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Friday, July 24, 2009

The Last British Rebel.

Category: Issue 15

The Last British Rebel.

Johnny slid his hand into his pocket and his fingertips touched steel. He glanced across the bar room and caught the eye of the barmaid. He forced his lips into the semblance of a smile and she grinned back. You won’t be smiling soon, he thought and his gaze dropped to her cleavage.

Everything had been planned down to the last detail. All that was left to decide was the time. Well aware of the consequences Johnny felt his heart thud against his ribs. He could have chosen privacy, in the dark shadows of the street. But how much more satisfaction he would get to do it in public and see horror on the complacent faces around him.

Johnny leaned a black-leathered elbow on the bar and studied his drink. Froth clung to the sides of the glass and moved slowly downwards like snow slipping from a rooftop. He followed it with his fingernail and then cupped his chin in his palm. The sharp rise in living costs had pushed him over the financial brink. The black imp of depression squeezed at his head. ‘They’re repossessing your home tomorrow,’ it whispered

This is the only pub in town that sells real ale. He would miss the smooth, cool flow of hop-flavoured brew tantalizing his taste buds as it washed over his tongue, one of the few joys left to him. He lifted his eyes, two men were playing a game of pool, but somehow the usual atmosphere was missing. A few faces he didn’t recognise chatted quietly in a corner. He could tell by their clothes, suited and booted, that they weren’t the usual crowd that frequented the bar. The last male bastion, a place where it had always been okay to smoke, drink and swear.

The door swung inward and two couples hesitated in the doorway. ‘There’s some seats over there.’ The well-dressed man pointed to a table and then walked to the bar. ‘Two halves of Lager and two white wines, please.’

Johnny noted he’d looked straight into the barmaid’s eyes, bypassed her breasts completely. What sort of a man did that? Johnny wrinkled his nose as a strong smell of male cologne assailed his nostrils.

The bar was crowded and he braced his shoulders. Time to get the show on the road. Without much difficulty he mounted the bar and stood with his jean clad legs astride. He took the steel Zippo lighter, he’d been fingering earlier, from his pocket and with a flourish lit a cigarette and blew the smoke over the heads of the crowd. The usual murmur that accompanied a busy bar declined into silence and every eye turned towards him.

‘Yeah – I’m smoking in a public place. It’s time to rebel, all you Numpties out there. Sheep, pushed into boxes, tagged and surveyed from every street corner. Soon you’ll be told what car you can drive, how many kids you can have. and what food to eat. There’ll be cameras in your houses, checking how much you drink. You’ll be refused medical care if you’ve overindulged.’ He pointed at the well-dressed man, who concentrated on his drink in his hand and avoided Johnny’s eyes. ‘What about checks on how much sex you’re getting and fined if it’s over the national average? What’s that - one and a half fucks a week? So if you don’t stop in the middle of the second one, they’ll tell you’ve put a strain on your heart and it’s your own fault you’re ill.’

‘Get a life.’ Someone grunted from along the bar.

‘Hey, that’s what I’ve been trying to do - get a life. Not one where I’m told. I can take my kids on holiday, but only in the school break, when prices are inflated and I can’t afford it. Oh, and yeah, it’s okay to push the kids onto anyone who’ll have them so I can work sixty hours a week to keep a roof over our heads, because there’s no affordable housing.’ Johnny jabbed his cigarette into space. ‘When have any of you complained? We all sit there and take it.’

A fat woman, with a mouth like a cat’s bum-hole peeking out from between her droopy cheeks, rose to her feet, face pink with indignation. ‘Sit down, you moron, and put out that cigarette. I don’t see why I should be exposed to cancer just because you have a disgusting habit.’

‘I agree, so how about smoking and non-smoking pubs and restaurants? Sounds more sensible than holding a gun to the heads of smokers. If the government are banning smoking because it’s dangerous, why allow a dangerous substance to be sold on the open market?’

‘Don’t be ridiculous, that’s no argument?’

‘It certainly is! What if they banned all transport? Fumes are killing us quicker than any smoker could do in a lifetime. You’d soon whine if they did that. No more holidays abroad or popping down to the supermarket in the car. Only home grown produce delivered by horse and cart. You might even have to get your fat arse out into the garden and plant some veggies.’

‘How dare you …’

‘How dare I call you a fat arse? Well as I didn’t precede it with black or packi it hasn’t become a crime yet and I may as well enjoy it. You see, my fat arsed friend, when you start picking on a group of people, make sure you’re whiter than white yourself.’

He raised his arms above his head his fists clenched into hammers and gave a warrior whoop. ‘What you’re seeing here, folks, is the last fucking British rebel!’

Johnny crouched down on the bar, stubbed his cigarette on his shoe and looked towards the barmaid. ‘What did you think of the speech?’

She shrugged her plump shoulders and nodded towards the dead cigarette butt between his fingers. ‘You’re banned,’ she said.
‘Johnny straightened, pulled his jacket open to expose a parcel tied about his waist. He raised his glass to the onlookers, threw the remnants of his drink down his throat in one swallow and flicked his lighter.

‘Cheers, and you’re bombed.’

The stunned crowd had barely time to shield their face, when a yellow flash spread them and Johnny across the pub like small peices of debris caught in a hurricane.

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