Monday, 28 December 2009

Sex Gods from the Planet Metal - Chapter Four


I sat on my own on a typically dreary Friday lunchtime in Sedgemoor house, finishing off a plate of chips and listening to the general ruckus coming from the battered old table football machine in the corner. It was being played with the usual vigour by a group of fifth years, and that was how things were, back then. Anyone in any other year wasn’t allowed anywhere near the machine, although a select few (after the appropriate crawling) were allowed to watch and offer appreciative comments in the utterly wasted hope of actually getting a game one day. As I finished the last of the chips and pushed the plate away with a satisfied belch, Peter came strolling in, and there was something very different about him. After a few seconds I put my finger on it - Peter was grinning. Actually, Peter was smiling the sort of smile that in less civilised times would get the perpetrator locked up in a rubber room with the sort of jacket you need help to fasten. I was quite amazed, really. Peter was known to grin insanely, often at the sight of something he finds cruelly amusing, like an old lady tripping over a rock, but he almost never smiled properly, with genuine happiness over something nice happening. He was the junior equivalent of the archetypal Dour Scot, a trait inherited from his Caledonian parents, both of whom would rather crack a tooth than crack a smile. So there’s me, lounging in our homeroom, dithering over a plate of soggy chips and pondering the fate of the world, and he comes bounding up like the cat who not only caught the canary but also got the South West of England canary franchise. He sat down opposite me and continued with the manic looks, so I decided to take the bait.
"What," I asked. "Has made you so happy?"
"She said yes," he replied, twitching like a four year old on Christmas morning who's been told he's got to wait for everyone to finish breakfast before any presents are opened.
"Who said yes? What the fuck are you talking about?" I never was very good at suspense.
"What are we doing tomorrow night?" he asked, completely unconcerned by my obvious bafflement.
"We're going to see 'The Colour Of Money'" I replied confidently. I'd been looking forward to it all week. Peter's dad was going to drive us to the cinema, and we would watch Tom Cruise and Paul Newman playing pool. Easy question, or so I thought.
"Nope," he said. "We're going to see 'Hannah And Her Sisters'."
"Yes," I said. "Ha ha. As usual you're almost as enjoyable as leprosy. Why the fuck would we see that? It looks shit." I was being very sincere here, as the comic genius of Woody Allen has always gone right over my head. My parents liked to make me watch his films when they come on the telly, and they would sit there with manic grins on their faces, occasionally going "Ooh... this is a good bit next," only to be disappointed when I failed to raise a smile.
"Two more questions," he continued, "and all will become clear. Who is your favouritiest girl in our year. I'll give you a clue - blonde hair, dazzling smile, nice pointy tits."
"Carolyn Thomas," I replied immediately, drifting off into my Carolyn Thomas inspired dream world. She was indeed my favouritest girl in our year, as Peter put it. I was determined that one day I would ask her out, and was just waiting until I was the last boy on the planet so that I could do so.
"Okay," said Peter, snapping his fingers in front of my face to get me back to the real world. "Final question: guess who is going to see said shit film with us tomorrow? I will be accompanied by none other than the lovely Jane Nicholls, she of the ludicrously advanced cleavage, whilst you will be joined by her best friend, who is none other than?"
"Carolyn Thomas," I completed, my smile stretching so much it threatened to break my face in half. "How the fuck did you arrange that?"
"I was just chatting to Jane, mentioned we were going to the flicks tomorrow, and she jumps in, saying that they were dying to see the shit film, and then asked what we were seeing. Naturally, I told her 'Hannah And Her Sisters', and asked if they wanted to come with us. So, as I told you five bloody minutes ago - she said yes."
"You," I said seriously, "are a beautiful, beautiful guy, and I love you for ever."
"No less than I deserve," he preened, pretending to polish his nails on his shirt. The buzzer buzzed as it did, and we trapsed off for English, both lost in fantasy Worlds that would have our mothers washing our minds out with soap.

"Good afternoon to you all, my name is David Banner, also known as The Incredible Hulk," pause for laughter, "and I think I should be the one to stay in this balloon." As opening speeches go, it’s pretty weird one, I must admit. As most people who know me are aware, I don't take kindly to Hulk references, and was even more sensitive about it back then. When the TV show came out it was, admittedly, quite amusing - I'd roar fiercely at people and generally tell them not to make me angry, assuring them that they really wouldn't like me when I was angry. Predictably enough, the joke quickly wore thinner than Bobby Charlton's hair, and after a while I was living up to my namesake's reputation, creating mayhem and property damage wherever I went, although I never got to rescue innocent young children from life threatening situations and wasn't hounded by a horrendously persistent investigative reporter. When it comes to having the same name as a famous fictional character I certainly got the shitty end of the stick, and people have learned not to use the H word around me, or at least not in my hearing. So what was I doing bringing up in front of a class full of grinning loons? Simple - Miss Wright asked me to. What she actually did was suggest a Balloon Debate, in which three people pretend to be three famous people, real or fictitious, in a balloon which is about to crash into the middle of the ocean. The three must each present their case for being the one to stay in the balloon whilst the other two are lobbed over the side to the ravenous sharks below. The week before, Miss Wright picked me and two others to take part, with the rest of the class asking questions and making the final vote. Unfortunately, we never got to choose our own characters, and the class were asked for suggestions. Cue Peter's hand shooting up and suggesting The Incredible Hulk/Dr David Banner for me, a suggestion accepted amongst much sniggering and look from me dirtier than than a tramps pants. My two partners in crime were similarly assaulted by the wit and wisdom of our classmates. First up was Stephen Taylor, a boy cursed with the twin deformities of a big intellect and a small body that the cruel amongst us might call rather weedy. It's this body, coupled with a pair of small, round glasses, that has earned him the highly amusing nickname of Ghandi, and of course that was who he immediately became for the debate. Our erstwhile opponent was Tracey Collins, also highly rated intellect-wise, but possibly the most opinionated, bossy girl in the history of opinionated, bossy girls, and that's a long history indeed. I believe that if it wasn't for opinionated, bossy girls cavemen would never have got off of their hairy backsides and got on with evolving and inventing things like vacuum cleaners and washing machines. Anyway, Tracey was known by the name Thatch, after the queen of opinionated, bossy girls, our very own Prime Minister of the day, Her Royal Nastiness Mrs Thatcher. Unlike most blokes I wasn’t scared by the Iron Lady, but I must admit her hairstyle still gives me nightmares to this day. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall when she was shown the cover of the Iron Maiden single "Sanctuary", showing her lying prone at the feet of Eddie, who's just killed her for tearing down a band poster. Not very subtle, but very funny if, like me, you're of the sick, twisted variety.

Anyway, so there we were, me, Ghandi and Mrs Thatch, all arguing our case against a watery grave. Tracey and Stephen had already had their say, and if I'm honest I didn't think I would have a problem kicking balloon debate ass. Stephen started off with a predictable ramble about his great work in the field of peace, and his reputation as a great humanitarian and all of that old guff. I swear that his five minutes seemed like five hours, and by the end most of the class would have stoned him had there been any available missiles. Sod world peace, seemed to be the attitude, let's kill him. Tracey made a better showing, having actually done some decent research into the wonderful things Mrs Thatcher had done for the country. It didn’t hurt that her father was a local MP, and that she actually believed every word she said. The thing is, they'd both lost the point of a successful debate, which is entertainment, especially when your audience is of average age fourteen. Move over guys, I thought, and make way for the master.
"Before I start, I'd just like to get one thing clear: Don't make me angry..." I waved a hand at the audience, and on cue Peter led them into the standard response: "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." To my surprise, even Miss Wright joined in. "Whilst I'm sure you appreciate the points my learned colleagues in distress have made, I feel there may be one or two things about them that should sway your opinion in my favour. First, Mr Ghandi, or Norman, as he's known to his friends. Forgive me if I'm wrong, Norm, but under your principles you cannot do anything else but lay down your life for others, meaning me and Mrs Thatch here, so I suggest you start swimming. And coming to the lovely Mrs Thatch, I have only one thing to say that will, I hope, lead you to feed her to the sharks: IT'S MRS THATCH, FOR CHRISTS SAKE!" The last was delivered at just the right volume so as not to get me in too much trouble, and the crowd, such as they are, went wild. "MAGGIE MAGGIE MAGGIE," I chant, and still staying on cue Peter led them in the response "OUT! OUT! OUT!" with the precision of a watchmaker. When they calmed down, I knew I had them. I had some other stuff prepared, but didn't bother with it, happy to take both my bow and my seat. The questions from the class were no real problem, with my standard response to anyone saying Mrs Thatcher is better than The Hulk - "It's Mrs Thatcher, for Christ's sake!" - getting more cheers each time. Tracey was the only real competition and her supporters tried their best, but in the end the vote was overwhelmingly in my favour. Miss Wright congratulated me on my "eloquent delivery" with a very knowing glance, and although the whole thing was bound to bring on a fresh rash of H word usage, I was glad I’d done it.

As I stood outside Carolyn's door, with Peter at my side like a faithful but spotty retainer, I felt, it would not be unfair to say, a tad nervous. I'd never been on a date before, and standing outside girls houses was the sort of thing only normally done by the two of us if we were well hidden behind the hedge trying to peer through a bedroom window, trying to get a glimpse of something we almost certainly wouldn't know what to do with. Carolyn and Jane were inside, and we were bang on time, thanks to Peter's dad. He was sat in his Toyota at the end of the drive, no doubt trying to work out a way of asking us all for petrol money at the end of the night. I wore my ever present jeans, with a new black denim shirt, with Peter going the whole hog by changing his t-shirt for one without swear words on, actually a great sacrifice on his part.

I reached forward and rang the doorbell, which played "Oranges and Lemons", and we both took an instinctive step back, trying not to stare at the twitching curtains at the front room window. After about half a minute during which my bladder announced its desire to pee really really soon, the door opened, and there they were. Carolyn was in a simple outfit of jeans, a plain black (and nicely tight) t-shirt and a denim jacket, whilst Jane had a blue skirt and a nice safe high necked jumper. They smiled at us whilst we tried to speak.
"Hi," I finally blurted out. My brain decided to take control and reached out my hand automatically, and I was relieved when Carolyn took it in hers rather than shaking it politely. Peter followed my lead and we led the girls back to the car. As I won the toss earlier, I got to sit in the back with the girls whilst Peter smouldered with adolescent hormones in the front. I'd never been this close to a girl before, and it was rather nice, to put it mildly. She smelled very nice, she looked even better, and she smiled at me, which is all I required for a perfect world at that moment in time.
It took twenty minutes to reach the cinema, during which time I darted between feeling like the luckiest man in the world and hoping to God my uncontrollable erection behaved itself when we got out of the car. I didn't care if we were going to see a Woody Allen movie, and I didn't even care that Peter's date had bigger tits than mine. All I knew was that it was going to be a great night.

"So how did it go, Banner?" asked Carl Lewis, who I had the misfortune to sit next to in Geography. He was a big lad, at least six foot tall, slightly pudgy, with the sort of voice that would have had people label him a poof if he wasn't so handy with his fists. He never picked on me, but he liked to push it sometimes.
"How did what go?" I asked innocently. At the front of the class Mr George was extolling the virtues of different types of cloud, seemingly oblivious to any amount of chatter.
"Don't give me that. I know you went out with Carolyn Thomas on Saturday night and I know that you went to the pictures with her, Jane Nicholls and that Scottish mate of yours. What I don't know is how far you got." He leered like a Frenchman at a junior school. "So come on. Spill the beans - is she easy or what?"
"That," I said, looking him square in his piggy little eye. "Is none of your business."
"That means you didn't get anywhere. What a loser, couldn't even get off with Carolyn Thomas." He snorted like a constipated pig, contempt dripping from his every molecule.
"I didn't say I didn't get off with her," I said defensively, hating myself for allowing my buttons to be so easily pushed. "I just said it was none of your business."
"I bet," he said slowly. "You didn't get to touch her up. You wouldn't have the guts."
"Bloody would," I said defensively, as if I was Rudolph Valentino.
"Come on then," he goaded. "One to ten. How far did you get, with one being a peck on the cheek and ten being a blow job in the back row."
"Fuck off Carl," I sneered in a bored voice, wishing the buzzer would go.
"So that's a one then," he said in a resigned tone. "I knew it. If you can't tell me different I'll just have to tell everyone you didn't get anywhere at all. I just thought you'd have more balls, Banner, but it seems you're just as big a poof as everyone else tells me you are."
I simmered in silence. I hated him. I had three choices: I could tell him the truth, which is that I only got a couple of snogs (although I was quite happy with that); I could shut up and be called a poof, or I could lie. I knew full well that if I take either of the first two options the bastard would take pleasure in spreading it around that I'm crap with girls, something that might have been true but also something I didn't relish being reminded of every day. At thirteen I wanted my peers, however moronic they may have been, to respect me and my gargantuan ladykilling techniques, so I predictably went for option three, because as we know, all men are twats. Tell us what's behind door three, David...
"Eight," I said, because I'm just as much of a twat as every other guy, and was even then. Sorry Carolyn.

My stomach really hurt. It hurt like someone had driven a fist into it really really hard, and that must have been because someone just had. I folded over and wheezed like a geriatric old man as Chris and Mike Thomas stood over me, their Doctor Martins boots inches away from my face. One thing I may have neglected to mention about Carolyn is her two brothers. Chris and Mike were sixteen, twins, and very protective of their little sister, probably because they knew exactly what thirteen year old boys are like. They must have been staking me out, because as soon as I came down to the local playing field for some quiet contemplation they appeared like a couple of very nasty ghosts. I knew I only had myself to blame, of course. Carl had been studiously telling everyone about my "eight" night, and instead of denying everything like a sensible person I'd been lapping up the adoration from all the other boys who didn’t realise I was still as sexually frustrated as they are. It started to go downhill on the Friday afternoon when Jane accosted me between classes and had a right go at me for spreading rumours about her best friend, who incidentally never wanted to see me again. I weakly protested that it was Carl who had spread the rumours but had no answer when she asked why I hadn't denied them. It was a right sod to realise that I’d blown it with Carolyn, but it was my own fault, and I figured I'd get over it. No problem, really, except that I'd forgotten about Chris and Mike. Tales of the twins were legion at school, and I was one of the many in awe of their legend when I was in the first year and they were in the fifth. In between leading the rugby team to numerous victories and cups they swore at teachers, bullied as many other kids as possible and skated on that thin line between detention and expulsion like Torvil and Dean.
"What shall we do with him Chris?" said Mike conversationally. He had his right boot on my head, so I could only listen to my fate being casually discussed. "I reckon a broken wrist will do the trick. Very painful, but not crippling, and it would certainly stop him playing with himself for a few weeks. Would that teach you a lesson, Mr Banner?"
"Yes! Definitely!" I said, realising the last was directed at me. "Actually," I added, "a lot less than that would teach me a lesson. I can faithfully say that I have already learned my lesson at this point."
"Talkative, innee?" said Chris, the intellectual of the two. He bent down and shoved a hanky in my mouth. It wasn’t very fresh and I was able to tell he obviously had had a cold recently. Why couldn't he be the sort of person who wipes his nose on his sleeve! They talked quietly to one another for a minute, then Chris hauled me up by the scruff of my neck. I was so close to shitting myself it's not even funny. Mike pulled the hanky out of my mouth and as a result I proceeded to be violently sick, unfortunately all over his shoes.
"Oh shit," I muttered, looking at the furious expression on his face. He grabbed me by my hair.
"We was going to let you go, but I've changed my mind. You have two choices: either have your wrist broken, like I suggested earlier, or you can clean my shoes."
"Shoes," I gasped. "Definitely shoes." With that he forced me down to ground level and made me lick his boots clean. I don't know how, but I managed it without heaving all over again.
Mike dumped me on the ground and they both gave me a parting kick in the ribs for good measure.
"If you ever speak to our sister again," Chris growled as they stomped off, "we'll put you in fuckin' hospital." I believed him, and thereby resolved to be entirely truthful when dealing with members of the opposite sex in future. So help me God.

When I was younger, about seven or eight, my Dad got a CB radio. Such a term will mean nothing to the youth of today, but the CB was the internet of its day, although the availability of porn was substantially less. CB, which stands for 'Citizens Band', was brought to our attention in Britain by a very popular film in 1978 called 'Convoy'. In the film a bunch of American truckers drove "a big old convoy across the USA" according to the theme tune. Naturally, the police were all nasty bigoted bastards and the truckers big hearted good old boys, and whilst they drove their convoy they would talk to each other on their CB radios, calling each other silly names, like Rubber Duck and Spider Mike. I am not making these names up. The film wasn't up to much, but for some reason a lot of people thought that having a little radio in your car was a Really Exciting Thing, because it enabled you to talk at your leisure to other road users, many of whom had the personality of a watermelon. The problem was that most conversations between CB enthusiasts was limited to where they were from, where they were they going, what were they going to do when they got there, and how much had they paid for their CB set up. My Dad has always been a complete sucker for anything new, electronic and expensive, so he wasted no time in buying the full set up and stuffing it in our Morris Minor, maybe thinking it would transfer it into an eighteen wheel Mack truck or something. His initial enthusiasm was unsurprisingly daunted after a few months, and so the CB radio, which had been out of bounds to me, was set up in my bedroom. As you can imagine, I was rather chuffed at this, and regularly chatted to dull people passing through the area, or dull people actually living in the area, most of whom had gained their sets the same way as me. For some reason that escapes me now I called myself Bert Badgerac, because on CB you couldn't just call yourself by your real name, you had to have a Handle. A Handle was your CB name, and in a lot of cases you could tell a lot about a person from their chosen handle. There was a natural reverse law in effect, and you quickly found that anyone calling themselves Sex Machine or Shagmaster were blatantly indulging in a little wish fulfilment. It really didn't matter, though, because you hardly ever got to meet the people you spoke to, you just chatted, and in a ridiculously geeky way it was all quite a lot of fun for a kid. Interestingly, most people would pick up on my requests for a conversation because my adolescent voice made them think I was a girl, so about half way through the chat they would hesitantly ask me "Er, are you a lady breaker, come on back?" (don't ask about the lingo, it would take forever) and I would reply in the negative, and after that the conversation would dry up a bit. For a while, CB was big business amongst a certain type of person, but inevitably the fascination faded, and the CB shops that had sprung up closed their doors whilst dust gathered on mine and most other people's radios, with the exception of genuine truckers, all of whom were probably glad that we'd all finally got bored and buggered off.

Nowadays we have the Internet, and we all agree that the Internet is a Really Exciting Thing, as once again we can talk to complete strangers about absolutely nothing at all, but this time with the added interest of readily available porn. When Simon moved in with me, he naturally bought his computer with him. Personally, I had never been on the internet, not really giving much of a toss before, but slowly he taught me what to do and like so many before me I was hooked. Of course, I spent the first few weeks scouring the World Wide Web for free pornography, as you do, but after a while it actually got a bit boring unless you're prepared to give your credit card details to God knows who, so I branched out into chat rooms. Now a chat room is the modern equivalent of the CB radio, except much, much bigger, with much more potential for misuse and general skulduggery. Any person in the world on the net can go into a chat room and type messages to everyone else in their particular room. The rooms range from general to specialised, and of course I spent many a happy hour cyber spanking what in all honesty were probably forty year old men, but as far as I was concerned were very nubile sex starved young nymphets. After a while I got to know the tricks, and became a lot more adept about getting the kind of conversational partners I desired. Then, one night, I hit on an idea. In these chat rooms you have to have a pseudonym, much like CB again, and these could be changed at any time as long as nobody else had the same name. Again like CB, there are a lot of very very sad individuals with very very sad chat room names, but I figured there had to be a name that would get all the nice young ladies coming to me, so I had a think. What I came up with was the realisation that every girl loves a fireman. They go nuts over firemen, and happily giggle at really bad helmet puns. So I called myself Fireman Sam, which miraculously nobody else had used yet. What I would do is log into a chat room and wait for people to notice I was there. Almost every time I would soon be greeted with a personal message from a girl asking me if I was a real fireman, to which I would of course reply yes, after which I would flirt outrageously and generally enjoy myself in a way that only the terminally sad can. Anyway, it was through this not too noble method that I came across Amanda, although not in a semen/body interface kind of way, obviously. She was in an adults only room when I popped up, and she immediately latched onto the whole fireman thing. We chatted via our keyboards, got more personal than any two people really should, and agreed to do it again. And again. And again. After a few days we exchanged telephone numbers and talked for many an hour, with me being absolutely honest about everything except for the teensy fact that I wasn't actually a fireman. Rather than playing it down, I embellished to the point of high fantasy, getting off on the fact that she was ludicrously turned on by my personality and my lies. Then came the crunch: she wanted to meet up. Basically I couldn't say no - we'd exchanged photos and were agreed that if we did meet there would be more sex than previously thought possible for two people. Of course, I couldn't let her come down here because if she found out my little secret she'd cut my bollocks off, so one day I arranged to go and see her in Reading. I thought that it was completely safe because she lived seventy miles away. I was due to go up, if all went according to plan, next weekend. And here she is, this weekend, in my local. Surprise!

"Amanda?" I say, incredulously, all sorts of thoughts whirring round in my mind.
Yes!" she shrieks hobbling towards me on heels that bring her height up to about five feet.
I swear she told me she was five ten. The only photos I've had have obviously been carefully chosen to obscure the fact that Amanda could give a Munchkin a blow job without having to kneel down.
I stand up, aware of Kate's bemused gaze, and Amanda envelops me in a hug that makes me feel like a man sized icing bag, although my nervousness is at such a high peak that if anything comes squirting out of an orifice it definitely won’t be icing. I tentatively hug her back, my mind racing. As long as she doesn't find out about me not being a fireman I'll be okay. I haven't lied about anything else, except possibly penis size, and by the time she finds out about that one it'll definitely be too late. Hell, if I play this right I'll actually get to take a girl home for a change. So what if she's a squeaky midget - she's certainly no nightmare in the looks department. We separate, and to my horror she sits down at the table with Kate, who seems to be treating the whole thing like a small bedroom farce put on for her personal amusement, watching intently to see when Ronnie Corbett is going to turn up.
"Gin and tonic, please darling," says Amanda, flashing me a smile that is all teeth and, if I'm honest, very little charm. I have no choice but to get the drink, so I frantically flag Mel down at the bar and get a gin and tonic on the table in front of Amanda within thirty seconds. Surely nothing could have happened in that time.
"So," says Kate. "Amanda tells me you're her boyfriend?"
Boyfriend? I've never met the woman before. Okay, so I may have given her the impression that I was her boyfriend over the phone, perhaps she misunderstood when I said "Of course I'm your boyfriend", to mean exactly that, and not, as I meant, "I really need to get laid, and you're well up for it, so I'll agree to anything".
"What?" I say, my brain still trying desperately to catch up with reality.
"Of course he is, aren't you, sweetie," says Amanda, gazing into my eyes. I nod, not trusting myself to say anything. "He's my little snugglebunny!" Oh my god, I think, she's mental. Nobody uses words like snugglebunny in real life except porn starlets who are marrying near death millionaires.
"So how long have you known each other?" asks Kate.
"You won't believe it," says Amanda in conspiratorial tones. "But we've just met. Tonight!" she adds with a squeak like a mouse being stepped on. Kate gives me a look, and I try and give the sort of weak smile that says 'Go along with her, she may have a gun'. Amanda notices Kates obvious confusion. "We met on the Internet," she explains, as if explaining calculus to a small child. "He charmed me with his wonderful words." Kate looks as though she wants to vomit at this. "So," continues Amanda. "How long have you known my little fireman?" Aaaggghhh! Say something you fool!
"Wuuh.." I slur, my mouth turning traitor on me.
"Fireman?" says Kate, bemused. "Is that another pet name?"
"No, silly!" Amanda is shrieking again. "He IS a fireman. He's my brave baby." With this she gives me a hug, and at the same time puts my fate squarely in Kate's hands. Kate is fully aware of this, and I suddenly wish I'd had only good things to say about Idiosyncratic Routine. Kate mulls over her reply for a second that stretches time like a drum solo, then decides that I deserve everything I get.
"He's not a fireman," she says, staring Amanda in the eyes. "He works in an office."
"Of course he's a fireman," says Amanda indignantly. "Tell her Dave."
"Ummm." I say eloquently. "Actually, I'm not technically a fireman, Amanda." I admit. "More sort of a non fireman, I suppose. I can explain," I add hurriedly as she stands up, furious. "I just got sort of carried away! Come on, it doesn't make any difference, surely! Ow!" The last is caused by a small fist bouncing off my nose. Amanda is standing in front of me, drink in hand, a furious look on her face.
"Bastard," she says with venom.
For a split second, I can see her contemplating throwing her drink at me, but instead she picks up my near full pint and pours it over my head before flouncing into the hall without a look back. I slump back in my seat, taken aback at what I feel is a rather extreme reaction. I look at Kate, who seems quite amused.
"Your nose is bleeding." she says. She's right - it's dripping onto the table. She offers me a tissue, which I stuff up the offending nostril.
"I think," I say sarcastically, "that the whole bleeding nose situation may be because I’ve just been thumped." I gingerly prod my nose, wincing at the stabbing pain. "Why did you grass me up?"
"I don't approve of lies," she answers simply. "My father seemed to think that lying was a preferable alternative to telling the truth. He had more affairs that a Tory minister. My mum finally kicked him out when she found him in bed with one of the neighbours. Mr Johnson, his name was. My father lives with him now."
"Come on," I protest. "It was only a little fib. I haven't lied to her about anything else."
"How about the size of your..?"
"Apart from that, of course," I admit. Damn her intuition.

I smile despite my soaking head and throbbing nose, and she smiles back. Gradually, the smile widens and she starts to laugh. One second there's nothing, then she's snorting like an excited piglet. As soon as she gets going, I can't help but join in. This entire situation is too ridiculous to feel anything but amusement. I feel like I'm back at school again, with globules of snot flying, although this time there's a fair amount of blood mixed in with it. Eventually, we manage to calm down, and sit there looking at each other, lips pursed, each determined not to be the one to start if all off again.
"Is it a bird?" she says, softly, eyes locked with mine.
"Is it a plane?" I reply, knowing exactly where she's going with this, unable to stop myself joining in.
"No..." we both say, voices rising. "It's FIRE MAN!", and we're off again.

"So why did you do it?" she asks, when we've finally got the laughter out of our systems. "You must have known you'd get found out."
"It just sort of got out of hand," I say, more sheepish than a shy shepherd.
"Just for a shag." She’s using that intuition again.
"Basically," I admit. "I suppose that beneath this sensitive exterior I'm just like all the rest of us. I want love, companionship and casual sex. It's not all Iron Maiden and Dry Blackthorn, you know. I get lonely, and I reach out, like anyone would."
"I appreciate that, but it's still no excuse for lying to the poor girl."
"Poor girl?" I say incredulously. "You did meet her? She was a shrill midget with a temper and a mean right hook. You probably did me a favour."
"Then you won't mind getting me another drink then?" she says, holding out her empty glass and tilting her head in an infuriatingly cute way. My nose is bleeding and my hair is dripping, but she makes everything seem immaterial. Okay, so it's soppy, but I can't help it. She will be mine.
"Let me dry myself first," I say, and proceed to do as much damage limitation as I can in the pub toilet. Afterwards I'm still a mess, but a passable mess rather than a cross the road to avoid mess. I go back in, stopping at the bar to get a fresh one for both of us. Hopefully I'll get to drink this one.

"Your drink, Milady" I say, placing it front of her and doing my best Parker from Thunderbirds impression.
"Thenk yew Parkah," she replies in a ludicrously over the top posh bird accent.
"Oh well," I say with a sigh, sitting down. "At least things can't get any worse."
Why do I say these things? It's like walking out five minutes before the end of a football match when your team are two nil down, only to miss their brilliant three goals in extra time.
"Shouldn't you be in the hall?" says Kate.
"Why?" I say, puzzled.
"Well, the band are just finishing 'Love You baby', and that's always the last song. Don't you go out and do the old 'Give them a big hand weren't they great' type of thing?"
"Oh shit," I exclaim, leaping up and knocking my pint off the table. It's certainly not my night for actually getting to drink my pints. As I open the double doors, a terrifying sight greets me. Amanda is on the stage. She knows all about what I do here, because I just had to blow my own trumpet, even if I DID exaggerate the size of said trumpet. My stomach sinks like one of my Mums sponge cakes. The crowd are looking suitably bemused.
"Well," she says hesitantly into the mike. "Weren't they good. Give them a big hand."
There is a smattering of applause, and people give me odd looks as I push past them towards the stage. When I'm half way there, Amanda sees me and points an accusing finger. Two hundred heads swivel towards me.
"This guy," she says, "is a bastard. I just thought that everyone should know. Bastard bastard bastard.” She repeats it like a mantra, then stops and looks at me. The hall is eerily silent. What the fuck am I supposed to do? Fight or flight? Be a man or a mouse? For a start, I've got to stop thinking in cliches and make a fucking decision.

I've always wondered that if, as has been pompously said, all the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players, then who serves the choc ices? More to the point, who would they sell choc ices to? The point of a stage is to perform, and you can't perform unless you have someone to perform to, even if it's just a smelly old tramp and his dog who's just sneaked in though the fire excuse to get out of the rain. It's still an audience, even if it's an audience who will no doubt leave the auditorium smelling of piss for the next few days. The world is the world, and the stage is the stage. It's amazing what people will consider wisdom if it's said with a big enough dollop of pomposity and preferably the sort of beard you can hide rabbits in. To stand on a stage in front of an audience is always a great thing even if, like me, you're only there as a prelude to the main event. For the first time, however, I now am the main event. Two hundred expectant faces look up at me as I climb on the stage to face Amanda. They have a delightedly expectant look on their faces, not, I imagine, unlike the looks on the faces of ancient Romans as they watched lions munch their way through Christians to see if they came in different flavours. The Ancient Mariners are looking on bemusedly, waiting to plug in their gear and tune up for their set. Wayne and Neil from Idiosyncratic Routine look thoroughly entertained, like I put on the whole thing for their benefit. I feel like a bizarre street performer, specializing in humiliation. Part of me wonders if when it's all over I should pass a hat round. I always wanted to strut on the stage like some rock and roll messiah, a combination of Roger Daltry and Robert Plant, but instead I've set myself up for crucifixion unless I handle this just right.

Amanda steps away from the microphone as I approach, and I take it from the stand and face the audience. These, I remind myself, are my people. Amanda can't waltz in here and insult one of their own and expect to get away with it. Once again, it's my time to stand up for myself, to win others over to my side, to absolutely shit myself with nerves. It seems that all I ever do is react to stimulus, never having time to put myself in the position of being the stimulus that other people have to react to. Just once it would be nice to watch someone else make a twat of themselves on impulse. Sod it, here we go again.
"Hands up," I say, thinking fast, "all the blokes in here who can genuinely say they have never lied to a woman." Unsurprisingly, no hands go up. It's not that all men are lying scumbags - we just tend to make life easier for ourselves by only telling what we have to. A man has to have secrets. They don't have to be big, nasty secrets, just something that is his own. For men, lying to women is as natural as breathing. Mostly, our lies are harmless, designed to avoid conflict or argument. We don't really care how big a girls bum looks in a certain dress, so the last thing we are ever likely to say is 'By Christ luv, it looks like an explosion at the bouncy castle factory!' The three words men use most when they are waiting, as ever, for their better half to get ready to go out are You, Look and Fine. Be honest ladies, when you've come out in the fourth dress, the clock ticking ever closer to the point when you'll miss the film, has your man ever said, 'Tell you what, try the blue one again'? No, he hasn't. He tells you that you look fine. We lie, end of story
"Okay," I continue. "So we're a bunch of liars. Amanda here," I continue, nodding towards her, "thinks I am a bastard because I lied to her."
"What about?" comes a voice from the crowd.
"That's not important," I say, and am immediately drowned out by people shouting for a proper answer. It's like Prime Ministers Question Time but with more tongue piercing.
"Okay," I say, gesturing with my hands to quieten them down. "I said I was a fireman. Happy?" From the laughter, I gather they are very happy indeed. "In my defence I say only this: I wanted a shag." The mostly male crowd roars it's appreciation at my admirably low moral standards. Many of them no doubt file away the fact the pretending you are a fireman will increase your chances of a shag. As I bask in the glow of a job well done, Amanda snatches the mike from my hand. I may have the battle, but she's not willing to concede the war that easily.
"What are you cheering for?" she shouts. "He's a lying bastard! He abused my trust, how can you defend that sort of behaviour?" She glares daggers at me and gives me the mike back as the crowd shut up and wait for my answer, enjoying the show.
"Okay. Firstly, this manic midget here told me she was five foot ten, which I do believe officially makes her a lying bitch to my lying bastard, yes?" A roar of agreement goes up." Secondly: I wanted a shag." The place erupts with cheers and laughter, and for a few seconds I am the rock and roll messiah I wanted to be. Two hundred disciples support my divinity, and I bask in their praise, shallow as a teardrop. Behind me, Amanda stomps off the stage like a tornado in high heels and leaves the pub, hopefully never to be seen again. I take a bow and signal to Ferret to put some music on. The familiar bass rumble of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" comes through the speakers, and I step down from the stage. The Ancient Mariners come onstage and start to twiddle with their instruments and I retire to the bar at the back of the hall, getting more pats on the back than a puppy that's gone a whole day without shitting on the carpet. Simon is waiting for me there and shakes my hand when I get to him.
"Fucking brilliant, mate," he says. "Better than dancing girls, that was. You should do it every week."
"Bollocks to that!" is my emphatic reply. "I'd rather sit through your ten volumes of 'Anal Acrobats' with my Grandmother than go though that sort of crap again. How come internet dating is so popular when everyone on it seems to be a complete mentalist?"
"Except you, of course, Mr I’m A Fireman" says Simon sarcastically.
"It's like all those mad lesbians Sally meets,” I protest. “They're all completely bonkers."
"Never mind, mate," he says, draping a consoling arm around my shoulders. "Somewhere out there is a woman who actually wants to have sex with you because you're a talented, caring, sensitive guy, and not because she wants to measure the length of your hose."
"You reckon?"
"Nah. They're all shallow cows after looks or money. Fortunately I'm a shallow bastard who has both. You, however, need help. Have you considered chloroform? I got Morgan some last week, but he still has the problem of getting close enough to a woman to actually use it."
"I'll be alright," I protest. "I thought I was in with Kate. After you left we got on like a house on fire."
"What, you mean with people screaming and running around in a panic?" he asks, his sarcasm head well and truly on now.
"Very droll. No, it was great. Unfortunately, Amanda came in, which was pretty bad, then Kate let slip that she's Wayne’s girlfriend, which was worse."
"What - poodle boy Wayne?" he says incredulously. "How can any bird prefer him to me?" He is genuinely baffled. Simon is convinced that he is God's gift to women, and can't understand why a select few of them would rather have had a nice pair of shoes instead.
"To be honest, mate, I think she'd prefer The Elephant Man to you," I say.
"No taste, obviously."
"Or too much, methinks." I say.
"Ouch. Kick me while I'm down why don't you." He nods over my shoulder towards the stage, where the band are waiting expectantly. "Hadn't you better go and introduce the band?"
Shit. I quickly push though the crowd and climb onstage, motioning for Ferret to turn the music off. "I hope you enjoyed our little halftime show," I say. "But now it's time for the real entertainment. We couldn't afford Iron Maiden, so we got the next best thing. Please welcome for the first time at The Full Moon, the Ancient Mariners!" Predictably, everyone goes mental, and as I slip off the stage the band launches into "The Wicker Man". After all this, they'd better be damn good.

"So how were we?"
Wayne, as ever, is fishing for compliments. Wayne does not fish with any degree of subtlety. The equivalent in real life fishing would be leaping into the water with a huge mallet, shouting 'come and get it you scaly bastards'. It's 11.45, the concert is over, and me, Wayne, Neil, Kate and Simon are having a few after hours drinks in the main bar. The curtains are closed, we are trusted enough to pour our own drinks, and it's a welcome antidote to the rigours of the evening. The Ancient Mariners were every bit as good as I hoped, and the crowd went away happy. A happy crowd is a good crowd, especially as a lot of them will come back next week. We're all getting nicely sozzled, and I decide to be nice to Wayne, perhaps in my drunken state I imagine that if I compliment his band he'll let me sleep with his girlfriend.
"You were great, Wayne," I say. "If I never see another band, at least I will go to my grave knowing that I have witnessed the supreme majesty of Idiosyncratic Routine, perhaps the finest purveyors of melodic rock the planet will ever see.
"So you liked it?" he says. Wayne thinks sarcasm is something that happens to other people.
"Yes Wayne," I say as if to a child. "You were very good. I don't always give you the credit you deserve, but Kate has shown me the error of my ways."
Wayne looks at Kate, confused, but as confused is a natural state for Wayne nobody really notices anything different to normal.
"Actually," interjects Kate, "David was in here with me whilst you were playing, weren't you David?"
Damn this woman and her penchant for telling the truth.
"Well, yes," I admit, "but people told me afterwards how good you were, so well done."
"Well," says Kate. "If they're that good, then I'm sure you can offer them a headline slot for their next gig here can't you." She simpers at me. I never really thought about what simpering actually was. For me it's always something that Walter the softy does in The Beano, but now I appreciate the true meaning of the World. Adolf Hitler could have done with someone like Kate when he was trying to bully everyone into doing whatever he wanted. Although he got away with it in Germany, everyone else quite rightly thought that he was a bit of a loony. All he needed though, was Kate, who would say to the opposing leaders of state 'Go on, what harm can it do - let us have your country', and they'd have been falling over themselves to appoint a potty little ex house painter emperor of the planet.
"Right ," I say. "Sure. Headline gig you say? Erm... how about the 28th?"
"Brilliant!" enthuses Wayne. "Cheers Dave, you're a mate. You sure you don't want to manage us?" Oh God, here we go again.
"Why don't you get Kate to do it?" I ask, not unreasonably. "She's smart, she knows how to take advantage of drunk promoters, and she looks great in jeans. What more do you want?"
“No offence, mate," says Neil, "but people aren't gonna take us seriously if we let a bird manage the band are they?" His contribution, as ever, to the conversation is delivered with the subtlety and forethought of a dead halibut, only less smelly. I look at Kate, who shrugs, obviously used to the fact that Neil is the male equivalent of a supermodel, except without the brainpower, if such a thing is possible.
"Go on, Dave," says Wayne with his usual puppyish enthusiasm. "Look, we're doing a couple of gigs in Dorset this week, Monday Tuesday and Wednesday. Why don't you come with us, get a feel for it, and if you say no afterwards we'll never mention it again."
"Yes you will Wayne," I say. "You always mention it. If the phone rings in the middle of the night, it's not serial killers or bad news I worry about, I panic at the thought that I'll pick the phone up and you'll be on the other end asking me to manage the band. Do you know how many times you've asked me?"
"Dunno," says Wayne with a shrug. "A few?"
"Simon?" I say. Simon gets out a notebook.
"Thirty nine, including twice tonight," he says with an air of authority
"Thirty nine, Wayne. Much as I love the idea of spending three days or so with you and the band, I'll have to pass."
"We'll pay your bills," says Wayne, making a last ditch attempt to sway me. "Beer and board on us, and I promise on my lovely girlfriends life that I won't ask you again afterwards."
Hang on a minute. Lovely girlfriend? An evil thought creeps into my head, opens a few doors marked 'bastardy' and leaves through one of my ears.
"Uh, will you be going with the band, Kate?" I ask innocently.
"Why?" She says. "Does that matter?"
“No, no," I insist, about as convincing as scenery in Blakes’ Seven. "Just asking."
"As a matter of fact I am going," she confirms. "So will you be?"
"You know," I say, as if I've been mentally pondering the whole idea, "I just might. I'll go into work on Monday and make up some bullshit to get me the rest of the week off, and I'll call you at lunchtime Wayne. As long as there's no technical hitches I'll meet you Monday afternoon."
"Fuckin' brilliant!" says Wayne, genuinely pleased. "Look, we've got to be off now, but I'll see you on Monday, yeah?"
"No problem, mate. See you Monday."
With that, Wayne, Neil and Kate leave by the back door, and me and Simon are left to finish our drinks and trundle home.
"You absolute muppet," says Simon. "It's a good job the poodle boys are slower on the uptake than the American public, or they'd never let you near her. It won't work, mate."
I suppose he would know. Simon is to stealing girlfriends what Kylie Monogue is to showing your bottom. I, on the other hand, have never even considered stealing someone else’s girl. It seems wrong somehow, but I've never felt so ludicrously attracted to someone physically and mentally as I am to Kate. I look Simon in the eye.
"She will be mine," I say, adding a manic cackle that is usually associated with evil super villains as they dangle Mr Bond over a shark infested fish tank. "Just you wait and see.
“Yeah, right,” he says, not meaning a word. “As if I give a toss anyway. As long as we have a good time on the beano to Weymouth tomorrow, you can shag Wayne for all I care.”
“Well…” I muse, deadpan. “He has got nice hair, and a very tight bum…”
“Ahem,” coughs Simon.
“And those eyes…” I continue dreamily. “Like limpid pools of molten something…”
“Fookin’ poofter.”
“Fair enough. Let’s go home.” So we do.

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