“You away on holiday this year Dennis?”
I threw the question over my shoulder, making conversation as I carried a sheet of plywood into a building with Dennis, a five foot five ball of varying degrees of angry Scouse.
The height difference made it difficult as the board tended to have a lack of control as he tried to lift it to a height that matched my own. It wavered and bobbed along behind as we negotiated our way into the job.
It felt like I was carrying it all on my own with Dennis hanging onto the rear, like a kites tail, bobbing along completely at odds with what was going on at the front.
“Yeah. I booked to go to CanCun. In Mexico!”
I have to say, I was surprised.
I puffed my way round a corner before I asked.
“Cancun? Well. That sounds great Dennis. But – And I hate to bring this up – Isn’t there the small matter of finishing your community service?”
“Yeah. I told her – the parole lady – at the meetings, I was off to Mexico. And she said something like that too. But I said, straight to her, I said, ‘listen love, ‘am off on holiday in September, I’d already booked it before all this parole thing see, so you can’t really stop me. It’s all paid for.’
I let this scene wash over my minds eye.
” Oh aye? How did that go down then?”
And he stopped again before he continued, halting our forward motion like a small anchor, forcing me to come to a stand-still. We lowered the sheet, resting for the moment.
And the indignation spilled forth,
“She said – and you won’t believe this Mike – She said, ‘Young man, you may find it difficult to understand this,’ – All hoity-toity-”
And he paused, his eyebrows meeting in the middle and he looked off into the distance then added –
” Honestly, I think she was being a bit sarky Mike ..”
His attention and indignation snapped back to me as he continued.
“She looks me straight in the eye, right, and she goes ;
‘Dennis. Your’e being punished for a crime. That’s why you”re attending these parole classes Forget. Your. Holiday. In. Cancun..‘
“Honest to God Mike. That’s how she said it. To my face!! To my fuckin face!!! I paid four grand for that holiday!”
I picked up the front end of the sheet with Dennis doing the same at the back and we continued on our way. I mulled over what he had said, listening to him panting behind me before replying, gauging how this was going to go down.
I waited until we reached another level and stopped for another breather.
“Dennis. Son. Considering what happened You were lucky you didn’t get time lad. You only avoided prison because the other party didn’t turn up and went on the run because he was in trouble for something himself!!”
The scouse accent was getting thicker by the minute. As he said it, he leant forward, eyes wide, mouth open, disbelievingly, as if to stress the point, in a way that went;
‘Can you fucking believe what she said??‘
Like it backed up his argument.
I gave up. I looked for a positive.
“Well, at least they’ll ship you back for free.”
“Wha’? Ship me back where for free? Who?”
“The Mexican customs. Surely, when you land, in breach of your parole, those sharp-eyed Mexican chaps at passport control will scan your passport, shout ‘Ay Caramba!!” set off all the alarms and they’ll strong arm Tiny Tim the scouse crime lord and fuck you off on the next flight back.. Suck in that Mexican air while you can.”
We puffed our way up another flight of stairs with Dennis stewing along behind.
Finally his voice continued from the back, having digested what I’d said and deciding it’d be safer to head off on another track.
“D’ya Know what my little lad said to me last night Mike?”
I paused to think briefly before answering.
“Wha’? No. No!! ”
“Well go on then. What did your young five year old son say to you Amigo?”
He panted as he continued, holding onto the corner of the plywood as we negotiated another flight of stairs.
“Well, we’d just finished watching The new Planet Of the Apes film – You know it? All those gorillas that try and take over the world? And the credits were rolling up and he takes a really long look at me like, and the cheeky little bugger say’s ”Da’, You look like a monkey”
This time I stopped to lower the sheet to the floor, forcing Dennis to do the same and turned to face him, resting my chin on my arms while I cast an eye over him. A mental reshuffle of my perception of Dennis.
Realisation dawned on Dennis’ face as he looked back at me.
“What the fuck have I just told you that for??”
I momentarily ignored the latest utterance, my mind was still focused on Mexico.
“We’ll address that shortly. Cheetah. Just repeat after me, ‘Areeba. Areeba. Hello my friend, how are you? Can I have a helping of chilli and chips please? Oh, and a hammer to go.’
He looked at me suspiciously then translated into near perfect Mexican-scouse,
He lost it straight away. The scouse accent spilled into overdrive and he couldn’t help himself.
“‘AreeeeebaAreeeeeba! ‘Ey ameeeeeeeego, ‘ow ar’ yoo? Can I ‘av a ‘elping of chillee and cheeeeeps pleeeease? (He lost it completely there) ‘O, and a ‘ammerrrr to go.”
“….Why am I saying that Mike?”
“Well I was just weighing up, with you being scouse, you sound half fuckin’ Mexican already. I just wanted to see what a Scouse, mexican talking monkey sounded like in person. I have to say. I’m impressed.”
“Wha’?!! You cheeky bastard! I-”
I didn’t give him a chance to continue, I picked up the sheet and lurched onwards, dragging him along in the wake.
I decided to blind side him.
“Seriously though Den, with all due respect, I have to say you’ve missed a massive opportunity. And lets be honest, chances like this don’t come round very often. In fact, you could have been making fantastic money. With someone as vertically challenged as you are, an opportunity like this beats carrying these plywood sheets upstairs and trying to keep up with us normal sized humans to boot. You’d have made a fortune lad.”
He was caught between being still outraged by the original insult and the current one, while still battling his curiosity regarding the money opportunity.
The money won.
“Wha’ money? ‘Ow would I ‘av made a fortune? ‘Ow? I know you Mike. You’s taking the piss. Go on then. ‘Ow.
They were holding auditions. In Liverpool. For that new film, with – whatshername – Margot Robbie -”
“She’s well fit she is! I’d like to -”
“Yeah, yeah I know Dennis. you and every other dwarf. But you know the film? Her and that fella? Thingy? You know. Whatsisname? A bit foreign? First name Alexander?”
“Dunno Mike. when were the auditions? Whats the film about?”
“Skarsgard! Thats it. Well the films a bit of a romantic action packed block buster.”
“Yeah. All go. And this fella, his bird -”
“- Yeah -”
“- Cor I’d like to -”
” – Yeah. Alright. Calm down Casagnome. You’d need a ladder. Anyway, this fella – his bird gets kidnapped by these baddies. Right fucking Not-Rights. Your parole lady? Who has to deal with you? Well after all the time she’s spent with you she’d probably recognise them before they got off the boat – ”
“Yeah. So this fella, Skarsgard chap? Right strapping lump he is. Built like a brick shit hous -”
“- Wha’? And you think I should’ve auditioned to play him? What did he do? Did he rescue her?”
“Actually Dennis, he did. But to answer your question, no, I don’t think you could have auditioned to play him. He was probably three-foot away from you tallest point. No what I was thinking about – and I have to stress that these characters make a Bomb for their performances, with loads of food treats too – was playing the dependable side-kick.”
Dennis stopped again and I was forced to lower the sheet. We were almost at our destination.
“Really? Side-kick helps save the day? So who was this big strapping fella playing?”
“Alexander thingy? He was playing Tarzan -”
“- Tarzan -”
“Yeah. The Jungle Lord. You know? Raised by apes – ”
“And who’s his side-kick then?”
I looked him earnestly in the eye.
“Its only after what you said before that made me think. You, my little scouse friend, would have nailed the part of his dependable companion – Dennis the monkey – with your eyes shut -”
The outrage was back.
“- Fuckin’ Dennis the monk -”
“Yeah honest mate. I kid you not. I can just see you finding Jane, His bird, surrounded by the Not-Rights, and swinging off through the trees to find Tarzan to tell him the news! He’s be like –
‘Dennis! Whats up boy? Tell me Dennis! Get it out lad! Whats up??‘
“And you’d be hopping up and down on your little legs and giving it -”
”Ey mate! Calmdowncalmdown! ‘A found ya’bird! Jane! All’u Baddies ‘av ‘er mate!! Come on! You gotta’ save ‘er big lad!!”
Dennis was mesmerised by this point.
“And off you’d swing Dennis! Like a little furry ball of vengeance! Leading the way for the hero!! You would have been mint mate. Mint!! Shame you missed out to be honest. I’d have paid a fortune to see you on the big screen as a monkey..”