“Where the hell are you?” I asked him.
Four days had drifted wearily past since the babysitting episode, the last three of them I’d been totally alone.
The only reason I’d been given for my brother’s sudden absence was a note shoved through my letterbox saying ‘Sally ned’s backup’ in Jason’s childlike scrawl. I didn’t know what he meant, but it kept me amused for a while wondering who Ned was before I remembered Jason was, in today’s parlance, spelling-wise challenged.
It was the first time the office phone had rung during Jason and Sally’s absence. Typically it had to have been my brother, and even more typically, his reply was inane. “Here.”
“Which is?” Breathe deeply, remember the danger of heart attacks between forty and fifty.
“Oh!, You mean right now. At home of course. You want, we can do a debrief over the phone.”
“Do a what?” The only briefs I knew were what they were now calling men’s underpants in mail order catalogues. I suspected that had nothing to do with what he was talking about
“Debrief bro.” He sighed. “ Stands for debriefing. Like you ask about the subject and I tell you where I’ve been. If you want.”
What I wanted was to knife, shoot, strangle, and kick him to death in any order it came out. “Where have you been Jason?”
“That’s subject to need to know, bro.” The was a gentle hum in my ear, the jerk had rang off.
Yes to all of the above, but first I wanted to torture him for a very long time.
“ So what sort of a comedian are you Nigel?” I asked as I tried to avoid yet another of the series of potholes that had decorated the Pontycymchesty to Blaenodyn road since the Romans had stopped maintaining it.
“Not really a comedian as such, more of an artiste really, an exotic entertainer.” Nigel replied in his soft Southern Irish accent.
Exotic? In the eerie intermittent glow from the Mini’s dashboard, it went on and off with each sweep of the wiper blades, he looked more like an extra in a Zombie film. Nigel was the reason Jason had been absent. Sally had called Jason over to Ireland in order to escort Nigel back to Pontycymchesty to start his tour of ten South Wales clubs. Nigel was apparently a client for our ‘minding’ services.
On the up side he was at least thirty.
On the down side, he had turned up with a bad case of the flu, which Jason immediately contracted. Before rushing home to recuperate by watching kid’s TV, my brother explained my need not to know had suddenly turned into a need to know. It appeared that as I was now stuck with the ‘assignment’ of ‘minding’ Nigel for his first club date, which happened to be in that uncut shimmering uncut jewel in the South Wales’ crown, known to all as Blaenodyn.
Sally it seemed was still in Ireland, Dublin in fact, with a bookie she’d met whilst signing up Nigel. In Jason speak, Sally’s assignment, was to find out which member of the subject’s betting shop staff was sticking his fingers in his overflowing till.
Jason was happy with it. He even showed me a Polaroid photo he’d taken of the bookie, who incidentally looked like he could easily have made it as a film star helping sally into the red leather passenger seat of his Porsche.
I would have been just a shade concerned if it had been my woman, not that I had one. As the woman concerned was the detestable Sally, if my brother was happy, who was I to cast doubt.
Naturally it was pissing down, it was after all South Wales. Sally had still got my, sorry, the company, Jaguar, so I had to use my old Mini. I’d kept it in my lockup garage ever since I bought the Jag because for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to part with it. I hadn’t of course kept it taxed, MOT’d, or insured.
Nigel, who was looking sicker by the minute, didn’t know this and all I could hope was, considering the weather, that the plod that worked with Mrs Davies’s son, Trevor, were keeping themselves tucked up warm and dry in the Police Station.
I for one had no objection to them drinking tea and minding their own business.
There had already been one bad scare as a set of blue lights came up fast behind and then overtook as it rushed to the scene of an accident. An accident that considering the traffic jam it caused looked likely to make us late for Nigel’s gig.
if I hadn’t been worrying about the cops and a polite tap on the window accompanied by, ‘Excuse me Sir, but I couldn’t help noticing that your tax disc is out of date , and so forth,’ I might have taken more interest in why Nigel needed ‘minding’ in the first place.
It came back to me as we worked our way into the hinterland and away from the bright lights of Port Talbot steel works that Nigel had told Jason that normally he only worked in Ireland although once, a couple of years earlier, he done a 12 date tour of South and Mid Wales.
It seemed that he’d had so much barracking and associated problems, such as a dented nose and broken collar bone, from the indigenous piss-head population, he’d vowed never to return. That he’d obviously been offered enough money to change his mind was an indication of how good a comedian he had to be.
What I didn’t ask myself was, if he was that good, why had he had so much hassle and, why did he need a minder?
As we slithered bald tyredly into Blaenodyn, Nigel began making nasty gagging sounds and began to desperately wind his side window down. He almost made it. That is too say, he got his chin and mouth out before the window jammed so at least only half of the vomit slid down the interior door trim.
My fault, I admit. The hole in the exhaust pipe was just under the passenger seat, so in addition to the flu, he was also the recipient of quite a lot of carbon-monoxide.
“Sorry about that;” he said with a pasty faced grin when he finally managed to un-jam his head from the window.
I mumbled something about ‘No problem’ whilst trying not to inhale. The stench of vomit was villainous.
“Mind if I use this?”
I shook my head without looking as I was too busy trying not to run over a short fat geezer standing in the middle of the club’s car park. Pushing my spare sweater out through the stuck partially open window so that it slide down the side of the door to land on the mans shoes, Nigel muttered to me, ‘Sorry , I used it to wipe up. I hope it wasn’t a good one.
Not any more, though it could have been used to wipe the rest of puddle water I sprayed over Tubby, the club manager’s, check suit, if he hadn’t picked it up and wiped his face with it first.
(In the Nollywood version, so I’m old, the club was a Las Vegas Casino, the club manager a car parking attendant whom I shot dead because he didn’t know how to drive my manually geared Ferrari. Just goes to show. Oh yeah, and Nigel was a hermaphrodite.)
Chapter Three Howling harpies
The clubhouse was a single story building with peeling faded brown paint, an almost illegible sign that proclaimed that it had once been a cinema, and a series of uninspired daubs of graffiti, mainly depicting exaggerated part of the male and female anatomy.
It stood, a forlorn monument to archliberal nonentity, in the shadow of the disused slag heap that hovered an omnipresent menace to the municipal car park.
The ‘artistes’ dressing room was a what had obviously been some sort of storeroom for spare seats and was curtained off from a hole in the wall of that gave direct access to the men’s bog.
Coming from somewhere behind the room, probably the auditorium where the screen had once stood, came a bedlam of voices, that seemed to be clamouring for something, although it was impossible to make out what.
The second we’d arrived in the room, Nigel had made a gagging sound and dived through the curtain to commune with a white porcelain telephone. He was still in there when the manager exploded through the door.
From the pink glow, he’d obviously washed his face after wiping it with the contents of Nigel’s stomach. He had however missed a piece of carrot on his tie.
“I’m the new manager” he said pompously his beady eyes flashing around the pokey hole, before asking. “You the turn?”.
“No.” I pointed to the curtain, “He is.”
“Well that’s a bloody relief, I doubt they’d be that chuffed with you, Too old see.”
He jerked round as something sounding like a whale farting (assumption only on my part never having heard a whale and so forth) erupted from the curtained-off bog.
“What the fuck was that?” he blurted.
“What’s the matter with him?”
“Fuck” a look of panic crossed is face. “Well he better get well fucking fast. They’ve nearly finished the Bingo and they’ll want the turn next, they’ll go mad otherwise, there’ll be no holding them.”
“I’m alright now”. Nigel’s deathly pale face appeared round the curtain. He didn’t look alright, in fact he looked definitely un-alright. The manager however look relieved, muttered ‘fuck’, disappeared, reappeared, muttered ‘five minutes’.
“What do you want me to do, apart from drive you to the hospital?”
Nigel gave me a greenish smile. “Nothing much. It depends if they have let any men in.”
That confused me. “Why shouldn’t they let men in,” I asked.
“Holy Mary , mother of God.” He gave me a pitying look. “Where did you grow up. They’re not supposed to be any men on a ‘Ladies’ night but in Wales you can never be sure. Sometimes they get so pissed up they find the courage to gatecrash and take the piss out of the stripper.”
He touched his slightly bent nose. “Then it can turn a bit ugly.”
In all my forty odd years of existence I’d never seen a live stripper and felt mildly excited by the prospect. I hoped after Nigel had done his act, we’d hang around long enough for me to watch a probably not so young, young lady grind her way down to G string and nothing else. “She on after you?” I asked trying to sound casual.
Nigel laughed, I think, could have been a groan, and started to unpack his costume bag. Pulling out a purple G string with an crumpled appliqué daffodil pocking out the back. “The strippers not a lady”, he said as he smoothed out the petals.
“I’m the stripper mate.”
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