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Katy Nixon’s
Short Story

Karaoke Bill & The Flat Mate


Illustration by David Lynburn


An unfortunate gig at the Dockers Club in 1985 when Larry’s Mum Reena dropped her glass eye in a pint glass


When you picture your life, the way you had hoped it would have turned out, no one, no one, would be more disappointed than Karaoke Bill.

As a young man he hadn’t even be able to picture himself beyond thirty years old, never mind at the end of a drawn out, near death fifties, but what he had imagined for himself with all the kaleidoscopic foresight of youth was a world that could be his entirely. He looked down at his body, the only colour that suggested life radiated from his tie-dyed T-shirt.

In his late teens he had read William Burroughs in Leith bars with a rolled cigarette balanced on his lip, in case anyone wanted to interact with him on the subject of literature.

He had been poised to impress women with his interesting and varied take on Eastern Philosophy. He had been renowned for his quick fists but quicker wit. Now here he was, the king of nothing very much except cardboard boxes filled with old records and nicotine stained books.

The renter of a bedsit, eater of Fray Bentos pies, average pursuer of peace through Tai Chi, and Special Brew connoisseur. None of these things would be especially bad, and it was true there were many worse things to be, it was just the fact he had to share it all with Barry Beats.

“Tonight’s the night,” he whispered to himself while pouring a green tea and chewing a macaroni pie.

Barry Beats. Failed record company owner, known liar, his best friend since school and beyond - who had been living with him for longer than he cared to remember.

A few nights that quickly turned into weeks, then months and now a year. Karaoke Bill shuddered at all the mornings he had woken up at the feet of his friend as they top tailed on his sofa bed, like a down on their luck, Bert and Ernie.

He could remember a time when he had woken up to the curved luxury of a woman who loved him. How cruel to have experienced that before the horror of Barry Beats on a morning. Enough was enough, Barry’s bad behaviour crossed too many lines and Bill wanted his bedsit back.

The last straw had been wanking in the stairwell of his flat, witnessed by Edna the 90 year old widower from across the way. When Bill tried to talk to him about the incident, Barry blamed him for not having Wi-Fi in the flat.

“The only place I can get 4g is in that fucking freezing stair. To think that a private moment like that was witnessed by Eleanor fucking Rigby! I’m disgusted Bill, utterly disgusted” - Bill’s own thoughts were interrupted by the slamming of the flat’s front door.

Later when he came back, Barry said, “Get the kettle on Bill you and I need a chat.”

“That’s why I texted you Barry we need to talk.”

“Can’t thank you enough for meeting me.”

“In my flat?”

Barry wilfully ignored his question, walking toward him with a stride that could take out a Primary School. Bill ducked instinctively as Barry reached for him.

“Com ‘ere you.”

Barry Beats wrapped his arms around Karaoke Bill and pulled him in to his cracked leather jacket. He smelled of beer, fags and desperation.

“Look at me, naw properly give me that eye contact, me and you Bill, me and you Billy Boy...what did I say?”

“Look Barry we really need to talk mate, things have reached boiling...”

‘We’re getting the fucking band back together Bill!’

Bill stood confused as Barry violently kissed him on each cheek.

“The Wounded Dugs. You, Larry and me. We’re going to make a proper go of it this time.”

Karaoke Bill saw his life flash before him, which was how he had felt the last time The Wounded Dugs had played.

An unfortunate gig at the Dockers Club in 1985, when Larry’s Mum Reena dropped her glass eye in a pint glass and the audience had pelted the boys with corned beef vol-au-vents and scotch eggs.

Barry Beats lit a cigarette and held his hands up as he paced on the brown linoleum of the kitchen floor.

“I know what you might be thinking, you’re scared, you feel vulnerable, you’re worried you might get hurt too mate, me too.”

“Naw Barry it’s just I really need to talk to you about the bedsit an’ you know, what Edna saw outside the door.”

“It’s okay I get it, it was hard performing with such charisma, you might feel intimidated about sharing the stage with me again but we’re doing it differently this time. We’re going to be equals...we’ll all be getting groupies because I’ve got a plan.”

Barry Beats handed Bill a used fish and chip box, “Sorry, didn’t have enough time to wrap it properly.”

“You got me a present?”

Bill edged the cardboard of the box open slightly scared about what it might contain. Inside the vinegar and grease stained box sat a set of panpipes. Karaoke Bill held them up like a question.

“That’s right pal, the world is at our feet, imagine the three of us, playing the Proclaimers covers on this...The ladies in the Dockers club are gonnae cause a flood when they see this! Panpipes on Leith you fucking dancer!”

Karaoke Bill sat slowly down, his tea now cold as Barry Beats passionately played 500 Miles on the panpipes.

His head was spinning. His life played out in front of him, his life with Barry Beats.

He just hoped the Dockers Club had softer scran to throw at them this time around.

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