imagines a tick can talk. That's because no-one thinks
to engage the tiny parasite in conversation. Except
Jock's tick first attached itself to his lower leg
during a stroll through the heather in the hills around
Pitlochry, he was completely unaware. As a former
Scottish flyweight boxing champion, Jock was used
to pain. Big pain, not wee nips. So he never noticed
the tick jabbing its hook into his flesh.
wasn't until Jock returned to 666 Great Junction Street
that he felt the itch above his right foot. He clawed
repeatedly at the miniscule lump. There was a yelp.
A little muffled, but most definitely a yelp. As he
rolled up his trouser leg, the stifled cry grew sharper.
pulled off his boot and sock and gazed at the tiny
black spot wriggling just above his right ankle.
'Ooyah!' yelled the tick again. 'Enough with the scratching
said Jock. 'You go ahead sooking my blood. Eh, how
is it by the way?'
had worse,' said the tick.
was glad of the company. He'd only spoken to the landlady
briefly upon his arrival in Pitlochry two weeks ago
and the unending stillness of the highlands had unnerved
him. A life of loud noises was not easy to shake off.
Especially if a lot of those noises were delivered
at point blank range to the face and body through
a boxing glove. Still, he'd earned his solitary break
and, hey, he'd even found a new companion, even if
it was just a small bloodsucking parasitic arachnid.
you choose me?' asked Jock.
ankles, sturdy calf muscles. My kind of human leg,'
said the tick. 'You get bored with sheep and goats
after a while.'
smiled. 'I'll call ye Tock,' he said. 'Will you be
that's up to you really. Would you like me to?'
don't see why not. Stay as long as you like.'
tick resumed its sucking, its body already swelled
to twice its initial pinhead size. After a few more
gulps, it stared at Jock. 'You're a sportsman, aren't
you?' it said.
said Jock. 'How can you tell?'
rich in vitamins, strong hint of adrenalin and a definite
tang of Lucozade.'
called me the Fist Minister you know.'
on, I've got a cutting here.'
retrieved the plastic folder under the bed stuffed
with newspaper cuttings he'd collected since his rise
from local boot boy made good and unfurled a scrap
of paper torn from the sports pages of The Sunday
McConnell holds sway over all comers in the ring,
like the Fist Minister of boxing, dispensing justice
and education with his knuckles, transporting his
opponents with an economy rarely seen in his sporting
winced. 'Right…So what were you doing up in the wilds?'
needed to get away from everyone. After I'd won the
title, they were everywhere. Swarming around me. Closing
in on me. Wanting bits of me. I had to escape. My
trainer wisnae happy, but I told him, those people
are suffocating me. I need to breathe. I need distance.'
about your family?'
who I'm talking about. I never saw them all the time
I was getting nowhere. Then, when I finally start
to get somewhere, to be someone, they suddenly want
to know me again.'
sorry to hear that,' said Tock.
stared out the window at the back end of the New Kirkgate
you mind if I keep on sucking?' said Tock.
week: Under the floorboards