When I was a child in my tweens, I discovered the joys of punk rock (Irish band Still Little Fingers, in particular), but was still very much a child in a magical state. I remember writing the early sections of a story about some Irish teenagers that were punkish, but also, still at high school, and engaged in portal fantasy. They traveled to a place modeled on Garner's Elidor. My sister thought this was the funniest thing she had ever heard, at the time.
Now I'm 52. For the last 40 years, I have been imagining a type of fantasy / nonsense that somehow manages to combine subculture stereotypes (bikies, punks, skinheads), with a fantasy or folklore approach. I have recently been clearing out old hard drives and found this unfinished gem. I cannot even recall when I wrote it, but it was found in a folder called 'Billy the Toughest Punk Ever', which is the name of a child's book I have had in mind for about a decade now.
The Legend of Baxter Bangs
Back in the old days, even before computers, there was a mean old Bikie called Baxter Bangs. Folk round here had trouble with him, main bad, and used to pray they’d not meet him coming down the lane on a dark night, and some folk would even leave out all sorts of offerings for him, to keep on his good side. Whisky he got, ale and beer too, and even smokey tobacco some nights. That was what killed him in the end, and now I’ll tell you how.
Around that time there was a postman called Lester the Dwarf, and he had a big hump on his back, but that didn’t stop him riding around delivering letters on his little old bicycle, and there’s no reason why it should. One day he’s coming home late and he thinks, ‘ach, it’s been a long day and getting dark fast, and me little legs are sorely tired. I’ll be for taking a short cut through the old wasteland where no-one goes, a thing I’ve never done before.’
So down into the hollow he goes and who should he meet up with but Handy Nick, the plumber, a chap who was right good at fixing leaks but even better at breaking the ladies’ hearts, so they say. ‘I was for taking a short-cut too,’ he said to Lester, ‘because it is so dark and I am right worn out after the day I’ve had.’ So the two of them stop for a bit of a chat and a quick smoke before they move on again.
But as Nick is moving up the hill, he hears this terrible roaring sound, like a demon coming up behind him. He turns and sees anyone’s worst nightmare: a huge great motorbike, black as night, with the headlamp fixed on him like the evil eye, and a great fat Bikie in black leather sitting on the back of it, laughing at cackling as he came straight for him. He was terrifying to see, was old Baxter. He had a huge grizzly black beard that was all flecked with spittle, and the teeth were rotting in his mouth, and his arms were covered all about with devil words and pictures.
Handy Nick did what anyone would do, didn’t he? He runs like blimey off the pathway and up the side of the woody hill, where he thought the Bikie couldn’t get to him. And then he hides in the thick trees and sits shivering while old Baxter gets off his bike and comes a-searching through the woods for him, snuffling and snorting and coughing like a bugbear, and calling out, ‘it’s no good, Nick Caldicott. I know where you are. You can’t hide from Bad Bax for ever. You owe me, and I’ll get my payment in the end.’ And once he even comes within a footstep of the place where Nick is hiding and Nick can smell all the rough liquors and nasty spirits he’s been having. But Nick has hid himself away right well, and after a time Baxter gives up on it and goes back to his machine, and there’s an ungodly roar and the plumber knows the Bikie has finally gone.
‘Well, that could have been far worse,’ thinks Nick, and certainly things had not gone so well for the little Dwarf, who Nick hears calling out from up the pathway. He found him lying a short way off from the place where they’d stood and smoked, all battered up, with one of the wheels on his bike bent out of shape, and the other still spinning around all pathetic like. ‘That Bikie gave me a hiding,’ he said, when he came round. ‘He said I’d catch worse from him next time unless I paid up, but I can’t think where I’m going to get that kind of money.’
‘Oh, you owe him too? What for?’ said Nick, and the Dwarf told him all about the time he’d found a bottle of some fine old nasty spirit just lying by the side of the road and before you could say whoopsie-daisy, he had the lid off it and drank the whole lot down, for he liked a drink as much as the next fellow, even if he was only half the size, not counting the hump. Then of course he’s drunk in control of a bicycle, which is an offence, but more than that, he swerves in front of this other fellow on a big new motorbike, and it only turns out to be Baxter’s little nephew Ross the Rough. Well, Ross tries to get out of the little guys way so he don’t hit him, but he skids and goes flying through some old lady’s garden and smashes his-self all to bits on her raised flowerbed, and has to go the hospital for months after.
So anyway now Baxter gets it in for the postie after that, and comes to see him claiming he owes him all the lad’s doctor fee, not to mention the cost of fixing his bike either. Well, the postie doesn’t have that kind of money so he’s in a right mess, but not so much that he can’t keep up a conversation. ‘What’s he wanting you for?’ he said to the plumber. ‘Oh, I can’t rightly imagine,’ said Nick, and tried to look all unbeknown, but in fact he knew well enough.
Nick’d been seeing a young lady in the village, a real sweetheart, and everyone thought they was to be together forever, the way they acted like they loved each other, until Nick suddenly one day says he’s finished with her and starts going out with some other lass from Wood End Green. So of course the girl’s father, he’s furious, and threatens to teach nick a lesson by giving his ears a boxing til they look like cauliflowers. This is all until Nick hires Bad Baxter Bangs to pay the old guy a visit and suggest that he might withdraw this threat, otherwise, he’ll box his ears until they’re even bigger than cauliflowers, like watermelons maybe.
So after that, the girl’s father left Nick well alone. But poor Nick couldn’t afford to pay right away, and every time Bax met up with him, he said it was going to cost more than the last time. So now he owed Bax more money than he knew what to do about it, and he was just hoping he wouldn’t run into the Bikie again until he thought up a plan....
That's all I wrote.
July 1, 2022