Coming for Bruce by Stephen Scott

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Photo by Laura Kiselevach

 

‘Coming for Bruce’ by Stephen Scott

 

Alan McKenzie was at work, but he couldn’t work. He was too busy arguing with himself again. He closed the file on the computer, bent another paperclip and popped a sherbet lemon into his mouth.

‘First sign of madness you know that, Alan?’

‘What is?’

‘Talking to yourself.’

It was Linda, his line manager. She was wearing a yellow suit with a white blouse. He crunched on the boiled exterior of the sweet, felt the sharp tangy fizz escape and hit his taste buds. The sensation was symbiotic with the image in front of him. She was feeding a pearl necklace from one hand to the other, like the way zookeepers handle snakes. She was smiling at him. She was all teeth with big golden hair like a lady lion.

‘Do you know what Alan? I think you are a very interesting man.’

‘Do you know what Linda? I think you are right.’

‘I know I am. I’m always right.’ replied Linda.

‘So am I.’ said Alan.

She licked the end of her finger and primed her eyebrow; it arched as her finger moved over it. She then bent down and whispered in his ear.

‘But y’know, it’s ok to be wrong sometimes Alan. I quite like the wrong men too. In fact, I like them more.’ She ruffled his hair and laughed a deep, dirty giggle as she moved off.

Damn it! She had tripped him up again, leading him down the fragrant avenue of compliments only to upend him and imply that he was an uptight, righteous little cock.

He went over to the vending machine and bought a Kit Kat, unwrapped it with a controlled anger and then ceremoniously snapped each stick in half. It was a kind of therapy he had developed over the years. In moments of great tranquillity, he just sucked the chocolate off. Five minutes later, he had forgotten all about Linda and her teasing. He had other things on his mind. His best friend Bruce was coming to stay with him, which was great news and made him feel sort of happy and sort of sad. You see, Bruce was dead and it was only his head that would be coming to stay. He took his phone out of his pocket began to text:

Hi Sally. Has Bruce arrived yet?

Moments later his phone buzzed. He swiped the screen.

Yes. Half an hour ago. Still in box. Don’t wanna open it on my own.

It’s only Bruce.

It’s not all of fucking Bruce though is it! I’m going out. C u later.

Alan was going to respond but decided not to bother. It must be said that Sally wasn’t too keen on having Bruce in the house. She said it was macabre and she was quite possibly right. He put the phone back in his pocket and noticed that it was time for lunch.

Egg mayonnaise, anchovies and blue cheese were his favourite sandwiches. Bruce, among other things, had introduced him to the concoction. They were the stinkiest thing he had ever eaten, but my god, they tasted amazing. He found himself a quiet corner away from all the smokers and began to tuck in. Every mouthful brought back a memory of Bruce. Bruce: the witty conversationalist; the budget adventurer; the cavalier chef; the Intellectual bouncer; the glorious go-getter; the flirtatious beast. Oh yes, he was all of those things was Bruce, but the main thing was that he was a friend. And Alan, not having that many friends in his life, knew the value of it. And then brutally, tragically, violently, hyperbolically even, he died while he was still alive.

The thought of that terrible day made the sandwich fall from his hand into his lap where the contents of fish, egg and cheese tumbled onto his crotch, a mini mound of protein, dairy and grease oozing onto the soft cotton fabric of his grey trousers. Great civilisations had come and gone, huge breakthroughs in medicine and technology, life for many had become slick and sophisticated but here he was, Alan Mckenzie, 45 years old, suit from Asda, face like a parrot, perched on a bollard in the car park of a stationary outlet that didn’t even have the cache of being in town. What did it all mean?

He stood up; the food tumbled between his feet. Now he had huge stain the shape of a giraffe drinking on his suit. This is when all thoughts of Bruce disappeared from his mind. He was upset now; another pair of damn fine trousers ruined by a lack of co-ordination.

Alan wanted to go home now and see Bruce; even though he was dead, he knew that talking to his head would be comforting. Besides, he had an apology to make to Bruce. He walked back to work, wondering if his Grandma was dead, he was sure that he went to her funeral a couple of months ago. If he did, that was that excuse out of the window. He pulled out his phone and texted Sally:

Can you ring work and pretend the house is on fire? I really need to come home. I hate my job and I have something all over the front of my trousers.

He loitered around the entrance to the office, waiting for a reply from Sally.

I am actually having a really bad fucking day as well. Sort yrself out why don’t ya?

Yeah, cheers bitch.

He added a smiley face just to let her know he was joking. Y’know, he liked Sally but she was such a selfish fucking cow sometimes. Anyway, back in the office there was nothing for it but a pretend faint by the coffee machine. It was only two weeks since the last one, but unlike Grandma’s funeral, it made sense to repeat it. He was obviously coming down with something.

When he came back ‘around’, Glenn, one of the ‘ok’ people at work handed him a glass of water and offered to give him a lift home.

Glenn was very tall but he had a very small car. It looked like a toaster on wheels. His knees were almost up to his chin; if he tried, he could probably steer it with his tongue. Alan wound down the window for some air and they set off.

‘How are you feeling?’

‘Feel ok now, thanks Glenn.’ Alan began to hum, within the small confines of the car he suddenly felt rather deceitful. He coughed into his hand.

‘Y’know, I didn’t really faint Glenn.’

‘I know,’ he replied, briefly glancing over to Alan.

‘How do you know?’

‘I have a gift for detecting wankers.’

‘Oh… Oh ok… So you think I’m a wanker?’

‘Oh God yeah. The first time I saw you I thought, yep, total wanker.’

‘Oh… That’s slightly disturbing. I must say I don’t normally lie, it’s just that I needed the afternoon off.’

‘So did I.’ replied Glenn.

They drove on in silence for a mile or two.

‘Well, I don’t think I’m a wanker.’ said Alan.

Glenn sighed.

‘Well I’m afraid it’s not for you to judge. Before me and the wife got divorced, I told her that I would be needing sex at least three times a day because I had decided to formally use it as part of my training for a triathlon I was entering. That’s when she called me a wanker. Up to that point, I never knew…I never knew. Anyway… We never had sex again. Six months later we got divorced. She got the house and I got this fucking car.’

‘Blimey.’ said Alan, feeling rather uncomfortable with Glenn’s openness

‘Did you say sorry then?’

‘For what?’ asked Glenn.

‘For the insensitive sex request thingy?’

‘Did I bollocks… If it wasn’t for her, I think I probably would have won that triathlon. Number 62 you say?’

‘Yes, anywhere here is fine thanks Glenn.’

He eased the car to a standstill and Alan climbed out. Glenn beeped the car horn as he drove off. Alan waved with no great affection. He was glad Glenn was too far away to spot the jerky hand movement.

Alan put the key in the lock, turned it and entered the house. He closed the door behind him and quietly made his way down the hallway and into the kitchen. He could see a big cardboard box on the worktop, next to the Weetabix. He took the kettle over to the sink and filled it, all the while keeping his eye on the box. He popped a teabag in a mug, poured in the hot water and, whilst observing the three-minute brew rule, he twirled a pair of scissors in his fingers as he moved around the box, as if the box was a bear, and he was a cowboy, and the scissors were a Colt 45.

A few  minutes later the milk was in the tea and he was cutting open the box. He could feel sweat running down his back and into his underpants in his excitement. All of the times that he had met Bruce for coffee or for a pint, he had never felt this excited; it was almost perverse. Well, actually, there was no almost about it; it was downright perverse. By the time he lifted Bruce out of the box, Alan was actually out of breath and panting, his mouth agape at the incredible job they had done. There was no sign of where the rolling pin had smashed into the side of his head. They had fixed that good and proper. But, the most startling thing was the eyes: a pale intense blue. Bruce had brown eyes when he was alive. Of course they couldn’t keep the original eyes but the blue eyes slightly disturbed him, to the point where he got out his phone and texted the joker who’d done the taxidermy.

hi received the head of Bruce Corby today good job cept Bruce had brown eyes and now he has blue don’t make sense… what happened??? Hashtag## don’t it make my brown eyes #blue #Crystal Gayle song### or what ffs! #stupid incompetent twat

He put the phone on the worktop and carried Bruce into the living room and put his head on top of the telly. He sat down on the sofa and stared at Bruce. Bruce stared back. Those blue eyes, alien in his head, made Alan get up and go and turn the head so it was facing the wall.

‘Sorry old chap, it’s just I want to tell you something and I can’t do it whilst you are looking at me.’ Alan slapped his head in frustration and got up and began pacing around the room.

He then walked over to his old friend and stood with hands on hips.

‘I can’t stop thinking about your wife. There I’ve said it. In fact I have done more than that; I have actually been around to see Julia. Lovely, blonde Julia. I have always been a sucker for blondes Bruce; you know that. I originally went with the intention of offering my condolences and to see if there was anything at all I could do but, good God dammit she so looked incredibly beautiful in the midst of her sorrow; she was like a butterfly crawling from the grief laden chrysalis that was you… Wow, who knew such torture of the soul could render one so immaculate in divine beauty. And who knew that one’s loyalty to a friend could disappear so quickly; diminish, like a fly under the flame of a blow torch. I. Am. So. Sorry. Bruce.’

Alan sighed.

‘She was on the couch, she had finished crying, the box of tissues empty on the coffee table, a Celine Dion CD and half a bottle of wine that she was helping herself from. I was stood there feeling helpless, looking down her top… Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself… It’s funny how you remember the details in those moments of lust. Then she asked me if I could go to the shop and buy her cigarettes; I said yes, of course. When I came back we shared a smoke at the back door and I told her that I wanted to kiss her. I told her it made me feel closer to you Bruce; she believed me and we kissed. I’d drunk four gin and tonics by this point; I asked if I could get inside her.’

“What, like fuck me?”

“Yes. I will feel so close to Bruce please.”

“No.”

“That’s fair enough,” I said.

`I mean that’s it really Bruce. Just wanted to let you know that I’m a bit of a wanker really.’

There was a silence in the room; a clock tick-tocked on the wall.

‘What are you doing, Alan? And why is Bruce wearing make-up and a blonde wig? ’

It was Sally, stood in the doorway with bags of shopping.

Alan looked at Sally and then back at Bruce.

‘I don’t know why he is wearing a blonde wig and make-up. He came out of the box like that’ lied Alan.

Sally picked up the shopping bags.

‘It looked like you were about to kiss him.’

‘Ha, don’t be daft.’

‘Yeah, well he looks disgusting. He’s not stopping on top of the TV is he?’

‘No.’

‘Good. Right, I’m going to put this shopping away; bloody gagging for a cup of tea.’ Alan nodded. He looked at Bruce.

‘This is actually all your fault, you know that don’t you?’

 

Did you like the story? Opinions? Praise? Please leave a comment below

 

Bio:

Stephen Scott April 2015
Stephen Scott first book of short stories, ‘Researching Oblivion’ [Spout] was published in 1998 under the name Scott Murfin. He has had stories published in THE TEXT, Transmission, Now Then and Beat the Dust. He completed an MA at Bretton Hall in 2002. He has read his work in various places including Yorkshire, London, Berlin and Poland and at various festivals including Off the Shelf and Festival of the Mind. Last year he was commissioned by Wordlife to write a piece celebrating the centenary of the invention of stainless steel in. Most recently, as part of Off the Shelf, he read at the exhibition called Picture the Poet[Graves Gallery Sheffield] and he also has a story in Fugue, a new short story collection published by Siren [October 2014]

He is currently working on a new collection of stories and a novella. He lives in Sheffield with his wife, cats, guitars and children.
 

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