Bouncers by Barbara Robinson

Between the two of them they made an impenetrable wall to the skinny, chewing lads and the curvy, goose-fleshed girls. They kept their faces blank, sometimes standing with arms folded, sometimes crossed at the wrists, fingers curved protectively around their balls. Occasionally, their arms hung at their sides, like those of ballet dancers in first position. Every now and then they would have to kick someone’s head in and no, neither of them liked doing it, but sometimes you had to make an example of a person or just put an end to a tiresome exchange of views.

On this particular evening they noticed a bespectacled, cherubic-looking lad – a student, probably – dropping pills into a girl’s drink. Shane beckoned him over with a smile, as though he had a funny joke to tell him. The lad came over with a wary ‘what’s up?’ expression on his face. Dane poured the spiked drink into the sink behind the bar, then he and Shane, each taking an elbow, lifted the lad off the ground. He looked a bit like a cartoon character as his feet pedalled uselessly, his head twisting this way and that.

When they dropped him onto the cobbles in the ginnel next to the bar, he landed on his arse and they waited for him to get up. It was only fair. When he did, Shane landed him a soft solar plexus tap which knocked him on his arse again. The lad looked like he was going to cry, his glasses askew. Dane gestured encouragingly at the lad to stand up – which he did with difficulty, the sole of his brogues slipping on a discarded kebab – then head-butted him. It wasn’t his best shot because the kid was a short-arse but there was a satisfying crack and a surprised cough from the lad. Dane and Shane jumped aside nimbly so that the blood that flew out of his nose and mouth didn’t land on them.

‘Fractured nasal bone?’ Dane asked Shane, who was studying for a degree in dentistry and had a good understanding of facial anatomy.

‘Yeah,’ said Shane. ‘They’ll need to straighten that at A and E. Painful as fuck. Probably give him a benzodiazepine for the pain, maybe Rohypnol. Ironic, innit?’ The kid was whimpering and holding both hands over his nose in case either of these Neanderthals attacked it again. He needn’t have worried. Shane delivered a sharp and accurate kick to the bollocks, shouting, ‘Trop belle pour toi!’ which was the title of one of his favourite films. Dane grunted with appreciation, though he wasn’t an enthusiast of French cinema. Literature was his passion, especially the works of Kafka, Kerouac, Kundera: all the Ks. He’d even picked up a Marian Keyes novel and been pleasantly surprised. It reminded him of James Joyce. (He’d done the Js last year.) He must remember to talk to Maxine about it.

Now the lad was crying and cowering. ‘Oh fuck,’ he kept saying over and over, as Shane and Dane pulled him to standing and dragged him back to the main street. Shane called an ambulance while Dane explained to the lad why you should never, ever spike a person’s drink. They left him propped against a ‘No Parking’ sign on the corner of the street so that the ambulance driver would see him. Shane noticed that the lad had pissed himself, which he must have done before he kicked him in the balls. It was difficult to urinate with a testicular haematoma.

Dane and Shane walked back to the bar where the third bouncer, Maxine – a beautiful, twenty-stone woman with skin the colour of Caramac – was standing with her arms across her splendid chest, reading ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. ‘Any good?’ said Dane. He liked Maxine, rather a lot.

‘It’s shit,’ she said, ‘I found it in the bogs. It’s almost unreadable, but because it’s written in the first-person narrative, it covers a multitude of sins.’ Dane nodded sympathetically. Maxine was completing her PhD thesis on Gender, Transgender and Narrative in Contemporary Fiction. Dane remembered that he wanted to talk to her about Marian Keyes and offered to buy her a brandy. He offered to buy one for Shane too, but he said he wanted to get back and crack on with his Buñuel boxset.

As the three bouncers were standing at the entrance to the bar, a shambling group of men eyed them as they passed, making monkey noises and banana-eating gestures once they were at a safe distance. Maxine threw ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ in a perfect frisbee forehand throw, hitting one of the men between the shoulder blades so that he fell forwards, landing on his knees. His friends laughed at him.

‘Ha,’ said Maxine, ‘it’s better than I thought.’

Barbara Robinson lives and works in Manchester and has recently completed her MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Writing School, and with it her first novel, ‘Elbow Street’. Barbara regularly reads her work at local literary events, including Bad Language, Verbose and Lit Up.

Image: Wil Stewart