* *


I'd got on the train at Waterloo, a mainline London station and was sitting with my nose stuck in Mickey Spillane's pulp monstrosity "One Lonely Night". I was on my way to visit a friend in Surbiton. It was the early eighties and back then you had a choice of smoking and non-smoking carriages. I chose the later because I disliked passive smoking, which was unavoidable in many of the places I frequented back then. I chose the empty end of a carriage, but before the train moved off two squaddies and their wives got on and sat close to me. The men were non-commissioned officers, corporals. They were older than me too, in their late twenties or early thirties, and looked stupid in their neatly pressed uniforms.

"I want to smoke. I'm going to another carriage," one of the women announced.

"Just smoke here, let's not move," her husband replied.

"If you light up here I'm gonna pull the fag outta your mouth," I told the woman as she got a pack of B&H from her bag.

"If you do that I'll beat the crap out of you!" her husband shouted.

"I wouldn't if I was you," I shot back, "you'll get in a shit load of trouble being under military as well as civil law. You've got a lot more to worry about on that score than me. It's great on civvy street."

The man's wife put her fags back in her bag and was shooting her husband looks, and holding onto him to discourage him from getting up and starting anything. I was smirking and the corporal caught the look on my face.

"What's wrong with you? Can't you respect a uniform?"

"Join the army and get yourself killed!" I laughed, putting some lyrics by a defunct east London punk band called The Tickets to good use.

"Are you one of those peace protestors then?" The corporal demanded.

"Me? A peace protestor? No mate, no. You've got me all wrong. Do you know what I am?"

"No," the squaddie was flummoxed.

"I'll tell you what I am, I'm a student and I study philosophy. That means your taxes pay for me to sit on my arse and do nothing all day. And I'll tell you something else, when I come out of college I'm gonna sit on my arse behind a desk being paid four times as much as you and not having to die for my country. I'll be ordering people like you into wars, not dying in them."

"It's people like you that have ruined this country," the corporal's wife snapped at me.

"I ain't finished ruining it yet."

The squaddies and their wives sat in a gloomy silence. I'd pulled off an A1 windup. I despised the British army and the patriotic bollocks that went along with it, and I knew coming out with a peace and love line was never effective on squaddies. I didn't want to sit in an office for most of my life and be rewarded at the age of 65 with a gold watch. But that was something the squaddies could relate too, which was why I'd used the lines I chosen to demoralise them.

Strangely enough I was a philosophy student at the time, but only because being on a full maintenance grant meant getting more money than signing on the dole. I had no intention of getting a job like my mates from school who'd left at sixteen for factory jobs and the army. Disco and northern soul were the big musical cultures at my comprehensive. I'd liked a lot of soul and funk, still do, but I'd been the first kid on the block to get into punk rock, and as a result I was still looking forward to a life-time of progressive unemployment.

First published in Punk Fiction edited by Janine Bullman (Portico, London 2009).

Rigor Mortis (short story)

Cunt Lickers Anonymous (short story)

Cheap Night Out (short story)

Toilet Love (short story)

Larry O'Hara stars in Stereo Love (short story)

Larry O'Hara presents Do It Yourself Schizophrenia (short story)

The Web Sex Archive Of Karl Marx



Portrait of Stewart Home London 2010
Stewart Home playing dead with a pile of his novel Blood Rites of the Bourgeoisie.