road punctuated by an occasional bus. On the back seats of one these buses lounged Matt and Tony. A generation ago these boys would have been in cloth caps, woollen tank tops and freshly out of short trousers. In this enlightened age the caps are of an American sporting variety, worn backwards or sideways to express the bearer’s individuality, and the trousers could be used for camping under overnight. Tony was a local lad, or ‘homey’ as he would have it. Matt prided himself on being ‘well travelled’.
‘So, tell me about Bradford,’ said Tony.
‘Shit, man, that’s one crazy place. You don’t have to pay for the chappaties,’ enthused Matt.
‘No way! I’m fuckin’ goin’.’
‘Get this, motherfucker. When you order your meal you can have three chappaties or two rotis or one naan, thrown in.’
‘I’m there, man.’
‘Not so fast, man. In many places you can’t get a beer.’
‘What the fuck!’
‘That’s what I said. But do you know why it’s like that?’
‘’Cos of the Muslim system.’
The Bus passed Kinsley Greyhound Stadium, which the boys observed through a drizzle that had just decided to put in an appearance.
‘So, why’s the Big Cheese want this hit then?’ asked Tony
‘The Dog Man’s been messin’ him around. Fixing races. The Big Cheese has been losing money on it and he’s real mad. Wants resolution, got me motherfucker?’ explained Matt.
‘He’s fuckin’ fucked, man. I’m gonna lay that dog out.’
‘Just the dog, mind. He wants to keep the nigger on line.’
A silence hit the lower deck. It was one of the those silences that alerts you to the fact that the previous silence that the other passengers were engaging in wasn’t totally silent after all. But now it was. Heads turned, faces scowled. An old lady tutted disapprovingly.
‘What?’ said Matt, genuinely confused.
Tony leaned over and whispered, ‘You said ‘nigger’.’
‘So what? Why can’t I say ‘nigger’?’
‘You can’t say ‘nigger’, motherfucker.’
‘Yes, I can, motherfucker. It’s okay to say ‘nigger’ if you are a nigger.’
‘Sure, it’s okay for a nigger to call another nigger a ‘nigger’, but you’re not a nigger.’
‘Yes, I am a nigger.’
‘No, you’re not.’
‘You’re not a nigger, motherfucker. You’re not even black!’
‘Oh, so you’ve got to be black to be a nigger now, do you?’
The bus slowed and Matt took a glance out of the grimy windows. ‘This is us.’
Mutterings of ‘In’t it awful?’ and ‘Shouldn’t be allowed’ went unheard to the boys as the doors closed behind them and the bus laboured on to its next stop. Matt consulted his A to Z. ‘This way.’
‘The point is that ‘nigger’ means negro which means black. That’s all there is to it,’ Tony resumed.
‘You take things too literally. There’s more to being a nigger than just being black. It’s a state of mind.’
‘Shee, you’re jus’ talkin’ shit now, motherfucker.’
‘All right, answer this. Are you a motherfucker, motherfucker?’
‘Yes,’ said Tony, ‘Well, not strictly.’
‘Well there you are,’ said Matt, ‘You’re happy to be called a motherfucker and call other motherfuckers ‘motherfucker’ but none of us motherfuckers are actually motherfuckers, are we motherfucker?’
Tony paused for thought.
‘You make a good point there, nigger.’
They strolled into the park, a park like any other with general park related goings on going on.
Joggers with iPods, mothers pushing prams, a boy flying a kite, a dodgy looking bloke who may or may not be a paedo - it’s so hard to tell.
But only one park related going on was of any interest to Tony and Matt. There, in an open grassy space, was the Dog Man, exercising a greyhound as he did at nine o’clock every morning without fail. The Dog Man was big and he was black but you’ll not catch me calling him fat or a n*gger. Oh no, not me.
The Dog Man was doing well. He was on the up. He’d been given a nice one bed terrace with a back yard on to an alleyway by the Council, and a job holding a Golf Sale sign in the town centre on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Nice work if you can get it. His debt to society paid, he was now keeping his nose clean and earning a few little extras down the dog track with his canine companion. No one was going to fuck things up for the Dog Man.
‘Right, here’s the plan,’ said Matt, ‘I’ll engage the Dog Man in some interesting conversation about Golf Sale sign holding, while you grab the dog, drag it behind a tree and chchkkkkk!’ He mimed slitting his throat with a finger and handed Tony a penknife.
‘No way, motherfucker! I really don’t think you’ve thought this one through. How do you expect me to catch the dog in the first place?’
‘With these, man,’ he fished out a bag of aniseed balls from his trouser pocket.
‘It is well known that all dogs go for aniseed.
One whiff of these and that dog will... ‘ <Whump!> ‘What the fuck!’
Matt was now lying flat on the grass while an over-playful greyhound trampled him with its snout in the bag of aniseed balls.
‘Jeezus Christ!’ exclaimed Tony.
‘Get it off!’ yelled Matt.
Tony grabbed the creature by the collar and managed to pull it clear enough for Matt to stagger to his feet.
‘Whatchoo doin’ wit’ ma dog?’
This voice was at least two octaves lower than Matt’s or Tony’s.
‘Oh, err... nothing,’ stammered Tony, his voice now three octaves higher, ‘Nice doggy nice doggy.’
‘You trying to dope ma dog?’ growled the Dog Man, ‘Whatchoo got in dat bag?’
‘Mister Dog Man,’ spoke Matt, ‘Sir,’ he added, ‘Allow us to introduce ourselves. My name is Peter and this is my associate, Paul. We know you’re a very busy man, what with the Golf Sale sign holding career demanding increasing amounts of time and the rehabilitation back into society progressing at a prodigious rate, we wondered if we might offer our services.’
‘Services? What services?’
‘Dog walking,’ answered Matt, ‘Or in this case, dog running. We can take your dog out for a run every day, give it all the training it needs and ensure that it is at its peak of fitness for every race.’
‘You fink I woz born yesterday? I know you two. You work for de Big Cheese, dontcha? Well, you can tell Mister Nob Cheese dat I ain’t doin’ no deal wit’ him an’ he ain’t getting ma dog. Now, fuck o...’
And what a ‘Whump’ this one was!
A kite had struck the big man full in the face, knocking him backwards and laying him flat on his back in the grass.
The main spar, a carbon-fibre strut, had slipped out of its frame and had speared him through the left eye and remained standing upright supported by the man’s great skull. Blood spurted from the eye socket, splattering Matt and Tony, and poured all over his face and upper chest.
‘Fucking hell!’ gasped Tony.
A boy who had been holding the kite in the distance stared aghast. He dropped the strings and fled.
‘Jesus fuck!’ Matt said.
The dog whimpered and began licking his master’s face. Matt looked round. There was no one else within sight at this moment.
‘We gotta get outta here, dude,’ he said.
‘I’m with you there, man,’ agreed Tony
‘Wait!’ said Matt, ‘We can’t go back and tell the Big Cheese that the Dog Man got wasted instead of the dog.’
‘What can we do?’
‘We can still waste the dog. We say nothing about the kite. As far as we’re concerned this is something that happened after we left. It’s got nothing to do with us.’
‘You’re right. Where’s that knife?’
The greyhound continued whimpering and pining for its master. It looked at Tony with one of those sorrowful looks that dogs must have developed out of some sort of evolutionary advantage.
‘Shit, I can’t kill this dog.’
‘We can’t leave it. We’re fucked if we do.’
‘Let’s take it. We’ll keep it in the flat and decide what to do with it later.’
‘Good call, dude.’
He took the lead out of the Dog Man’s hand, clipped it to the dog’s collar and dragged the fretting hound with them back to the bus stop.
‘I gotta find another job,’ muttered Tony.
Presently, the bus arrived and the lads took their seats at the back. The events in the park were put behind them, their mission was accomplished - well, sort of. The dog lay down quietly on the floor.
‘Coming down the pub, tonight?’ asked Matt.
‘Can’t,’ replied Tony, ‘The Big Cheese wants me to take his bitch out tonight. Look after her, treat her right.’
‘Hey man, two points here,’ responded Matt, ‘First you can’t go calling The Big Cheese’s lady a bitch, and secondly you gotta be real careful. You can’t afford to put one foot - one finger - wrong.’
‘Cool it man, I ain’t gonna call her ‘bitch’ to her face or the Big Cheese’s. It’s just that that’s what he called her. And it’s no big deal anyway. He prob’ly only wants me to make polite conversation and fend off any unwanted male attention.’
‘Yeah, well, you take care, tha’s all.’
The door opened and a brick shithouse loomed over Tony. This wasn’t the Big Cheese. The brick shithouse gave no indication to Tony who he was but called behind him, ‘It’s the bitch monkey.’
‘Give him the bitch,’ came the Big Cheese’s voice from way inside the house.
The brick shithouse leaned down towards Tony and handed him a leather leash. From the other end of this leash trotted a sprightly greyhound.
‘Now hear this,’ spoke the brick shithouse, ‘This bitch is the Big Cheese’s pride and joy. She’s running in a big race tomorrow but she can’t stay here ‘cos the Big Cheese’s dear sweet white-haired mother is coming to stay an’ she’s allergic to dogs. You’re gonna look after the bitch an’ treat her right. Bring her to the stadium tomorrow but in the meantime make sure she doesn’t get startled, doesn’t come into contact with any other dogs ‘cos she’s on heat, right? And ‘specially DON’T FEED HER ANYTHING.’
Tony guessed he was talking about the greyhound and not the Big Cheese’s dear sweet white-haired mother. He nodded.
‘Er ...’, trembled Tony, ‘What’s her name?’
‘Can you read, kid?’
Tony nodded again.
The brick shithouse pointed at the dog’s collar.
The door closed leaving Tony standing with the hound. He looked down at the collar and read the legend embossed within the leather. Bad Ass Bitch.
‘Great,’ he muttered, ‘another dog job’ and he scrunched off back to the main road, dog in tow.
Back at the flat, Tony grabbed a beer from the fridge, slumped in his armchair and switched the telly on.
‘Ah, well,’ he sighed, ‘Quiet night in, I s’pose.’
Now, although Tony didn’t like Mariah Carey’s music very much he considered her a bit of a babe and had demonstrated this by posting fake nudes of her on the internet.
He sat, and watched, and listened, but mostly watched. And then the song reached one of those screechy bits. Up the register she went, higher and higher, her lungs forcing out increasing volumes until she hit that dreaded ultra high A.
And this was just too much for Bad Ass Bitch’s sensitive hearing. With a yelp and a whimper she fled out of the room and into the kitchen from which Tony heard the smash of something hitting the floor.
‘Shit!’ exclaimed Tony on seeing the damage, ‘The fruit bowl!’ and there was the ravenous hound wolfing down every morsel she could from amidst the broken glass. ‘Shit! My stash!’
Tony struggled to pull the dog away from the wreckage,
Dog Man’s dog who had been sleeping in Matt’s room was awakened by the cacophony. He leapt off the bed and tried the handle of the bedroom door which was all that was keeping him from the arousing scent of the ovulating bitch. A few paw swipes at the handle rendered him free and he bounded into the kitchen knocking Tony off his feet, mounted Bad Ass Bitch and gave her a jack-hammer pounding while she scoffed the rest of the fruit, drugs and glass.
‘Fuck! Fuck! Fucking fuck!’ cried Tony, ‘Christ almighty, I’m fucked!’
He filled a washing up bowl with cold water and poured it over the rampant animals. But it was too late. The deed had been done. He grabbed his phone, ‘Matt, you’ve got to get here quick! We’re in deep shit...’
‘Shit!’ exclaimed Matt on witnessing the havoc, ‘I had a bag of mushrooms in that bowl. What did you have?’
‘A quarter of skunk and some ketty,’ said Tony.
‘What the fuck are we going to do?’
‘There’s only one man that can sort this mess out.’
‘The French Polisher.’
‘Brilliant! Get him round here quick.’
The French Polisher was legendary. There was no mess he couldn’t clear up. There was no shit he couldn’t render into sweetly smelling roses. He was the one and only man who actually could polish a turd. But you only ever called him in a dire emergency.
‘Hello, French Polisher?’
‘It’s possible you might just save my life.’
‘And ‘ow may I do zat, mon ami?’
‘It’s the Big Cheese’s bitch. She just O.D.’d.’
‘Okay, what has she had?’
‘’Shrooms, skunk and ketamine.’
‘Okay, I’ll come. But until zen you will ‘ave to talk to ‘er. Try to talk ‘er down. Whatever you do it eez very important zat you keep talking.’
By the time the French Polisher arrived, Bad Ass Bitch was on Planet Gaga. She lay on the kitchen floor drooling, pupils like dustbin lids. Tony was kneeling over her.
‘Woof woof woof-woof woof-woof woof,’ he said.
‘Thank you so much for coming, Mister French Polisher,’ fawned Matt, ‘In here, please.’
‘Woof woof woof woof-woof woof,’ continued Tony.
‘Ahhhh, zat beetch,’ said the French Polisher, ‘I zink we may dispense wiz ze talkin’ now.’
‘Thank fuck for that,’ said Tony, ‘I was beginning to run out of things to say.’
‘This dog has to run in the stadium tomorrow,’ said Matt, ‘Can you fix her up?’
The French Polisher examined the stricken canine. He shone a little torch in the animal’s eyes, he looked deep inside her mouth, he felt her heart rate and checked her breathing.
‘I am afraid,’ he said, ‘zat zis animal is, ‘ow you say, ferked.’
‘Then we too are, ‘ow you say, ferked. It is essential that this dog runs tomorrow.’
‘Zis derg will probably never run again.’
‘Not so hasty, my boys. I have not yet encountered a problem zat ‘as no solution. What about zat derg over zere?’
‘That’s Dog Man’s dog,’ explained Matt, ‘It is essential that that dog does not run tomorrow.’
‘Not necessarily. Now, can you fetch me some brown shoe polish, some bleach and a black marker pen?’
‘Coming right up!’
Matt provided the French Polisher with the required accoutrements and watched on in awe as he set to work on... Dog Man’s dog. Twenty minutes later Dog Man’s dog’s markings were identical to Bad Ass Bitch’s.
‘Not baad, ‘ey?’ he smiled.
‘Very impressive,’ said Matt, ‘however, not wishing to piss on your parade, don’t we have a slight gender issue? I mean, what do we say to the Big Cheese when he notices his bitch has grown a dick and lost two rows of nipples and a cunt?’
‘Patience, my boy,’ said the French Polisher calmly, ‘Ze transformation is not yet complete. Would you be so kind as to bring me a needle, some thread and a meat cleaver?’
‘Jesus, no ...’ Matt’s face went pale at the thought.
‘What ze Grand Fromage will do to you will be several circles of hell worse zan what I will do to zis derg.’
‘Well...’ said Matt, ‘I suppose we were going to kill it in the first place.’
‘Zat’s ze spirit. Now if you could hold ze front legs nice and firmly while Monsieur Tony does ze same with ze back legs.’
The boys obliged.
‘You may wish to turn ze TV up to drown out ze sound from ze operation. Eet can be somewhat disturbing.’
‘What? Worse than Mariah Carey?’ said Matt.
‘You ‘ave a point. Turn ze TV off.’
‘Thank you, very much indeed,’ said Matt as the French Polisher was packing up his things to leave.
‘Yes,’ put in Tony, ‘You have just saved our asses.’
‘Not yet,’ said the French Polisher, ‘You still ‘ave some ass saving to do yourselves.’
‘What’s that, Mister French Polisher?’ asked Matt.
‘Take zees.’ He handed Matt a small electronic device.
‘What is it?’
‘Eet is a remote control. Ze derg will be able to run in ze race tomorrow but I cannot guarantee zat eet will perform very well. If you see zat it is lagging behind, press zees button ‘ere. Eet will set off a compressed carbon dioxide cylinder zat I have inserted in ze derg’s botterm which will geeve it enough impetus to complete ze race.’
‘You are a genius, Mister French Polisher,’ said Matt admiringly, ‘It has been a pleasure watching a master at work.’
‘What should we do with the real Bad Ass Bitch?’ asked Tony.
‘Bag ‘er up and put ‘er out for ze bin men.’
And with that the French Polisher left.
There are no better nights out than an evening at the dogs. Actually, that’s something of an overstatement; I’ve had many a night out that I’d consider superior to dog racing, but all the same an evening at your local dog track with a portion of pie and peas washed down with weak beer in a plastic glass, and a small wager on each race tops karaoke, pub quizzes, and bingo. Just.
You get to meet all sorts at dog racing. Hmmm, that too is an overstatement. It’s horse racing that draws out the full spectrum of society, but dog racing does attract an interesting set of people. It’s not just for your cloth-capped old men with bristled chins and shabby old jackets. You get families, you get young guys still in their office suits after work, you get hen parties, you get serious gamblers who’ve studied ‘form’. You get the drift.
And then you get the dog owners, a twisted, corrupt bunch of ne’er-do-wells if ever I saw one. Here by the traps stands the Big Cheese, and in true comedy tradition I’m going to make him short. You weren’t expecting to read anything original here, were you? Elsewhere in the enclosure, keeping as great a distance from each other as possible stand the Head Honcho, The Fat Cat, The Chief, The Sheikh and El Supremo, each with their brick shithouses. And dogs.
The owners eyed each other suspiciously. There was tension in the air. Scores were to be settled tonight.
‘Where’s my bitch?’ grumbled the Big Cheese.
‘Coming now, boss,’ replied Brick Shithouse who could see above the crowds.
The arrival of Matt and Tony was not met with any pleasure. The Big Cheese never smiled. He made a point of it. Smiling was a sign of weakness and therefore misery. Anyone who smiled couldn’t possibly be happy.
‘Give the bitch to Brick Shithouse,’ was all he said to them.
The French Polisher really had done a splendid job. With Bad Ass Bitch’s collar on, New Bad Ass Bitch was indistinguishable from the real thing. She, or he, appeared none the worse for his, or her, ordeal. Brick Shithouse took the lead from Matt’s hand.
‘Go,’ he said.
The two boys skulked off.
‘Up there,’ Matt pointed to a location in the stand, ‘We need a good view of the final stretch of the race.’
‘I’ll meet you up there,’ said Tony, ‘I’m gonna put a bet on our dog.’
Tony got his bet on just in time. The race was about to start.
‘Monsieur Tony! Monsieur Tony!’ came a panicky voice from behind him.
‘French Polisher!’ exclaimed Tony, turning to greet the frantic Frenchman, ‘What are you doing here?’
‘’Ave you got ze remote control?’
‘Matt’s got it. Why?’
‘We must stop ’eem from using eet. I have made a most terrible mistake!’
‘I have mixed up my gas cylinders. Ze one in ze dog’s botterm is not carbon dioxide. Eet is liquid hydrogen!’
He grabbed his phone and pushed Matt’s speed dial.
And then they were off! Six dumb hounds chasing a mechanical hare. The French Polisher’s handiwork was holding up as Bad Ass Bitch took an early lead. Taking the first bend she extended her lead further.
‘Come on boy... girl!’ urged Matt excitedly from his vantage point, his thumb hovering over the button of the remote control.
His phone rang. He glanced at it. It was only Tony - it could wait.
You have reached Matt’s phone. Matt cannot take your call right now so please leave a message. Dude.
‘Matt, pick up your fucking phone! That dog’s arse is packed with liquid hydrogen. Do not press that button! Do NOT press that button!’
Matt’s phone gave the voicemail beep. Later, he thought. Then, as the French Polisher predicted, Bad Ass Bitch slowed. Her lead narrowed until on the final stretch the Head Honcho’s dog passed her.
‘Oh no, you don’t,’ grinned Matt.
And he pushed the button.
A blue streak flamed out of Bad Ass Bitch’s arse. She rocketed forward, bumped into the rear of Head Honcho’s dog and shot straight upwards.
‘What fucker’s nobbled my bitch!’ exclaimed the Big Cheese. ‘Shithouse?’ He glanced towards the winning dog.
On cue, Brick Shithouse withdrew a rifle from somewhere within his coat. He took aim upon Head Honcho’s dog and fired. The animal slumped to the ground and was jumped over by El Supremo’s dog.
‘Bastards!’ exclaimed Head Honcho. ‘Ardasfuck!’
‘Yes, boss?’ answered Ardasfuck.
Ardasfuck produced a similar weapon and shot El Supremo’s dog.
Immediately, a whole array of weaponry came into play as each owner and their henchmen began firing on each other and the remaining racing dogs. The Big Cheese took shelter behind the traps and fired off a number of rounds. The other owners did similarly. The Big Cheese caught the Chief a nice one in the chest and brought Ardasfuck down with a shot in the hip. But most shots went astray, one catching a cloth-capped old man with a bristled chin and shabby old jacket who was sitting next to Matt.
‘Fuck!’ squeaked Matt diving for cover.
Another felled a bookie. Another a steward.
A sharp suited young man who was shagging a bird from a hen party under a bench got pranged in the arse just as he was reaching the vinegar strokes. The girl’s screams were extinguished as further bullets rained into her breathless body.
A semi-automatic assault rifle peppered a barman in the terrace bar, shattering bottles, glasses and optics and a large mirror with rather artistic greyhound etchings on it.
A machine gun took out the pie and peas kiosk, shards of wood splintering and flying in all directions, taking further casualties.
A barrage of bullets pocked the seats that Matt was hiding under. He was whimpering for his mummy.
Tony had managed to take cover behind a hoarding, but thought better of it when he saw the bullets coming right through it. He crouched on the ground, covering his head, as the torrent of munitions whizzed and shrieked and banged and boomed all around him.
Then down came Bad Ass Bitch. She landed in the enclosure, the explosion blasting the traps and fences outward, bringing down the bookies’ stalls and laying waste the remaining food and drink kiosks.
The shooting ceased.
A few loose beams and parts of creaking gantries fell, but apart from that the main thing that fell was silence.
Matt tentatively lifted his head from his refuge.
Dust filled the air. Rubble and corpses littered the ground. He coughed and spluttered.
Tony walked up to him. Knuckles touched.
‘Dude,’ he said.
‘Dude,’ Matt replied.
They cast their eyes over the devastation. No other man or dog were left standing. It was utter carnage.
‘This means something,’ said Tony profoundly.
‘This means we shouldn’t have got involved with that meddling Frog,’ replied Matt.
‘No, this means more,’ Tony said somberly. ‘We’re the only motherfuckers left. We should be dead, man.’
‘You saying we survived for a reason?’
‘Think about it,’ said Tony, ‘How did all this happen?’
‘It happened because you couldn’t do the simple job of looking after a fuckin’ whippet.’
‘Hey, that’s unfair. It was scarcely my fault.’
‘Then whose fuckin’ fault was it, motherfucker?’
Tony cast his mind back to the critical event that had lead to this sorry situation.
‘It was Mariah Carey’s!’
‘Now you’ve lost it, man.’
‘No, it was! Mariah Carey caused all this. And she spared us too! This is her will.’
‘No offence, dude, but I think you’re just a bit shell shocked.’
‘Look,’ Tony looked Matt in the eyes. There was something fiery and serious about him, something Matt had never seen before. ‘Mariah Carey realised that what we were doing was wrong. She wiped out all the bad guys but she gave us a chance because we hadn’t yet gone bad enough. We still had hope. People think she’s stupid but she’s not. She knows what’s going on. She’s divine in the true sense of the word. Matt, we’ve got to start listening to her more. We’ve got to study all her songs and her interviews.’
‘Can you go and fetch me one of those guns down there?’ replied Matt, ‘I’d like to put one to my head.’
The sound of sirens started up in the distance.
‘Home?’ said Matt.
‘Yup,’ said Tony.