A lacquer of drizzle and hops breezing south from the Brewery made it an okay evening to drift, to pedal and street-drift. I was on the mountain bike in Moss Side. When cars drove from behind I hopped up the kerb and a few minutes I was in Stressford, stood outside a window. It lay open but curtained and a radio inside had a Klitschko speaking about politics and with the bezel of the ring on my f-you finger I clinked the pane.

Popeye, I said . . . Popeye.

Cut to me braking at the Alex Park crossroad. A black guy leaning on a VOLVO blew a plastic alto sax and the moaning swirled thru the Lime Walk tree-trunks. Nobody lurked this end of the park near the pond where two Canadian geese paddled in the murk and I braked when a little finch darted out a rip in the gloaming. In battery-operated motion it hopped, it drank from a puddle. I studied the foot prints. But suddenly, at a call-and-response of magpie squawks, a mob in a willow tree, the finch flew, it disappeared.

A posse of teen girls hung at a Parkway bus stop. One saw us peep on her mate’s arse. Another, singing that D.I.S.C.O. tune, had changed it to P.A.E.D.O. as a string of cars passed and she aimed a handset at a house from where a man like skittered out a garden gate. He wore white socks be he was naked and waggling his dick, a boner, and he shouted like get some of this tartlets before he pulled over his face a parakeet mask.

They took pics, filming him and laughing, calling him shit. I laughed too.

I criss-crossed the ginnels of Elmswood-Regent-Yew-Tree and biked further into the estate where streets became desolate. There was a slummy cul-de-sac, terraces with breezeblocks for windows. The next street too, all front doors were corrugated. There was no road sign. No cars. No animal life. No people. A skeleton of a washing machine sat dumped in a cobbled alleyway and I said: Wandering this estate last you remember that fedora Jamaican, his oil-drum barbeque. But don’t remember that place.

Adjacent to a three acre gravel waste where they’d flattened the bus depot sat a pub. The sign was a woodcarving of a weasel tucked in a cradle and in calligraphy it said The Sleepy Tavern. It made a creak-creak. And skulking at the window, peering at a swirl of frosted glass I saw spangles of formlessness. But a doormat in the porch led to a chessboard floor and I pushed the bike under an extractor grill fanning out a hazelnut flavour when my gaze was filled with an Eggheads quiz machine, beer mugs hanging from hooks, four horseshoes, a brass bell, a barmaid. 

She had spiky grey hair and in her fingertips an electronic cig that she pointed at a stool and said: Pew for a bit, bring your bike in.

I put it by a wall mounted on which was a photo of Les Battersby shaking hands with the woman. Then I perched on a barstool. Two old men at a table sent us sneers and returned to saying little and gazing at their tankards.

Like a graveyard, I said to the landlady.

You should’ve been here this after. Hobbling thru the hatch she explained: We had a right mixed crowd in, for a funeral and err . . . the got the whatsit out, playing it.

An upright piano in a far corner revealed a duffel-coated man slouched on its bench, resting his face on the keys.

Hope no one close, I said.

What pet?

The funeral.

Oh . . . no, not really, to be honest, a semi regular, called Chas.

The older of the two at the table, in a flat-cap, said: He was a wordsmith.

He was wild, said his drinking mate who had a gelled Ian Brady quiff. But he wouldn’t have hurt a spider.

The flatcap laughed and said: How he claimed to get pissed on Shakespeare.

Ignore them pair a twonks, the landlady said to me. What can I get you?

Pointing at the MURPHY'S I said: Give us half a . . . yes ta, a quick half.

As she reached I saw the left armpit of her white polo sweat-patched. She got a glass. Then, her udder-sized thing, the left teat, I saw it squash against a pump handle so I glanced at the piano man. He was sleeping.

Who is that?

Doctor Prépuce, knackered after playing, she said and while she pulled up and down on the porcelain lever, until I heard the slop bucket, I studied crinkles and like mould-blue vessels in her face and she was saying: They were in a jazz band together, him and Chas. They called it voodoo blues. I bet you never heard of the Black Cannonballs.

Don’t reckon so, I said and slid over a tenner.

It was then (berserkly) Prépuce bolted upright and in a Latin accent said: Help I’m a rock. Help I’m a rock. Help I’m a rock. And as swiftly he slumped, his forehead dropping on the lower keys, which made a little doom.

With her head shaking the landlady tut-tutted at the men who both smirked.

I moved to the right of the fireplace. I sat and in the vapour dripping down the glass I fingered like a thunderbolt. I waited for the stout to set. My eyes wandered looking for a TV screen. I wiped the thunderbolt. I held the glass and tasted. And the men took turns looking at me and said little. The landlady scanned a DAILY DISQUIET. But then I noticed, before the fireplace, I don’t know what breed of wire-haired terrier was splayed and twitching an ear. Its hind claws scraped a tile.

Two swigs later I nipped to the gents for a pee and a sneaky fart and washing my hands with grit detergent I thought about Cobain’s stomach ulcer. I imagined it had a mouth and like piranha teeth and a voice that told him to pick up the gun.

When I got to the table I heard one of the men say: Hah, it’s pissed itself.

The denim around my zip was splotched. Just then though the heel of my right PUMA kicked something box-like under the seat and I stooped and it was a book. I grabbed a corner. Made of a plastic meant to simulate leather it smelt new and the spine had a logo of an eel eating its tail and the twisting body read Spoom.

Look Ella, Flatcap said with four new chins waggling.

I put the slimish book on the table. I took out the diazepam strip and guzzled one with the stout and I watched the Quiff scratch on his neck an amateur tattoo of a cobweb and he said: We call that The Mumbo-jumbo and yet took him twenty years to do.

And he also thought, said the Flatcap, when he read Shakespeare he was Shakespeare.

A frown tensed the landlady as she sucked the electro-cig. All that money he forked out to get essentially published I suppose, she said. No wonder he was bankrupt, hence that box coffin. And I were saying to you know that Commodore chap? Him I were saying to about that’s when he went a bit . . . She circled the cig twice around her right temple.

I agree, said Flatcap. His mate saying the words pickled him, it was lack of money.

Remember his bonkers line about cats on fire, dancing lambs?

Mister Quiff went: No but on the radio the other night this professor said reading too much makes you depression prone, which got me and the missus wondering about Chas and his brain and the kind of crap he read an- . . . He paused and he elbowed his tankard that toppled and he said: Bollocks.

Fangs of glass scattered the floor, the tiles.

Yah spanner, said the Flatcap.

The dog lugged up, sniffed a dreg running into a grout line but the landlady clattered from a cubbyhole with in one arm a dustpan and bucket, the other arm a squeegee and brush, and she shooed the hairball who loped to the Eggheads gambler. He sat licking his balls.

Instead of watching him, I sipped the MURPHY'S and eyed that gelled to a shine quiff and it was bouncing side to side and kind of in proportion to his Pete Townshend nose thru which he said: Me third spillage this week sorry.

We’ll be calling you Butter Thumbs, the landlady said, instead of our Bert.

I know, the old git, but what was I . . . ?

You were getting us some dry roasted, said Flatcap.

Oh yeah, continued Quiff. Chas was the guy who, when he stumbled in here pissed up that night, carrying his draft copy of The Mumbo, he kept on about purgatory being football shaped. Remember that? He fucking scared me.

Do us a couple of pints Ell, the Flatcap said.

Will in a minute, she said. What unnerved me was . . . ah . . . She was mopping. What got me was when he said he could use it to listen to his dead. I mean just with that stupid book.

Like your Ouija boards, said Quiff.

Its plastic hardcover I opened to a smell of like bleachy papery chemical.

The frontispiece had four borders engraved with stalks and flytrap buds, adder tongues for stamens. Inked in a twig-twirling font it read . . .

Shakes Kollideoscapes
Carlos McCondo

I flipped to a sheet of tracing paper, the onionskin, and to a sketch printed in cross-strokes of sea waves and a shipwreck and an island where a hunchback was scuttling and a sprite hovering over a dune. Letters, designed from insect claws and wings, spelt The Thundering of Prosper . . . I licked a fingertip and looked for but could not find an ISBN or copyright and disclaimer information and I touched the Spoom embossed at the foot of the spinal.

But then the landlady slammed the cubbyhole and whistled the mutt who wagged but trotted to me and despite him stinking of dishcloth my free hand tickled his ribs. But he snuffled maybe attracted by cheddar of my sock. He licked. His tongue touched my ankle. Then his nose went for my parts and I had to recoil down the seat and he lurched with his muzzle slobbering and a hot trickle landed on my knuckles.

I slapped the book on the table saying: Goo on, get.

He wriggled at my suggestion. His owner though was scrunching into a dozen odd creases her forehead and she peered over a varnished screen.

Bert, get down here. This frigging little rat’s sneaped our lump-a-love!

Might be time to f-off mate, said Quiff.

Yes lad, said the Flatcap. And take that book with yah.

Both broke into a snigger and as I drunk a last inch the landlady was shouting: Hurry up Bertram. I want this toad off the premises!

Well he went for my genitals, I said.

That’s what dogs do, she said and at the two blokes she clicked her fingers before snatching the bell clapper: Ding-a-ling! Yanking: Ding-a-ling! Nonstop throttling: Ding-a-ling-ling-ling-ling-ling-ling!  
Fuck, I said and herein (on each demented peal) the dog was yapping and Prépuce on his feet was slapping the yellow ivories making freeform like heckling riffs, just as Flatcap produced a battered horse-collar, put it round his neck, and it was like his gums were putty and he was trying to eat his face with gurning and Quiff stood in denim shorts that dropped to his ankles and he crouched showing the splayed horrorshow of a de-crinkling arse and a thistle that was an actual scrotum.

A creep-house, I said grabbing the bike.

Just then, from the backroom, a man tottered in and the landlady seeing released the clapper and the clangs imploded with the piano like the end chord in that Lennon McCartney day-in-the-life poem . . . a long lowly doooom.