Black Country Fiction: Out and About, by Jason Jawando

All I was trying to do was go to town with me missus, Lisa. She’s not much to look at, but you don’t want another fella perving on her.

Do you ever have one of those moments where you’re having a row, and you can’t remember how it started or what you was rowing about? Whatever, there’s no excuse for some old fella to start perving on your missus.

Yeah, that was it… she reckoned I was trying to get off with Mandy, the dirty bitch from across the road, but I wasn’t cos she’s a slapper who’ll give you a handjob for a bit of skag, and I’m not going there again. Not after the last time. Don’t know why Lisa goes on about it, to be honest. And then she’s all this, telling me to leave the old fella alone, and he reckoned he was in with a chance cos we’d had a row, but that doesn’t mean she can run off with some random bloke.

He was standing at the bus stop by the offie. Old: forty or fifty perhaps. Shit-scared when I fronted him out. Probably spends all day in an office or something. What is it with people like him? They look down on you just cos you don’t go to work. They think they’re better than you, and they say stuff about paying tax and that you shouldn’t spend your giro on drink. It’s my fucking giro, I’ll spend it on what I want. It does my head in, to be honest.

At first, I think he’s looking down his nose at us, but he’s staring at Lisa which is when I realise he wants to get off with her, just cos she’s having a row with me. Probably reckons cos he’s got a job she’ll take her knickers off for him, or he’d only have to give her like a tenner, or something, but Lisa ain’t turned tricks since we both got off the skag.

So, Lisa’s going off on one and we stop in the middle of Chapel Ash. There’s always loads of cars driving past, and people walking home, and it stinks cos the brewery’s round the corner. And Lisa’s banging on about how I’m always going round Mandy’s, and I’m trying to tell her that I ain’t been with Mandy for ages, but she tries to get past me and I tell her she ain’t going nowhere. I’ll make her listen to me, if I have to, but she just stands there, and she doesn’t say nothing, and she’s just looking at the ground.

Lisa’s all this cos I got off with Mandy one time. Whenever I go over to borrow some fags I’m at it again. I ain’t going back there, especially since her bloke got out of Winson Green. If anything, Lisa’s more likely to go off with him or some other fucker. So, once she shuts up for a minute and lets me talk, even though she’s trying not to listen to me, I tell her I ain’t going nowhere. She don’t believe me, but what can I do about that? And then she says that she wants to go home. I stand back so she can get past me, but she doesn’t go anywhere. She does this thing where she sort of moves towards me, and she does a step one way and does a step the other way, and then just stops where she is.

So, I say – You going home or coming to town?

And she knows we’ve got to go to town, cos you can’t waste your time sitting in the flat all day. So she nods and it looks like we’re on our way.

And we’re walking towards town and it’s murder, cos there’s loads of people walking straight at us, and I’m trying to hold Lisa’s hand, cos she’s me bird. She ain’t much to look at, but she’s alright, really. And then I think we ain’t getting any cans in town cos it’s a rip off. So we have to go back the way we came, back to the offie. And she’s still going on and it’s like we’re going round in fucking circles.

When we get there I tell her to wait outside while I go in, cos she’s still banned. Don’t know why she’s banned. Best not argue though cos he might ban us both. If that happens the only place left is the new supermarket where the car showroom used to be.

– Wait there, I say to Lisa. But I don’t go in, cos the offie’s right next to the bus stop, and the old fella’s still standing there, only now he’s pretending he’s not looking at us. So, I tell Lisa to hang on a minute and say:

– What you looking at?

He says nothing. Just looks down the road, like he’s watching for the bus, and pretends he can’t hear me cos he’s got his buds in his ear. Probably listening to, I don’t know, fucking Coldplay or something. Stuck-up bastard. So, I walk up and get in his face and let him try ignoring me now.

– Terribly sorry, he says. Is he fuck? Takes his buds out of his ears, puts them in his pocket. Then he looks up the street like I’m not fucking there.

– Just waiting for the bus, pal.

And I’m like – Fucking what? Do I know you? Do I fucking know you?

And he says – No.

And I’m like – Why you calling me pal? I ain’t your fucking pal.

And he’s looking at me now, and I step back so he can have a go, if he wants, which he don’t. Only I nearly step into the fucking road, and he’s laughing. But not out loud. So, I say – Come on then.

But he just looks at me and says nowt. You know what it’s like. You ever been to sign on, and they don’t want to give you the money cos they think you ain’t looking hard enough for a job, and you tell them you ain’t looking for a job full stop, and that’s why you need a fucking giro? That look that they give you, that’s him. That’s what he’s like. And he thinks I don’t know he’s got his eye on Lisa, so I just say it to him.

– You think cos we was having a row you could get off with her?

And he’s standing there making out like he’s waiting for his bus. I wish he’d just hit me. There’s CCTV down there and people hanging round. If he hits me first, I can get my brief to say it’s self-defence. I don’t reckon magistrates’d believe me, even if there was like a hundred witnesses, but you got to give it a chance.

What’s he do all day? Sit on his arse? Reckon he’s ever had some psycho junkie try and rob him for his skag? Course he ain’t. And there was the time I had it off with Mandy and her bloke came after me with an axe. That’s why he went in Winson Green. I don’t reckon this bloke ever had that happen to him. I could have him, no bother.

And then Lisa pipes up – Leave him alone, Terry.

– What, I say to her. – You want to get off with him now?

I walk over and start kissing her, so this bloke knows she’s my bird. And I’m kissing her and trying to stand in front of him, so she can’t eyeball him, cos I know that’s what she fucking wants, and then a bus arrives, and he only goes and gets on it, like he’s been waiting ages.

So, I’m snogging her and he walks down the bus and sits right at the back where he can see us, which I know cos I turned her round so she couldn’t see him, and the bus drives off.

I should have hit him really to make a point, but if I go inside again, she’ll run off with another fella. Says she won’t, but she said that last time I went away.

All I was trying to do was go to town with me missus. Not much to look at, but she’s all I’ve got.



Jason Jawando writes fiction and drama. He has had short stories published in Crannog, Ranfurly ReviewProle, Bandit Fiction and elsewhere, and a short play was performed in a rehearsed reading at Birmingham Rep.  He is completing an MA in Creative Writing with the Open University.