Sunday, 22 July 2012


(King Creosote - Admiral)

Everyone called him The Admiral, mostly because of his buttons. On a sunny day, you could see him coming a mile off, because the gold buttons on his navy blazer would catch the sun and send off signals all the way along the harbour, tracing his regular constitutional along the sea wall, and then his regular constitutional into the Dolphin. He never talked much, spent most of his time buried in the Daily Telegraph, and drank sherry before lunch and rum after.

The Admiral must have been in his eighties, but walked ramrod straight and still managed to put creases into his trousers that would have cut you if you’d brushed against them, and managed to put the same creases into the newspaper he always carried under his arm. He’d lived in the town as long as anyone could remember, and seen it slowly decline from smart seaside resort to streets of once-grand houses converted into old people’s homes, and rented flats for smackheads.

It was one of the latter that decided that The Admiral would be an easy source of funds for a couple of wraps. Sol wasn’t one of those who’d drifted into the town, he’d grown up here and he’d been trouble from the start, and the easy progression from glue through speed to heroin came as no surprise to anyone, and people were scared of Sol because he didn’t care about anything, and they did.

The Admiral was a man of very regular habits, and always took a shortcut home from the Dolphin, up through an alley that ran between the B streets. Sol waited for him there in a bricked-up doorway, stepped out of the shadows, waved a Stanley knife and went to grab at The Admiral’s throat to pin him against the wall.

When it was all over, we learned that we were all wrong, and despite the buttons and the rum and the bearing he hadn’t been an admiral after all, hadn’t been in the navy, hadn’t even been a commissioned officer, never risen higher than the rank of sergeant in fact. But he’d done things in Malaya and Aden and he’d learned things that he’d never forgot. When Sol eventually gets out of prison, he won’t be able to tell anyone to give him their money again unless he uses sign language, because he can’t speak anymore, and his breathing sounds very strange. You can do wonders with a rolled up newspaper if you know what you’re doing. 

Everyone still calls him The Admiral, because The Sergeant just sounds wrong. But he’s not paid for a rum since.

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