My back was killing me. I just couldn’t get straight. It felt like it had a knot right in the middle of my spine. How I felt was reflected in the others as I hesitated before entering the pub where we were staying, looking back across the street at them making their way towards me. They were all in distorted shapes.
It was like watching a cripple convention on a walk-about..
Looking further down the street was Tommy. Looking dazed in the morning light, not quite sure where he was.
My mind swept back across the previous evening and how it had panned out.
Hours earlier, (a lifetime ago it felt) we were stepping out into the night, from the bar I was about to re-enter, feeling relief to be away.
Having witnessed the unseen argument that had rolled across the ceiling above us, then seen the end result when the landlords girlfriend appeared in the bar, mascara streaking her cheeks. After listening to her loud description of what had happened in an almost indecipherable accent, well, it was nice to be heading into town.
We had decided to cut short our evening in the bar and leave our hosts to sort out their differences. So, it was step smartly forward, bumping each other as we discussed what had happened and (I won’t lie) laughing about the indignant way the girlfriend had described what had taken place up stairs which had ended for her with – as she put it –
“A smack right in tha’ kisser“..
Our party for the night consisted of six. Tex, Gaz, Dennis, Tommy, Colin and myself.
We landed in the first bar we could find, still laughing about the events, wondering how the evening would progress back at the pub.
“Well, lets face it. She’s finally seen the light! That 26 year age gap has come home to roost!”
“Yep, that 46 inch waist difference may have come between them too!”
“Anyway. Lets not let it get in the way of our night lads! It our last night and time for a party!”
Said Gaz, with his usual enthusiasm. Gaz was a short, stocky lad. Around 35 and thickset – hairy is a word closely associated with him. Black hair seemed to cover him like a light mat, giving him a kind of swarthy look – he reminded me of a small, stumpy monkey. He always seemed to be filled with an unsettling amount of energy.
This was reflected in the way his attention jumped from pillar to post.
In this instance his attention zoomed in on Tommy, the young myopic apprentice trailing along at the back. Gaz threw over his shoulder as we made our way into the city center bar.
“Right lad! You know what night this is? No? Let me tell you son! It’s Gaz’s pulling night! I’m going to trap off tonight I can feel it in my water!”
Tommy just continued to stare blankly at him, deciding that silence was the best option.
“Your sharing Gaz’s room aren’t you Tom lad?”
I asked him.
A silent nod answered the question.
“Well, you’re in for a long night. Have you got any cotton wool?”
“Yeah cotton wool.”
The mute shake of the head was all that was offered.
“Well. Not to worry. You’ve got clean socks? Yeah? Yeah, course you have.”
“What do I need clean socks for ?”
“Well if Gaz brings a monke – lady back to your room, and she’s screaming her head off as he’s throwing her all over the shop, you can stick your socks in your ears.”
The myopic gaze grew, if it was possible, wider behind the dense lenses, his mouth a round Ooooh as the image of Gaz performing with a lady friend around the shared bedroom painted an image in his young mind.
It’d be like sitting ring side in a zoo.
“If the action spills onto your bed you might need a fucking blindfold too. Have you got any clean underpants..?”
Tommy’s shock gaze snapped to Gaz who interrupted.
“Never mind a blindfold lad. I just want you to know something.”
And he paused for effect,
“If I don’t pull tonight and we get back to those digs and I’m on my own, you do know what happens then don’t you?”
Tommy’s mute shake of the head was as much as he could offer,
(He must have been running through his minds eye what state his underwear was in.)
“If I don’t pull tonight then you become stand-in. You know what a sub is? Yeah? You’re tonight’s sub.”
It was almost a whisper from the young lad, his binocular like gaze a tad unsteady.
“Yeah. Sub. If I don’t pull I’m going to ride you round that room like a blackpool donkey!! Like this!”
And he span Tommy round and onto the bar, holding his hips and began bumping him from behind.
Tommy was left clutching at the bar as Gaz simulated thrusting behind him.
“Like this! (Thrust) I’m going to get lucky! (Thrust) one way! (Thrust) or another!!”
I swear, Tommy’s nails were drawing curls of varnish from the bar as he clawed at the surface, his glasses askew across his face, while Gaz hung on behind, banging away.
As quickly as he began Gaz’s attention switched and he suddenly released Tommy and turned his attention to his pint.
“But not to worry lad – I normally pull.”
I have to add here, building site banter can be – and is – quite raw at times. We did laugh because we knew the situation Tommy thought he was facing later in the night, would never happen.
(I feverishly hoped this was the case)
Dennis turned to the pale Tommy,
“I’d cross my fucking fingers if I was you son.”
The night progressed in high spirits. A good group of people to be out with. Its a strange situation to be in at times to be honest. You work on a variety of jobs for fairly short term periods, meeting different blokes on your travels. It’s not all peaches and cream and you don’t get on with everyone you meet. But on the whole, considering the short time scale you spend together, you can make some great friendships.
Tommy, on the other hand was young, naïve and worried he was in for a good bumming if Gaz didn’t have a successful night.
His answer to the prospect was oblivion.
“Whooa son! Slow down! its not a race lad!”
Said Tex as he watched Tommy pour his pint down his neck like he was on a mission.
“Gaz was only joking you know lad.”
I offered, meeting Tex’s eye, then all our gazes sliding onto Gaz, animated at the bar, still full of excess energy as he descrided something to Dennis and Colin, all the gestures busy and massively exaggerated.
I looked over Tommy’s head at Tex, both of us feeling that sense of relief knowing we weren’t sharing his room.
“Tell you what son, its my shout. Let me get you a pint lad.”
By the time we reached the last bar of the night, a small club somewhere in Rotherham, we were helping Tommy along.
“Col! Colin! Don’t you think its time you took him back?”
“Whats? He’s not my responsibility!”
Everyone turned on him.
He was breaking an unspoken rule.
“Whoooa. Hang on pal!”
“Yeah, hold your horses there Judas!”
Added Gaz. (!)Then continued.
“That lad cane from the workshop. With you. An apprentice. Your responsibility.”
Colin was faced with four fellas looking at him and suddenly started to sober up realizing how his comment was being interpreted.
“Hey hang on I didn’t mea-”
“Yeah, yeah, we know what you meant pal. But here it is. He’s your responsibility. You make sure he gets back safe! He’s a kid! He needs looking after!”
Continued Gaz, his indignation loud and vocal. As ever that bundle of energy was very animated in showing his displeasure.
“Wha? Yeah bu-”
“Yeah you bastard! Look at ‘im! You’ve let the poor bugger get hammered!”
He’s pissed because he think’s your going to bum hi-”
“Whoaaa! What do think I am? Thats banter!! He’s just a kid! Your supposed to be making sure he’s ok!”
“What? I can’t stop him drin-”
“So yeah! He is your responsibility! So lets have you! Get him home!”
Colin’s shoulders dropped as he resigned himself to what was being placed before him and made a move to support young Tommy.
“Come on la-”
But something suddenly occurred to Gaz and he interrupted with a shrewd, if drunken look in his eye.
“Here, hang on. Its your round.”
Colin paused in the process of getting Tommy straightened up,
“Well that’s nice you skint-flint bastard! Put that girl back down and go get the beer in!”
“But you just sai-”
“Never mind what I said! I can see your game pal! Come on tight arse! Get to the bar!!”
Colin dropped Tommy back in his chair where he slumped forward onto the table, his cheek pressed onto the surface, oblivious of everything at this point .
Colin made his way to the bar resigned to getting the beer in. I have to admit the rest of us were struggling to keep up with Gaz. His focus was jumping all over.
I took a quick look at Tommy as I made my way past him to the toilet. He was well away.
Minutes later I came back to my friends to hear Gaz again remonstrating with Colin over Tommy.
“Look at the poor bugger! Lookat’im!”
He said, relieving Colin of the beer he held.
I peered past the group at Tommy slumped on the table. He appeared to have belched once and followed through by throwing up across the surface, his cheek still pressed onto the varnished top, oblivious to what had happened.
Dennis sat him up, wiping him with a napkin.
“Come on Colin! are you taking this poor bugger back or what?”
Said Gaz, taking a pull on his pint.
Everyone stood and stared for a moment.
“Do you know what?”
“I’ll come with you Colin. Lets get the lad back.”
“Yep. I’ve had enough myself. I’ll come with you.”
Dennis pulled Tommy to his feet, Colin getting a grip on his other side.
“Hang on lads. What about the beer. The nights young yet!”
Gaz’s voice had taken a wheedling tone. I think he realized he had gone too far.
We took Tommy briefly to the toilet, gave his face a quick wash and made our way out to the exit half carrying him as he stumbled along, his head rolling around as we made our way back to the B&B.
It wasn’t long before we heard Gaz behind us.
“Lads! Hey! Lads! Hang on!”
He caught up, puffing slightly, looking sheepish.
It wasn’t worth saying anything so we continued on our way, the conversation vague, everyone tired by now.
We arrived back at the digs to find all the lights out. Exchanging glances Tex took a step forward and tried the door.
“Fuck me. Its locked.”
“What? Your Joking!”
“No! It’s locked!!”
There followed thirty odd minutes of banging on the door trying to rouse the manager. But all we could hear was the pony of a dog going mad somewhere in the back.
“What are we going to do?”
jumped in Gaz.
“My car! I’ve got my keys!”
“Actually, so have I!”
“Thank Christ for that! Lets get in!’
Tommy burped gently.
Tex and Dennis who were supporting him, took a softer grip, gently holding him further away from themselves. It looked was like they were handling a hand grenade.
“What about Tommy? ”
Queried Dennis, as the lad in question belched again, a slight bubble appearing at the side of his mouth then popped and disappeared.
Everyone exchanged glances.
It was like we reached a mutual silent agreement.
“Right. Fuckit. Tommy can sleep it off in your car Colin.”
“We’ll sleep in yours Gaz.”
“Right-oh I’ll open up.”
“I’m not having that in my car. What if he goes off??!!”
“Oh, here we go again!”
Fired up Gaz.
“Didn’t we just have all this about your responsabil-”
“Alright! Alright!! Fuckit!! Get him in the fucking car!”
We eased Tommy gently into the front making him comfortable.
“Right. Where’s your motor ?”
Asked Tex, turning to Gaz.
“It here. Right behind Col’s.”
We turned to look behind to see a rusty looking dented, small, Mini Metro.
We all turned to look at Tommy gently slumbering in the front seat of Colin’s Escort Estate.
“Are you taking the piss? ”
Dennis shouted at Gaz.
“Why didn’t you say you drove this at the start?”
“Well you can all fuck off if you think we’re moving Tommy now – he’s staying in there. He could go off if we disturb him!”
Shouted Colin, having reached breaking point.
“I want the front seat!”
Flared up Colin.
“Sorry Colin lad, Mike shouted it. It’s like, The Law.”
What followed was one of the longest, most uncomfortable nights of my life.
Five men – all pissed but rapidly sobering up – jammed into a small space, cramping and attempting to find a comfortable position. I resigned myself to having someone’s legs dangle over my shoulders as they attempted to find a manageable position in the rear seat with two other fellas to contend with.
What kept waking me up was having said person use my cheek as a scratching post for their sock-clad foot.
The morning couldn’t come quick enough. And I assure you – it didn’t.
I think the most rested person in our group was Tommy, who slept like a baby with myself or Gaz getting out every twenty minutes or so to check him.
Our Landlord and his young girlfriend had in fact spent the evening drinking in the pub, making up it appears. Upon settling their differences they had made their way to bed and slept the sleep of the devoutly drunk.
Making it impossible to rouse them.
We, on the other hand, spent our final day on the job walking around like we should have had a wheel chair each reflecting what it must be like to travel in a third world country.
I hate Mini Metro’s.
And I couldn’t say goodbye to Gaz quick enough..