By Andrea Williams
a glass of porter
‘Howie’ we all call him now. His real name is Dillon, itself a misspelling of Dylan. He once told us that Dylan was the name his mother had wanted, being a big fan of Bob, but the vicar had written everything as Dillon. A sort of celestial mix-up between magic roundabout and magic mushrooms that was never clear.
Why was he renamed ‘Howie’ you ask? It wasn’t immediate. We regular customers of the Circlet Inn are men, women too nowadays, who are considerate, mindful of people’s feelings, slow to judge. We also generally don’t care what your name is, and he would have been Dillon, or Dylan or anything else, had it not been for Andy, our genial host, who receives all the stories told on our side of the bar, and has the delightful habit of retelling them, with or without attribution, whenever his cause of selling more ale needs the support of some extended lingering.
It was after I overheard him talking about ‘Howie, one of his regulars‘ receiving a bullet wound to the jaw after yomping across the Falklands that I asked him who he was talking about. Surely there couldn’t be two blokes who used the Circlet Inn with such a singular scar on their jaw.
“Howie.” he said, “The tall lad who comes in. You can’t miss him - got a scar on his jaw.”
“You mean Dillon.” I answered him, “He told me one day how he got that scar. Nothing to do with the Falklands. He was a lad, playing rugby, on the school team. They were up against a team from South Shields, a right tough school. They were four points behind, and it was a needle match, with a few minutes to go when someone raked him with their boot when they went down in a scrum. Studs used to be nailed on in those days, and this lads' were worn, with the nails sticking out. Made Dillon mad as all hell, so when he was upright again and the ball came to him he kicked it high, ran under, collected it at full pelt, and ran for the line, skidding round the full back with a feint to the left, scoring the winning try with blood still pouring down his shirt. He was known as Redshirt until he left school.” Andy looked up at me, and leaned back,
“Redshirt eh? nice touch. That must be it then.” Someone called him away, and I thought for a moment. What did Andy mean by ‘nice touch’? it wasn’t a comment on the rugby.
A day or two later Archie was in the bar, so I asked him,
“Do you know how Dillon got his scar?”
“Oh yes, he told me about it, ages ago. It was a girlfriend’s husband.”
“Dillon was a good looking lad in his twenties. At least, he said he was good looking enough to have an affair with a married woman. She was tall and blonde, and not blonde from a bottle. He knew that because he knew the inside of her bathroom and bathroom cabinet, having been in there plenty of times. They had a wonderful thing going. The old story of the husband being away, so the toy boy moves in. Eventually the husband came home unexpectedly, caught them in flagrante, and in the ensuing fisticuffs landed a tremendous punch. He wore a ring that tore open Dillon’s face. Needed stitches, he said.” and Archie took a meditative sip of his pint. “I asked him if she was worth it, and he said he’s reminded of her every time he uses the mirror, so ‘yes’ it was worth it.”
After that, I checked with some of the other regulars, Clive had heard the real story too,
“Kicked by a runaway horse when he worked in the stables at Fallodon Hall, back in the fourth Lady Howden’s day. The horse was a bit wild, and Lady H’s daughter was about to be trampled, so he ran in front of it. The horse reared as it stopped, and caught him with its left foreleg hoof. The family was so grateful they gave him two hundred pounds, back when that was a lot of money, as a thank you - and to keep quiet.” When I asked Phil I got the real story again,
“He was in a mountaineering party aiming to climb the north wall of the Eiger, and the party on the face let a stray piton fall, that caught him as he stood below. He’s always been grateful it missed his head, else he’d have been nailed up there for good.” Then I went to Matty, and he corroborated nothing that had gone before,
“Used to work for the Forestry Commission, up in Keilder forest, and it happened when they started felling in a sub-compartment. There were some wind blown casualties to bring down, and in one of them they had a couple of wedges holding open a relieving cut. The tree twisted without warning, crashing down, and spat out one of the wedges into his face when it did. The wedge sliced into his face guard, taking a slice out of him too. If he hadn’t been wearing his forestry helmet he reckoned he would have lost his entire jaw. Lots of energy spreads around when four tons of timber gets on the move.”
Finally I asked Dave, our car dealer, and it seemed he had the truth of it,
“Dillon’s scar? Oh yes, we were yarning about motor racing, and he told me that was what gave him his scar. He was in a pit crew at Silverstone for a saloon car race, and his driver floored it whilst his wheel brace was still on a nut. The thing spun off of course, and he was in the way. Broke his jaw bone in two places. He still has metal in there that rings bells at airports. Didn’t he tell you about it?”
This was all getting out of hand I decided, so I reported my findings to Andy.
“Andy, I’ve been asking around about Dillon. Everyone I talk to has a different version of how he got his scar. Did you know?”
He was careful not to incriminate himself when he answered. “Weeell, I have heard one or two versions,” he confessed, a bit hesitantly. “But he’s good for business. People often feel the need for another drink after talking to him. He’s just a good storyteller. He just tells them something they can relate to, whenever people ask how he got his scar.” The way he spoke gave me a sudden enlightenment.
“So you call him ‘Howie’ - because everyone asks ‘How ‘e got his scar.”
Andy just nodded.
“How ‘e - makes sense doesn’t it? How about a pint of something?”