I grew up with a guy called Corky, who was named after a weird deformity that made his left leg spiral around like a corkscrew. He walked with the strangest limp you’ll ever see, his left leg kind of twirled downwards as he put weight on it and then un-twirled as he dragged his foot behind. Corky was a great laugh when we were younger and he rarely let his disability get in the way of playing football tennis, climbing trees or doing knick knocks, though The Jogger never seemed to administer his trademark kick-up-the-arse quite as hard on Corky as he did me.
As he got older his good nature began to strain to the jaunts of the other lads on the street. He grew to despise the nickname that he had at one stage even called himself. And he grew to despise his twisted leg. He grew to despise everyone, including himself and including me. He swore revenge on the lads who slagged him most, and the more he swelled with bile, the less we saw of each other. He started to see more of his older cousin, Mushroom, a nasty individual with a propensity to torturing helpless animals and an evil grin to show how much he enjoyed it.
Ronan Doyle, the biggest bully on the street, wasn’t thwarted by Corky’s dark accomplice. If anything it spurned him on. He used to get cans of spray-paint and draw caricatures of Corky everywhere – with that corkscrew limb exaggerated more than ever. Corky and Mushroom disappeared for a whole summer one year, just as we were all coming through the harder side of our teens. Doyler showed early signs of maturity, and began to cringe at the site of his own graffiti. He did everything he could to get rid of it, even painting a wall or two, and by the end of the summer as Corky returned, tensions had eased.
We all grew up and left Shankill one by one. Every Christmas you’d see the same old faces in the local, Byrnes. It turned out Corky never left Shankill, and neither did the bile leave him. Still, I always had one pint with Corky. Old time’s sake is as good a sake as any. Last Christmas was unbearable though. Never a more miserable pint have I shared with any man. He just thrived in telling me how much he hated everyone in the pub, one by one, he slagged off the old boys, and saving the best for last he literally spat out nothing but depravity at the sight of Ronan Doyle. I wiped his splashes from my face and left him there, seething. He hardly noticed me leave and continued to spew bile at the vacant stool I left behind.
Then, on Christmas morning word had spread. Ronan Doyle had been found dead somewhere between the pub and his Ma’s house. A terrible wound was left in his chest, a mushy hole of torn flesh. I felt the blood drain from my face at the thought of it. Before we went our separate ways, those many summers ago, sitting on top of our favourite tree watching the darts go by, Corky often described how he’d love to get a corkscrew and tear out Ronan Doyle’s heart. And that he did. I knew it was him. But no one else seemed to know. The thought chilled me to the bone. I had to do something. I couldn’t handle the idea of going to the cops with this mad idea straight out of some horror movie. I decided to go see his family. Or at least what was left of it, a pisshead dad who I caught leaving the house, as pissed as ever. I explained everything frantically, my embarrassment of the whole thing shadowed by his drunkenness. He didn’t want to know. He believed me but he didn’t care!
I went back to Corky’s house. I could hear sobbing coming down from his bedroom window. The front door was open. I entered the house where I’d spent many of my pre-teen years. I shouted his name but he didn’t seem to hear. I went upstairs and straight to his room but before I had a chance to open the door, it swung open. And there was Mushroom. A somehow darker version of Mushroom, all innocence, whatever little of it there ever was, completely washed away, his evil grin titanic on his shriveled face. Then, in a Flash he raised his hand. For a split second I thought he had a corkscrew but it was far worse. A big kitchen knife cut the air and made for my face. I somehow managed to grab his arm. I can’t describe the terror I felt. I actually tried to scream and nothing came out. My vocal cords had completely abandoned me even though my arms managed to wrestle on in autopilot. I eventually managed to stutter, I heard voices in the street below, and as I felt the anger within me strengthen the power of my voice I shouted. And the words that majestically parted my lips were “Happy Halloween!”.
I actually did know a guy called Corky growing up but the rest is bollix! There was nothing wrong with his leg or anything else but I did wake up screaming last night at the end of a long and realistic nightmare where he tried to kill me with a kitchen knife! Thought it’d make a good halloween yarn!