Chapter 1 The Big mistake
On the morning the story really begins in earnest an icy wind was blowing in from Siberia, or Norfolk, (Global warming phobia hadn’t yet struck, at that time we were still panicking about an immanent ice age), and the city cowered under a grey acrid swirling shroud of residual soot from a thousand Guy Fawkes’ funeral pyres.
Personally I felt sorry for the poor man that we have brainwashed recent generations of our children into burning in effigy. He and his fellow conspirators were the only people to have had a practical idea on how to shut politicians up.
This however, apart from explaining my mood which was already fairly depressed has nothing to do with my story, which began inside a bus; a <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placename w:st="on">Pontycymchesty</st1:placename> <st1:placetype w:st="on">City</st1:placetype></st1:place> bus to be exact.
For anyone who has not experienced it, this is an unique environment where the great smell of cheap aftershave, and even cheaper perfume, metamorphoses with cough drops, damp clothing and seats that had hosted thousands of transient bums, into a palpable miasma that can only be immediately associated with the interior of a Pontycymchesty City bus.
All the aforementioned would have just been bearable had it not been for the blonde with angry hazel eyes glaring over the back of her seat at me.
(In the Sillywood version she had cropped dark hair, the bus was a <st1:state w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">New York</st1:place></st1:state> to Kennedy shuttle; according to Jason who advised on the film, she did have the same size tits.)
Maurice Capricious I believe is thinking seriously about the French High Speed Train. Both shuttle and train in terms of transport would make truth about the following five minutes more difficult, if not impossible. I digress.
“Why do you keep following me?” she said loudly enough to cut across a discordant orchestra of coughs and sneezes.
I didn’t react other than to give her my carefully cultivated glacial stare. I wasn’t following her, I had no need to, I knew where she was going. She was my brother’s girlfriend and one of my partners. The only thing I couldn’t fathom was why she was on the same bus as me.
I was using public transport because my brother had borrowed my car, admittedly without asking. As she and my brother cohabited, I had quite naturally assumed she would be using it with him.
“Well what”? So much for glacial stare, needs more work
“Why are you following me?”.
I sighed, I hadn’t a clue what she was up to, but it had gone far enough. Apart from the rumble of the engine and alarming creaks as the driver slung the vehicle around corners, she had succeeded in stilling the surrounding bubble of conversation. Heads turned in our direction as the other passengers sensed they were about to have their daily lives brightened by a touch of drama.
“Don’t be absurd Sally, you are well aware tha…” (In the film, the name Sally had been changed to Sam. Maureen who married Mulligan, wrote and told me.)
Once more I digress. Okay, I will stop there and try and be more focused. Maurice, the French film Director I suspect is going to call her Severine and make her a redhead, still each to his own.
To recap. The story, my story began in the well known Welsh city of <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Pontycymchesty</st1:place></st1:city> in 1979.
‘Freezing wind from <st1:city w:st="on">Norfolk</st1:city> or was it <st1:place w:st="on">Siberia</st1:place> ,etc…………’
“How dare you…”
She had turned round fully in her seat to stare at me with that perfect oval face, flawless skin and full lips that I hated so much. So had the young man with the pustule specked neck sitting beside her, turned round that is, I didn’t notice if his lips were full nor not.
“…accuse me of being absurd, and how on earth did you know my name...?” aside to ‘Spotty’, being careful with emphasis “I knew he was following me, everywhere I go he’s there”, she gave a mock shudder “ I can’t imagine how he could possibly think I would be interested” she grimaced, “and old man like him”.
“Take no notice darlin, he’s just a dirty old git.” Misplaced sympathy from boil neck as he gave me what I imagined was his hard man sneer, before he frowned in recognition, “I know you” he spluttered after his first surprised grunt, “your Dr. Floweres, I ‘ad you in my first year”
So he did. I felt a certain relief and being identified as a respected member of society, not just another dirty old git. It was short lived.
From the seat behind me I heard a woman’s voice mutter. “Did you ‘ear that? ‘Es a doctor. Just cos ‘es a Doctor, don’t mean ‘e can go around bothering women do it?”
“Bluddy right it don’t. Should be bluddy struck off”. Woman’s male companion, no brighter obviously and of same ethnic origin as ‘Spotty’, <st1:city w:st="on">London</st1:city>, but not <st1:place w:st="on">Mayfair</st1:place>.
The head scarfed lady passenger in front of Sally and her spotty champion spun round in her seat and tapped ‘Spotty’ on the shoulder. “I’d get your wife to change her doctor if I was you see.” Native Welsh. She shook the dewdrop that had formed on the end of her nose onto Prentice’s shoulder before fixing me with rheumy eyes. “Can always tell a bad-un”, she sniffed, “shifty looking;” .
I’d remembered, Spotty’s name was Prentice. An uninspired student which is an academic term for ‘thick as shit’.
“He’s not a quack. ‘es an English lecturer at the Uni.” Prentice said flapping at the damp patch on the sleeve of his blue anorak.
Was, I though, was.
I risked a quick glance at Sally who couldn’t make up her mind whether carry on the masquerade of being falsely outraged by me, or truly outraged that anyone would think she was Spotty Prentice’s wife.
“That’s even bluddy worse innit”. Mr. ‘I’m from <st1:city w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">London</st1:place></st1:city>’ behind me. His voice had raised a full octave from nasal whine to a nasal whine with attitude, “teaches kid’s don’t ‘e , all the same these aca, aca, aca… whatsit types, perverts, queers and ponces if yer asks me”.
Obviously a thesaurus fan. I thought about pointing out nobody had asked him when Prentice piped up. “She’s not my wife.”
“No.” I snapped , trying out the glacial stare again. It made my eye sockets ache, adding. “She’s my brother’s wife.” Why didn’t I stop at ‘No’?
“That’s incest that is. His brother’s wife see, stands to reason”. Headscarf, lips so compressed with righteousness her mouth looked like a vertical scar. Prentice shifted sideways as another dewdrop began to form.
I stood up, desperate to get off at the next stop, which by coincidence was the one I wanted. The bus lurched round a corner, I lurched with it and was catapulted across the lap of the 14 or so year old schoolgirl opposite.
She screamed and I found myself face down kissing a plastic bag full of carrots in the shopping bag of the elderly lady sitting next to her.
I dragged myself upright, my repeated “Sorrys” lost amid a flurry of…
“Look at him, he’s at it again”,
“Should be locked up ‘e should”
“They’re all like that see, doctors.”
The bus began to slow down as I turned towards the door. Sally had got in front of me. Someone, I suspect Prentice pushed me hard in the back making me swing out wildly to keep my balance, not wanting to end up once again with a face full of carrots; my nose still felt sore after the first time.
The plastic bag had split on impact and a particularly affronted carrot had gone straight up my nose and might have penetrated my brain if my adenoids hadn’t got in the way.
All the flailing around brought my hand into contact with something hard, probably human from the yelp.
Got upright just in time to see Sally step down off the bus. Hurrying forward towards the still open doors all I could hear was…
“Look ‘es after ‘er again”
“Old enough to be her father”
“Must be his kid brother’s wife? Disgusting I calls it, disgusting.”
“You can always tell these pederfiles, its in their eyes my Gareth always says.”
“Shameful I calls it, and him a teacher.
The doors hissed closed again and the bus jerked forward
Voice from the back “should let him off driver, might be hell of a boy like, but you don’t want him on your bus, do you.”?
Bus screeched abruptly to a stop. Giving me a filthy glare the bus driver pressed the button and the door opened.
I heard one parting shot.
“Good bluddy riddance”
I looked up as the bus drew away.
Prentice, was staring down at me, hand clutched to his nose, blood on his fingers. Oh Good! My nose felt comforted that it hadn’t suffered alone. There was no call for concern, my flying hand hadn’t hit anything human after all.
Sally was nowhere in sight.
“Good bloody riddance” I muttered, echoing thesaurus man, whilst thinking, I should be so lucky.
My pride and joy, a 6 year old 2.8 Jag was parked on the yellow line outside the office block where the Pontycymchesty Investigation and Security Service rented a third floor matchbox. The front offside wire wheel was comfortably encased in what was then, one of the new fangled wheel clamps, and the bonnet had a new motif perched on it. Sally.
She slid off as I approached, the metal studs decorating the back pockets of her jeans making an unhealthy rasping sound on the damp paintwork.
“What was that all about?” I asked, trying to sound only vaguely interested and failing miserably as I noticed the scratches from her studded jeans looked like snail trails in the soot coated bonnet.
Sally grinned. “Field test”
“And what’s that supposed to mean”? Strained.
“It means you failed your U.P. test Jet. Standard procedure.”
‘U.P test, standard procedure’. Up to that morning she hadn’t spoken as thought she was a walk-on extra in a spy movie. Suddenly she was starting to sound like my brother, who talks in semi incomprehensible jargon most of the time.
Well screw her, her standard procedure and her U.P.test whatever hell it was. “Don’t call me Jet” I growled, adding petulantly, “and don’t sit on the bonnet of my car”
She laughed. ”Company car Jet darling.” Sticking her denim encased bottom out backwards she wiggled it against of the front of the Jag until there was a long agonised screech of metal studs against paintwork.
Once satisfied she’d done enough damage to reinforce her female supremacy, she blew me a kiss, repeated, “Company car” with pursed lips and crossed the pavement to the entrance of our building
I’d forgotten that in a stupid euphoric moment under the influence of cheap champagne, I’d agreed to that.
On inspecting the damage I noticed she had written ‘It means UNDER PRESSURE and a big X in the grime on the windscreen.
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