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666 Great Junction Street

Part 4

Nobody imagines a tick can talk. That's because no-one thinks to engage the tiny parasite in conversation. Except Jock McConnell.

When 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.

It 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.


Jock 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 already.'

'Oh...sorry,' said Jock. 'You go ahead sooking my blood. Eh, how is it by the way?'

'I've had worse,' said the tick.

Jock 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.

'Why'd you choose me?' asked Jock.

'Proud ankles, sturdy calf muscles. My kind of human leg,' said the tick. 'You get bored with sheep and goats after a while.'

Jock smiled. 'I'll call ye Tock,' he said. 'Will you be staying long?'

'Well, that's up to you really. Would you like me to?'

'I don't see why not. Stay as long as you like.'

The 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.

'Aye,' said Jock. 'How can you tell?'

'Very rich in vitamins, strong hint of adrenalin and a definite tang of Lucozade.'

'They called me the Fist Minister you know.'

'For why?'

'Haud on, I've got a cutting here.'

Jock 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 Mail.

'"Jock 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 environment"'

Tock winced. 'Right…So what were you doing up in the wilds?'

'I 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.'

'What about your family?'

'That's 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.'

'I'm sorry to hear that,' said Tock.

Jock stared out the window at the back end of the New Kirkgate shopping centre.

'Do you mind if I keep on sucking?' said Tock.


Next week: Under the floorboards



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