Season 2, Chapter 3: Day Tripper

We were on Broughty Ferry beach enjoying the last days of summer. Having received a text message announcing, “Hiya pal! Pure lappin’ up the sun doon Ferry beach. The sandy aine, like. Wiz on the stony aine fur a bit but ended up punchin’ a few o’ the swans that hing aboot there in the pus when they got wide. Ferry cunts frown upon fightin’ the swans. Fuck knows how, they’re a bunch o’ pricks. Fire doon ya aunt x”, I took a taxi down and arrived late in the afternoon.

I wandered along from Castle Green at a leisurely pace, enjoying the sun, family atmosphere and the refreshingly cool water of the Tay lapping at my feet. The crowd thinned out the further I walked until I eventually found my friends. Jocky looked like he’d been there since 1950-something. He was lounging in an old deck chair with a knotted white handkerchief on his head and trackie bottoms rolled up to his knees. Wee Jocky the cat sat beside him in his own miniature deck chair and also sported a knotted hanky on his little head. Bob Brannan sat in the sand picking it up by the handful and letting it slip through his fingers with a look of vaguely terrified astonishment that suggested he’d never seen it before in his life and thought it might be some kind of threat. The length of washing line rope attached to the frame of Jocky’s chair and tied round Bob’s waist seemed cruel, but it would, as Jocky put it, ‘stop him runnin’ aboot annoying folk. Daft cunt chased a Border Collie halfway ti’ Carnoustie shoutin’ aboot TK Maxx earlier.’ A couple of blue poly bags filled with cans of Special sat by Jocky’s side, and a cauldron of stovies sat atop a fire build from driftwood. It was a fine summer scene.

I made myself comfortable on a beach towel and accepted the beer Jocky passed my way.

‘Just the two of you is it?’

‘Miaow.’

‘Sorry, just the three of you is it?’

‘No pal, Billy’s doon beh the water building a sand-Dens. He did a sand-Tannadice tae but eh flew high over it and shat on the bastards below, just like in the sang aboot United the Monkees wrote. The Monkees were Derry boys, a’body kens that.’

I shielded my eyes from the sun and looked towards the water’s edge. I saw the “sand-Dens” but there was no sign of my assistant manager. Jocky noticed he was gone too and sat forward on his deck chair. He pulled out a brightly coloured plastic telescope that must’ve been for a recommended age range of 3-7 and scanned the horizon.

‘Aw fur fuck sake….’

I stood up and strained my eyes as I tried to pick him out. Billy was several hundred feet out and waving frantically towards shore. Jocky was the first to react. He was up in a flash, ripping off his trackie bottoms as he went. Unfortunately he wasn’t wearing any swimming trunks, or indeed any form of underwear. He sprinted towards the water then stopped suddenly and turned back towards me.

‘Leigh, di’ yi’ mind Baywatch? Teckle documentary aboot Knight Rider’s summer joab when the talkin’ car went to Ayia Napa to work the bars fur three month? Check this oot!’

He started running in slow motion towards the water, turning back numerous times to make sure I was watching and getting the joke.

‘Thon burd wi’ the tits wiz in it tae! Big Jock’s no’ got any fun bags but the auld ba’ sack’s fair booncin’ aboot here!’

It was bouncing in some style. I shuddered then shouted for him to hurry up because Billy was in trouble.

He waved a dismissive hand at me for spoiling his fun and got in the water. He turned round to face me again and grabbed his cock, holding it at it’s base with his right hand. He started winding it up, swinging it round and round like a propeller. “The Helicopter”. As he built up some speed a passing middle-aged man walking his dog who was clearly and quite understandably horrified stopped to look on.

‘A’right pal? Braw day, eh?’

The man couldn’t muster a response.

‘Bonnie doag that. Cocker Spaniel, is it? Eh’ve got a Boaby Brannan. Lovely animal, but a wee bit temperamental.’

The man followed Jocky’s directional nod, saw Bob tied to the deck chair and suddenly screaming TROOSERS! repeatedly, and started backing away.

Jocky had worked up a spin so fast his cock was but a blur. He jogged backwards into deeper water. As soon as his cock was submerged he shot off like a speed boat, waving at me with his free hand as he went. He reached Billy in seconds flat, grabbed him with his free hand and turned back towards shore. He was back on the sand less than 30 seconds after he’d left it. Incredible.

He dropped a spluttering, slightly distressed but essentially perfectly healthy Billy down in the sand. He let go of his cock and stood hands-on-hips for a few seconds as it wound down from the spin and dangled low between his legs again. Billy sat up and started talking excitedly.

‘Billy saw a dolphin! Fish for tea! Klimpl sha…’

Jocky had kneeled next to him, leaned down and cut him short by administering the kiss of life.

‘Erm, I don’t think he needs that, boss. He’s conscious and actually talking to you.’

Jocky broke the kiss and looked up at me.

‘It’s nae bather, pal, he’ll regain consciousness in a minute. Knight Rider did the damage every time wi’ this move, there wiz nae fatalities on that cunt’s shift. Cunt saved lives while the motor went ti’ perties and shagged burds wha like R&B.’

‘Jocky! Billy saw a dolp…’

Jocky stopped him short again, sealing his lips over Billy’s and breathing air into him as the wee man’s arms and legs flailed around. When the seal was broken Billy started coughing and spluttering, probably more at Jocky’s beer breath than an intake of sea water.

‘There’s the boy! Y’a’right there, Billy? Thought yi’ were a goner there like! Ooft! What did eh tell yi’ aboot goin’ in the water? Eh?’

Billy thought about it for a second before responding, ‘dinnae fucking bather!’

‘Yas! That’s the gemme, pal. Mind it next time, cunto.’

Drama over, we returned to our spot further up the beach. I kept a watchful eye on Billy as he made a start on building sand replicas of the Hilltown Multis that overlooked Dens.

‘Leigh, wee question fur yi’, cunto: what are yir thoughts on mind-alterin’ hallucinogenic substances?”

‘Eh? Why do you ask?’ I enquired, puzzled.

Jocky shrugged nonchalantly.

‘Dinnae ken. Just askin’ like. Never drapped acid or that?’

I was baffled by this unusual line of questioning and explained that as a footballer from a young age I’d never been interested in drugs. A bevy on occasion, aye, fair enough, but nothing illegal. He seemed impressed, nodding and giving me a wee wink. He got out his seat and tended to the stovies, giving them a good stir with a big stick. He spent some time giving them great care and attention, occasionally making whispers of encouragement as they cooked. When he seemed satisfied that they were up to scratch he left them be and called on Billy.

‘Billy, ‘mon get yir cream on, pal.’

Billy bounded over, his smile as bright as the sun in the clear blue sky above. Jocky grabbed a bottle of suncream. Sitting back down on the edge of the deck chair he got Billy to kneel down in front of him and squeezed some into his cupped hands.

‘You dae yir airms and eh’ll dae yir back, wee aine. Cannae hae yi’ gettin’ a’ burnt now, can wi’? Chis’ll no’ be happy if yi’ go back redder than Alex Ferguson’s pus when eh telt him Posh Spice wiz replacin’ him on the Fairmuir dominoes team. Fuckin’ hates that lassie so he does. Cheeky cunt gave iz the hair straightener treatment ‘n’ a’hin’ when eh telt him. Fuckin’ toby.’

Billy stuck his tongue out a little as he concentrated on applying the cream evenly to his arms. Jocky shook the bottle, smiled and said, ‘this is a bit like when eh wiz up at Arbroath in the caravan wi’ Duffy’s missus! Eh’ll tak’ yi’ ti’ Pleasure Land a’right doll, it’s nae bather,’ as he squirted a load of white cream on Billy’s back and started rubbing it in with more tenderness than I cared for.

‘The Jon Bons are ready by the way, pal. Fire in. It’s Granny’s recipe wi’ a wee twist courtesy o’ the Jockster here. As Egon Ronay once says ti’ iz when he fired up fur a gemme o’ John Madden on the Megadrive, by Christ thon stovies are fuckin’ teckle! Ken they are, Egon. Ken they are.’

I dished out a big portion into one of the paper bowls Jocky had brought along, cracked open a Special and tucked in. They were teckle right enough. Very tasty. I finished them off in no time and went back for a second helping.

‘Are you lot not eating some? They’re really good. Compliments to the chef!’

Jocky grinned.

‘We ate before yi’ came doon, but you fire in likes. Enjoy, cunto!’

I ate another bowl and lay back, relaxing in the sun watching Billy work feverishly at his sandcastle. I thought I caught Jocky looking at me intently a couple of times, but when I glanced back at him he turned his head away.

‘What’s up, boss? Something on your mind?’

‘Big day the mo’rin’, pal. Eh’ve got meh tribunal, likes.’

Ah yes. Having been sacked by Dundee earlier in the year Jocky had lodged an unfair dismissal claim. It seemed he felt some conflict about it.

‘Bit o’ a weird aine, like. Big Jock should never huv got the bullet, yiz would be playin’ in the SPL the now if eh hudnae been punted. Didnae matter if Inverness were catchin’ up, eh hud plans ti’ send a squad car full o’ Fairmuir cunts up ti’ batter fuck oot Terry Butcher. Nae danger they’d maintain a title challenge if’ their boss wiz in a full-body cast covered in graffiti sayin’ WHA’S IN CHERGE HERE? DFC #1. Fuckin’ sure Chis wisnae up fur playing an attackin’ formation that aggressive. Hopeless cunt’s been playin’ you on the left weeng fur fuck sake.’

I had to give him that. I was no winger despite Gordon Chisholm’s insistence on playing me there at times.

‘Eh reckon eh wiz treated poorly. A’ cunt at the Fairmuir agrees. Even McLean! So eh took it ti’ tribunal. There’s no’ as much money in darts as eh expected, and bein’ your agent isnae exactly lettin’ iz buy the Tesco Finest corn beef.’

I started mumbling an apologetic explanation but he cut me off.

‘Shut yir pus, Leigh. Eh hate takin’ dough aff the Dee, fuckin’ right, but eh need a wee wedge ti’ tide iz over until either the pension comes in or Wullie Miller comes oot the closet and the bet eh put on in 1982 pays oot. ‘Mon ti’ fuck Wullie. A’body kens, be as well makin’ it official.’
Billy called on me.

‘Leigh! Billy found a jelly fish! Bring ice cream!’

Not wanting him to get stung trying to eat his discovery I jumped up and ran over shouting to leave it alone. Fortunately when I got there I saw it was just a used condom. I got him to drop it and buried it under a pile of sand with my feet. Billy insisted I stay and play with him, so I got down and helped. He’d done a remarkable job with it. Dens looked just like a football ground and he’d made a good start on the surrounding Hilltown.

After a while I felt a strange tingling feeling building up inside me. It started down in the pit of my stomach and seemed to spread slowly yet steadily through my body. I felt it filter through every inch of me. I stood up and took a breath. What the fuck? It was the oddest sensation. I looked over towards Jocky. He sat looking right at me, smiling and nodding like he knew something I didn’t. I tried to make sense of what was going on but came up blank. I looked down at the sandy Hilltown and had to rub my eyes when it seemed as if tiny little people were walking about in there. My eyes moved away from it and attempted to readjust. Wherever my eyes rested there was movement. The sand appeared almost alive. Shapes formed, swirled away then reformed. Everything in my field of vision began to shimmer and pulse.

I sat back down. Billy was looking at me, smiling curiously as he sensed something was amiss. He started talking and it sounded all garbled. It echoed around in my head making no sense. Trying to respond had the same effect. My mouth felt full of cotton wool. When he waved at me his hand left a trail in its wake. I waved my own hand in front of my face and it had the same effect. Objects in motion looked as if they were seeping some kind of energy which then rushed back in before it lost sight of it’s source.

I sat lost in my own head looking at the sand. It was a living, breathing entity. I ran my hand through it and watched a wake push out on either side of the line I made. The wake kept on moving, rippling across the whole beach. Amazi…

‘HIYA LEIGH, HIYA PAL!’

I nearly jumped out my skin. Jocky sat in the sand a few feet away with his megaphone raised to his mouth. Brannan and Billy sat quietly behind him.

‘HOW’S IT GOING THERE? Y’A’RIGHT AYE?’

He smiled knowingly, his kind eyes helping put me back at ease as my heart thundered in my chest. I went to speak but he hushed me.

‘DINNAE WO…’

He put the megaphone down and continued. He radiated good vibes and wisdom. He was a man in cherge. I knew that well enough but hadn’t quite appreciated the depth of it until now.

‘Dinnae worry, pal. Yi might be feelin’ a bit funny but it’s teek-a-fuckin’-leek, ken? It’s nae bather. Sometimes a man hus ti’ take a step ootside himself…..or mibbe a step inside himself…..ti’ find oot wha’ he is and whaur he’s goin’. Ken?
I nodded, both hearing and feeling what he was saying.

He got up and started heading back to his deck chair with Bob trailing behind on the end of the rope. Billy waited for a moment, looked right inside me with his smiling eyes then waved and skipped away after them.

I took a breath and lay back in the sand. The sky was electric. A spark fell away and spiralled elegantly down towards me. I closed my eyes and let the current flow through me.

——————————————-

When I opened my eyes again I was right there in the sand where I’d started. Not all journeys are physical adventures. Much of what I saw, most of what I felt, would make no sense if I tried to describe it. I couldn’t do it justice with mere man-made concepts like words.

While I’d seen things it takes the right kind of eyes to notice and felt all the more aware for it, some of the most vivid moments incorporated elements of my day-to-day normality and left me feeling deeply uneasy. I’d been in a high vantage point watching over Dens and watched as a darkness blew over it like a sandstorm. I’d seen Jocky fighting a hideous beast the likes of which I’d never encountered, and felt very afraid when I noticed a mysterious figure lurking in the background, watching him as if biding its time for the right time to strike. I’d heard a chorus of voices bid someone farewell with a war-time song, and as I joined in with the words I recognised – “we’ll meet again, don’t know when, don’t no where” – I’d looked across the room and made eye contact with…….myself. I noticed I was wearing a football strip. It wasn’t one which Dundee players wore.

I gazed out across the mouth of the Tay into darkness. I was definitely back. I had no idea what had happened, but there was absolutely no doubt something major had just taken place. It was an experience like no other. Though I’d never taken any and therefore couldn’t gauge it properly, I could only describe it as like being on mind-altering halluci……..

‘Hiya Leigh, hiya pal.’

I jumped and turned quickly. No-one was there. The beach was deserted.

‘Jocky?’

It was a hesitant response. The greeting was his but the voice, although similar, wasn’t. My eyes darted around looking for him. Nothing. Just Broughty Ferry beach in the middle of the night, a bloody incredible sand-built replica of Dens, the Hilltown and surrounding area…………

And Jocky the cat sitting in a mini deck chair next to it.

I stared hard at him. He just sat there looking right back at me. It couldn’t have been……

My vision started swirling, twinkling as it began to fade out. My legs turned to jelly and I felt myself tumble forward. My last thought before lights out was that I’d just ruined the best sandcastle ever.

——————————————

I sat on the kerb outside the building the tribunal was taking place gulping a bottle of water. I’d managed to dust myself down and get most of the sand I’d woken up covered in off. Waking up dazed and confused on Broughty Ferry beach may have been a rite of passage for youngsters who lived out that way but it wasn’t something I’d taken any pride in doing. The well-to-do elderly dog walker whose four-legged companion had woken me with an affectionate lick to the face was none too impressed either, and managed to rattle off quite a speech about “the youth of today” before I managed to get my bearings and make as hasty a departure as I could manage. Thankfully the team had a day off from training and I didn’t have to face the music at Dens, so I had taken a taxi into town and Jocky’s tribunal.

It turns out I didn’t have long to wait before he appeared. I checked my watch. It was still early. They must have sorted the matter out with less fuss than might have been expected. He stood holding court among a small pack of members of the press. He’d sharpened up for the occasion by wearing dress black trousers and a tie. He hadn’t bothered completing the outfit with a shirt, and the football boots didn’t exactly set off what he had managed to get on.

‘What paper are you fae, son? The Record? Train station’s that way, get ti’ fuck. You tae Sun-shine. Ooft! Wee joke for yi’ there! Now fuck off back ti’ Glesgae ya tabloid cunts. Big Jocky only speaks ti’ the Tully, the Courier and the Beano.’

He gave the reporters what they wanted and they dispersed. I whistled over at him and he came across to join me, the studs of his boots clicking on the concrete as he went.

‘You’re finished early. How did it go?’

He sat beside me on the kerb.

‘Started aff a’right. Eh stated meh case and telt them eh wanted £76m compo.’

I spluttered.

‘Whit? That’s outrageous!’

He looked genuinely hurt and replied, ‘fuck up ya cunt, Jocky’s worth millions! Think o’ a’ the dough eh’m losing on wages and image rights fur the ‘tache. Eh hud aboot £3m worth o’ 20p pieces stashed in Smarties tubes in the office! Cheeky wee bastard, dinnae “whit!” me!’

I shook my head but said no more.

‘Anyway, eh did meh bit. That wiz that, like. The gig wiz postponed ‘cause thon boy Melville didnae turn up.’

We both paused for a few moments to let that sink in. Without saying a word to each other we both agreed that Melville not showing up for such an event was troubling. As more time passed it grew increasingly so.

We decided to head up to the Fairmuir for breakfast. A lorne roll and a pint was in order. As we walked through the city centre Jocky asked if I had a good time at the beach. He apologised for leaving me but thought I looked like I was having a good time and left me to it. I couldn’t place a reason for the devilish glint in his eye so I ignored it and began pouring out details of my strange, incredible and slightly creepy experience from the previous night. He was most intrigued and highly concerned by some of my visions, particularly the one featuring Dens. I saw real fear in his eyes as he absorbed that bit.

I wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or not when he explained the bit about him fighting a hideously ugly beast may have been terrifying but was in fact just a chance meeting with an old acquaintance instead of a vision in my mind.

“Could nae believe meh luck when Davie fuckin’ Dodds went wanderin’ past. Eh says, “whaur’s meh fuckin’ ten-spot yi half-elephant bastard!” and gave the cunt a kicking. Took £10.50 aff him. That’s the tenner he wiz due and 50p Jocky tax. Teckle!’

I began pondering what had triggered the crazy things I’d seen. Jocky quickly offered his thoughts.

‘The Special must huv been aff, or the corn doag in the stovies. Mibbe the Geordie fella in the clouds decided yi’ needed ti’ see certain things. A wee bit o’ perspective, ken? Maist cunts either never see it or dinnae recognise it when they do. You took it in and’ll mak’ something o’ it. Mibbe it winnae be a dramatic cheenge, but yi’ll remember what yi’ saw and tak’ it forward.’

His voice trailed off to a barely audible mumble and he added, ‘or mibbe eh needed a guinea pig to try the mushies Bomber grew before the Fairmuir boys fire intae them….’

He jumped into the road waving an arm to hail a taxi before I could say I didn’t quite catch that last bit. We dived in and sat idle in the morning traffic. I decided to venture a couple of questions.

‘Boss, does Wee Jocky sleep in the house at night or does he go out?’

‘Wee Jocky likes his kip, pal. They’re no’ called cat naps fur nuthin’. Usually sleeps in the bunk bed in meh spare bedroom. He’s on the bottom, Soapy’s up on top. Suppose he does go oot sometimes, mibbe fur a scrap ootside the Vu or munchies fae the garage or something. Fuck knows. As lang as he minds ti’ tak’ his key eh could nae really gie a fuck.’

I hesitated for a moment and wondered if I really wanted to ask the next question.

‘Has he ever………has he ever talked to you?’

The look on his face confirmed I shouldn’t have asked in the first place. He shook his head, smiling, and patted me on the knee. Apparently I was “some fucking boy”, and “a massive spazzie”.

The mind-taxing events of the previous day and night sleeping rough had taken a toll. I felt washed out and jaded. Had I been my usual self and not slipped into a half-asleep daze as I peered out the taxi window I might have picked up on the phone call Jocky made – “Hiya Jum! Green fur go wi’ Bomber’s gear. The eagle has landed, and it thought meh cat wiz talkin’ ti’ him. Fuck aye. We are at DEFCON Teckle, repeat; we are at DEFCON Teckle. See yi’ efter pal!’ I might also have paid heed to the instinctive uneasy twinge poking at my gut a little bit more as a car with blacked out windows discreetly followed us all the way along our route.

By the time we’d reached the clubbie news and rumours about the tribunal and Melvilles’s no-show were already starting to fly around the city. News travels fast in Dundee, and rumours about the city’s football teams travels even faster.

It wouldn’t take long for the rumours to become ugly facts that would change everything.

Dark clouds were forming over the horizon. Soon they would roll in over Dens and unleash a storm the likes of which the weather-beaten club had never seen before.

Season 2, Chapter 2: Nae Boaby Does it Better

Darren Jackson had enjoyed a successful career as footballer. He’d spent time at both the Edinburgh clubs, Dundee United, Celtic, and had represented his country on 28 occasions. Most professional players in Scotland would give their right arm for the career Darren Jackson had. When his playing days came to a halt he became an agent, representing a number of Scottish players. Though they draw criticism and a great deal of disdain from many quarters within the game, agents are an intricate, and, perhaps unfortunately, necessary part of modern football.

Jackson received a cryptic message regarding one of the players he represented late one night. The communication requested his presence at a meeting that was of vital importance and worth a large sum of money for the player. Large sums of money for players mean a cut for the agent. With pound signs flashing in his head Jackson didn’t think twice about agreeing to attend the meeting.

He arrived in Dundee by train the following day and took a taxi to the given address in Broughty Ferry. He strolled up the garden path of an impressive detached home, noting an unusual looking tree as he went. The front door was slightly ajar. He knocked, and when no response was forthcoming he put his head through and called out a greeting. Nothing. Slightly sheepishly he entered and walked to the living room. Though no-one appeared to be home he found a cat sitting by a Connect 4 board. The cat had a black moustache that contrasted it’s pure white fur. How very odd. He called out again, wondering where the person he was meant to be meeting could possibly be.

‘Miaow’

Jackson smiled. It was almost as if the cat had answered him. It was certainly looking his way, and rather intently at that. ‘Nice pussy cat’, he said absentmindedly as he looked around the room. Just as the stuffed bear in the corner started to strike him as incredibly bizarre the cat stood up on it’s back legs, picked up one of the Connect 4 discs and slotted it into the board. Jackson stared hard at the cat. Cats don’t stand on their hind legs like that. Cats don’t know how to play Connect 4.

Jackson laughed nervously. A cold, creepy sensation started to creep through him like a sharp frost setting on a winter morning.

‘Miaow’

He continued staring at the cat. The feline’s dark glare was unflinching. As he picked up a a different coloured disc to that which the cat had played he heard a distant voice inside his head screaming in protest. The urge to take flight flooded him, yet he couldn’t prevent his hand moving towards the board. The cry from his mind was silenced the instant he dropped the disc through the narrow slot at it’s summit. As it fell into place a wicked grin spread across the cat’s moustachioed face, and Darren Jackson felt the ice cold grip of terror clutch his very soul.

———————————

The first day of the season came at last. I had a spring in my step as I headed towards Dens, eager for the next few hours to pass so the opening game against Queen of the South could get underway. Traffic on the Kingsway was at a virtual standstill, allowing me to snake between the static vehicles to the other side without having to dice with death on the busy dual carriageway which carved through the length of the city. The road was choked all the way up to Clepington Road. Horns beeped impatiently and a few drivers had stepped out their vehicles to try and gauge what was going on up ahead that was causing the hold up. It was unusual for traffic to be gridlocked to this extent in Dundee. There must’ve been an accident.

As I approached what seemed to be the spot the incident had taken place the cacophony of car horns seemed to gather together and find a harmonic plateau. I slowed my pace down a few notches, letting my ear tune into the traffic jam’s seemingly-orchestrated blare. The music that filled the air toyed with my sense of recognition for a few moments before hitting home. Les Marseillaise. Straight away I realised what, or rather who, was holding up traffic.

Mikael Antoine Curier lay in the middle of the Clepington Road. He had stretched out across the central dividing line so that nothing could pass in any direction. While a small band of baffled, irate commuters formed a broken circle around him to offer curiosity-tinged abuse, Mikael lay on his back puffing lazily on a cigarette without a care in the world. As I looked on from the fringes he seemed to sense my presence. He noticed me, smiled and made a “come hither” motion. I broke through the crowd and self-consciously got down on one knee beside him. He spoke with a casual indifference to the chaos he was causing.

‘Bonjour Leigh. Ca va?’

He puffed on his fag and blew a series of smoke rings out above him. I could’ve sworn they merged together to form the shape of the Eiffel Tower for the briefest of moments before dispersing.

‘Aye, not bad, Mikael….’

He looked at me with the gentle disapproval a parent or teacher might give a child capable of providing a better response to the question they’d just been asked.

I realised what he was getting at and rephrased my answer.

‘Um…..oui, bien merci. Erm……est tu?’

He shrugged nonchalantly.

‘Comme si, comme ca.’

He took a long drag of his cigarette and blew out a cloud of smoke that seemed to take the shape of David Ginola washing his hair before evaporating.

‘Mikael, what the hell are you doing? You’re causing a massive bloody traffic jam!’

He guffawed.

‘Leigh my friend, you think zis minor hold up is un faire du trafic l’embouteillage?’

He repeated the guffaw.

‘You have much to learn about French culture, Leigh. Much to learn. A traffic jam, indeed. Zut alors! You know nothing about causing massive disturbances on the road, mon ami. Nothing!’

The chorus of car horns emanating from the immediate vicinity had returned to sounding like the less melodic result of lots of pissed off motorists trying to get somewhere in vain. I looked around nervously before trying to get answers out of Mikael.

‘Why are you lying here like this, mate? What the fuck are you playing it?’

He gave me a perplexed look that suggested I shouldn’t even have to ask.

‘What am I doing? What does it look like you fils d’un âne! I am on strike. Why? No reason. Maybe mon croissant was a little bit stale this morning. Maybe I lost my copy of ze Serge Gainsbourg album where Parisian-flavoured jazz provides a backdrop for the sound of a man making love to a goat while berating it for being a lousy fuck . Who knows? One thing is for sure: I am on strike.’

‘You can’t just lie here, man. Come with me to Dens, we’ve got a game today!’

He spat wildly.

‘A game? My knee is……..how do you say……..pure buckled, man! I was injured in a bizarre accident. You would not believe me even if I told you and swore on the life of le saint de patron de la France, Asterix ze Gaul, that it was ze truth.’

I remembered him limping away from the Fairmuir in the aftermath of the fight with Jocky. Not many players can say they got hurt during a wrestling match in a working man’s club car park when the assistant manager of the team threw them off the top rope while dressed as Macho Man Randy Savage. That’s bizarre by any standards.

There would be no budging him from his prone position in the middle of the street. I got back up to my feet and wished him all the best. As I walked off he shouted, ‘au revoir, mon ami! One day Billy Reid will save me from zis existential Dundonian ‘ell and take me to ze Accies on a full time basis! I will recommend he saves your soul too! En guarde!’

I cut off the Cleppy Road away from the strike-induced disorder and breathed a sign of relief as the shadow of Dens Park fell upon me.

——————————

45 minutes after the game I was showered, changed and on the way down the Provest Road. We’d earned a hard fought three points. A Gary Harkins free kick gave us a lead that had been defended in spite of Queens winning a penalty and the ref reducing us to nine men towards the end. Off-field highlights included Jocky turning up in the Derry with a ‘CHISHOLM OUT’ banner and being ejected from the ground for hurling a half-full can of Special at the linesman who made the ridiculous call that saw Netan Sansara receive his marching orders. He’d used his ball boy contacts to get word to me that I should meet him in the play park after the game.

As I turned right on to Dens Road and walked up towards the Coldside roundabout a flaming 22 bus rocketed past in the other direction. Shocked, I stopped and watched it fly down past Dens like something from Hell’s park ‘n’ ride scheme before warily continuing up the road to the play park, where I saw Mikey the Hilltown Hun with a crate full of empty milk bottles and a canister of what I assumed to be petrol.

Jocky was flying high on the swings, working up as much momentum as possible then launching himself through the air, landing and tumbling forward about 10 feet from where he’d hit the ground. As he got up and dusted himself off he noticed that I’d joined him.

‘Hiya pal! Did yi’ see that? By Christ, few things in life are as teckle as flingin’ yirsel’ aff the sweengs!’

Slightly concerned by a man his age pulling stunts most folk leave behind before they hit puberty, I ventured, ‘you’ll end up hurting yourself, boss. That looked sore when you landed.’

Looking at me with the contempt only kids can muster for adults who simply do not get it he replied, ‘fuck up, ya daft cunt! Yi’ cannae hurt yirsel’ in the play park these days. Technological advancements, like.’

He was referring to the soft surface that surrounded the swings and all the other features of the play park. He started walking in slow motion with an exaggerated, bouncing stride in the style of an astronaut strolling along a lunar surface.

‘Check oot this rubber stuff eh’m walkin’ on! It’s pure space age! That Buzz Aldrin cunt invented it efter he came aff the see-saw and broke his ribs. Eh says, “fuck sake, Buzz! Careful, cunto!” and hud ti’ tak’ the boy hame. Thankfully he’d moved fae the moon ti’ the Provie Road by that point and didnae hae ti’ go too far. C’mere, eh’ll show yi’, Leigh’

He motioned for me to approach him. Apprehensive at where this was going I hesitated.

‘It’s a’right pal! What di’ yi’ think eh’m gonnae dae, suplex yi’? Dinnae be daft! ‘Mon now…’

I walked up to him and was immediately given a boot in the stomach. I bent over double, winded.

‘Big Jock wi’ the double-cross! Yas!’

He hooked my arm around the back of his neck and locked my head in his left arm. Taking a handful of my tracksuit bottoms he used unnatural strength for a man his age to lever me up and hold me suspended upside down with my legs sticking straight up in the air and my head pointing towards the ground.

‘Suplex right enough, cunto! See what eh did there? Telt yi’ eh widnae dae it then went ‘n’ did it anyway! Ooft!’

I was in a precarious position. With a fair degree of panic in my voice I told him to put me down. Preferably gently.

‘It’s nae bather, Leigh. Eh’m aboot ti’ demonstrate the remarkable progress that’s been made in play park safety fea….’

He was cut off by the sound of his mobile going off in his pocket. Single Ladies by Beyonce provided the ringtone.

‘Fuck sake, there’s the auld Al Capone goin’ aff.’

Realising he had his hands full and couldn’t answer it he called out, ‘Mikey! ‘Mon answer the phone fur iz, it’s probably Bomber!’

Mikey abandoned the Molotov cocktail he was preparing and ran over.

‘That’s the gemme pal, dig it oot and put it ti’ meh lug.’

Mikey fished the ringing phone out Jocky’s pocket. Jocky sang along, ‘if yi’ liked it then yi’ should o’ put a ring on it, dinnae be mad because yi’ didnae put a ring on it…’ then started shouting into his mobile as soon as Mikey flipped it open and held it up to his ear.

‘Bomber? A’right, big aine. Cheers fur gettin’ back ti’ iz.’

The blood was rushing to my head and I was starting to feel a bit woozy. Jocky seemed to have forgotten he had me held midway through a suplex and chatted away to John “Bomber” Brown.

‘…..aye, teckle mate, cannae complain like……just hingin’ aboot the play park wi’ a couple o’ mates……..aye, it wiz a good result the day…….eh, eh wiz there, ended up gettin’ turfed oot though………apparently yi’ cannae chuck stuff at the match officials these days………..ken, changed days like……..mind that time eh threw a frozen chicken at Davie Syme at Easter Road? Nae cunt batted an eyelid…..’

As spots filled my vision Mikey seemed to hurry him along with a “get on with it” gesture.

“Anyway Bomber, any joy wi’ the ectos?……….aye……….teckle mate, nae bather…….cheery!’

Mikey asked if he was sorted, to which Jocky gave a positive response and told him to head to the Bowbridge to meet Bomber, who was apparently dealing drugs these days. He disappeared and left Jocky to it.

There was silence for several seconds. As my vision went dark and I started to pass out I heard him mumble to himself, ‘sakes man, whaur the fuck’s mongchops? Cunt’s later than aine o’ Dave Bowman’s tackles.’

I barely managed a groan as I tried to catch his attention. He actually seemed startled by the fact he was holding me upside down above his head.

‘Fuck, there yi’ are there pal! Forgot a’ aboot yi’! Whaur were wi’ now? Oh eh! Yi’ cannae hurt yersel’ on the saft stuff at the play park! Check this oot…’

Finally, mercifully, he completed the suplex. I crashed down to earth on my back. My head was swimming so much I couldn’t really tell if my landing was any softer that it would’ve been on a regular surface. I lay dazed as my blood re-routed itself.

‘See what eh mean, pal? It’s nae bather! Yi’ arenae even hurt!’

I was too stunned to beg to differ.

‘Tell yi’ what will hurt: Billy’s Flying Elbow!’

Survival instinct jump-started me back to life. I quickly rolled away from danger then looked up and around…..but here was no sign of Billy.

‘YAAAAAAAS! Ya cunt, that wiz a good aine! Jocky’s just kiddin’ yi’ on, pal. Billy could nae come oot ti’ play, he’s awa’ ti’ see the Singing Kettle at the Whitehall Theatre. Anyhow, enough fuckin’ aboot; ‘mon we’ll go see BOOOOOOABY BRAAAAANAN. Yi’ ken Boaby – baldy cunt wi’ nae troosers wha hears voices.’

As my head cleared sufficiently to get up I wondered just how Bob was feeling after the strange and terrifying events of the summer. The last time I’d seen him he’d been running down the street screaming without any trousers on. Hearing voices from above wasn’t really something that could be easily reconciled in your head. I followed Jocky over the railings and walked towards Dens.

——————-

A few stragglers from the game were still milling around as we passed the Bobby Cox. A man with his young, Dundee-top-clad daughter politely asked if it was ok to get a photo taken with me. I happily agreed and kneeled down with my arm around the wee lass, smiling for her Dad’s camera. Jocky stood by his side waving at the wee girl with a big, friendly smile on his face.

‘Di’ yi’ like Leigh, wee aine? Leigh’s pure teckle! One o’ meh top three Dundee boys o’ a’ time. The other twa are Tommy Coyne, wha wiz known as the Cobra due ti’ the fact his cock used ti’ jump up and dance whenever Keith Wright played that penny whistle o’ his; and Alan Gilzean, wha introduced a young Jocky ti’ the liquid teckle that is Tartan Special. Bless yir soul, Gillie, ya mad ken-the-boy-fae-Saint & Greavsie vagina.’

The reception and office staff greeted Jocky warmly. After a round of hugs and good wishes he asked if Bob Brannan was available. The silence and concerned looks on their faces immediately told me that I had been right to wonder about Brannan’s well being in the aftermath of hearing the madcap voice from the heavens.

‘Bob’s been a bit……..well, he’s not quite been himself of late…….’, stumbled the receptionist as she tried to find diplomatic words.

‘What’s up wi’ the baldy cunt? Dinnae tell iz he’s got HIV again. Eh fuckin’ telt him ti’ stay awa’ fae that Magic Johnston, but would he listen? Would he fuck. Sakes, Boaby.’

The receptionist looked rather confused before explaining Brannan seemed to be spending a lot of time in the retail park on Dock Street. We thanked her, waved goodbye to the office staff and headed back out onto the street.

We jumped in a taxi. By the time we reached our destination Jocky had ascertained that the driver wasn’t busy as such but business remained steady, that he planned on working until about 11pm, and, like most people, was completely unaware that Jim McLean had converted to Islam in support of Cat Stevens and his autobiography had been tentatively titled Jihading With Giants until the publisher decided to focus on his penchant for riding around on horseback with a big stick and call it Jousting With Giants instead.

A lot of people were milling around the car park laden with shopping bags from Next, TK Maxx and Borders, but there was no sign of Bob Bra…

Wait a minute. TK Maxx.

‘I think I know where he is, boss.’

‘Eh’m thinkin’ the same thing, pal. Cunt’s bound ti’ be in Brantano snapping up a’ the cheap shoes. Boaby’s got mair pairs o’ shoes than Imelda Marcos. Eh’ve actually got a theory aboot Boaby and Imelda. Think ti’ yirsel’, “huv eh ever seen they twa in the same room?” Ken what eh’m sayin’, like? Anyway, Brantano, cunto.’

‘I was thinking more along the lines of TK Maxx…..’

It took a full five minutes for me to explain why this seemed like the obvious spot. Jocky’s lack of memory and capacity to say “wha?” and “eh?” repeatedly knew no bounds. He eventually got up to speed and complemented me on my powers of deduction.

‘If a’bodies favourite detective, Tosh fae The Bill, wiz here he’d say the same as eh’m aboot ti’ say, pal: good thinkin’, cunto. Also, did yi’ here aboot Burnside shagging June at the weekend? Fucking kent she wiz gemme for a length. Boy says she wiz wild tae, licked his farter and a’hing. Fuck sake, June.’

Jocky and I walked into the shop and scanned the vast retail floor. We couldn’t pinpoint him. Jocky called over a young shop assistant and unfolded a piece of paper that he had in the pocket of his trackie bottoms. He showed it to the guy and asked if there had been any sightings of the man in the shop recently. I was impressed with Jocky’s investigative foresight until I realised it was a photo of Davie Dodds.

‘Cunto there owes Jocky a tenner. If yi’ see him aboot eh want yi’ ti’ phone iz immediately. Meh number’s in the Yella Pages under “In Cherge” and also “Get Them Telt”. If he looks like he’s awa’ tae bail oot before eh arrive he’s easily distracted wi’ a big bag o’ peanuts. Boy’s half-elephant, like. His mither went a bit doolally once at the circus when it came ti’ Cairdie. Crazy scenes.’

Jocky ruffled the boy’s hair, turned to me and said, ‘right pal, Boaby’s in here somewhaur. Let’s split up. You look aroond the wee ski-wear section that shows a monumental misunderstandin’ o’ the Dundonian public’s need fur winter sports gear and eh’ll scope oot the bogs and checkoot. A’ cunt needs a pish sometimes, even Boaby, and the checkoot bit in here’s got a range o’ impulse-buy shite that’s beyond belief. Brannan’s fond o’ Russian chocolate shaped like Stalin’s heid and talking book versions o’ Nietzsche as read by Barry White, mibbe he’s floating aboot there somewhaur.’

We went our separate ways. While there was no sign of the club chairman I did spot Jocky admiring a pair of trackie bottoms then rolling them up and stuffing them down the pair he was already wearing. I continued the search without success until a voice came over the PA system.

‘Check one-two, this is a customer service announcement, would Leigh Griffiths please report to the service desk. Over.’

Was that Jocky? A member of staff certainly wouldn’t say “check one-two” or “over”. The PA announcement continued.

‘Has any cunt seen Davie Dodds? The Elephant Man, likes. Boy owes iz a ten-spot. Eh says ti Davie, “mind and gies that back now, ya trunk-for-a-nose Arab bastard,” but there’s been nae sign o’ him since. Sakes. Anyway, Leigh Griffiths to the service desk please, that’s Leigh Griffiths to the service desk. Over.’

It was definitely Jocky. I wandered across the store to meet him. As I approached he nodded silently towards the queue at the checkout.

Bob Brannan was in a bad, bad way. Much worse than I’d anticipated. He looked like a man who had not only looked into the abyss, but had taken a running jump at it, went for a bit of a swim and accidentally swallowed a turd curled out into the murky depths by Satan himself. Bob Brannan had lost the plot big-style.

He’d taken Jocky’s Godly advice and put a pair of trousers on. They were made of tinfoil. As was the rest of his outfit. Obviously fearing the Voice from above and the dangerous mind-invading signals it sent out, he’d wrapped himself almost entirely in aluminium foil by means of protecting himself. It was like a budget suit of armour. Only his face was visible. In front of him sat a trolley full of more conventional trousers. Combats, jeans, slacks, tracksuit, and chalking one up for the bright spark who saw Dundee as a mecca of winter sports, ski pants. The trolley was heaped full of them.

‘Boaby’s looking well,’ commented Jocky. I looked at him like he was nuts but he gave me a wee nudge and chuckled. ‘Just kidding pal, he looks like he’s gone bat-shit insane.’ He seemed to ponder that thought for a moment before smiling and saying, ‘fucking yaaaaaas!’

Brannan was now at the checkout, putting the assistant through the rigorous process of scanning at least 60 pairs of trousers. Jocky decided we’d meet him when he came out to the car park. We left the store and waited for several minutes until Brannan came out pushing his trolley full of now-bagged trousers. As soon as he stepped into daylight he dropped to his knees and threw his hands up to the sky.

‘I HAVE DONE THY BIDDING, MASTER! I HAVE TROUSERS APLENTY!’

Good grief.

He got back up and started pulling trousers out, waving them at the sky and darting his head around as if the Voice was playing hide and seek behind a cloud somewhere. I looked on with genuine sadness. Brannan had done enough during the course of last season to warrant ill-feeling from me yet somehow I felt sorry for him. He’d flipped his lid.

Jocky didn’t share my pity. The increasingly difficult ability to maintain his composure reminded me of watching an old school pal who’d drawn a massive cock and balls half way through a flip chart and knew it was drawing ever-closer to being displayed to the teacher and class. The mirth bubbled to boiling point then erupted.

‘Oh ya cunt! Check the nick o’ Boaby! Yaaaaaaaaaas!!! By Christ, this is as funny as fuck!’

He was ending himself, doubled over and holding on to his sides for fear they might split.

‘Come on boss, this isn’t funny. It’s a bloody shame,’

My empathy for Brannan’s state didn’t wash with Jocky.

‘Listen tae you ya cunt! Is it a wee shame for Boaby, pal? Is it? Poor wee Boaby, eh’m affy concerned aboot him tae………..FUCK UP, LEIGH! Cunt’s went and wrapped himself in tinfoil fur fuck sake! This is the funniest thing that’s happened tae a Dundee suit since Jimmy Marr got his heid stuck in thon railings and Peter cherged cunts a pound a go ti’ gie him a kick up the erse!’

I realised people were stopping to gawk at Brannan. This was not a good scene to play out in public. This was not a good time for Dundee United chairman Steven Thompson to walk past. Fuck.

He looked on with a mixture of disbelief, horror and amusement at the nick of Dundee’s chairman. This did not look good for our club image. Thompson was clearly thinking along the same lines. Oh how the city rivals had fallen. He couldn’t contain a contempt-ridden grin.

While it was well within the boundary of acceptability for Jocky to have his fun with Brannan, it did not stretch much further, especially not to Arabs. Jocky spotted Thompson and the switch inside him flicked to Dundee Til I Die mode. He straightened up and his demeanor quickly changed.

‘What the fuck are you lookin’ at, speccy? Eh?’

Thompson raised his hands as if to say, ‘nothing,’ but the smile on his face remained.

‘Question fur yi’, inherited-a-futba-team cunto: wha’s in fucking cherge here?’

The smile dropped off Thompson’s face. Jocky’s pretty menacing when he gets wound up. He’s a hard man. Thompson sensed it and started walking off.

‘You ken the score, spectacles. Big Jock’s in cherge here, a’body kens that. Boaby here’s haein’ a bit o’ a daft moment but that’s a’right! He’s still a Dee, and nae cunt, especially cunts fae the tangerine mong squad wha bide at the dingy end o’ the street, mess wi’ the Dee when eh’m aboot.’

As Thompson increased his pace to get away from him, Jocky gave him a final salvo.

‘Tell yi’ what son, yir faither will be rolling in his grave at what you’ve done ti’ his team. Third in the league? Qualifying fur Europe? Winning the Scottish Cup? Be as well diggin’ the poor cunt up, feeding Lee Wilkie his bones and lettin’ a’ cunt hae a turn pretending they’re the Undertaker in his coffin. You’re a disgrace ti’ the family name ya speccy fuck!’

Jocky dropped to the tarmac and did a rapid 10 press-ups before jumping up and doing a bit of shadow boxing. His routine was interrupted by Brannan starting to howl like a dog in heat as he took a match to the trolley filled with trousers in some kind of sacrifice offering to the Voice.

Jocky slumped a little as he realised Bob was going to have to be dealt with. As funny as he’d found it at first, and as much as Brannan had been an enemy in the past, Jocky wasn’t one for leaving his people behind. He put an arm round his shoulder and told him it was time to go. Brannan seemed to grasp it and allowed himself to be lead away as Jocky told the crowd who’d stopped to stare, ‘nothing tae see here, folks. It’s just Dundee’s chairman wrapped in tinfoil, burnin’ troosers fur God. We’ve a’ been there. Any cunt tells the Courier or the Tully aboot this and yi’ll hae the Young Leith Team ti’ deal wi’, eh Leigh?’

I gave him a “what the fuck?” look then dutifully mumbled in agreement. I put my arm round Bob’s other shoulder to complete the show of solidarity. Jocky and I held our heads up high as we walked through the crowd of bemused shoppers and piled into the next available taxi.

The driver stared at Bob and asked Jocky, who had claimed “shotgun” and taken the passenger seat up front, why his pal was wrapped in tinfoil.

‘He’s no’ really meh pal, chief, he’s just….’

Jocky faltered as he responded. He turned in his seat and stared hard at Bob. I saw the tightening of his jaw, then the softening of his eyes and the slightest of nods as a decision was made in his own head. Turning back to the taxi driver he changed tact.

‘Yi’re right enough, big aine. That’s meh pal. Boaby’s a good cunt. Dundee man, and a’body kens the Dees are sound as fuck. Isn’t that right, Boaby?’

Brannan lurched forward and whispered, ‘there’s some bargains ti’ be had in that shop like, but yi’ need the patience ti’ wade through it a”

Jocky nodded in agreement, ‘right enough, Boaby, right enough. Drehvur – Fairmuir, cunto!’

As we snaked through traffic a news report on the radio announced that concern was growing over the whereabouts of former footballer Darren Jackson. I sat up and asked the driver to turn up the volume. The news reader said Darren, my agent, had last been seen departing Dundee train station a few days ago and had not been since.

‘That’s a bit weird, eh? I wonder what Darren was doing up in Dundee?’

Jocky shrugged his shoulders.

‘Mibbe he wanted ti’ see one o’ the city’s many tourist attractions, like the Discovery, or Oor Wullie’s hoose.’

I sat back and thought about it. Jocky half-turned his head towards me, nodded sagely, then started whistling Single Ladies to himself. It didn’t take Tosh from The Bill to see he was acting in an ever-so-slightly suspicious manner. I gave it a few more seconds thought. Oh man……

The driver was busy talking to control on the taxi’s radio, so I leaned forward and spoke quietly in Jocky’s ear.

‘Boss…..what happened to Darren?’

‘Wha?’

‘Darren Jackson, my agent who’s just been reported missing on the radio.’

‘Wha?’

‘Don’t give me the “wha?” routine. What’s the score here?’

Jocky smiled.

‘Well, the thing is pal, eh wiz efter a joab during the summer. Eh wiz offered the Celtic gig, and as much as it would’ve been as funny as fuck tae accept it and hae a teckle laugh wi’ the Big Jocky Knew angle, there’s nae danger eh wiz takin’ cherge o’ those pricks. The boy wha did the interview had Bobby Sands commemorative dinner plates hingin’ on the wa’ in his office fur fuck sake.’

That all-too-familiar mischievous glint came to his eye.

‘Darren Jackson came ti’ meh hoose the other day. Just so happens the cunt fancied a gemme o’ Connect 4.’

Good grief.

‘Well………yi’ ken whaur it goes fae there……..’

Oh man. Poor Darren. Jocky turned to me, smiling.

‘Meet yer new agent, Leigh. The name’s Jocky. Big Jocky. Eh like meh Special shaken, not stirred. In fact, dinnae even bather shaking it. Just put it in a pint gless and gies it, cunto. That’s the gemme.’

I sank back in my seat as Jocky engaged Brannan.

‘What di’ yi’ say ti’ that, Miss Boabypenny? 00Jocky’s in the hoose! GOLD-FINNNNGA! Phwew-wheeeeh-weh! Oh ya cunt! Wha’s in fucking cherge here, Boabypenny?’

Brannan rolled down his window, leaned out and bellowed, ‘WHAUR’S THE FUCKING TIPPEX?’ at no-one in particular. Jocky told him it was a good question and followed suite from his own window.

As they scared pedestrians and the driver witless I took stock for a moment. The first day of the season was over. It had been eventful. As my new agent started singing, ‘nae Boaby doooooooes it better! Mak’s iz feel sad fur the rest….’, I got the distinct feeling it wouldn’t be the last eventful day the 2010/11 season would bring.