Introduction: I’m not entirely sure where this story came from as it twisted away from what I had in mind at the start. The prompt was the first four words, and I should include a trigger warning for racial language and assault. It’s not something I would normally feel comfortable writing about as a middle-class white guy because I wouldn’t know where to start, but it came out that way. If anyone has any thoughts on it feel free to get in touch, I’m always happy to listen.
The floor tasted like cigarettes and stale beer kneaded together by a thousand pairs of muddy boots before being left to marinate in someone’s piss. It wasn’t something Johnny had experienced before, and he was unlikely to seek it out again. Then again, that was the least of his worries, and when he was yanked back to his feet, he almost missed it.
‘You want to repeat that?’
‘No, but I think you’re going to hit me anyway, so why not? You’re an uneducated oaf.’
The fist came thudding into this stomach this time while the two men who stood behind him took a fistful of his jacket each, making sure he couldn’t return to his comfortable spot on the floor.
‘You’re not from around here, boy.’
As Johnny coughed up some of his insides, he couldn’t stop himself groaning. ‘Really? Racism? Aren’t we past that, guys? Plus, I literally grew up ten minutes walk from here, you twats.’
His Mum had always said his smart mouth was going to get him into trouble, and when he was shoved to the ground to be introduced to a series of boots, he had to concede that she’d been right.
After what felt like forever, someone finally stepped in, bringing the beating to an end. ‘Alright lads, that’s enough. Chuck the foreigner out and let’s leave it there, I don’t want anyone dying in my pub.’
As Johnny was dragged to his feet, he couldn’t resist making one more point.
‘I’m not a foreigner,’ as he spoke he realised he must have lost some teeth, his words coming out with a whistle between the newly made gaps, ‘I grew up around here.’
‘Boy, your great-grandad could have been born next door to me, but you’d still be a foreigner. You see, there’s something different about you, and that’s all that matters.’ The bartender got in his face as he said it, before spitting directly into his eye.
With that, he was dumped through the door and onto the curb, left with only their gales of laughter to keep him company.
‘Well, that went about as well as can be expected.’ He grumbled to himself as he pulled himself off the pavement, putting a hand to his face before quickly moving it away when pain blossomed from the spot he touched. ‘I’m going to look a lot less pretty in the morning.’
‘I did tell you that we could find a different way.’ The voice came from an alley running down the side of the bar.
‘Maybe, but it wouldn’t have been as fast.’
The sigh that followed could have been interpreted as everything from calling him an idiot to accepting he was right. ‘Did you at least get it?’
‘Swiped it out the bastard’s pocket. I was worried he wasn’t going to get involved, but he couldn’t resist getting a comment in at the end. You better put that fucker down, by the way.’
‘If the information we need is on that stick then we’ll do more than that, I plan to put him and all his racist fuckwit buddies into a whole world of shite.’
As Johnny handed his stolen goods over, he looked into the shadows, trying to make out the face hidden within them. ‘You’re definitely the good guys, yea? I’m not going to regret helping you?’
She was all-action as she replied, whipping out a tablet and plugging the stick in. ‘Johnny, we’re the ones stopping the racists, does that not strike you as the good thing to do?’
‘Maybe, but people have hidden bad deeds behind good ones before.’
‘Well, if you’ve got cold feet, you’re too late. Judging by what I can see on here, we’ve got the cunt, and he’s going down a very deep hole for a very long time.’
Johnny gave a rueful smile in return, followed by a pathetic thumbs up. His enthusiasm was draining away with the blood that leaked from his nose.
‘You don’t look very happy about it.’
‘I am, it’s just, well, what difference will it make? One group of racists out of the thousands that are still out there. I’m glad he’s going to get punished, especially as I’m going to have to pay a lot of money to get my teeth fixed, but will it make a difference?’
‘Look, Johnny. I can’t sit here and convince you that this is good, but you did well. You took one for the team, and you’ll get your money for it. Isn’t that better than doing nothing?’
‘Maybe, just seems wrong that-‘
‘I’ve got to go, Johnny. I can’t spend my nights hanging out in alleys, talking to you. Thank you for this, we’ll get in touch if we need you again.’
‘Yea, okay, bye.’ She was already gone, though. Vanishing into the night and leaving him with a smashed up face and more questions than answers.