All throughout school, I’d hated Trapper. He wasn’t popular or handsome or especially intelligent. He was blessed with, however, a confidence that trumped arrogance, opinions that went beyond fascism, cruelty beyond psychotic. Despite his sedentary flabby pale body, he held himself with the poise of an Adonis; his self-belief that he was perfect, both physically and intellectually, was uncrackable. If he couldn’t do something, he would make excuses about the weather, or some unfair rule, or some ailment that had benefitted his opponent. Failing that, he would simply cheat. He had no rules other than to win at whatever cost. This is the core reason why I hated Trapper; not that he upset so many people throughout my school years, or that he took advantage of my kind-heartedness on dozens of occasions, or even that he killed his neighbour’s hamster with a hammer on the pretense that it was sick, but I feared that this collection of terrible traits wrapped up in a frame of self-inflicted blubber would actually amount to something. I knew that my core beliefs were “right”; charity, humility, the belief in my fellow man – which was why Trapper had used me on so many occasions – and yet my dreams of greatness had never materialised. Rather than the smash-hit actor I’d aimed for, I had turned into another Joe pulling the nine-five, paying off a crippling three-decade mortgage in minuscule amounts, all while putting two kids and a bland wife before myself in all matters of my world. I feared meeting Trapper again, not because I didn’t like the guy, but because his terrible toolbox of rudeness and spite might have accomplished more than me.
When I saw him walk through the doors of my local pub one Friday evening, I felt my stomach cramp up in fright and I just managed not to spit out my cider. His childish flushed face scanned the crowd of hi-viz workers, looking like a kitten amongst a pack of grizly wolves, and then his black eyes were on me before I could turn away. He squeezed his ample suited bulk through the workmen until he was standing beside me. I felt occasion demand my attention, so I turned to meet my arch-nemesis.
“Mark.” It was a slight insult to greet me with just my name after all these years.
“Trapper,” I replied, trying to inject a modicum of venom into the word. I’d often thought about how I would act if I ever bumped into again; in my mind he had always been a hobbling hobo, asking me for a penny for some food. I’d never imagined what I would say to Trapper in a suit. Trapper in any kind of polished attire was amongst my worst nightmares – and yet here he was, shiny black shoes, red tie and a sharp three-piece. He was a threat to my core values. He proved that evil people can be rewarded. I needed him out of my life immediately and sought for the quickest way to finish the conversation. “Good to see you again, I won’t stop you.”
“I’m meeting a friend here. For a few drinks.” He brought his phone out and checked it as he spoke. “What about you?”
“This is my local pub, Trapper.”
“Of course. I guess you spend a lot of your time here, like you always did?”
I bristled. “Yeah, so?”
“Nothing, it’s just that I forgot that you liked to drink.”
There was the barbed comment, the put-down that wasn’t direct-enough to start a confrontation without looking like the agitator. He had always been the master at passive-aggressiveness, and yet even knowing his methods, I was still unprepared. “I’m not an alcoholic, Trapper.”
“Of course not.” He unlocked his phone again, then switched it off. “So what are you doing nowadays?”
“…with two children…”
I paused; I forgot Trapper would say yes over the top of whoever was speaking. This was a true sign that Trapper’s self-absorption was absolute. He didn’t want to hear about anyone else; rather, he knew that social convention dictated that each party answer the same question, so if he asked someone what they did yesterday, he actually wanted to tell you what he did yesterday and was simply waiting out a formality.
“Continue,” he demanded. I knew what he wanted to hear; what I did for a job. Should I lie? Should I admit the truth? From his attitude and his clothes, he was doing better, I could guarantee it. I took a gulp of cider; fuck it, I’m not ashamed of who I am, I concluded. I had a good family, a good job, and had a car and house to show for it. Sure, I wasn’t rolling in money and appearing in films like I’d always hoped I would, but I was doing better than some.
I took a breath. “I’m a postie.”
Trapper’s face lit up with glee, unable to contain himself. “I own property,” he said, beaming with joy. “I own loads of houses in London so am absolutely minted!”
I nodded and sipped my pint. I wasn’t jealous, but angry with life. How can this horrific man be rewarded with riches when he was part of the problem with the world? “That’s great, Trapper.” It’s all I could muster.
“Great? It’s amazing, Mark! What do you drive? I have three cars, all Aston Martins. I have a yacht too. My house is massive as well. How big is your house?” He grabbed my free arm hard. “Tell me, Mark! How big?”
“Don’t you worry about that, Trapper,” I muttered, moving my arm away. “Shouldn’t you go meet your friend?”
“Of course.” He released me. “Take care, have a nice life Mark. And I was right about you, you know.” I barely saw him walking away for the red mist. That last comment burned fierce in my thoughts as I tried to extinguish it with my pint. I had all-but forgotten the last day of 6th form; me and Trapper had an argument about some forgotten and now-unimportant subject. As he walked away from me, his tail between his legs thanks to being proved wrong, he shouted “I don’t care whether you’re right. All I know is that you’ll amount to nothing, Mark! Nothing!” Me and my friends all laughed at this, barely able to believe that fat Trapper would best anyone in life’s challenges, and yet he had done so. I sat at a small table with a few work acquaintances but did not hear a single word. My mind was saturated with thoughts of Trapper and my life. Where did I go wrong, and more importantly, where did he go right? I stared at him on the far end of the pub sitting with a vaguely-familiar bloke, and watched the poor lad wilt underneath Trapper’s overbearing personality. After only forty minutes, the stranger stood, shook hands with Trapper, then disappeared into the crowd of drinkers. I continued to watch Trapper as he fidgeted on his own. He’s completely out of his depth, I thought. Being alone in a pub probably ranks highly on his list of nightmares, similar to my nightmare of meeting a successful Trapper.
I downed the rest of my pint, my sixth of the evening. Deep-down, I’d always believed in the world saving the true and punishing the false. It was called karma. Trapper had proved karma wrong. He’s proved my core beliefs wrong. He’d proved me wrong. I really couldn’t bear it. I watched Trapper hurry the last of his drink down and put his jacket on. Sometimes, karma needed an agent to carry out its will. I’d always relied on others to be the hand of karma, but tonight – tonight, it would have to be me. I stood up with my empty glass and told my buddies that I was going for a piss, and as Trapper left the pub, I wiggled through the crowd and followed him.
Outside in the amber-lit street, Trapper stomped around the corner and out of sight. Perfect. I gripped the glass hard, and although I’d never glassed someone before, I knew the theory behind it. With thoughts of murderous revenge fuelled by strong cider spurring me onwards, I jogged around the corner – and stopped.
Trapper, the property king with a yacht and three Aston Martins, was leaning forwards as he unlocked the door to a rusting dilapidated banger of a car. Gone was the straight-backed arrogant tyrant; he’d been replaced by the beaten figure of a man who was losing in life. I recognised this stance. I saw it every day in the mirror.
He turned to face me and froze. He knew he’d been caught out and was looking at the empty pint glass in my hand with a little confusion. I wondered what I should do. Go through with my plan and smash him in the face? He certainly deserved it, especially by belittling people, and especially by belittling people when he was worse off than them. However, maybe this was where I saved Trapper from his life, by inviting him in for another pint and a heart-to-heart chat. For some reason, Auld Lang Syne played in my thoughts. I could be the good Samaritan, or the punisher. Here in this empty street, it was my choice.
I decided that I didn’t want to do either; I just wanted Trapper out of my life where he belonged. I allowed him to stare at me and my glass weapon for a moment more, let him wonder what would happen next, and then he opened his door with a metallic creak. “Don’t tell anyone,” he said to me in an unusually quiet voice. “Don’t tell anyone.” He got into the car, which started on the fourth turn of the key, and he drove away with a metallic squeal. I stood in that street, empty glass in my hand, grinning like an idiot. Well done karma. I went back into the pub.