Death, or 20p

'Gimme twenty-fuckin-pee
or i'll fuckin kill ya'

That was Tommy
fist to my ear
phlegm in my eye

in the far black corner
of Dinny's back bar
between pacman and the pool table

he shook me again
'twenty fuckin pee now boy
or i'll fuckin murder ya'

Tommy was a traveller boy
an unsettled traveller

I never knew a settled one.
I never knew a settled anyone.
Are you settled?

Back around 1989
me and my mates
used to hang around in Dinny's playing pool
sharing fags, maybe even sneaking
a naggin or a couple of cans,
mixing snakepites

then, if we were lucky,
go for a walk to the swings
and pet each other

but mostly we just played pool
at 20p a go
in Dinny's lounge

the gang of us
disreputable girls and boys
stepping out into
disreputable lives

Most of the boys and girls in town
didn't hang around with us
even if they wanted to
since their parents wanted them to be
doctors or engineers or get rich and get out
and don't embarrass them
one way or another

and we didn't hang around with Tommy
because he was a traveller

so it was
'20 fuckin pee
or i'll fuckin brain ya'

and I gave him the twenty pee
because I didn't want to die


A few years later
I heard Tommy burned his own head off
in a bag of glue.

How's your empathy right now?

your head searing
down to the bone

Imagine that.
I dare you.

If Tommy walked in the door now
I'd sit him at my table
I'd ask him to forgive me
I'd ask him for a hug
I'd give him every twenty fuckin pee I had

but he won't ever  be bright at my door
we all know that

and we know
not all the twenty pees
nor all the coins
nor all the notes
Nor all the gold and all silver and the mortgages
that were ever minted
will ever make up for Tommy,

nah, we’ll never make up for Tommy.

Copyright © Dave Lordan

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