Stark by Mark Porter

On the day Coleman Stark discovered that he was a millionaire, clouds swept across the skyline looking for trouble and reflected themselves from the faces of puddles like dead things floating.

Coleman had decided to take off for the weekend to his modest retreat on the outskirts of Edinburgh. It had been a day to remember; the deal had been expected to close for a week or so and he had watched the balance live and online, refreshing the browser like an e-bay nomad.

With the site updated and the money virtually deposited, Coleman celebrated alone by draining the pre-empted champagne flute and slinging some loose particulars into a holdall. He walked around his bedroom, checking and re-checking his balance, his watch and the view from his window. His stomach twitched nervously, warning him against over excitement. He had to watch fatty acids; they tore away at his chest if left unchecked.

The drive from Fife to Edinburgh had been an exhilarating one. Driving just fast enough to risk his new found fortune; Coleman took the old coast road, crossed the Forth Road Bridge over to Queensferry and resumed the trip down the A8000. He had traced this trip many times before, laughed to himself five months earlier when the A8000 tallied with the eight hundred thousand sitting in his Nat West account.

His Audi Coupe gripped the tarmac and uneven potholes as he fantasised about Porsche Boxters. Coleman Stark was a very happy man.

He had wanted to surprise Josie. The promises had fallen too easily from him before, waterfalls of hollow sounding streams, licking the river bed desperately, attempting to gain a foothold on reality. Josie had been patient, maybe too patient in the past and Coleman was looking forward to showing her the balance, now printed off and sitting smugly in his inside jacket pocket. He was looking forward to seeing her face when he told her to buy anything she wanted. He was looking forward to the post purchase sex. Film sex, unrealistic sex. The kind that leaves a mess of destruction behind.

By the time he unlocked the front door that had been bought to keep a sharper eye on his business affairs in the city, Coleman was already dreaming about up scaling and sunshine.

He couldn’t afford to go mad, not yet but a million pounds was so powerfully symbolic, so wrapped up in the language of success that he felt the need to reflect. This would be his platform. He had been warned by others around him; it never stops, there is never enough. All he could think about at half a million of personal wealth was where the next half would come from. He had called his dad on the hands free to give him the news. The same dad that had told him years ago that millionaire status was unrealistic, that he should concentrate on his strengths and live in what he called the real world. Well, this was real enough now. “Fair play, son. I’m proud of you.”

Coleman revisited pivotal memories as he lay on the bed, relishing the moment. He had left a voice message for Josie, her return call would be one for dinner party boasting, he could hear himself now; over vintage port, cigar on the burn.

Josie called shortly after seven. She would join him first thing in the morning.

“I can’t get away just now,” she had informed him. “We have the inspection on Monday morning, if I am going to take a weekend out; I need to tie up a few things here first.” She had sounded preoccupied, distracted. Coleman was feeling too much of everything to fully notice. The impression fluttered briefly around him and was gone as he tried to give nothing away.

“Does it have to be this weekend? I have a lot on.”

“I know but you will see why when you get here, it won’t be time wasted. Promise.”

Coleman told himself that he had probably left the idea of a marriage proposal in Josie’s head. If that is what it took to get her there, well… he had resorted to shadier tactics in the past. Marriage was not out of the question, now that he considered it. He would be forty soon. Not the youngest millionaire on record, not by any stretch but his first marriage had ended badly just into his thirties. It had been brief, torrid and eventually turgid before Hannah had given him an out after four years by sleeping with her tennis coach. Coleman had been insanely jealous, not least because the tennis coach had sported a tremendous pair of tits.

That setback had almost derailed him but he wasn’t about to allow any woman to kill his fortitude.

Coleman ran the bath, emptied another magnum and let the evening take care of itself.

“Did you sleep in? I thought you would be up with the larks.”

Coleman waits as the room slips into doubtful focus. His hangover momentarily stunts him and it is a few seconds before he realises where he is, remembers the circumstances.

Josie stands at the foot of the bed, dressed casually in something that he guesses could be Laura Ashley. “What was the excitement all about?”

“Excitement?” he rises from the bed, not bothering to cover his morning bone with anything, hoping that she will be overcome with a lust for porn star calibre sex. She doesn’t even glance downwards and his enthusiasm dies on the vine.

“Come with me,” he tells her and pushes his arms into the dressing gown that lives full time in the part time accommodation. “I have something very important to show you.” He takes her hand and with a schoolboy devil about him, tows her into the living room and asks her to close her eyes. He briefly considers cracking out the hard on again but lets it go. She stands dutifully, hands clasped in front of her. Eyes closed. He can see the movement beneath her lids; she blindly searches the room, speculative, curious.

Once the circus of the event has faded, Coleman is left to reflect on the lack of coincidence at work. The day after he becomes a millionaire, his common law, same in the eyes of the law, she tells him “wife” tells him she wants a “divorce.”

Greedy bitch. Who the fucking hell does she think she is? Fucking scruffy Glasgow tart. She is still talking money and entitlement when the empty magnum finds the soft spot on the back of her scalp. It happens so quickly that Coleman barely has time to acquaint himself with the mechanics of it. The bottle slips from his fingers, bounces with a dead clunk off the inch long pile.

“Fuck.”

This had not been the plan. Not been the point.

Who did one pay at a moment like this? Who made it go away?

Mark Porter is an ex-stand-up comic, rock drummer and probation officer. His first novel ‘Dogs Chase Cars’ is available through Drugstore Books in March. His Rifkin & Whelan Mersey Mojo series combines laugh out loud humour with extreme violence. The first instalment, Moscow Drive is out in November. He lists Joe R.Lansdale and Christopher Moore amongst his influences. www.markporter.weebly.com

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