The Size Of A Cow

Willie Savage was aptly named. An amateur boxer. Professional lunatic. I have the misfortune of calling him my friend. For now. While I regard our friendship as a noose round my neck, he boasts that we’ve been through everything together. From nursery to secondary school—doing time together in Barlinnie next, he jokes. Sad thing is, I really think he’s being serious.
Willie has numerous annoying habits but the one that he terrorises people with, especially me, is when he reigns blows down on an unsuspecting victim’s cranium, shouting, BANG. BANG. POWER. POWER. No warning. Proper pot-shots. He never deviates. Never one BANG and two POWERS. Always two of each. Anything or anyone could set him off. Willie and I have only just left school—I turned up for my exams, Willie didn’t. ‘A don’t need qualifications,’ he raises his hands, closes his fists, adopts his stance, ‘these are my qualifications,’ he tells all and sundry as he fires blows at them or into fresh air depending on his mood.
It was the summer holidays. Willie and I, were taking his neighbour’s greyhound for some exercise. His neighbour, Malky Baker, runs greyhounds at the local track, but he’s a stranger to physical exercise is Malky, instead, he’s assembled a network of boys to take his six greyhounds for a walk, every day, during the summer holidays. Willie prefers to stay hands-free so he can launch into periodic bouts of shadow boxing, so he hands the leash to me. We’re heading for the rolling fields of our posh neighbours. Willie had the idea that instead of walking for miles around the scheme, we’ll let the dog chase rabbits in the fields that looks down on our scheme, not just geographically. ‘She’ll be as fit as fuck after aw this,’ he boasted to me after our first trip to the fields. The following week when the dog that we’d walked won its race, Willie, began to fancy himself as a trainer of greyhounds.
Cutting through the woods that separated the green-fingered from the light-fingered, Willie pierced the quietness with one of his trademark questions. ‘See when I turn professional Des, guess what my song will be when I’m entering the ring?’
‘Wake me up before you go-go, as yir lying knocked out sparko,’ I laughed. I’ll never learn.
‘BANG. BANG. POWER. POWER. Willie Savage dizny get knocked out,’ he shouted, as he peppered me with four rhythmic shots as he yelled each word of his calling card.
That was another of his annoying habits. He’d started to talk about himself in the third person. ‘God sake Willie, ma ear is fucking ringing after that. It’s red raw. Yir lucky I didnae let go of the leash. Dae that again and I’m off.’
Willie was bobbing and weaving as he began to sing, ‘So please stay off my back or I will attack and you won’t want that. I’ve got the Power. I’ve got the Power. I’ve got the Power. I’ve got the Power. It’s getting, it’s getting kinda hectic. Wit yae think Des. Pure class eh?’
‘Aye, that’s dynamite Willie.’
‘Tellin yae, a feel like the guy that wrote that knows me or something, it’s like he’s written it fir ME,’ he said, patting his chest.
I bit on my bottom lip knowing a burst of laughter would lead to another assault. I decided to adopt a different approach. ‘Many fights yae had now then Willie?’
Willie was throwing punches at overhanging branches. ‘Thirteen, wee man.’
I looked at him out the corner of my eye, ‘Many yi won?’ I felt Willie’s eyes studying me. I waited on an answer.
‘Canny mind. It isnae aboot winning. It’s gaining experience. Preparing me fir the Pro’s.’
I was getting my jollies out of this. My equivalent of landing blows on his head and ears for a change. ‘Don’t know about that Willie. The promoters in the Pro’s won’t fancy taking on a guy wi a record of five wins and eight defeats. That disnae look too clever.’
‘Uch, I don’t go in fir aw the statistics shite. I’m a boxer, a warrior, tailor made for the Pro ranks. The big gloves and heidguards are holding me back. I’ll take it by storm Des. You keep yir nose clean and I’ll mibbe let you in ma corner. You could be ma bucket man. Can jist see you Des, wearing my gear, dead professional looking, my name emblazoned err the back of your t-shirt, Willie ‘BANG.BANG.POWER.POWER’ Savage.’
Leaving the confines of the woods I commented on the contrast as we emerged into the brightness of the summer’s day. ‘No way, this is like when yir getting off the plane when yi just land on yir holidays and the heat and light jist hits yae.’
Willie popped a Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit in his mouth.
‘Sorry, I’m forgetting, you’ve never been abroad have yi Willie?’
Willie shook his head vigorously. ‘Na, never fancied it. Too many fucking foreigners. Better get used tae it though, I’ll be flying aw o’er the shot for fights when a turn pro.’
‘Wit yae gony dae until you turn pro then,’ I asked.
He looked like I’d asked him for the answer to six across in the Times crossword. ‘Sign on, wit else is there?’
Staring at him, I waited on a laugh or a punch-line. Realising he was deadly serious, I said, ‘Eh, mibbe try and get a job?’
‘Fuck that Des, I’m gonnae be employed in dishing out pain. Knocking any character oot cauld that’s mental enough to get in the ring wi me in the first place.
I shook my head. ‘Wit age d’ya reckon yil turn pro?
‘So, for three years yir jist gonnae fanny aboot?’
‘Al be preparing. Laying the groundwork for my career in boxing. A don’t know if a like your attitude the day by the way. Wit u gony dae then smart-arse?’
I was hoping he’d ask me that question. ‘I’m gony start college in September.’
His laugh did nothing to back up the hard man routine he tried to convey. Like an oompah-loompah that has been sucking on helium. ‘That’ll be shining bright Desmond…you…college!! Are yi fuck! Wit yi doin Hair and Beauty or Travel and Tourism!’
‘Computers are the way forward. I’m gony dae Computing. Don’t see wit’s so funny about me going to college. You stick tae yir boxing and I’ll stick to ma plans.’
Willie stared at me like I’d told him I had a weird fetish. I was glad we’d arrived at the fields. ‘Right, stick yir feet on his barbed wire and lift this bit so I can get in Willie.’
He made enough space for me as he held the dog’s leash. When I was safely through, Willie unclipped the leash, then lifted the dog, passing her over to me. She shot off like she was being pursued by a Chinese butcher waving a machete.
We watched the Black Maria sprint off into the distance hunting for prey. Barely ten yards were covered when Willie piped up with another of his stupid ideas. ‘Right Des, this is perfect, aw this space, a want yi to run as fast as yi can but darting in different directions. No straight lines. Think of yirsel as the chicken in Rocky when Mickey gets Rocky to chase after it.’
Now, normally I’d have told him to beat it but I knew there was no chance of him getting near me. Willie cannae run properly, his co-ordination is rank. He runs like his legs need oiling. So a decide to join in. ‘Aye, good idea Willie. I’ll count to five. Take it easy on me now, give me a wee starty. I shoot off buzzing one way then the other as if a farmer is taking pot-shots at me with his gun. I look behind me and Willie is just running in a straight line, awkward as fuck, as if he’s trying to avoid land mines and he’s still nowhere near me. ‘Right, that’s enuf o that roadrunner,’ he shouts at me. I stop and turn around and he’s bent over trying to get his breath back. I walk over and pat him on the back, ‘You’ll need to work on yir stamina Willie, nae mare of those wee daft three times three-minute rounds in the Pro game. ‘Don’t need stamina when yir heavy handed like me,’ he uttered whilst trying to catch his breath. ‘Mon get this mad dug,’ he added.
We walked slightly uphill to the crest of the field and spotted the Black Maria in the distance, involved in a face off, trying to stare out the solitary cow at the bottom of the field.
I looked at Willie. He was like a cartoon character. You could almost see the speech bubble coming out the top of his head. I knew he was up to something. Nothing could prepare me for what. ‘C’mon Maria, c’mon girl he shouts, patting his knees.’ The dog turns and looks at him, ears cocked. Willie pulls a packet of cold meat from his pocket, rips it open and starts waving slices of wafer-thin chicken at the dog. Less than ten seconds pass before it’s snaffling it from Willie’s hand. ‘Get the leash Des,’ he orders me. I stick the leash on the dog and hold onto it. ‘Wit u up tae Willie?’ He ignores me and starts walking cautiously towards the cow. It isn’t even looking in his direction. Oblivious to his presence. Willie is a matter of strides from the cow when he stops and stares at the cow. I follow him, still treating the dog to slices of chicken. Willie turns to me and comments on how it’s the first time he’s seen a cow in the flesh and how big they are. I’m getting a bit jittery cos Willie is up to something, I know him like the back of my hand.
‘Right, we better head Willie, the farmer won’t want people and dogs round about his cows.’
Willie takes a step forward. The penny drops. I watch him adopt his stance and he plants a right hook on the cow. The cow doesn’t even bat an eyelid. It looks like it’s meditating on a single blade of grass yards away. ‘Yir a durable bastard al gie yi that,’ Willie compliments.
‘Jesus Willie. Wit you doing, that’s rotten. Yi canny go about punching cows on…’
BANG. BANG. POWER. POWER. He’s rattled the poor cow four times but again it doesn’t flinch. Willie looks seriously offended. ‘Mon Willie, this is bad news. Totally out of order. Mon up the road.’
He ignores me. ‘Aaaww, a get it, need to soften yi up a wee bit, go to the body.’ He peppers the cow with several left hooks to its body like Barry McGuigan in his heyday. ‘Sumdys getting a right succulent steak by the time am finished wi yi,’ he shouts. The cow just lets it out a Moooo-oooo. To me it sounds like, ‘Gies peace, ya pest.’
‘I’m no watching anymore of this Willie. Am away,’ I let the leash go and walk away.
I’ve walked ten yards and I turn around to see the dog following me as if it is disgusted with Willie as well. I take hold of the leash. ‘Mon get you up the road, Maria, that’s no way to treat animals, is it girl?’
Maria looks at me with her big sad eyes. I look around one last time and see Willie is on his knees, trying to get a breather. He’s staring upwards at the cow like he’s engaged in a Hindu ritual dedicated to showing reverence to the divine creature.
I make a commitment to end our friendship before the summer ends.