Muscle and Blood

A chubby-faced redhead asked him, with a hardened voice, if he was on benefits. Anderson told them he lived on his wits, and he could feel the atmosphere darkening, and he realised that these women knew many men like him, fly-by-night thieves with superficial charm and an eye for opportunity. He felt a growing sense of absurdity and resentment and wanted to shout: I’m not interested in you, I don’t give a fuck, I want to live and die quietly, you went and fucking asked me up here!

Louise seemed to speak for the group. ‘So you’re a criminal.’

‘In a sense, yes. So where do you work?’ The bus hit something in the road, and Anderson was thrown into the nearest seat. The laughter broke the tension a little.

Amy said that they were all oncology nurses and admins at the Christie’s. Explained why there were all going up to the Birdcage on this dead and sunless July evening. The woman then started talking about the wards, which Anderson would have thought she’d want to get away from: and he remembered now how in control the nurses had seemed at the MRI, how women were the true practical sex, getting on with the job while the men flapped and flailed around. Muscle and blood and skin and bones/A mind that’s a-weak and a back that’s strong…

‘In fact,’ she twiddled a plait in one hand, ‘I’m sure I’ve seen you before. You ever work at the Christie’s.’

‘No. I was at the MRI. SHO.’

‘A doctoh?’ It had been a while since he’d heard the Manchester oh sound made without irony. Wythenshawe girls.

‘Yep. No more.’ The windows were thick with rain but they had to be in Fallowfield by now. He binged the STOPPING button and said: ‘It’s been great to meet you guys, but I’m getting out here. Have a wonderful night –‘

‘I wouldn’t get out there, love.’ In a rasping, pragmatic tone.

‘Why the hell not?’

She smiled. ‘You’re not gonna believe what’s out there.’

Max Dunbar was born in London in 1981. He recently finished a full-length novel and his short fiction has appeared in various print and web journals. He also writes criticism for 3:AM and Butterflies and Wheels. He lives in Manchester and blogs at

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One Response to “Muscle and Blood”

  1. December 21, 2010 at 2:09 pm, Ian D. Smith said:

    Good dialogue and dialect. Pretty assured stuff going on here…


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