I’m a hard man, me. Ex marine commando. Do you know what that means? I don’t think you understand what that means. I’m so full of – rage. D’you know?
‘Why are you so full of rage?’
‘Listen. Don’t you take the michael out of me, mister. I’m set to go. I’m ready for anything.’
‘You’ve no call to get punchy with me, Patrick. I’m here to help.’
‘Listen. I’ll try to explain. I’m a hard man. I’m handy with my fists, d’you understand me? Ask anyone. They’ll say – Yep, Patrick. He’s a hard man. He’ll have a go, no problem. And I will. I don’t care who it is. I don’t care what happens to me. I’m ex-army. A boxer. I’ll tell you something. I met a real famous person. Guess who it was.’
‘I don’t know. A boxer?’
His head nods back and his eyes close, like those dolls where the eyelids tip shut when you lie them down. When he raises his head up again they spring back open; he takes a gulp of air and re-orientates himself in the ambulance.
‘Who did you meet? What boxer?’
He breathes heavily through a nose that’s as bulbous and pock-marked as a specimen of alien fruit. Talking is an effort for Patrick. His system is so swamped with alcohol and his senses so numbed by lying on the pavement in the rain, he has to take a series of internal run-ups to find the words and get them out.
‘Listen. I’m ex-army. Marine commando. Tough as you want. And I fancied myself too. I met this guy. He said to me – Do you box? And I said – Maybe. He said – I reckon you’re a fighter. So I said – Yep. You got it. I’m a fighter all right. And I looked him up and down, and I thought - So that’s what you’re after. And I’ll do it, my friend. I’ll take any fucker. So I said – What about you, then? You a fighter? He said – Yep. I do my share. So I said – Is that right? And he said – Yep. And there was something about him. Something – I don’t know. Handy. So we parted friends – bosh - that was that. Then I found out who it was.’
‘Terry Downes. Middleweight champion of the world.’
‘Good job you didn’t start anything, then.’
‘Me? Pah! I don’t care about that. I’m ex marine commando. I don’t give a fuck what I do.’