"I still don’t see why it takes two of us to stand here. I mean, it’s not as if they’re queuing up to get in, and it’s only half eleven. Another three hours of this? And I’m bloody roasting. Why I have to wear a suit I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll stick this out for much longer" Lee Griffiths said, sighing in frustration and looking along the pavement in both directions as if contemplating his chances of simply making a run for it.
His chances were good, excellent in fact. His colleague, he guessed wouldn’t have bothered to give chase, as there was probably no point. They were both bouncers, stood outside a wine bar in a pleasant district of the main city, where apartments and properties were in the expensive price ranges, so many bars and restaurants competed for business around the same, small area which was almost one mile square. Lee was 39 years of age, had had six years as a royal marine, before leaving for home, disillusioned with army life. He had returned to his school friends whom he had found, were mostly operating on the wrong side of the law, so he became no exception.
Twice he had been locked away in prison, and upon his second release, promised himself that he would go straight, but still, bad influences were all around him, and he knew that going straight meant that your friends talked about you behind your back the more and more unlike them you became until those friends stopped calling, and became virtual strangers, but Lee hovered on the borderline, occasionally venturing into the criminal world, and sometimes into its opposite.
He was, in a way, a small-time crook, but going straight held no real appeal for him. He had been to a gym to increase his physique, and to a certain degree, was happy with his size. At six foot two, and half a centimetre of hair all over his scalp, he would certainly be a formidable opponent in a clash, and being aggressive came easily to him, so he found a job as a bouncer and basically worked for several firms on a casual basis. He would sometimes do hotels and theatres and nightclubs. Nightclubs were his favourite because it meant there was more of a chance of becoming involved in a conflict, as he loved turning teenagers away and throwing people out, but his job had taken him here, to ‘Fable’s wine lodge’. It was his fifth day here.
"Sophistication," said Lee’s colleague, chewing on gum and blowing a bubble. He was leaning against the doorframe, and pushed himself away from it to step across to Lee.
"That’s the image that this place wants. That’s why there’s two of us in suits. It’s a visual thing, lets people know that this is a classy place. Rich folk only, no poor scruffs who want to be seen in this joint".
"The place is virtually empty. Three people we’ve let in so far in two hours. It doesn’t take two of us. Seriously, I’m gonna transfer soon". The other man shrugged his shoulders, carried on chewing, and looked along the road nonchalantly.
After a few minutes, Lee was shuffling around and wandered into the small foyer of the place. Near the back , he saw a waiter approach a table with a cold drink of what looked like cola.
"Bloody Ray," he muttered. "I didn’t know Ray was on now" he said to his colleague, who nodded, looking back a Ray, then at the road again.
"He owes me money". Lee weaved through the tables and caught him as he was on his way back to the bar.
"Oi you, a word". He grabbed the waiter’s upper left arm and pushed him to the empty bar. Ray was in his early twenties, and had remains of acne on his face. He smiled nervously at Lee who was eight inches taller than he was.
"Aren’t you forgetting that you owe me a tenner? Remember, petrol money or whatever it was you where short of until pay day. Now if I’m correct, pay day was yesterday, but I don’t remember you running up to me to pay me back. Or have I forgotten?"
"Sorry Lee," Ray muttered. "The money’s in my coat, through the back. Just give me a few minutes, and I’ll get it". Lee let him go, then nodded.
"Good," he said. "You better hadn’t run off, either. I’ll be out the front". He hooked a thumb to the entrance. Ray went behind the bar and disappeared through the back. Lee wandered back to stand beside his colleague. He sighed, looking left and right again.
"I’m starving," he said. "I’m going to get some dinner. Do you want anything from the shop?"
"Ye, alright," said the other man. He took out his wallet, and removed a five pound note. He handed it to Lee.
"Try the new place round the corner. It’s a new sandwich shop or something. Get me an egg and bacon barm and a hot chocolate, ta".
"Where is it?" Lee asked. His colleague pointed to the corner of a crossroads.
"See that travel agent there? Turn right there, and it’s about halfway down. You’ll be there in two minutes". Lee nodded, and set off.
He turned the corner, and saw where he meant a little further up. There were a few shops and businesses between them, and one of them was a small café with three metal tables and chairs outside. It seemed to be one of those places that tried to capture the atmosphere and essence of a European establishment by having outside seating, but amongst the pollution and encroaching concrete, it looked completely out of place, and whilst the gesture seemed reasonable in its meaning, it simply seemed to be pointless.
At one of the tables sat a middle-aged couple, and at another, nearest the café entrance, sat an elderly man, sipping at a cup of tea. A walking stick leant against his chair. Something about the man made Lee slow down and look intently at him. There was something about him that set his mind in perplexity. He had seen him before, somewhere…
It struck him like a lightening bolt on his cerebrum, and he stopped.
"No" he said aloud. "It can’t be". He realised he was standing and staring, then spun on his heel and stepped across to lean against a post-box, his back to the café. He looked over his shoulder, and saw that the man, and the other customers were unaware of him. He looked away and dry washed his face.
"Mr Clement", he muttered. "Mr bloody Clement". He felt his face flush red, and a surge of fear, masquerading as adrenalin shot through him. Mr Clement had been an old school teacher of his from the age of nine upwards. Lee’s parents had moved into the area, and placed him in a new school, where Mr Clement ruled with an iron fist, and a sturdy wooden cane, a cane which he certainly put to use. It seemed that only the most normal of teachers were forgotten. The dull and boring ones were remembered because they were precisely that. There were those that could not control a class and were reduced to tears, and there were those that ruled through absolute fear and violence. Mr Clement epitomised it, and Lee had experienced his hostility. He could not remember a time when he saw Mr Clement in anything other than a bad mood. Some teachers it seemed were in a constant state of depression and resentment.
He was quite literally, the last of the ‘old school’ teachers that wore a cap and gown, and wielded the cane with such natural ease it seemed that they would practise at home at night. Lee was also convinced that some of the other teachers feared Mr Clement, even perhaps his superiors. They let him get on with it. Those screams from the classroom? Not kids playing around. It’s Clement hitting children on the backs of the hands so hard that they actually broke bones. Sometimes he would strike them across the face. Discipline, and a strict iron rule in the classroom was paramount to Clement’s method of teaching. How could you learn if your mind was wandering out of the window? It would soon return with a wooden blackboard duster thrown at the face. Not only did some pupils receive a face full of chalk dust, but broken teeth and noses. He would humiliate children by bringing them to the front of the class and basically beating them with his wooden cane until they bled.
He needed scant reasons to raise his cane. Sometimes none at all, simply inventing a reason. It was, in a way, legalised child abuse, and Lee could easily have imagined him at home, in the basement, the place decked out like a bondage dungeon, with him as the master, never on the receiving end, but dishing out his beatings to his heart’s content. Lee had been on the receiving end of the wrath of Clement, no more or less than the other children, but sometimes Clement would bring his strict discipline in front of the entire school. At assembly at one time, Lee had been laughing and giggling with a friend, while the rest of the place had been relatively hushed. Suddenly a hand had gripped his hair and dragged him to the stage at the front of the hall.
"Right, this is what happens when anyone steps out of line" he had shouted. "Hold out your hand. I said, hold out your hand". Lee remembered it vividly. He had held out a nervous trembling hand, palm downwards, and Clement had raised his trusty cane. At its apex, Lee had seen Clement’s eyes, and they conveyed nothing but pleasure. He cracked it down onto the back of his hand, breaking three of the bones. He was then shoved towards the steps at the side of the stage and told to sit down. The pain, however, was too much for him to stay mute. The hushed assembly was punctuated by Lee’s sobbing. "Quiet," Mr Clement would shout, and repeated it a few times before dragging him out onto the stage again and striking him across his cheek-bone, followed by a yelling in his ear.
"I said, quiet, understand?" For the rest of the assembly, Lee sat in pain, trying his best to stem any sound. He just about managed it without attracting Clement’s attention. He had promised later that he was somehow going to get his revenge on Clement, but at that time, his hand was still bandaged, and as time went on, thoughts of revenge slowly eroded away until he hardly ever thought of it, and when he did, he had known that at the time there was nothing he could do. After he left school, he remembered Clement as the most despised teacher he had ever had, and that was that. Yet, now, here he was, having a quiet drink at a café, minding his own business. Lee remembered his vow of revenge. His hand had been in a bandage for two months. There was also the humiliation in front of the school. Things like that were not forgiven easily, especially not by a schoolboy.
Lee chanced a glance over his shoulder, and saw that Mr Clement was as he was, in not having noticed him, and sipping his tea. He can’t do anything to me now, Lee thought. I could knock him down with my little finger. He flexed the hand that had been broken, then clenched it into a fist. He tensed his right arm and felt his biceps.
"What are you gonna do to me now, old man?" he whispered.
"What are you gonna do?" He turned, and strode across to Clement’s table.
"Oi! Clement. I want a word with you?". He said, pointing an accusing finger. Clement didn’t look up straight away. Instead, he slowly put down his cup in its saucer, then looked up at Lee. There was no recognition on his face.
"I don’t suppose you remember me do you?" Lee continued. "I was just another kid for you to hit with your stick. Well let’s see you try it now". With his left hand, Lee leaned on the table and pointed his finger a few inches from Clement’s face.
"The amount of pain you caused me, and all the other innocent kids who didn’t deserve it. You should have been bloody locked up. I ought to take that walking stick and break it over your face". After a few seconds, Clement said:
"Don’t you dare point your finger at me, little boy".
"Little boy? Who are you calling a little.…?" he stopped, and slowly stood back up straight. A slight wave of fear had swept through him, and he frowned. Clement grabbed his walking stick and slowly got to his feet. He twisted it around and pointed it at Lee.
"You come round here, while I’m having a quiet drink, disturbing me. How dare you? How dare you?" The fear surged through Lee’s veins. He downcast his eyes to the table.
"Sorry," he muttered. "Sorry sir". Oh my God, he thought. I just called him sir. Why did I do that? His face flushed red, and the embarrassment and fear became one.
"I remember you," said Clement. "Little troublemaker. And I’m guessing that you still are. Which hand did I break?"
"L-left sir". Oh my….I said it again, he thought. By now a few people had stopped nearby, and were watching. Some slowly did other things whilst looking over.
"Hold out your right," Clement said. Lee struggled not to. "I said, hold out your right," Clement shouted. Lee’s right hand shot out. Clement raised his walking stick, and brought it crashing down. He cracked two bones, and Lee yelled out in pain. He collapsed to his knees, clutching his hand.
"That’s for disturbing me" Clement said. Lee clambered up into a seat at the table. Clement struck him across the head with the stick.
Lee yelled out again. "Sorry," he cried.
"That’s for embarrassing me in front of everyone".
"I won’t do it again sir, I promise".
"Damned right you won’t, boy". He then struck him on the head again, a little harder. Lee screamed. A trickle of blood streamed past his left eye.
"That was for….er. That was for". Clement looked around for a few seconds, and saw that there was still tea left in the cup.
"That was for making me leave a perfectly good drink". Clement pointed the stick at Lee again.
"I’d better not be disturbed by you again, boy, understand?" Lee nodded.
"Yes, sir, sorry sir". Clement nodded, spun around, and slowly limped away, using the stick to help him walk. Lee leaned forward, his forehead touching the table, clutching his throbbing hand. He could not have known that the power of authority figures was still a dominant force within him, and as it was embedded at an early age, these figures still held influence over him. Schoolchildren see teachers in this way, and because the young mind is so impressionable, it did not fade in Lee, and nor would it have in many children. Mr Clement did not know it either, but reacted to Lee’s responses, proving that Lee, even in adulthood, still did as he was told by the people he was brought up with as authority figures.
After five minutes, he felt a tapping on his shoulder, and he slowly looked up through teary eyes to see Ray holding a ten pound note towards him.