For a long time, I’ve had this mental block which brings me to a creative halt when I have outstanding projects to finish. These can be small (like critiques on stories posted on the ERWA Storytime email list), or huge, like editing projects. Until I’d cleared the decks, I felt like I was writing furtively, or doing things that weren’t work. I might as well have held up a sign saying “Writer’s Block, come and settle here!”
I’m learning to dedicate time in the day for my own writing now, whatever may be going on in the background. Even if it’s half an hour when I’ve finished working, it’s still half an hour more than I’d achieve otherwise. I keep telling myself to just write and worry about editing later. I’ve also learned to write as scenes occur to me, and stop obsessing over linear perfection and cohesion. I need to make notes about the things that need to be adjusted further down the line for consistency, and just flipping well get on with things.
So, this is me getting on with things; the following excerpt is from “Biding his Time”, the third tale in the ‘Brotherhood of Bouncers’ series, which opened with the short story “Single Syllable Steve”. Colin features in SSS only off-screen as the bouncer whose paternity cover the eponymous Steve was covering when he met nightclub accountant Celeste.
Colin pulled across The Strand into William IV Street, struggling to keep track of the pedestrians swanning across the road from all angles while Leon reeled out an endless to-do list from the comfort of the passenger seat. His soft, Aruban accent was usually soothing, but it was becoming a dangerous distraction to the business of surviving West End traffic.
“The Hippodrome’s doing a costume night on the sixteenth, but it’s a pub-hours event only. We’ll want to soak up some of their after-party crowd, so you’ll need Aaron on the door to sift out the—WOAH!”
Colin slammed the brakes before hitting a hipster with headphones larger than Leia’s side buns and no sense of self-preservation. The guy glared at Colin and flipped him the bird.
“Christ, Col. Too close, man.”
“Well if you’d let me focus on the road—”
“It’s a long day ahead,” Leon said. “We need a head start.”
Colin took a deep breath, his hands still shaking. “I appreciate that, but it’s turning into a bit of a memory test. We’re two minutes from the club. Can’t it wait?”
Leon put his mobile away with a heavy sigh. “Fine, I’ll go through the whole thing for you all over again, even though life is short.”
“You’re all heart.”
“But we do need to discuss the Jemima situation before we arrive.”
Colin whined inwardly as he merged into the traffic at the Trafalgar end of Charing Cross Road. He’d vouched for Jem partly because of her four years’ experience managing club bars in Amsterdam and London, but mostly to get his brother-in-law off his back. One of Richard’s business school protegées, Jemima seemed to have absorbed some of her mentor’s megalomaniac tendencies. ‘Bossy mare’ and ‘uptight cow’ were just a couple of the names the barmen had bandied around on the quiet. It wasn’t entirely fair, but she didn’t make things easy for herself, either.
Leon slipped his mobile into his jacket pocket and sighed. “I don’t think she’s settling in well.”
“Right. Has she complained to you, or—?”
“Don’t play innocent, Col. She’s said nothing. As you’re well aware, she’s widely disliked. It’s hard not to notice her inability to blend in.”
Colin brought the Mercedes to a sharp halt at the junction with Shaftesbury Avenue as orange turned to red after a millisecond flash. Even the bloody traffic lights had it in for him this morning.
“Col, you know she’s a problem.”
“I know there’s a problem,” Colin conceded, “but it’s not exclusively with her.”
“Interesting. And you say this because…?”
“The lads started slagging her off at the exact moment she made it clear that she wasn’t just at work to be flirted with.”
“Ah.” Leon winced. “Difficult.”
“Just a bit.” At the green light, Colin let the car coast forward at a sluggish fifteen miles an hour, keeping pace with the battered Peugeot right in front.
Please change the subject.
He needed her to stay on the job a little longer, or at least crash and burn in a failure entirely of her own making. The thought of picking Barney up from Richard’s place for the weekend and having to tell his brother-in-law that his prize student hadn’t even lasted a month just didn’t bear thinking about. There would be endless digs about him sabotaging the poor girl, preventing her from thriving, and generally making a mockery of Richard’s legacy. At some point—and Colin feared this intensely—Richard would make one snide remark too many and earn himself a bloodied nose and a short, fast fall to the floor. How he’d managed to go so long without belting that pious fucker around the head was nothing short of a miracle.
But Colin needed the miracle to sustain itself.
Colin crushed the steering wheel in his palm, begging his blood pressure to come back from the stratosphere and rejoin normal orbit. Four more months of sobriety, stability and good income, and he’d have earned the right to regain full custody of his son.
Nothing could get in the way of getting Barney back.
“I need you to talk to the barmen,” Leon announced suddenly. “If I address them, they will never respect Jemima. They’ll think she came running to me because she couldn’t cope with the ‘banter’.”
“How is it different if I rap them over the knuckles instead of you? They’ll still give her the side-eye.”
“You have a way with them.”
Colin grimaced. “I’m bigger and I’m good at looking proper fucked off. I’m not sure that’s the same as ‘having a way’ with them.”
“It’s up to you, Col. But if you don’t intervene and Jemima can’t form them into a team, then she’ll have to go.”
“Fine. I’ll deal with it.”
Swearing under his breath, Colin invested all his energy in navigating the narrow back streets that led to the little car park that Elysium shared with the Greek kebab joint next door. It was tempting to take his frustration out on the handbrake and the car door, but Leon would make him pay for any damage.
He stomped to the back door that led to the club’s top floor offices, trying not to let his temper get the better of him. It seemed so unfair—he’d just left the personality politics of managing the bar crew behind him with his move to head up the security team, and now he was plunged balls-deep into the business of watching Jem’s back.
“One last thing,” Leon called, just as Colin had his key in the lock.
Five, four, three, two… one. Colin forced a smile. Turned. “Yeah?”
“Tell that dopey fool Gareth that he can’t keep leaving his hot dog cart in Mr Christou’s reserved parking space. Andreas won’t be on holiday forever.”
“Gaz reports to Jemima now.”
“Perhaps, but he seems to respond to your particular guidance.”
“Fuck’s sake, Leon! What am I, the wazzock-whisperer?”
Leon chuckled darkly as Colin pulled open the door to let them in. “Don’t be angry, Colin. It’s a gift.”