Modern Men

If looks could have killed then his brains would have been splattered across the window a long time back. The nerve of this man made my blood boil and shot darts of acrid spite through my veins. I found my sense of danger vanish as I fixedly stared at him without fear. He was sitting in front of me so there was little chance of him noticing my hateful gaze. Even if he did see me, he couldn’t have done anything; there were too many people around. Visions of him squaring up to me and yelling, my normal defence mechanism, failed and simply fuelled my adrenaline causing me to grimace further into the back of his scrawny head. I found myself, almost totally against my will, begin to shift. Was I about to say or even do something?

The more I watched this vile little creature, the more I fidgeted. I listened to him brag about his most recent spat of robberies and I saw him, on more than one occasion, aggressively shut his haggard and prematurely aged girlfriend up with less than desirable language. What really got me though, what made me curl my toes in anger and grind my teeth with disgust was that all the time this was going, on a poor, hideously malnourished, shaven headed child with a stud in his ear sat by. He was very pale and very thin. He was clothed, like his father, in a dirty tracksuit and he simply gazed at the floor trying not to catch the eye of either of his parents. To me he looked scared. I sat and considered the poor child’s life. His reality to me was so tragic; he painted a perfect picture of the twenty first century’s ‘benefits’ society. An unloved meal ticket.

The bus chugged on, as did the man’s despicable behaviour; he had taken out a can of Special Brew from his pocket and, amongst his aggressive sneers at his family, he swigged it down. As his poison began to take effect he started heckling the bus driver. He had no regard for the fact it was only three o’clock and the bus was full. He wasn’t getting home quick enough and it was clearly the fault of the bus driver’s nationality. He had one of those terrible croaky, slow, drawling voices, which sneers even when sincerity is intended. Although I hadn’t caught a glimpse of his face I already knew he would have the look of gutter rat. I’ve seen his type before. It was probably him who broke in to my car, and it was probably him who beat and mugged my poor nephew.

He had only been on the bus for fifteen minutes but he was already downing his second can of strong lager. He was on the phone to someone discussing how they were going to get ‘fucked up’ that night. I took that phrase to mean drunk or worse – drugs. This led me to envisage the cesspit they existed in; crushed beer cans, used syringes, full ashtrays. I looked again at the poor child who seemed to be getting more afraid of his now tipsy father. I sighed loudly and tutted, almost hoping that the filthy urchin would hear and look round. I thought of all the tax I had paid over my life and my anger began to boil up even more as I thought of him spending it on drugs and alcohol.

Crisis point soon came. I was a couple of stops away from my house. I never say or do anything; I avoid confrontation like the plague, yet there was something desperately wrong with this situation. I had to say something. I convinced myself, amidst all his swearing and yelling, that if I couldn’t confront this man, society was doomed. If my father had been alive he would have had no problem putting this being in his place. Each and every hideous noise he made convinced me that I must say something. I planned my move. I couldn’t just mutter something; that would be foolish and would probably have no effect. I needed to make a bold statement to everyone on that busy bus. I needed to let them know that society isn’t dead, that some people still know the difference between right and wrong. I didn’t want it to be one of the situations where you think of a thousand smart and cutting things to say after the event, yet get it hopelessly wrong at the time. I needed to make a point, and be remembered for doing the right thing.

I was excited, yet nervous, maybe it might start some kind of revolution; people may follow my example and start speaking out when something is wrong. That’s how revolutions happen you know; one person is brave enough to say or do something, then other people try to imitate you, then all of a sudden everyone is on board. I tried to think of the right thing to say. I didn’t want to come across as judgemental, and I didn’t want to use words he may not understand; that would dilute my confrontation. It needed to be to the point and cutting. I decided to avoid insults. Focusing in on the Childs well being was probably my best route. I nervously considered all the potential things I could say until I had it. It was perfect. I would inform the man that his behaviour was disgraceful and that people like him are responsible for the disintegration of society. I would look at the child, then at the mother and then say how I weep for the poor boys future. I would then walk off the bus with my head held high, and the scent of revolution in the air.

The bus slowed as it approached the traffic lights just before my stop; I almost lost my nerve until he shouted at his girlfriend to ‘fucking shut up’. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I resolutely stood and briskly made my way down the central isle. The bus slowed and I found myself staring into one of the scariest faces I have ever seen. He had a large black eye, a shaven head, several of his teeth were missing and he had an enormous scar that ran down the side of his face. He stunk of alcohol and smoke. He turned to me and caught my stare. The bus stopped and the door opened.

“Granddad. What the fuck are you staring at? Got some kind of problem?!”

I tried to catch my voice, yet I couldn’t, I simply croaked,

‘No, no, I’m just getting off the bus”.

By David Gracey

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