Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Excerpt from forthcoming work, set in July 1998 in Brighton - a follow-up to 'Another Late One'

I wake up in my brother’s lounge room and straining a glance across at the red digital display to my right I read “13:15”, which I soon realise means I have just had an unbroken thirteen-hour sleep.  I lie there staring up at the ceiling for a minute or so and then when I try to roll over onto my side I feel my whole body’s heaviness.  My head thumps repeatedly and I feel like I could vomit at any moment.  I feel absolutely horrendous and decide immediately that lying on my back and staring up at the ceiling will do for now.   I slowly begin to recall the events of the last few days and the flight back last night.  As I lie there, barely able to move, I have perhaps my first proper realisation that this needed to stop; I needed to calm down and take a break otherwise I would probably kill myself before long.  I’d also had enough of waking up on other people’s floors or in strange rooms I didn’t recognise.  I’d had enough.


    I was in The George and Dragon, down one of the narrow back streets of Brighton – one of our most common haunts for a night’s drinking.  It was cool in there; kind of like grungy and a little bit ‘sticky’ in places, but it had character, and a hell of a lot of stories to tell if it could’ve talked.  It had been a quiet and chilled one tonight; a few laughs, a few amusing tales told.  I looked at my watch at ten past ten and figured I’d probably have one more and call it a night.  Tomorrow was Thursday, which was usually more lively anyway, tended to be a bit madder; so I supposed that everyone would be feeling the same and say good night, same time tomorrow chaps.  Sophie had been busily texting now for about half an hour and I thought it a bit rude; but I knew what Soph was like so I wasn’t too bothered really, nor was I gonna bother her; it was her business.

    ‘So you seein’ that Russian bird again then Spots?’ enquired Terry over the general chatter.

    ‘Polish,’ corrected Spotty.

    ‘Polish…whatever; you been…err,’

    ‘Not really like,’ Spotty shrugged his shoulders.  I had heard something from Stace about Spotty and a foreign girl.

    ‘Ahhh, she sounded well nice,’ said Sophie sympathetically, though only taking a brief glance up at us from her phone, that she was still mid-texting in her lap.  Soph’s hair tonight was burgundy coloured and spiked up a little; quite refined by her standards.

    ‘When was this like?’ I asked.

    ‘Friday night,’ said Terry, pointing at Spotty across the table from him, ‘this lad somehow found his way into some foreign student night,’ he laughed, ‘what was the story again Spots?’ 

    Spotty was rolling himself a cigarette, which he then licked before sealing it deftly, ‘it’s my mate…he works with this Russian guy, Ukrainian or whatever.  We’d had a couple of spliffs, a few beers and we were at a loose end.  So my mate rings up this Russian…Ukrainian lad, and he’s at this private party in some club.  First off, can I just say it was a fucking long conversation they had on the phone; my god…’  I laughed, as did Terry at Spotty’s humourous way of putting things.  Tel was nodding and smiling broadly as if he’d already heard the story before, but was more than happy to sit through it again.  ‘I mean…it had been a good night anyway but he left me stood there freezing my nuts off;’ he tapped the cigarette down on the table top repetitively, ‘I was seriously going to leave him there…seriously; the guy was taking absolute liberties.’

    ‘It couldn’t have been that long,’ added Stace.

    ‘It was!  I kept signalling to him to hurry the fuck up.  It was Stuart,’ he looked to me now as I’d met Stuart before and I nodded in recognition, ‘you know how he goes on sometimes.’  I didn’t, but anyway.

    ‘Cut a long story short, he’s evidently trying to talk his way into this party, but he keeps having to repeat himself.  I mean, he keeps going over and over the same stuff – they kept seeming to agree everything but then he would repeat the same bit of the plan all over again – as if he couldn’t cope without knowing it off by heart or something.’

    ‘So get to the party bit,’ urges Bell.

    ‘I’m getting there, I’m getting there,’ he lights up the cigarette and Stace has lit up too next to me.  I would like one but I’m really trying to give up.  I am tempted anyhow but concentrate on the story, hoping the urge will go away.

    ‘So we get there and even after all the planning and the endless conversation, we get to the club – which I swear, I know Brighton like the back of my hand but I ain’t never been down this street before, but anyway – we get there and Stu starts moaning and gesticulating wildly – right outside the club – that Alex (that’s the Russian’s name) should be there to meet us; “he should be fucking out here,” he’s gesturing, “where the fuck is he?”’ Spotty is miming the actions and the serious, angry look on his face brings out giggles around the table.  ‘So I’m looking at Stuey,’ he continues, his eyes flicking around the table at all of us, ‘about to tell him, “look it’s not really the end of the world like, maybe it’s not meant to be,” when I notice these two great big doormen looking at us.  I mean, they are big.  One of ‘em’s got this great big Mars Bar down his cheek and he’s wearing this tight black jacket and he looks like some evil Bosnian straight out of the fuckin’ KGB or something,’ I have to put my beer down as I nearly slop it everywhere laughing; everyone is laughing, ‘so I’m trying to signal to Stuart, trying to somehow say with my eyes: “look mate, there’s two great big evil bastards over there who are looking at us as if they want to kill us,” but then this tall bloke comes out of the club and chats briefly to one of the doormen; Stuey spots him and I work out it must be Alex, ‘cos Stu starts to walk towards him at the door.  He walks up there with all the confidence in the world, as if he’s just going to walk straight into the club, never mind the doormen.  I’m shaking my head at this point thinking, “Do I want to just leave now?  Do I really want to show that I have any association with this bloke?”  As I amble towards the door anyway, both doormen put an arm out to stop Stuey, but the guy’s got the crust to look up in surprise at this point, as if he has genuinely just noticed these two big bastards stood there!’

    I have finished my drink now and really want another one.  It’ll be last orders soon and I really want a big double but I’m not going to the bar just yet, I need to hear the rest of the story.

    ‘They’re looking at him like there’s NO CHANCE he’s getting in there; “this is party,” says the one bouncer in a thick Eastern European accent, shaking his head, “students only,” he adds, “are you student?” Obviously we’re not but then Alex is speaking to them and I’m so impressed at how calm he is and he even gives me a smile and a wink as he’s talking.  It’s at this point that I think, “he’s going to get us in here, there really isn’t a problem,” and I quicken my step as I sense the bouncers weakening and the next thing I know we’re being welcomed in – but even then Stuart tries to give the Bouncers a dirty look as he walks past them into the club.  Unbelievable!’

    Everyone is loving the story and I realise how much I adore nights like these when the vibe is good and the drink is flowing.  There is a pause as Terry offers everyone another drink and –of course – everybody accepts.  As I am at the bar helping Tel with the order I hear Stace ask ‘Where’s Caine tonight?’ and Bell answers that he spoke to him a few hours ago and that he sounded completely wasted and that he was probably having trouble moving from his couch.  It was a familiar story.  ‘Carry on then,’ said Terry, laying the last of the drinks down on the already cluttered table, full of empty glasses and bottles.

    ‘So anyway,’ Spotty laughs quickly, smiling from ear to ear and shaking his head with a far off look in his eyes, ‘it’s a crazy night.  Half the girls in there…well half the people in fact, seem to be wearing these tall, curly wigs, like white or red or yellow and people are dressed up like I don’t know what.  I could’ve just stood there looking at people and that would’ve constituted a good night, I’m telling you.  It was like some fucked up Rocky Horror Show stroke Elvira stroke Barry Lyndon theme party or something; but there were some seriously fit girls in there; sorry,’ he gestured to Stace and Sophie as if to apologise for offending them.  As if!  They’d heard it all and more from us over the years.

    ‘Don’t worry about that,’ answered Soph, her phone in her pocket now and glowing with enthusiasm for the story as she always did, ‘carry on love!’

    ‘And I’m getting some really mixed looks and I don’t know why,’ Spotty continued, ‘I mean, I guess I was over-casual for such a night but I figured it kind of worked in a strange way…perhaps…I don’t know,’ he shook his head again, ‘so then Stu introduces me to Alex and then we’re at this big table with about seven blokes and two girls plus me and Stuey and everyone’s smoking and chatting closely into each other’s ears, but there was a nice atmosphere in there – kind of friendly, but cool at the same time.  I look around and there’s some girls dancing, two of these girls with the wigs…and I don’t know why – I haven’t danced all night and rarely do I ever dance come to that, but I instinctively get up and start fuckin’ boogying.  I don’t even know what the song is, but before I know it this girl is chatting to me like she’s dead interested and it turns out she’s from Poland and where am I from?  I think she knew I was English – surely she did – but I thought at the time she was expecting me to say the Czech Republic or Hungary or something.  Anyway, I’m really getting on with this girl and I’m starting to feel a real vibe happening, but then Alex is up on the dance floor talking to me, right close to my ear;

    “You like this girl?” he’s asking – and I don’t know what he means by it!  You know how Russians – or Ukrainians or whatever he is – you know how they talk sometimes if you’re not used to it?  To me he sounded almost threatening, so I’m thinking, “Shit, this is his fucking girlfriend” and I’m terrified he’s going to take me out; but then he grabs my neck and back of my shoulder, like in a really strong grip and he says almost in to my ear now, “this is nice girl, you hear me?”  I am still trying to dance opposite her at this point; I mean I’m thinking: “I like you Alex, but firstly I can SEE she’s a nice girl – I’d worked that bit out – and secondly, I kind of seemed to be doing alright without you matey,” but all I say is, “yea, yea,” or something dumb like that and then there’s a crowd dancing with us and the moment is lost; soon after that the girl disappears.’

    ‘Oh no, so what happened?’ asked Soph, excitedly sitting up and clapping her hands together.

    ‘No it was alright man!’ he exclaimed with a broad grin on his face, ‘I met her at the bar about fifteen minutes later.  I don’t know where she’d been, but we start…you know…at the bar and then at the end of the night she came back to mine.’

    ‘Good work sunshine,’ I smiled, ‘so was it worth it?’

    ‘Aye it were a good shag,’ he said.  Everyone laughed.  Spotty’s Yorkshire accent, where he was originally from, coming to the fore as it occasionally did.

    ‘Tell them what you were telling me yesterday,’ urged Terry, beaming.

    ‘What’s that?’

    ‘About, you know, the apparent boyfriend and stuff,’

    ‘Oh right; well we’re back at mine and…well, we’d done it…and then we’re lying in bed and Eva – that’s her name – starts going on about how her boyfriend doesn’t do this and doesn’t do that.  So I ask “where was your boyfriend tonight?” thinking that he could’ve been at the party and I could be in a spot of bother like, but she says, “Dusseldorf,” and laughs and I laugh too.’  He sighs and looks off dreamily for just a moment, ‘but…I don’t think anything else is gonna happen with her.’

    ‘But I thought you said she was nice?’ Stace said before taking a slug of her drink; she appeared to be quite drunk.      

    ‘Yea she is…oh I dunno!’ he put his drink down on the table, not without feeling, ‘it’s always the wrong bird at the wrong time…’


My books to purchase or sample here:

Follow me on Twitter @RichMcQuillan

Thanks for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment