Monday, 24 August 2009

Love is a many splendoured thing 2

Brendan had spent ten of his thirty years of marriage inside. He thought this was a natural consequence of being a career criminal. His wife, June, who’d brought up their two boys alone, thought it was a consequence of Brendan being pig thick. She tried not to dwell on it.

June’s friend, Winnie, whose Dave was a serially unsuccessful robber, said her marriage wouldn’t have lasted without Dave’s lengthy prison sentences. Absence made the heart grow fonder, she said. June hadn’t noticed this, but kept it to herself.

June found herself becoming close to Terry, her next door neighbour, well past forty, who worked for the council and lived with his sister. Terry ran June around, dropped the boys off at football and fixed things around the house. June wasn’t sure what she’d do, if Terry made a pass at her but was somehow disheartened this never seemed to cross his mind.

Brendan was in Wandsworth, looking at another three years, when June surprised herself by fondling Terry’s bottom beside the airing cupboard. Terry pretended not to notice and went on replacing the landing light bulb, so June persisted, almost petulantly. They ended up under the quilt in the second bedroom, where Terry went through his aerobics apologetically and June hung on for dear life. At last, she was meeting her own needs. Terry persisted conscientiously until she gave a little hoot of triumph, whereupon he got off and went downstairs to make a pot of tea.

Their affair went on for three months until, for once in his life, Brendan was acquitted for lack of evidence. On his second night back home, he met Terry at the local pub and Terry bought him a large scotch. Brendan thought he’d never seen the man looking so free and easy.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Love is a many splendoured thing 1

Daisy always had the Blues in her blood. In her prepubescent years while her friends were being witches or West Life fans, Daisy would sing the blues in her bedroom, loudly. Her mother was tone deaf, and her father wanted a quite life in other ways, so Daisy remained uninterrupted.

Around her fourteenth birthday she met Phil, and let him listen to her perform old Bonnie Rait numbers in her bedroom, while her mum was hanging out the washing downstairs. Phil, whose sex life had been chiefly a thing of fantasy, said he thought she was wonderful. She told him he had a lot to learn. Blues was not wonderful. It was searing and intense. But she slipped his hand up her t-shirt by way of encouragement

As they grew older, Daisy tried to start a band, but it was difficult. Fellow musicians drifted away, usually after the first rehearsal. It was only Phil’s determination, his white van and his overtime money from the Post Office that kept her going. She worked as a hairdresser, humming all the while, and sung in pubs at the weekend. There was never more than one gig per venue, but Phil assured her she needed the exposure.

One day during a lunchtime gig, after the strippers, she saw somebody recording her on his digital camera. He and his friend seemed to be smirking about something, so she faced them out and asked to see what was so funny.

She listened to herself in horror. “Phil, I sound like a foghorn!”

“You do, love,” replied Phil, gently. Then thinking to console her, he added, “But you could suck a golf ball through a garden hose.”

She’s given up the blues now. And she’s given up Phil, for letting her go on so long with it.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

A natural history of bankers 4

Sheila had fought every step of the way in her banking career. She’d endured team meetings in lap-dancing clubs, testosterone-charged banter, exclusion from the coke binges in the men’s washroom, the yobbery that spanned classes and ages throughout the bank. She’d evaded the cul de sac of trackers and analysts and pushed her way in amongst the dealers and managers. She was on the up, and she intended to keep herself there.
She knew all about glass ceilings. She’d seen the dominant males up there on high, urinating down on her, but she’d persevered. She had to be twice as good to earn half as much. Her bonuses were paltry; her Porsche wasn’t a turbo; her flat in Mayfair wasn’t exactly paid off; but she was still in the game.
Until one morning she found herself out on the pavement with her belongings in a cardboard box and news photographers snapping away. She stood there in a daze. She cost half as much as her peers, worked twice as hard and brought in more money. If there was any advantage in being cheap, she’d expected the recession to point it out to the over-cologned bison running her department. She hadn’t lost billions trying to compensate for the size of her penis, after all.
It was all so dreadfully unfair. She walked into the bijoux City pub across the road, pushed her way through the uber-redundant, drowning their sorrows on vintage Crystal before their credit cards were torn up, and ordered herself a scotch. The moment it arrived, she burst into tears of exasperation, not caring for a moment that her profile was faltering and her make-up blurring with it.
“It’s so unfair!” she wailed.
“You’re right, there,” agreed the antediluvian barman. “In China, they’d have shot you.”