The Patchwork Man

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The Patchwork Man

  1. 1. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Man The Patchwork ManThey walk to the Giddy Bridge: Vincent, Ian and Jack. Vince’s sister Emily, hearstheir voices and leans over the pub roof-garden, waving at them, calling their names.Ian and Jack call back with the latter louder than the former. Hi, Emily. Vince moving on ahead opens the front doors and sees the other pub dwellersinside. Dim peach lights create a grainy-static view of the bar and coloured bottles.Men drinking around, most speckled in their previous drinks’ splash. They sniff andbring out falling apart tissue to catch their nose drippings while the workers in blackcarry plates of food to the people sat down at irregular shaped tables. Jack heads to thebar while Ian and Vince wait behind. Ian with hands in his pockets rocks on his heels,as Vince bites the side of his thumb nail. Jack comes back with two pints of ale and one cider and on three they drinkhalf. Can’t neck anymore. Tastes good though. Strong…Here, Jack, hold my pint. Vince hands over his pint to take his jacket off and they make their way to theroof-garden. Jack carefully climbing the stairs with the two half gone pints in hand asthe first wave of drink fills his head. The three reach the roof-garden where Vince’s sister wraps a hug around himas he places his coat on a nearby chair. Hey bro, like my new earrings? Yeah. Lovely. Also, Em, back there. The waving. The waving?1
  2. 2. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Man You know. Was a bit…frontal. Emily pauses, lowering eyebrows. You are mental sometimes. Vince shifts his body slightly. Yeah…but…you scare the living piss out of me the way you walk down thestreet. Emily stares at Vince while catching the fleeting glimpse of Ian scratching hisbeard who turns away, bringing a drink to his face. Wha? You know, your walk. It’s wavy…wriggly like. Emily cocks her head, lowering eyebrows. Come on Em, your high heels. Clack, clack, clack. Jack comes up behind Vince, placing the two half-gone pints on a table. Right… Okay… Vince. He rubs his hands together then down his face, sniffing amongst his soft facialhair. Then points at the ale. Drink this and shut the fuck up. Alright. Just saying. A lot of nutters out there. And you’re bloody one of them, mate. Vince drinks not caring of the taste but reeling in its strength. Jess comes toVince’s side placing an arm around him. You actually going to say hi. Yeah. Sorry. Just haven’t had a chance to properly catch up with Em sinceshe got back from uni. She was just in-and-out of our house yesterday.2
  3. 3. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Man Vince and Jess kiss quickly and he feels the dryness of her mouth. What, by complaining about her clack, clack, clack. I just care is all. Vince’s pint is half gone as he scans the roof-garden, looking for familiarfaces. One man nods, eyes closed, cigarette hanging out of hand, dripping ash in greypeels. Vince, pull up a chair. Stop staring at…whatever you’re staring at. Freakingme out man. Vince eyes Ian before sitting at the light metallic table and chairs, scraping hischair across the roof’s stones. The roof-garden: eight tables, each with four chairs,dotted amongst spiky trees and the now empty plant-pots in the winter’s frost. Thetables half occupied by smokers burning away in grey haze tinted orange by streetlights. Some cough irregularly, batting flies coming near to the warmth of men in thequickening chilly night air. Now, disrupted by Jack’s announcement. Right boys!…and two lovely ladies. He bites the tip of his index and rubs his nipple through his shirt. Vince shiftshis body weight from one leg to the other, cramping his shoulder. Jess places a handon his knee. I’m gonna get us a drink. What? Not one each? Jack smiles at Emily, a smile that takes up half his nubile face fuzz. Ian leansin. Vince has still got a day left on his pint. Jack points from glass to Vince, who grabs instinctively and drinks the last3
  4. 4. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Mandown, leaving a tiny foam in the bottom. The first brewings of a piss stir in his gut. Didn’t you lot just buy these? Emily looks to Jack, Ian and Vince. Ian leans back placing an elbow on thenearby railing, looking back and forth. He gesticulates his reply. You see Em, them’s the rules. First pint you down quick, so theconversation isn’t stilted by pre-drunk meandering through subjects consisting ofmostly shit. You let the first hit you quickly, then talk ensues madly. Jess’ eyebrows lift as Vince pulls out his wallet. I’ll come help, Jack. My round anyway. What’s everyone wanting? Jack gets up scratching his neck. I’ll have a pint of Vodka and a little splash of coke, mate. Right bruv-aah, I’ll have a snakebite. Since when you been drinking that shit? Guy named Steve showed me it. Emily leans forward in her low-cut top, smirking at Vince who grits his teeth.Jess comes between. Think I’ll have the same. Be like back at uni. Okay…Mr Pie? Could I have a pint of their most oddly named ale please, sir? Certainly, Pie. You see? He says a drink and makes the whole thing easy onme. Vince and Jack go through the doors of the roof-garden, making their waydown the stairwell to the bar and pass a blond man with dark-haired accomplice,talking quickly about meeting ‘her’. Vince scratches his ear at the foot of the stairs as4
  5. 5. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork ManJack arranges his Jeans. They scan the bar for an entrance between the men who neverleave. Through a gap between men at the bar, their usual tiny blond server comes upto gather their supplies. Alright you two? Aight rug muncher. Vince laugh-coughs into his sleeve while the tiny blond steadily looks at Jack. Well fuck you grizzly Adams, you ain’t getting served. What, don’t you like the beard? Proper man this is, love.  About as manly as my cousin’s back fuzz and she’s two months old. Jack shakes his head looking out of the corner of his eye at Vince, who islooking through the beer-on-pump selection: Groovy Reindeer, Santa’s FunkyBackpack, Snowman’s Breakfast, Old Thumper, Fortyniner, Crosby’s Sleigh Bellsand another non-festive pint called Responsibly. I reckon Ian’ll want Responsibly. Pretty gash name. You know…please drink…you know…fuck it, wit’s wasted on you. Alright mate!…Ruggy, I’ll have a pint of Old Rosie, Responsibly, twosnakebites and …Vince? I’ll have a Snowman’s Breakfast, please. With drinks on tray they get back to the roof-garden and look for their table.Two men are now with Ian and the women. A blond man talking rapidly at Emily5
  6. 6. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Manwhile the dark-haired man sits back, chin in hand, nodding at Jess’ steady words. Theblond man gesticulates his story wildly. Jack and Vince walk to the table, setting drinks down to their respectiveowners as Vince’s bladder pangs for a release. These are my cousins. Just back from their trip in Paraguay. Vince smiles at Jess while keeping a firm eye on the blond. Hi, cousins. The blond stands grabbing Vince’s hand, pulling it up and down, cracking hiswrist. Hey man, can’t believe we’ve never met before or anything. How long youbeen seeing my cousin? I’m Tim, by the way. Vince ends the handshake and gives the answer after hearing Ian laugh theword ‘Responsibly’ to Jack, over the rumbling of conversation forming at the table. Five years. Wow man, that’s incredible. Don’t know how you hold one down; knowwhat I mean? His tanned blondness creeps further into Vince’s eyes, so he looks to the dark-haired man. Sorry, didn’t catch your name. Didn’t say. It’s Chris. Tim…Chris…easy and short. Vince pulls a chair from another table, his old chair being heisted by the blond.He drags over his Snowman’s Breakfast inhaling a third. He holds and tenses histhighs tighter, maintaining his bladder. Vince leans over to Emily after shifting his6
  7. 7. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Manfeet. So tell me Em, uni good? I’m talking. But I haven’t seen you in ages. Talk to your brother. I’m back for a month. Talk to me later. The outdoor heaters come on under the umbrellas bringing warmth to thesmokers. The man dozing wakes up to the wiry hum, before he brings out his tobaccopouch and rolls another, shivering . Come on Em… …Leave her be, Vince. Jess has hold of his arm pulling him back. He turns back to his Snowman,drowning more. The blond stands. Sweet! Chris, fancy a drink? Looks like the others are getting properly on it. Yeah. Get me what Vince’s drinking. Snowman’s Balls or whatever. Ah, what? You know I’m skint Eastwood. Come down and pay. The two leave. Jack puffs out his cheeks as Vince sips. Like my cousins? Blond’s a bit of a douche. Chris seems normal. I was talking to Em, Vince. Emily taps Jess’ hand. I like Tim; he’s pretty energetic. Jack throws Vince a cigarette instinctively as Ian and Jack maintain theirconversation on bass-lines. I just think wobble might be dying. Drone’s coming back in a big way.7
  8. 8. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Man Jack scratches his facial hair, then adds his position on the matter in a squeak: Really? Vince places the rollie in his mouth and pats around. A lighter comes to hisface in his sister’s hand and a flame appears. He begins toking healthily as Ian leanstowards. Bit of a Freudian cock this is, isn’t it? Vince’s heart pumps a new rhythm of adrenaline as his body momentarilyrelaxes to the nicotine high and he answers Ian: It’s meant to be a cigar though. Not with yours, Vince. Jack laughs smoke towards the centre of the table, coughing, before realisinghe doesn’t get it. I don’t get it. Vince stands grating his chair back against the stones. I said wit’s wasted on you. Vince stubs his fag out and throws the dying little light of orange into anempty pot. Where you going? Toilet. Bladder’s the size of Holland. Vince walks weak kneed from drink, grazing his elbow on the roof-gardendoor. He sucks his tongue producing moisture in his post-smoke mouth as he entersthe bathroom.Vince stands in the only cubicle in the male toilets; the other a bare toilet with no8
  9. 9. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Manwalls, unable to protect a man’s privacy. The square of wood and porcelain containsVince’s thoughts, and allows himself to gather his tension in release, creating a steadystream into the stained white. In his final drops, Vince looks into the bulb above him,burning its image to his retinas momentarily, and he zips and stumbles slightly out ofhis personal square of solitude.Fire is waiting at the sink. Fire? When did you get here? Fire does not turn from the sink but inspects his features before looking atVince’s reflection in the above-sink mirrors. You know me, Vince. I’m always around. Fire’s black suit with green striped shirt underneath, neat and clean, beyondhuman. Yeah. Haven’t seen you for a while. Just here with my sister and a couple ofmates. Jess? Yeah, her too. And two of her cousins. Vince hushes his voice and takes a step towards Fire who straightens slightly. The blond’s a douche. Slight childlike cuss, Vince. Fire turns on the tap and begins working the pub soap into his hands producinga thick lather. The little oily bubbles dance through his fingers before being plungedinto the aerated water stream. Tell me about the blond, Vince. What’s he doing? Fire applies a little more soap to get the last of the grime from his hands.9
  10. 10. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Man You know, Fire. He’s come in, bouncing all around… you know? Can’t behis real… you know… the blond. Not normal or anything. He’s canary like.Showboater. Constantly talking to my sister, and she’s loving it. I mean. She doesn’tget it, Fire. Men. They’re there for one thing and one thing only. Vince paces the urinals before walking to Fire’s side. Vince pulls the skin ofhis face down inspecting his lower gums and Fire looks up into the closer reflection ofVince. Your eyes are like tunnels, Vince. A stranger’s moved in. A stranger? And I’m far more aware of your stranger than you are. An elderly man walks in, semi-soaked in the day and night’s drink, and staresat Vince who is now silent. Vince watches as the tap still runs beside him. The elderlyman looks at Vince after zipping up, mouth open slightly, eyes buried deep in greyeyebrows. He skips washing his hands and exits the door. Vince turns to Fire andspeaks: I bet the blond’s out there now with his hands over her like a.. a…ah? Thief? Yeah. Vince’s leg muscles tense making him fall back standing on his heels. Firelooks at the back of Vince’s head in the mirror. Do the gods rule our hearts? Or do our desires become our gods? Vince turns to Fire and places both hands on the sink’s rim. I don’t believe in god. Neither do I, but I’ll leave that with you.10
  11. 11. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Man You sound like a psychic. Fire laughs and flicks the excess water from his hands. Keep your hands clean, Vincent. Fire exits the toilets, his suit static to his body, not moving with the swiftnessof his exit. Vince momentarily hovers his hand over the tap but exits in Fire’s wake. You okay…Jess? You okay? Sorry, what? Miles away. It’s why I asked. Emily comes close to the end of her drink as Jack and Ian’s bass-line argumentcarries on. Seriously mate. Drone. Fuck it, royally. No, Rosie, Rosie, Rosie. No-one’s called me Rosie in ages. Well you’re being a girl and that’s why I’m using it. Honestly man, dronebass-lines. They’re decent when well produced. Tim is retelling a story about Paraguay to Chris who’s head is falling furtherinto his open palm. Jess and Emily sit close in quiet talk: knee to knee. Just Vince, Emily. Been acting crazy the past few weeks. Slightly out-of-it,you know? He always has his funny moments. Don’t worry too much. Yeah. Jess cups her face blocking her view from the rest of the table so only Emily11
  12. 12. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Mancan hear. So, what you think of Tim? I like him. Funny. Pretty cute. Jess takes her hand down and places it on her quarter full pint glass. Met anyone up at uni though? Not really. Some nice guys but they all seem a bit young though. What about Steve? Made him up to annoy Vince. Jess’ eyes drop as she flicks her top teeth with the bottom set. Fair enough. He needs to stop… caring … so much. You know? He’s a little overbearing sometimes, but it’s fun to mess with him. Please stop it though. Tell him straight. Tell him who you are and thatyou’re old enough to do things for yourself, without your older brother cloudingaround you. Tell him to let you go instead of keeping you trapped like a pretty bird ina cage. Jess’ face has flushed a deeper red, mixing with the rose tinted aura of alcohol. Okay Jess…I will. Jesus, you look a bit angry. I’m fine, you know, things. They turn to their drinks. But, Pie! Wub wub wub wuuuuuuuub wub wub. Stop D Y O Deeing; it’s not going to convince me. Tim, now bored of Chris, revolves round to Jack and Ian. D Y O Deeing? Do Your Own Dub.12
  13. 13. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Man Tim snaps his fingers. Aw, wicked….what’s dub? Vince enters the roof-garden with a fresh pint of Crosby’s Sleigh Bells. Hesmiles over to the table as he makes his way between the smokers outside, weavinghips side to side, in and out.Jack pipes up: Where you been, big lips. You get…you start chatting to people…in the toilets. Can take a while.Bought a pint. Tim starts engaging the female Emily in conversation and Vince sits at hisseat. The dozing man now immersed in the land of nod has burnt a hole in his trouser.A light drizzle begins tapping on the umbrella canvas. Ian turns up the dial on theclosest out door heater, creating a new wave of wire-heat across the table. Carssilently wail past below; the odd bus reveals top-deck passengers clouded by moisture.The odd ‘fuck’ ‘tits’ or ‘Jeremy blows goats for crack’ written in the condensation. A spider! I’ll save you! Tim jumps up and whips the spider crawling up Emily’s leg, into the lap of thesleeping man, who shifts further round in his seat, in the sudden burst of loudness. Shall we go in? It’s getting freezing out here.Seven pints in and everyone’s swaying. Tim now animatedly talking towards Emily.Vince scratches under his watch taking a layer of drying skin from his wrist with halfa pint of Groovy Reindeer in front of him: the liquid swirling in a circle slowly. Ian’s13
  14. 14. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Mansoft smile pushes through his beard as he grabs Vince’s pint and tries spinning theliquid in the opposite direction. Just trying to see if I can reverse things a little, Vince. It’s hard to spin it theother way when it gets going. The beer doesn’t stick to the glass, see? They look likelittle clouds. Vince looks up, brow slightly furrowed, then stares at his pint. The liquid nowrestless and churning as Ian sits back and tries doing the same to his pint. A grouphang around an itbox cheering and slapping each other, constantly bringing drinks totheir faces. At one false answer their heads come to hands as a scream of mildannoyance and laugh comes out. They reprimand one and keep punching his armlightly whilst his cries of ‘I thought it was Gogh, he’s the only one I know’ fills hisyells. One of them eyes Vince, noticing his stare; then the man turns to view Emily.The man juts his bottom lip out and smiles, nodding. Vince dizzies slightly with hisback teeth hitting each other. He silently sees the back of Fire wander off in thedistance. Emily turns from Tim to Vince. Oi you! Wake up. Vince turns around smiling grabbing his pint. Was wandering off. Just watching them idiots losing at itbox. Tim pipes up slamming his chest. I’m a sodding master at itbox. Ian turns instantly, putting down his turbulent pint. Who invented the ballpoint pen? Technically John Loud but it was Ladislas Biro who perfected it. Boo-Yaa! If that’s true, I’m bloody well impressed.14
  15. 15. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Man You heard about people from Lesbos who want to stop their name frombeing used as a slang word for lesbians? Vince grips his pint and speaks into his glass: Yes, yes. We’ve all heard about the plight of the lesbos. Ian drinks from his pint, leaving small beads of beer in his beard as Vinceturns to Emily, confused by the blond’s knowledge. Em, you heard from Mum recently? Fuck no. She’s in Magaluf, probs finding some new dad for our everexpanding collection. Emily turns to Tim. Where did you get such knowledge? I don’t know. But they say a thousand years ago, the Danes invaded Sicily. Vince eyes downwards to his shoes, scuffing the leather slightly more,repressing the urge to burp. He shifts back placing more pain on his left shoulder. Jackwheels round, eyes rolling, with his bottom chin poked out in his mild face fuzz andopens his mouth to the side. Vince, you still into cartoons, ya pussy? Vince leans forwards. No, why? Just had the CatDog theme in my head. Remember? Jack Rose….JaaaackRose….All alone in the world is a little Jack Rose. Sit down, stop dancing. The small blond barmaid points from the bar laughing at Jack’s trousershanging below his backside. A trait left since teenage years. The men by the itbox15
  16. 16. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Manmove to the bar and Emily decides to advantage the opportunity. itbox! itbox! itbox! Chris jumps from his minor doze while Ian swallows his drink down thewrong hole, coughing. Yes indeed-dee. See, Tim’s game! Emily grabs Tim’s hand and starts dragging him upwards as he admires thebelow breast view, before being brought to his feet. Jack falls forward grabbing hispint from the table, bracing himself with his left hand and Ian pulls him back to hisproper grounding. Same old Rosie. Fuck you! Trucker. Trucker. What? Jack pulls fluff from his pocket along with a loose Rizla and filter. You heard…trucker…mother trucker. Jack stumbles through the main doors while pulling out a string of tobacco andhe places it in the semi-crushed Rizla being battered by the wind. Ian joins the others round the itbox leaving Chris dozing in his chair and bringsover Vince’s pint. He walks past a man being asked to leave who’s leaning on the barreleasing saliva uncontrollably. Two of the bigger workers grab him by the arms to tryand get him out the front door. The spittle-man mumbles ‘Christmas’ under his breathas Ian hands Vince his drink. A steaming Mr Dribble there. Vince looks at an old man leaning on a bin outside, midway through a heave.16
  17. 17. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Man Fuck, Ian. Why you make me look at that. Oh shit! He was just dribbling when I saw him. The two big workers are outside trying to force the old man away as twoPolice Community Support Officers run over. An awkward scream pierces through thedoors and Jack falls against the window from outside, knocking the pub’s two-for-oneadvert. Jess loads the itbox with coins, while Tim keeps saying: Bullseye! Jess looks round. Bullseye okay for everyone? Vince chews his lips and rubs his eye. Yeah…guess so. You’re always wanting Bullseye. Another Bullseye fan. Suuuhweet. Vince takes in the rest of his pint, nodding and turning away. Tim purses hislips giving a little nod and Emily pushes her arms around his waist. Bully The Bull of Bullseye comes up on screen in bright animated form,followed by his bull-horn of a moo. Step back! Tim parts the people putting them behind himself. I’m the king at aiming this dart. He stands on tip toes bringing his arm into a long loop behind his back. Hecomes down over-arm and with finger-point he hits the fire button, landing a bulls-eye. The letter ‘B’ lights up followed by a question. He hits answer ‘C’ instantlywithout conferring with the group. Ian calls out:17
  18. 18. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Man Come on man, at least divulge the question to the rest of us, even if youknow. Yeah, but, come on? Ian Beale is a character from which soap opera. Whoneeds to confer on that? There’s a loud bang as Jack makes his entrance back into the bar, smelling ofsmoke and singed hair. One of the two big staff members tells the group they need tocontrol him as Tim answers another question without asking the others. Ian furrowshis brow pursing his lips, violently nodding. He explodes in a mini-fake-rage. Right! Your Bullseye etiquette is beyond inhuman and Jack, here’s a fiver.Get some coffee and chips. Aww. Safe then blud! Jack wanders to the bar and, amidst the protests surrounding the itbox, Jack’sorder of two ciders can be heard. The next swirling dart revolves around the screen. Tim ready to land thebutton blow gets shunned aside by Vince’s finger-point, but, in his shaky state, thedart misses the bulls-eye. The letter ‘L’ of Bullseye doesn’t light up, instead, moreobscure questions follow. Vince! You little ess-aitch-one-tee. Vince looks at Tim, the man he only met this night, taken aback by the insult.Vince leans in answering ‘B’, landing the first question correctly. Quickly followed byTim on the next answer with ‘C’. Right if you two don’t start… Answer ‘D’ is hit by Vince. You two are itbox monsters.18
  19. 19. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Man Ian fakes crying into his sleeve while Jess’ fingers scratch the nearby table.Emily puts a light hand on top, stroking. Tim lands the next dart. Bulls-eye. Vincerushes in for the first question missing the correct one. Ian shouts: But I knew that one! Come on you two, it’s all our money. Tim really put in? Vince looks between Jess and Tim, eyebrow cocked, as Ian dives for ananswer landing correct. Tim fires the next dart. Bulls-eye. Now up to ‘E’ is lit up: twoletters from the full word. We are cuh-lose, mateys! Tim holds off Vince from answering. Right! Together this time. Jack staggers to the group with two pints. You order chips, Rosie? What mate? Jack inhales part of his pint. Ian shakes his head, looking to the itbox match. Right. Question is, ‘Who wrote Coming Through Slaughter, a novel aboutthe legendary Jazz musician Buddy Bolden’? Michael Ondaatje. You sure, Vince? Positive. Vince lands the ‘C’ button blow. The dart starts swirling again. Ian stepsforward wanting to land a dart but Vince jumps in releasing the set of pixels on itspath. Bulls-eye. ‘Y’ is lit. Tim starts jumping.19
  20. 20. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Man Soooooooooo fucking cuh-lose you guys! The excitement stirs Chris who makes himself more comfortable at his table.A couple of the regulars stare at the jumping blond and shake their heads beforeturning back to their drinks. One man under his breath gives a cursive. Vince startstapping his foot. Next question. ‘What is comedy legend Benny Hill’s real name? They look at each other perplexed as Vince whacks his head. Pretty certain it’s Alfred Hawthorne Hill. Tim hits ‘C’, the answer correct. Wicked! Question two. ‘Complete the title of this play by Arthur Miller:‘Death of a . . .’. Emily answers: Salesman! Haven’t read that in ages. ‘A’ is hit and the dart resets to swirling. Tim goes for the fire button but Vincepushes forward and lands the blow. Hey, come on. That was a bit violent. Vince turns to Tim at speed, catching Fire in his vision. Well, you’re a prancing dick. Tim’s smile drops to a wide-eyed open mouth. Ah…well…look….I mean…we’ve missed getting full Bullseye now. I don’t give a fuck about Bullseye. You’re not giving the right… Jess steps forward. Calm down Vince. Jess has a firm palm against Vince’s fist. Emily pushes past.20
  21. 21. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Man Come on, this is silly. Vince breathes through his nose, rushing the air out. Jack trips over his ownleg in confusion. Right. You lot, out! The two big workers start coming over. And take your sleeping muppet with you. One of the two kicks Chris’ chair, waking him. Chris looks into the face of thebig man. We off? Chris stands grabbing his coat and puts it on, tapping his pockets. The big mansteps back letting him pass as Emily turns to Vince. Come on let’s go back to yours. Calm down and back to yours. You’ve gotdrink I noticed and you don’t mind the others do you? Vince stares into Emily’s blue. The brown hair blue eyes. Vince falls a littlewhere his muscles relax. Yeah…yeah that’s great. Sorry, Tim. Don’t know what…Drink and thestuff, you know. That’s alright, buddy. Absolutely wicked. These things happen. Vince tenses a little. Boys! I’m on the floor, what am I doing?In Jess and Vince’s house, Emily sits across Tim’s leg; Chris sleeps in the cornerunder his jacket, sat on an arm chair. Jack no-where in sight, lost on the travel. Jess,21
  22. 22. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork ManIan and Vince talk on the long sofa. I’m feeling a bit battered, Vince. Want to go to bed? Got pillows and sheets and teddies. No. I’ll have a Cointreau though if you got one? Jess stands and says: I think we do. What you wanting, Vince? I’ll have a beer. Tim looks up from Emily’s face. I’ll have a beer if that’s cool? Emily is biting her lower lip, knees pulled up to her chest, rocking. I’ll have a tea please, Jess. Would you like some vowels? Tim laughs at his joke that barely woke the room, apart from Emily. Vincescratches his knee, feeling a burning behind the ears. Ian taps Vince on the shoulder. Alright if I put a tune on? Vince nods, not taking his eyes off Tim who’s whispering into Emily’s ear.Her moments of laughter squeezing his stomach. Ian walks to the CD player and putssome music on. A chill out track with just noticeable deep-bass fills the room,accompanied by an effortlessly sung melody line by a young female vocalist. Vince’sbody relaxes into his sofa, letting the music breathe in him. He knows the pub withoutmusic always seems like a bad call, but when the post-evening music starts, the gap inplay is always worth the wait. Vince smiles slightly. A burning sensation in his gut,calming. Jess comes back with the drinks. Cointreau, Ian.22
  23. 23. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Man Why thank you. Ian necks in one and turns to Vince. Get me a beer, Vince. Vince pulls his hands down his head. You cheeky cunt. Jess hands Vince his bottle of Becks which he then drains to the top of thelabel. Ian I’ll get you a beer, don’t worry. Vince leans forwards. No. Don’t. I’ll get it. Need a piss anyway. Vince makes his way to one of the living room doors, brushing Emily‘s faceon the way. He checks the front door in the hallway to make sure it’s shut but finds itunlocked. He locks then looks to the top of the stairs and begins walking. He mildlybounces off the wall to propel himself upwards, bruising his shoulder. He stops at thetop and looks to the thin line of bright white light surrounding the door frame of thebathroom. The sound of running water can be heard on the other side. He pushes thedoor and it gives.Fire is washing his hands. Jesus Christ, Fire, scared the shit out of me. Fire looks up into the mirrored front of Jess and Vince’s medicine cabinet. I was returning your coat, Vince. You’d left it behind. Oh…cheers. Could have left it. I’d of worked it out. You want to stay for abit? I’ll be here for a moment and that’ll be me.23
  24. 24. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Man Vince leans on the doorframe, while Fire hesitates distributing more soap fromthe dispenser and decides not to. He smiles. Didn’t think you came this way at all? I come this way just as often as you do, Vince. Vince folds his arms and looks around his tiny bathroom. Barely enough roomfor two men. His sister’s toiletries, a new welcome sight on the sink. The strawberryshampoo she’s been using since her teens, stains the bath tub. How was the rest of the night, Vince? Fire gazes at Vince’s reflection. His stance straightening. Had some problems with the blond. I saw. Why didn’t you step in? Not my place, but I admire your commitment. Commitment to what? Your stranger. You’re the stranger here, Fire. Constant riddle-me-this. I’m saying what you and others know, but you haven’t awoken to it yet. Vince pulls a little at his right cheek. Awoken to what? You’ll work it out, Vince. The trick is whether or not to act on it when thatstranger comes out. You’re allowing yourself to be perfectly known…history will runits course. Had enough bloody history with the itbox. Fire laughs. Both hands still on the sink, dark eyes staring into the tunnels of24
  25. 25. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork ManVince’s. Your flaw. Your self-interest. It’s admirable. Yeah…he’s still up in her, you know? He’s laughing at her, cause youknow, what he wants is…and she’s giving. He’s laughing at me, Fire. I see the hall your walking down, Vince. That inevitable door, waiting. Vince stands stiff in the doorway. The pulse of the corridor of stairs beatsbehind him. The door to the living room lighted in dim peach. I tell this like a dream, Vince. Fire lifts his hands from the sink, smiling into the mirror. I need to do something about them, Fire, about her. Give her the right way. Remember though, Vince, you wont have a friend in the world after. Eventhose who understand will turn against you. Even the ones that feel the same willdespise you. Fire stops to let the words sink in. Vince strokes his arms up and down. Hestares Fire in the eyes through reflection. Only God makes justice, Vince.  So, you believe in God now? Fire smiles. I could create justice not found in a book. Vince clenches his head, feeling it’ll burst. You think I have such thoughts? Fire’s smile weakens and he looks down to the taps. Most of the time, people settle for half the thought and action. He looks to Vince.25
  26. 26. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Man And those people like it better. Fire turns the tap off and Vince lets him pass. Vince looks to Fire’s back andcalls: Why do they call you Fire? It’s only you that calls me Fire, Vince. Fire walks down the stairs and unlocks the back door. He touches the livingroom door before exiting. Did he just leave the house? Jess stands and walks to the window, checking through the curtains to see theblack, dimly lit street outside. I can’t see anyone… he must have been shutting the door properly. Vince waits outside the living room door, hand hovering over the door handle.His eyes red and stinging in rawness. The muffled bass tones of the others’ voicesseep through the dim peach cracks of light. Vince leans forward pressing his earagainst the wood, listening deeper. Jess, why does Vince hate me so much. Tim’s voice, quiet and short, forcing Vince to press his ear closer for clarity. Don’t mind him. Can take a while for him to get used to people. Ian’s deeper tone hit’s the door. You think he’s gone to bed. Can’t hear him at all? Shuffling feet on carpet creates shadow blobs in the crack of light beneath thedoor. Music switches to new tones, distorting voices. Vince searches for words as Tim26
  27. 27. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Manraises his voice. I think I should leave though, feel a bit…odd being here. Tim, really, don’t worry. There’s just…there’s a campaign in him, stuckthere. Something he can’t shift…or wont. It’d be better for him if you stay. That was one of the scariest things you ever said, Jess. Vince grips the door handle harder, feeling his warmth heat the cold metal, andprepares himself to enter. He pauses before twisting the handle, remembering Ian’sbeer. The cold of the metal pushes back, calming Vince slightly. He walks down thenarrow hallway and enters the kitchen. He opens up the fridge taking out two bottlesthen wonders if he should remove a third. Two or three swim through his head as hestares at the knife block; the largest of the set, slightly out from the wooden base. Twoor three to make amends. The knife slides out some more. Take three bottles, or twoand a knife. The thoughts burn through Vince, digging nails into his palms. Twobottles are in hand and open, a third is taken from the fridge; the knife comes a littlefurther out of the block, closer to falling. He grips its handle tightly in his right as hehears the click of the kitchen door. With sleight of hand he flicks the blade up his shirtsleeve, in time to see the entrance of Jess. Everything alright? You’ve been gone long. Nature called. What did it say? No, really. Bit long for a piss. Wasn’t a piss. Oh…I see. Vince smiles, staring at the bottles in his left hand. I was just wondering if Tim wanted a drink too?27
  28. 28. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Man Just grab him one. Jess leaves as the blade edge digs deeper into the side of Vince’s forearm. Herotates it so the blade faces outwards. He opens the bottle for Tim as an irregular drumpattern erupts, bouncing out of the living room. Vince walks into the living room andsees Ian at the stereo. Sorry, sorry! Didn’t mean to put this on, slightly hectic for the earlymorning. The drums flick about between speakers like dancing fire as Vince’s head andheart thump with the bass. Nah, keep this on. I like it. Ian hits the next button allowing further ambience to fill the room. He takeshis beer with a nod, frothing the top slightly, and catches the overspill into his mouthand beard. You mucky pup. Thanks, Jess. Like to see how you would deal with beer overflow dilemmas. Vince and Ian take their places beside Jess on the long sofa. Vince’s eyes arered and itchy. Tim and Emily grow even closer in their drunken haze and Vincedrinks, feeling an acidic burn creeping up his throat; a stinging and sharp tang tastehits the back of his tongue. You alright? Look like you’ve gone a bit pale, my friend? Just stomach burn. Want some Rennie? Jess turns to Ian. Do you actually have Rennie on you?28
  29. 29. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Man Ian looks down to the tip of his chin. No. Jess pokes Ian in the face as Tim and Emily get closer. Their talk unheard overthe music and Ian’s exclamations of ‘face rape’. Tim and Emily stroke hands, fingersrunning up and down. Vince feels the blade beat to his pulse, itching his skin. Theirhands glide over knuckles and forearms. Their faces close and lips move effortlesslyin provocative talk. Her blue eyes to the blond’s brown. The blond’s hand runs twofingers through her hair. Vince’s back muscles arch in tension; more sweat hits hisbrow, stinging the eyes further with burning intensity. A slight pool forms at the baseof his fringe. Tim and Emily lean closer in their laugh. Lips a penny gap apart. Chestsrising. Her hands on his chest, rubbing. Vince feels that hand as his hairs on his chestraise. The blade begins slipping into his welcoming palm.The fire erupts within him as he stands above the two. VINCE! What the fuck! Tim and Emily stand, jumping past Vince, with knife in hand, who screams: You two. What the fuck are you two DOING! You, you don’t get it, do you?Ay? With all this prancing, all this… Vince, put the knife down. Jess steps forward. Vince points the knife at her, while looking at Emily. This is what you’re after, Emily. His anger runs at Emily, pulling her into a forceful embrace; his tongue worksits way over her clenched teeth as she feels his heat against her and struggles againsthis weight. He violently grabs her between legs, rubbing furiously, as Emily’s muffledscreams fill the room. Tim pulls him off her as Ian and Jess try to step in. Vince hits29
  30. 30. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork ManTim with his elbow and throws him to the wall. Vince embraces him against the wall,biting down hard on Tim’s lower lip, drawing metallic blood into both their mouths.Vince manages to squeeze hard between Tim’s trousers before the others wrestleVince off him. Vince turns waving the knife at them, looking at the room. The othersstay back, arms out, palms facing him, offering platitudes of peace. Vince sees Emily,curled on the floor, crying. Tim with back of hand to wrecked mouth, stemming theflow of blood. Ian’s hands are on his head, eyes wide and head shaking. Chris stares atVince. The music plays as the people are silent. Tears fall down Jess’ face. Theburning in Vince subsides to cooling; his body shakes on the spot, hot tears fallingfrom his nose. He gives a limp wristed wave of the knife and backs away to the livingroom door. I…I can…I can’t. He shakes his head as a heavy heave shifts up. Fuck the lot of you! He opens the living room door and unlocks the front, pulling the door inwardsheavily, denting the wall it hits. He runs as the others shout. Ian and Chris run afterhim as Emily and Jess stare at each other with eyes glazed. Emily vomits on the floor.Chris and Ian come back, shaking their heads. He’s disappeared. Call the police.Vince’s lungs burn in his stride, drawing in cold air, stinging his teeth. Light raindampens him. His tears mix with rain as he passes people of the night, stepping asideto his blade in hand as each step of the run gives more strain to his legs and his heartbeats, erupting in pain, chest tightening in the lack of air. His body relenting, he falls30
  31. 31. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Manrepeatedly, scrabbling back to leave his old world behind in burning, fiery tears. Hecomes to The Giddy Bridge and stops, staring into the empty building. Back lights onthe bar create a small glow, leaving the rest in darkness and grey silhouettes. The knifegripped in his palm, digging in and he stares at it, longing for it. He stumbles downthe side alley by the bins collapsing and vomits: white dotted grazing up his arms,trailing tiny blood bubbles. He sits up, back against the wall, breathing quickly withwheezing, in and out, as he puts the point of the blade in the soft below breast bone,pointing it upwards. He pushes a little, feeling the sharpness burst his skin. He looksup, eyes slitted and intense, purses his lips and breaths quicker through his nose,quicker and quicker; tense blows through his nose. He pulls the blade inside himupward, skittering of bone, piercing his lung, screaming out and defecates. He screamscrying tears as he twists the blade more, trying to end it quicker. Bubbles burstthrough the blood in his shirt from his damaged lung, as his breaths become harderand slower while the pain releasing endorphins kick in. He stares at the black wallopposite; the blade feeling like a stranger within him: an invader of the body.Fire comes by and places himself next to Vince in the dying moments. It seems we went for it, Vince. We became known. Vince lurches and cries out as a wave of pain hits. He breathes, speakingthrough clenched teeth. I’m scared, Fire. He leans forward forgetting the blade still in him, shocking him upright withmore screams. It was always going to be this way, Vince. We had to accept that. Fear or nofear. Fire looks at the wound. The would be incarnadine turned black by dim-peach31
  32. 32. Mike Bridges: The Patchwork Manstreetlights, shaded by the alleyway bins. A pool forms around as Vince’s eyes closemomentarily in his greying face. We haven’t got long now have we, Vince? You could…get an ambulance. You know I can’t do that, Vince. Fire places an arm across Vince’s neck, drawing him in Your only friend in the world now, Vince. Your stranger in the tunnel. Vince laughs the last bit of life and says his final: Me and my Fire, die together.32

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