A minor disagreement
Johnny with Nicky in the pub, only this time they weren’t kids, illicit pint in one hand, fake ID in the other. Johnny found it weird to look at the guy, to see that same kid face he remembered, only now it was sat atop thick shoulders, and arms that had to be paining him, the way the overtight tee shirt was cutting into the oversize biceps.
Johnny said, ‘Was it bonfire night, the last time I saw you? I remember legging it through the subway under the motorway, from those kids, after you took the piss out of that lad, told him his rucksack looked like a granny’s suitcase.’
Nicky chuckled. ‘Yeah. Man, but that kid moved, even with a suitcase.’
‘Then you were gone,’ Johnny said. ‘And all we have left is Nicky, the legend.’
Nicky shrugged as he drank. ‘Load of bullshit.’ He drank some more, then said, ‘A minor disagreement, with Mrs Ellsworth.’
‘The English teacher?’
Nicky nodded. ‘They kicked me out with a load of bullshit – she told them these tales, lied and said I was trying to take photos up her skirt, but the real reason, just a simple disagreement between us two.’
Nicky began to grin. ‘She wanted me, see. I didn’t want her. So she lied, said all that bullshit. Man, vindictive cow.’
‘Right,’ Johnny said. It needed more than that, but his brain couldn’t think of any words.
Nicky was chuckling throatily to himself. ‘Man, what a twat young me was. Today’s Nicholas would’ve shagged the horny mare.’
Johnny said, ‘I remember Mrs Ellsworth. Those legs. And the skirts.’
‘Shame about the tits, though,’ Nicky said. ‘First years with bigger tits than hers.’
‘That’s not where I was going,’ Johnny said. ‘Think about a league, your tippermost, toppermost, upper echelons of hot woman. Got it?’
‘And then above that, there’s a whole other league. You have models in it, you have Bond girls. You have Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct.’
‘Oh man,’ Nicky said.
‘And then above that is a whole other league with Mrs Ellsworth in it, because My-Fucking-God, she is an actual real person that we know. Got it?’
‘So here’s my question,’ Johnny said. He smiled, to show the guy he was only kidding around. ‘Mrs Ellsworth. Twenty-nine. Top league, by herself. And she wants to shag sixteen-year-old you?’
Nicky’s lips didn’t move. Nothing about his face moved, and yet he was no longer grinning as he looked at Johnny, and Johnny was suddenly aware of the guy’s teeth, this mouth full of crooked horse teeth.
Softly, Nicky said, ‘You kidding me?’
Johnny tried to keep smiling. Him and Nicky, they kidded around, ripped the piss. Only Nicky wasn’t smiling.
He planted both palms flat on the table. His eyes had gone wide, his nostrils wider.
Johnny said, ‘Listen, mate.’
Nicky shot to his feet, the back of his chair cracking into the chair behind. The whole of the pub turned to watching standing there, towering above Johnny, Nicky quivering, his voice almost shaking as he asked Johnny again if he was kidding him.
Looking up at the guy, all Johnny could think – definitely not kids any more.